Babyproofing... no one likes to do handywork when they don't need to but it's best to plan to child proof way before you need to. Usually people do the opposite! RIE's founder Magda Gerber felt it was best to make one or two areas of your house completely safe, so that if parents or caregivers got locked out for a few hours the children inside would be safe except for the scrapes they may have ended up inflicting upon each other.
Follow these 7 simple steps to creating your "yes space" home:
1) START SMALL - pick a small space that you can completely baby-proof. You can make one in a small room or gate off an area in a larger space like the living room with long room dividing baby gates. The space can be where you can see the whole time, or not. No one can watch with 100% attention all the time, so make a space where you can relax (get some chores done... or have a cup of tea) and know your child is safe. The added benefit is your child will learn to play by themselves without your constant helicoptering.
At Mighty Bambinis, we believe children are competent, curious, resourceful learners. Our approach is inspired by the philosophies of Reggio Emilia (read more below) and Magda Gerber's RIE approach. We respect children by allowing them to develop at their own pace rather than expecting them to meet developmental milestones on our timetable. We show this through caring individualized support, positive encouragement, affection, frequent eye contact, and communicating at the child’s level. Children are encouraged to respect others and to care for one another.
Our curriculum provides firm limits and predictable routines, but within that framework children are entrusted with freedom to explore, make choices, play, and build autonomy. Our thoughtful and intentionally designed environment fosters children’s interests, relationships, and opportunities work cooperatively. Materials and projects are selected based on children’s interests and provoke a spirit of experimentation and inquiry.
Introducing solids to your baby is an exciting time! It's also a little daunting, even for second time parents, because it's means you have to do more than whip out a boob or mix up some formula to feed your baby. So don't stress and have some fun. It's the start of hopefully a great relationship with food and start to healthy eating habits for life. Feeding is one of the most important relationship building caregiving times that we have with our babies. It is one of the activities, like diapering, that Magda Gerber (RIE founder) called "wants something time." It's built in time that if we fully tune in during and give undivided, unhurried attention and love we are able to build a strong relationship of trust and attachment during what could be just seen as routine caregiving. It is not a time we rush through just to get to the next "fun" activity. It is a meaningful time all on it's own.
Here are some things that the Nichols' family does, based in large part of Noelle's doctor Dr. Buccholz at UCSF when she was an infant. (Note: What foods and how fast we introduce them to our Mighty Bambinis at school, is decided in conjunction with parents and each child's doctor's advice. But I wanted to share some resources I've found informative.)
1) Eating is a fun, important time to bond and recharge our love buckets. That means whether we're holding a baby or having a few eat with us in their own seats, we are fully present, making eye contact, and discussing what is going on now - foods they are trying, what we are doing, etc. This article on Janet Lansbury's blog has great insights.
2) Make it easy. What I do is make purees buy either steaming veggies or fruit on the stove, and then blending them OR using the Beeba Babycook to do both. Then I freeze them in ice cube trays and freeze them in labeled bags. That way, food is always ready and can be thawed quickly in individual portions for each meal. Usually I will defrost 1-2 cubes of 2-3 foods per meal.
Here is a good chart of what foods to introduce when:
3) Mix up textures with purees and baby led weaning foods after 6 months old. From my experience babies that are exclusively fed using baby led weaning try less variety of foods because they "choose" what to try at such a young age. Babies need to try a new food 10-15 times before they acquire a taste for a food so I find it helpful to use purees to introduce new foods. A baby does not need to eat a lot of something to develop a new taste for something. Also babies who exclusively baby led wean, are more resistant later to having someone feed them later on. So at each meal, I find it helpful to have some finger foods like peas, small bite size steamed fruits or veggies, or cheerios AND 1-3 purees.
4) Introduce utensils. You'd be surprised how early children like to explore how to use utensils. We even give Teddy a spoon at some meals now at 6 months old.
5) Don't forget the water. Is your baby pooping out turds? Check with your doctor, but maybe you need to give them some water, formula / breastmilk, or water down the purees.
6) Maybe try common allergen foods early. Please check with your doctor because individual children based on personal or family history should be more cautious, but my doctor actually shocked me when at my 6 month appointment he suggested that I go home that day and give Noelle peanuts. He said new research is indicating that withholding allergen food while breastfeeding and during early solid introduction, maybe be causing more food allergies in children. Here's an article with some info, but again PLEASE CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR.
Here are some more resources for you!
Do you have any resources (websites, blogs) that you would recommend that focus on a death in the family for preschoolers/toddlers. I'm at a loss for how to communicate it to her, if we do at all given she is so young , how to explain why everyone is so sad, etc. if you have any ideas of sites to direct us to, I'd appreciate it.
I'm not sure whether to even bring her to the hospital or not. What to tell her after? How to answer all of her questions so trying to get ahead of it? Any suggestions you have are really appreciated.
I am so sorry to hear that you are likely going to lose your father. Losing a parent is one the of biggest losses that we all unfortunately have to experience. I lost my dad somewhat unexpectedly from a heart attack when I was in grad school and it was certainly a huge moment for me. I didn’t have a perfect relationship with him and I was devastated that we had drifted apart and we would never be able to have the opportunity to repair the relationship, that he’d never see me get married, and he’d never meet his future grandkids. Sometimes I still get sad about not being able to hear is long winded lectures and have a heated debate about politics with him. And we had a strained relationship. I know the depth of your sadness and grief will be palpable now and when he eventually passes.
I think that there is no way for your child to be kept in the dark. I think she will feel all of your pain, experience confusion of all the different experiences, and I think she is old enough and has enough sense at her age to be told in simple words what is happening. I think the best approach is to be honest about what is happening both about your own feelings as well as what is happening. You could say something like, “Grandpa is very sick and weak, and he isn’t going to live much longer. He won’t get better because he is old and his heart is damaged. We are all very sad and we are going to miss him very very much. Grandpa is my dad and I love him like you love your daddy. I will cry a lot because it’s very hard for me to not have my daddy anymore.”
Children are very perceptive and being honest will help your children feel less confused about what is happening. You can probably spare her the blow by blow updates because those are such a roller coaster and she won’t understand all the information and doctor lingo. It would be good to listen to her questions and responses and answer them directly and simply.
She may feel “inappropriately” or say things that don’t make sense or even seem wrong (like sometimes people are angry when someone dies and don’t know what to , but I think that it’s best to answer comments like that by saying something like “I see you are feeling a lot of things. We all are. I am here for you if you need me.”
Perhaps if you are really emotional and falling apart, that may be overwhelming for her, or get stressed and snappy. So perhaps if that’s happening your spouse can explain how you (or someone else) are feeling or you can later in a calm moment let her know that you were snappy because you are very sad and feeling hurt. You didn’t mean to get upset and you’re sorry. We’re all only human and the more important part is to just awknowledge our mistakes or weak moments and apologize to clear the air and make sure she knows she is loved and nothing is her fault.
From Janet Lansbury's blog:
Here are six guidelines from John W. James’ book When Children Grieve: For Adults to Help Children Deal with Death, Divorce, Pet Loss, Moving, and Other Losses. I can’t recommend this book highly enough…
Listen with your heart, not your head. Allow all emotions to be expressed, without judgment, criticism, or analysis.
Recognize that grief is emotional, not intellectual. Avoid the trap of asking your child what is wrong, for he or she will automatically say, “Nothing.”
Adults – go first. Telling the truth about your own grief will make your child feel safe in opening up about his or her own feelings.
Remember that each of your children is unique and has a unique relationship to the loss event.
Be patient. Don’t force your child to talk.
Never say “Don’t feel sad” or “Don’t feel scared.” Sadness and fear, the two most common feelings attached to loss of any kind, are essential to being human.
About going to the hospital to see him, maybe you can give her a choice. Since so many things are new to her, I actually don’t think she will know to be scared. Adults are more scared of hospitals and death because they know more about it. She may want to see him and say good bye and he may want to see her. But if she doesn’t want to go, maybe that’s better too. Unlike an adult she won’t spend her life regretting that she made the choice not to go. I think if Paul’s dad or mom were ill, I would take Noelle because I think it takes some of the mystery out. But I like the idea of a choice. However, I’d probably bring someone with who could leave with her when she needed so that she didn’t become stressful. Hospitals are the best environments for kids to hang out in for a long time.
My heart is with you and your family! I know that this will be a difficult time. However, in death there is an opportunity to come together as a family, to celebrate the wonderful life and memories you had together and to reflect on the many gifts we have been given by being part of each other’s lives. Let me know if I can do anything to help. I don’t have any death books here, but I would be more than happy to amazon prime some to you if you send me your address there.
Some book recommendations - I can go through them and pick some I think are best, but most of these should be appropriate for ages 3 and up.
I’ll Always Love You, a tear-jerker (as if you needed one) about a boy dealing with the death of the family dog.
What Happens When A Loved One Dies? Our First Talk About Death
When Children Grieve and The Grief Recovery Handbook (for adults), both by John James and Russell P. Friedman, provide excellent roadmaps for understanding grief and processing it in the healthiest, most productive manner possible. Their recommendations reflect all I’ve learned about healthy social emotional development through infant specialist Magda Gerber. The gist of their message: We not only all have unique responses to loss — we respond to each loss uniquely. Allow yourself to feel your feelings, share them with your child, and give her the freedom and the time to process her unique feelings, too. Unfinished grief creates problems that can have a profound effect on our life.
Starting a family childcare in our home has been a wonderful journey and absolute gift to our family at this time in our life. As a new parent and career educator, we were faced with a tough decision that many families face when they have their first child. Who and how do we want to raise our child? Can we find it? Can we get in? And can we afford it? Ideally we wanted to be able to afford to live off of one income and have me stay home to raise our child and future children. But with the high cost of living in SF, that just didn’t really seem truly feasible. Also, being someone who always loved working, I was worried it might leave me wanting “more” somehow.
Our family got creative. We wanted to have it all – the ability for me to stay home with our kids WITH a source of income, a community of likeminded families, and a fulfilling career for me. With the help of the wonderful resources at CCSF and a very supportive husband, we embarked down the road less traveled and started our own family childcare.
Here are some things that I’ve discovered along the way.
Anyone (who doesn’t have a criminal record) can open a small family childcare in any home or apartment. Small family childcares serving less than 6 children at a time, don’t require you to re-zone your home, get your neighbors or even landlord’s permission, and are a protected class of business. Other than two one-day long classes (Infant/Pediatric CPR / First Aid and Preventative Health Care Practices), there is no required educational path needed to start your own family childcare. Of course that means that it’s a little bit of the Wild West out there in terms of providers/program quality, the good news is that anyone with a passion for children can start one. So if you’re an artist or engineer or landscaper (or anything else) and you want to develop a wonderful program for children, you can do it! Your childcare is personal, develop a program that shares your skills and talents with children and embodies your personal values and philosophy.
Although anyone with little training in child development, can open their own childcare, I really really recommend that people take some time to invest in themselves and learn more about what is best for the age of children they hope to work with and how to design a program and environment of high quality. There are inexpensive ($50 at CCSF), convenient phenomenal classes locally offered by CCSF and the local R&Rs (resource and referral agencies Wu Yee and Children’s Council) specifically designed for family childcare providers. Some of the titles offered at CCSF in the CDEV 41 series (one night a week courses) are Issues in Child Dev-Starting a Childcare Center or Large Family Childcare Home In SF, Environments in Family Childcare, Music and Movement in FCC, and more. The professors are high quality veterans in the field (special shout out to Kathy Zetes in particular), and assignments are all practical and will get you set up. In these classes, I designed and got feedback on my business plan, my classroom layout inside and out, my handbook, and website. If you can’t schedule in these night classes, I recommend buying the Family Child Care Environment Rating Scale and Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale on Amazon, and reading Magda Gerber’s Your Self-Confident Baby
if you’ll be caring for infants and toddlers. I also wrote a short piece for parents about how to identify quality group care, which could be helpful for providers also.
I was sort of surprised to discover that your own children do count in your family childcare until they are 10 years old. A large family childcare is unlikely to get granted in SF since you have to pass a fire marshall clearance, which is HARD due to SF architecture! So let’s focus on the small family childcare numbers. You can have 4 infants (0-24 months) only OR 6 children under 6 or in kindergarten of which no more than 3 can be infants (0-24months), or 8 children if two are enrolled in Kindergarten (no more than 2 infants 0-24 months). This can be severally limiting from a financial perspective depending on how many of your own children you have under 10 years old, but hey, you get to stay home with them and make an income. In our case, it seemed worth it given that I could make my dream childcare for my children and all the children in our program and I get “free childcare.”
Make sure you can make the commitment and that everyone who lives in your home is supportive. It’s ideal for children to have the same carer for 2-3 years if possible. Be sure to ask everyone in your home if they are ok with you having children there 40-50 hours a week (or whatever times you decide) and have you to redesign some parts of your home for the childcare. One challenge I find, is our schedule for vacations is now very limited. We can only take vacations when our childcare is closed, so that’s something to consider too. Becoming a childcare provider is a big responsibility and it should not be entered into lightly.
There are roughly 5 infant openings at licensed childcare centers or FCCs in San Francisco per every 100 infants (0-24 months) needing care. Families with infants are easiest to recruit, but make sure no matter what children you decide to work with and serve, you love being around them! Running a family childcare, while rewarding, is a lot of work with long hours. So be sure that you like to be around babies or toddlers, or a mixed-age group for about 40-50 hours a week. As a family childcare provider, you must be present at your home for 80% of operating hours, and ideally you are the primary caregiver even if you have assistant teachers.
Recruiting via word of mouth or becoming a parent of parent communities online seems to work best. Being a mom myself has been my best recruiting technique. Before I started our FCC, I was already a member of yahoo parent groups near me, and apps like parenthoods, bernalhoods, and some facebook groups. Like any social media marketing strategy, it’s best to give as much as you get, meaning become a true member of your social media or real life communities, don’t just use the platforms for advertising.
Develop a philosophy and make a handbook. It takes some soul searching and time, but the more upfront and clear you are with yourself, your families, and your assistant teachers – the easier your life will be in the long run. It’s always better to have a conversation about the kind of care children receive and why you do things that way, or how sick is too sick to come to school before you enroll a family rather than after. Parents and childcare providers should work together in partnership and it’s important to see eye to eye from the start. To develop mine, I looked at published handbooks of school’s I admired and also checked out samples on http://www.childcarelounge.com/child-care-lounge.php
Make the administrative side of things as simple as possible! Nurturelist.com is a great listing site so you don't need to develop your own website to advertise. DayBear hopes to help FCC for free to manage the administrative side of things. For now I use Gusto for my payroll, Google Forms for my wait list, Google Wallet to get payments, and Google Voice for my phone service. I’m looking into better accounting tools, so in 2016 I’ll probably try out Xero (for accounting) or something like it because you can write off a significant part of your household expenses (including some parts of your rent or mortgage) since you really do run it out of your home. Most of us educators, don’t love paperwork, and you won’t have much time to devote to it. So keep it simple. That’s one reason my tuition is the same from month to month, it’s too hard to calculate days or hours per child each month.
Network with other providers if possible. I met some in my CCSF classes and introduce myself to people if I see them at the playground or see them post to a yahoo group about an opening at their childcare. It’s so nice to share and learn from each other. In some neighborhoods the Family Child Care Association of San Francisco is pretty active too, so it might be worth joining them too.
Good luck and if you live in SF keep in touch!
Community Care Licensing Division
CCSF Child Development
SF SEED - for financial support for CDEV courses
Facebook SF Childcare Providers Community
I couldn't agree more with this quote: “Babies thrive out-of-doors. They sleep better, eat better, look better, play better, and learn better. Fresh air both soothes and stimulates. I always tell parents how much more easily they could raise healthy, “happy” children if they would make outdoor living a regular habit for their babies.” – Magda Gerber, Dear Parent: Caring for Infants With Respect
I just read an article by one of my favorite child development thought leaders, Janet Lansbury, and I thought I should share about our outdoor classroom. You can totally make an awesome outdoor play space in a small (San Francisco-sized) yard.
Since our program is inspired by Reggio and RIE, we integrated the ideas of Reggio's loose parts and a safe "yes" space from RIE.
My goal is to have a "yes space" where the kids can really do what they want in the yard with few limits other than hurting each other. I wanted it be changeable, safe yet challenging, and allow for experimentation and dramatic play. We recreated some of the elements that they love from inside such as a mud kitchen, our magnetic wall, and also use outside friendly inside toys and materials.
Set it up so you can say "yes"
Our yard has two parts. One side is a cement patio and the other side is a grassy open space yard. We divided the two spaces with a low 3 foot fence which essentially turns them into "kiddie corrals" that Janet wrote about. Since we have mixed ages, we can keep the bigger toddlers away from the little babies when we need to.
We covered the cement patio with rubber tiles so soften falls from our early walkers which gives the kids a sense of security to explore their bodies more on the ride on toys and the slide.
On the grassy side, we put some small hills in, because it adds a little challenge. The hills alone are hours of endless fun and confidence building for an early crawler or walker. We love our "me do it" toddlers. They can move everything (ladders, tubs, crates, etc.) around to change the landscape and put on their own shoes and smocks.
A few of our inexpensive (or free) favorites of the children are: 1) the teeter totter which invites social play, as well as can serve as a great balance board, 2) yoga balls, 3) the milk crates which make create obstacle course steps or can be easily turned into train cars with the spark of a toddler's imagination, 4) our easy DIY ladders and balance beam, and 5) plastic kiddie pools.
The plastic kiddie pools are really my favorite. They are fun to climb in and out of, make large water/sand/sensory "table" and can be a wonderful protective "space bubble" for a very young infant to spend time outside.
We also have lots of the same things (a ride on toy for each for example) because we have younger toddlers who don't share and like to do parallel play. It really reduces conflict if you develop the space and have appropriate expectations of how they will play.
Bring the inside, outdoors
Who said baby dolls, dinos, kitchen dramatic play, lunch, and pretty much any other inside type of activity can't be done outside.
Baby Dolls and Dinos - The kids love washing their baby dolls, doing car washes, and having elaborate dramatic play worlds with the dinos. They are easy to wash up and bring back inside when we're done, so why not!
Playing house outside - We bring real pots, pans, and cooking utensils out when the kids are into making "soup" and cooking. We set out out kid sized picnic tables, and bring out plates and utensils if they want to cook and serve meals. And we have a mud kitchen that has lots of utensils, pots, pans and containers to "cook" with. The kids gather twigs, gravel, lemons, pinecones, flowers and whatever else they want to cook with.
Magnet STEM wall - Using a oil pan, we made a really easy magnet wall and used PVC pike and gutters to have loose parts for the kids to do experiments with. They can run water, ping pong balls, rocks or whatever else they want down it. All the parts live in a crate near the wall so they can choose how they want to set it up. We don't show them what to do, but it's amazing how fast they figure out what they can do with all the components.
Change it up without spending $ - Art, Sensory Play & Loose Parts
Loose Parts Theory quotes
‘In any environment, both the degree of inventiveness and creativity, and the possibility of discovery, are directly proportional to the number and kind of variables in it.’ ~ Simon Nicholson, Architect
‘Children learn most readily and easily in a laboratory-type environment where they can experiment, enjoy and find out things for themselves.’ - Malaguzzi
To create this loose parts, creativity laboratory we have to look no further than the ground, in the trees/bushes and our own recycling bins.
Loose parts may be manufactured or natural materials (Frost 1997) or recycled objects (Drew and Rankin 2004).
Manufactured items could include the following: ■ boxes ■ buckets ■ blocks ■ trucks ■ cloth ■ baskets ■ tools ■ dramatic play props ■ balls
Natural items could include such items as: ■ bark ■ sand ■ seeds ■ mud ■ stones ■ vines ■ leaves ■ tree stumps ■ twigs ■ straw bales
Recycled items could include: ■ cardboard boxes ■ building materials ■ packing pellets ■ old pots and pans ■ tires ■ milk crates ■ ribbon, rope, string ■ polystyrene ■ plastic bottles and ■ felt containers
Since children learn so much through their senses and by doing, we set up sensory and art materials on a daily basis that often hold their interest for long stretches of time and lead to many fascinating discoveries.
Infant Daily Supply List (stored in cubbie)
☐Pacifiers (if applicable)
☐Wipes (4 full-sized pack per family a month)
☐Extra Clothes – 3 onesies long, 3 shirts, 3 pants, 3 pairs of socks, 2 jackets. Pack clothes that you would be ok with getting dirty. Little ones learn by doing, which often means getting messy.
☐ Unopened formula for emergency use (if applicable)
☐Tote or Diaper bag (large enough to store empty bottles and clothes that may be sent home)
☐Medications for emergencies (Note: We don’t administer medications, except those required in emergency situations such as EPI pen, nebulizer or inhalers)
☐Photos from home of important family members and baby
☐ Toothbrush & toothpaste
☐Blanket and security lovie
Toddler Daily Supply List (stored in cubbie)
☐Pacifiers (if applicable)
☐Diapers and/or undies
☐Wipes (3 full-sized pack per family a month)
☐Extra Clothes – 4 shirts, 4 pants, 2 pairs of socks, 1 jackets/sweatshirt, 1 rain jacket, 2 pairs of pajamas (if needed), 1 pair of rain boots (or extra school shoes. (Pack clothes that you would be ok with getting dirty, lost (although rare). Little ones learn by doing, which often means getting messy.)
☐Sunscreen and sun hat
☐re-useable grocery bag
☐ Medications for emergencies including signed doctors note with instruction for administration (Note: We don’t administer medications, except those required in emergency situations such as EPI pen, nebulizer or inhalers)
☐2 photos from home of important family members and baby. Also text/email Evelyn an electronic photo of all members in the family together for school family gallery)
☐Blanket and security lovie
☐Toothbrush and tooth paste
☐Text recent headshot and full-body shot of child for activities
(Note: largely adapted from PITC’s Six Program Policies with some two-cents from Mighty Bambinis founder Evelyn Nichols www.mightybambinis.weebly.com)
In a primary care system, each child is assigned to one or two special infant/toddler care teacher who is principally responsible for that child’s care. Family childcare requires that the licensee (owner) must be present 80% of the time, to attempt to ensure a primary care exists. This fosters attachment and predictability for young children. They know who to look to for help and feel secure to try new things.
Every major research study on infant and toddler care has shown that small group size and good ratios are key components of quality care. PITC recommends primary care ratios of 1:3 or 1:4, in groups of 6-12 children, depending on the age. The guiding principle is this: the younger the child, the smaller the group. Small groups facilitate the provision of personalized care that infants and toddlers need, supporting peaceful exchanges, freedom and safety to move and explore, and the development of intimate relationships. Family childcares are licensed as a small (4-8 children, depending on ages served) and large 12-14 children, depending on ages served) to try to ensure small group size. If you choose a center, be sure to ask how many children are in each room at once AND what the child to teacher ratio is.
Continuity of care is the third key to providing the deep connections that infants and toddlers need for quality childcare. Programs that incorporate the concept of continuity of care keep primary infant/toddler care teachers and children together throughout the three years of infancy period, or for the time during that period of the child’s enrollment in care. So when choosing childcare it is important to consider if the childcare / nanny is an appropriate fit for your child when they are a young infant, mobile infant, AND a toddler. Not all settings and caregivers can grow with your child equally.
Following children’s unique rhythms and styles promotes well-being and a healthy sense of self. It’s important not to make a child feel bad about him or herself because of biological rhythms or needs that are different from those of other children. Responding promptly to children’s individual needs supports their growing ability to self-regulate, i.e., to function independently in personal and social contexts. The program adapts to the child, rather than vice versa, and the child gets the message that he or she is important, that her/his needs will be met, and that his choices, preferences, and impulses are respected.
Young children thrive with predictability and firm boundaries, but lots of freedom within those limits. Even newborns/young infants should be spoken to and invited to participate / help themselves. They should be both protected, yet seen as competent and challenged and given opportunities to make their own discoveries/do things on their own. Responsive care doesn’t mean that caregivers should always rush to pick up a child or solve all their problems / frustrations. Evelyn highly recommends the RIE principles of respectful care (Magda Gerber, Janet Lansbury, and authors Faber & Mazlish). Check out www.rie.org (infants) and http://www.janetlansbury.com/ (toddlers).
Children develop a sense of who they are and what is important within the context of culture. Because of the important role of culture in development, infant/toddler care teachers who serve families from diverse backgrounds need to:
Relationship and Family-based Care
A strong relationship between caregivers and parents is extremely important for children, especially in their earliest years. Parents and caregivers can share insights and observations, struggles and exciting developments. It’s important to choose a caregiver that you can trust to be honest, communicate with about the good and bad, and work together with to problem solve. Caregivers and parents should see each other as partners!
Some questions to ask when choosing care:
Some advice about getting into childcare in San Francisco:
Transitioning an infant or toddler into childcare or preschool can be difficult for both parents and children. Parents may experience the guilt of leaving their child with another caregiver and must develop new routines that include drop off and pick up. Children, especially those over 8- or 9-months-old, are likely to experience some separation anxiety and must adapt to a new environment and form new attachments.
However, parents can greatly diminish both their own stress and their child’s stress by creating a transition plan in conjunction with the childcare or preschool. We interviewed Evelyn Nichols, owner and director of Mighty Bambinis, a home-based childcare and preschool in San Francisco’s Sunnyside neighborhood (prior to Mighty Bambinis, Nichols was also a K-12 teacher and school administrator) to learn more about how parents can have a successful transition.
Both parents and children can experience extreme stress and guilt about transitioning.Transitioning Infants (up to 7 months old)
Nichols tells us that transitioning young infants is often easier than toddlers, primarily because infants are not as susceptible to separation anxiety. According to Kathy Zetes, former Child Development Specialist at Children’s Council San Francisco, infants have little fear of strangers and “are intrigued by studying faces and listening to voices. Anyone who smiles and talks to a 3- or 4-month-old will be rewarded with a returned smile and cooing.”
With young infants, it is helpful for new caregivers to observe parents with their infants to learn their routines, soothing techniques, and ways of being with the baby, since infants thrive on consistency. It is important for caregivers to cater to the baby’s rhythms, even if it requires compromising, rather than adjusting the baby’s routine to fit the childcare’s schedule. Overtime, children’s routines within a group setting often naturally merge together.
Nichols’ recommendations for parents transitioning infants:
Transitioning Older Infants / Toddlers (8 or 9 months and older)
By the time babies reach the second half of their first year, they start to discriminate between the faces and voices of people they are familiar with and those of strangers. Attachment to parents or an existing caregiver, such as a nanny, can make separation difficult and children may experience a fear of abandonment. Separation anxiety tends to peak at around age 18 months and is manifested in sadness, crying, tantrums, and withdrawing. Separation anxiety when starting care may last anywhere from a few days to one month, and it is important for parents to have appropriate expectations and a plan in place to manage it. If parents know that their children have a significant amount of separation anxiety, it’s best to send children to childcare full-time rather than part-time. Although this may seem counter-intuitive, young children thrive on predictability and routine. Full-time care allows them to know what to expect five days a week and to more quickly adapt to and to enjoy their new environment and caregivers. However, with older children, the focus of the transition plan is on preparing the child for the separation, and empathizing and providing support, but not “rescuing” a child experiencing separation anxiety.
Nichols’ recommendations for parents transitioning toddlers:
Nichols also emphasizes that throughout the transition period, parents and caregivers should communicate frequently to stay abreast of the child’s progress and parents should feel free to check-in during the day.
Separation anxiety can come and go, and peak at different times for children. If your child is starting care at one of these peak times, particularly if they start care part-time, a child may struggle with separation beyond what parents or caregivers feel is appropriate. Each program and family gauges how much is too much crying and stress, but if a child cries most of the day for more than two weeks, or their general well-being and mood are being significantly affected, it might be worth reevaluating whether now is an appropriate time to start care in a group setting. Most programs have a two week trial period at the start of care to allow for both parents and caregivers to feel out if the childcare arrangement is appropriate for their child at that time.
However, in the vast majority of cases, with a thoughtful transition plan and supportive caregivers, your child will shortly be on their way to enjoying school, building relationships with teachers, and making new friends.
I love reading and learning more about child development and early education approaches. If you'd like to learn more too, here are some helpful links.
Your Self-Confident Baby by Magda Gerber