Fred Rogers believed that human relationships are essential to children’s development at any age. Through television, Fred provided and modeled the kind of human relationships that fostered trust, provided support, and inspired respect. Fred’s message to parents and professionals alike is that they are already capable of building and sustaining a beautiful relationship with the children in their care.


The Simple Interactions approach, developed by Dr. Junlei Li, is grounded in this particular aspect of Fred’s legacy as well as in the convergence of developmental theory and research evidence. In this work, we reaffirm the importance of human interactions in children’s lives. We capture and build on what professionals already do well as the basis for their learning and growing. Our approach is based on the understanding that the “active ingredient” in a child’s growth is the developmental relationship between the child and another human being. The basic building blocks of such relationships are the day-to-day interactions between children and the adults who teach and care for them.


Simple Interactions engages children’s caregivers through strengths-based, practice-focused, and community-supported learning sessions. By using the 1-page “Simple Interactions Tool” along with learning sessions based on authentic field videos, we help professionals build and sustain a “community of practice” across a wide range of child-serving settings, from child care to classrooms, from out-of-school time programs to orphanages.


Simple Interactions is a partnership between the Fred Rogers Center, the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and the University of Pittsburgh.


To learn more about Simple Interactions, visit


“The Difference We Make: The Importance of Simple, Everyday Interactions in Early Childhood” (Winters & Li, 2019). In this episode of the Early Childhood Investigations Webinar series, Dr. Winters and Dr. Li provide an overview of the Simple Interactions work as a response to Fred Rogers’ question to the early childhood profession: “Did you ever wonder if you have made a difference?” This free webinar is generously hosted and shared without charge by the wonderful hosts at Early Childhood Investigations, where you may find many more free, accessible webinars for early childhood professionals.


In the fall of 2019, Simple Interactions was selected as one of the 12 best educational innovations in Pittsburgh by the international organization HundrED. HundrED featured Simple Interactions in their HundrED Spotlight  to  help educators from around the world learn what is happening here in Pittsburgh and replicate it in their own contexts.