What is Good Day Care?
Most child and adolescent psychiatrists recognize that the ideal
environment for raising a small child is in the home with parents
and family. But since the ideal environment is not always an option,
day care often needs to be considered. Before choosing a day care
environment, parents should be familiar with the state license regulations
for child care. They should also check references and observe the
care givers with the child.
What are the most important quality in choosing infant and toddler
program? Loving care givers, comfy areas, and lots of fun. Use the
following general guide when selecting a day care provider for your
Infants need individual attention
Infants and children under 3 need:
||The same care giver(s) over a long
period. Parents should find out how long the individual plans
to work in the day care center. High turnover of individuals,
several turnovers, or any turnover at critical points of development
can distress a child.
||A care giver who will play and talk
with them, praise them for their achievements, and enjoy them.
Parents should seek a care giver who is self-confident, affectionate,
and comfortable with the children. The care giver should be able
to encourage social skills and positive behavior, and set limits
on negative ones.
||More adults per child than older children
require. Infants and young children need a lot of individual attention.
Children over the age of 3
benefit from group day care
In groups, older children can have fun while they learn how to interact
with others. Parents of children three years and older should seek
day care services with:
||Trained, experienced teachers who
enjoy, understand and can lead children
||Opportunity for creative work, imaginative
play, and physical activity.
||Space to move indoors and out.
||Lots of drawing and coloring materials,
and toys, as well as equipment such as swings, wagons, and jungle
||Small, rather than large, groups.
(Studies have shown that five children with one care giver is
better than 20 children with four care givers.)
If the child seems afraid to go to day care, parents should introduce
the new environment gradually: At first, one parent can go along,
staying nearby while the child plays. The parent and child can stay
for a longer period each day until the child wants to become part
of the group.
Though parents may worry about how the child will do, they should
show pleasure in helping their child succeed. If the child shows unusual
or persistent terror about leaving home, parents should discuss it
with their pediatrician.
Here are the 10 key ingredients to look for with INFANTS
Your baby need nurturing and plenty of activities to support her
natural curiosity. As you observe child care programs, you should
see the following:
- A cozy, loving environment with a homey look. Babies are cuddled
often, in caring arms, and are tenderly held and attended to during
feelings. At nap time, your baby will have her own "blankie"
or her special soft animal. Plants and flowers adorn the room, providing
fragrances for babies to smell.
- Care givers who enjoy playing with babies. Adults often engage
in special games (such as peekaboo and patty-cake) - and babies
soon learn to enthusiastically join in.
- Many toys for infants to explore. Look for a variety of items
for babies to push, pull, squeeze, roll, bang together, and investigate.
Other essential toys include puzzles with knobs, on each piece,
soft balls for squeezing, large balls for rolling, and pegboards
for hammering. All toys are washed daily and are too big for babies
to choke on.
- An abundance of a variety of blocks. There should be lots of one-inch
wooden cubes that babies can pick up, bang together with two hands,
pour into and out of containers, and build with.
- Frequent experiences for learning language. Care givers use daily
routines as wonderful opportunities to talk. They name and label
new sights, sounds, tastes, toys, and activities. One-on-one conversations
are frequent, and care givers respond to babies’ coos, babbles,
and single words with genuine pleasure.
- Lots of singing and crooning. Care givers ease infants into nap
times and comfort them when they’re distressed by singing familiar
- Durable and inviting books that are read daily. Books, should
be made of plastic, cloth, or heavy cardboard. There should be one
picture per page, showing familiar things such as a dog, ball, baby,
or apple. As they read the books aloud, care givers talk with babies
about the pictures.
- Family photo albums for each baby. Your providers should invite
you to keep a book with family photos in the child-care facility
so they can snuggle up with your baby to look at pictures of family
- Experiences to build small-motor skills. Care givers engage babies
in activities that help them develop important skills such as picking
up dry cereal with their thumb and forefinger.
- Social mealtimes. Care givers show patience when infants dribble
as they learn to handle strained food and when babies, who are getting
the hang of tippy cups, make a mess. Feeding is a special time for
talking with each baby.
Here are the 10 key ingredients to look for with TODDLERS
As your child grows, he’ll need new challenges and things to explore.
Here’s what to look for in a program:
- A variety of toys to challenge your toddler’s dexterity and problem-solving
skills. Good materials include: ring-stack sets, a windup jack-in-the
box, peg-pounding boards, puzzles with several pieces of familiar
things, and busy-boards with many pieces that produce special effects
with they’re turned or pressed.
- Lots of space to tumble, run and ride trikes. Toddlers are often
on the go! There should always be safe climbing equipment with slides,
steps, and even rope ladders.
- Teachers who encourage friendships and group games. This appeals
to toddlers, who often have playmates they naturally prefer to play
with, sit next to, and jabber about pictures in a storybook with.
- Many opportunities to sing together. Toddlers love to act out
the hand motions for fun songs. Teachers are patient with tots who
don’t yet feel ready to join in.
- Daily group readings. Teachers choose books with simple, interesting
stories that engage toddlers. They hold the books so that toddlers
can look at the pictures.
- A variety of activities to increase dexterity and grace. Dancing
to slow music helps toddlers gain more coordination and control.
Toddlers also develop small-motor skills as they help with cooking.
- Toddlers are gently lulled into sleep. Teachers rub their backs
or croon and sing songs in low voices at nap time.
- Materials that help toddlers learn about shapes, colors, textures
and sounds. There should be toys in a variety of colors and shapes,
as well as cylinders filled with beans, sand, or stones that toddlers
can shake and listen to.
- Daily art experiences. Magic markers, finger paints, crayons,
easels, and poster paints are set out daily for toddlers to experiment
- Opportunities to learn social skills. Care givers patiently explain
the importance of
taking turns. They read stories about kindly acts and praise toddlers
who show concern for other children’s feelings.
What to tell the teacher
The more you share with the care giver, the better able she’ll be
to meet your child’s needs.
||Point out the strained or textured
foods that you baby prefers.
||Mention your baby’s favorite books
for nap time and the tune you hum to help her calm down.
||Share your intimate knowledge about
your baby’s temperament and personality style with your care giver.
Each baby responds to change, unfamiliar people, and new foods
in her own way.
Tell you care giver about your toddler's favorite books, songs,
toys, or any insights about his personal preferences.
||Be sure to explain if your toddler
needs a special "lovey", such as a particular blanket
or teddy bear, to help him fall asleep.
||Let teachers know if your toddler
has very irregular bowel movements or strong food preferences.
||Share family events that are causing
your toddler stress. If there’s a new baby sibling at home, be
sure your care giver knows!
Alice Sterling Honig, Ph.D.,
is professor emerita of child development
at Syracuse University.
Scholastic Parent & Child