(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:
Evelyn Nichols, M.Ed.