(My earliest professional work with children took place in a child care center, working with infants and toddlers. Part of my responsibilities included occasionally contributing to the center’s newsletter. I hung onto my articles, and am including a sampling of the more relevant pieces. Enjoy!)
Infant Classroom, Winter 2006
As you step into our infant classroom, slip your shoes off, and look around the room, you will most likely see an innocuous scene. Babies will probably be lying on the floor, some peacefully contemplating the ceiling or their toes, others vigorously working on devouring a toy or manipulating their bodies into new contortions and positions. Teachers can be spotted lounging amongst the pillows near the children, settled back into the rocking chair with a child snuggled in her arms, or moving quietly between the diaper table, charts, and the kitchen. Peaceful, loud occasionally, but peaceful nonetheless…it may look like there’s not much going on, but we are actually (all of us), working on developing a huge and very important developmental process…
It’s what this whole year is all about, for you, for us, and for your children.
What an enormously trusting act for you to bring your littlest ones to us and confidently leave them in our care. You trust that not only will we keep your children safe and healthy, but that we will also look after their happiness and their development. That we will be honest with you, answer all of your questions to the best of our ability, and keep you informed. That we will always act in your child’s best interests. (Please know that trust is not something we take lightly.)
As teachers, we have to commit to trusting ourselves: our instincts, our education, and our experience. That trust lends us a little inner peace that steadies our voices, hands, and hearts when we are talking to, holding, and developing relationships with your children. We that you are your child’s expert; that you will tell us things about your child that we could never know. Most importantly, we trust your children to know themselves, their needs and limitations, and we trust them to communicate that knowledge to us.
For your children…
An infant’s whole existence is balanced on trust: trusting others, trusting the environment, and trusting him or herself. What children learn about the trustworthiness of those three categories sets the foundation for the rest of their development, for the rest of their lives. To support the development of healthy trust in these areas, there are several things that we do.
To facilitate trust in others, we assign children to primary caregiving teams so that they consistently have the same adults caring for them and attending to their basic needs. That individualized care and attention lets us get to know your children intimately and thoroughly. It helps us learn to recognize your child’s cues and preferences which means we can respond more quickly and accurately when your child needs something. We also talk to children regularly, telling them what we are going to do to them before we do it. The simple signs we offer children become signposts of communication for them that they will be able to offer back to us in future months, strengthening our understanding of their needs.
To inspire trust in the environment, we strive for some predictability in our space. We avoid drastic changes in the way we set-up the room each day, and we do our best to make sure that our room is always a safe, soft, calm and calming place. We do not pluck children off of the floor without warning (imagine how stressful that could be!), and when we do pick them up, we return them to the same spot when we have finished our interaction. The toys we put out are always developmentally appropriate and safe for children to explore without hurting themselves. You may notice the bookshelves have hard toys on the bottom, books on the second shelves, and soft items on the top shelves; those categories will remain intact throughout the year, though the items offered will change.
And to validate that trust children have in themselves, we simply watch for and respond to your child’s initiations. We know your child was born with instincts about his or her basic needs and was similarly born with the ability to communicate those needs to us (like rooting when hungry, yawning when tired, flashing a dazzling smile when looking for company, and, later, signing simple requests). By responding to your child’s cues, we are validating their internal messages. We also know that your children need to trust in themselves to be initiators, guiding their own development, so we set up our environment in such a way that gives children the greatest amount of freedom for movement and exploration.
What you see when you enter the room and slip off your shoes will change as the months pass: the layout will shift, new toys and even climbing structures will be added, and our relationships and interactions with you and your children will develop and grow, but in the midst of all the change, keep in mind that we will always be working on that ever-important, multi-faceted quality of trust.