If you are looking for early child daycare for your child, you are not alone. 16% of children in the US under the age of 1 attend daycare, and 26% of children between the age of 1-2 attend daycare. This can be a critical developmental period for children, and you likely want to send your child to a program that will nurture and care for them while encouraging them to develop in a healthy manner. This requires a different environment than a standard preschool if your child is under two years of age. Below are five things you should look for in a daycare for a infant or young toddler.
The focus of an infant care center should be on meeting the primary needs of the infant. This includes their physical needs such as feeding, changing, and physical comfort. Once those needs are met, the focus should extend to include social needs such as cuddling, talking, and playing. Primary care is the same type of care that a parent would give in a home setting, and ensures that an infant or young toddler feels safe and secure.
Once a child is able to walk and interact with their environment, they may thrive in a large group setting. However, infants and young toddlers are much more likely to thrive with a smaller social circle and a less stimulating environment. Besides having a low child-to-caregiver ratio, the ideal early infant childcare center will also have small groups. For example, rooms may be smaller and have one teacher with 3-4 children or a teacher and a helper with 4-6 children.
Continuity of Caregiving Relationships
At a young age, stability and continuity are important aspects in developing your child's trust and confidence in others. It is important that your child is able to form bonds with their caregivers, including their teachers at daycare. Ideally, your child's daycare center will have 1-2 full time teachers who will be there whenever your child is there. This way, your child will learn who to expect each day and will be able to develop healthy, well-bonded relationships with them.
Safe, Interesting, and Developmentally Engaging Environments and Materials
While the focus in the first two years should not be academic engagement, it is still important that your child's environment is appropriately stimulating. For example, there should be pictures on the wall that your child's teacher can show your child. There should be toys for your child to grasp, shake, and move, and picture books for them to look at. Additionally, you may look for a center that utilizes music and encourages your child to babble or move along with the music. Creating a stimulating environment will allow your child to develop their understanding of the world in a safe manner.
Curriculum that is Responsive to an Individual Child's Interests
During the first years, children will reach milestones at different rates. Because of this, it is important that your child's daycare center is flexible in their expectations and curriculum. Each child should be treated as an individual and offered unique experiences that are specifically catered to their current development and interests. For example, if your child is currently learning to roll over, their teacher should work on encouraging that skill, while they may work with other children to increase their babbling or develop their pincer grip.
Sending your young child to daycare can be a bit unsettling at first. However, if you find a quality daycare program that emphasizes the above five aspects of early childhood development, your child will likely thrive at the daycare center. To begin your search for a daycare center, check out one like Learning Tree Schools.
Kids develop at their own pace. Some kids are ready to learn at a very early age while some require more time to be prepared to take in information. My blog will help you identify the learning pace in which your child is ready to perform. You will learn signs to watch for so that you know what your child can handle and signs that could tell you that you are pushing a little too hard. I hope that my own personal experiences can help you and your child begin on the path of learning at a pace that you are both comfortable with.