The first years are a wondrous time. As the months pass, parents are able to form deep, affectionate bonds with their babies and marvel at their rapid growth. Infants need a small, consistent group of people whom they can learn to know and trust. When babies are in childcare settings, it is important for group sizes to remain small (with at least one adult for every three infants) so that secure, meaningful relationships can form and each infant's needs for attention, affection and routine care can be met. Toddlers continue to need secure attachments and a great deal of individual attention.
Babies come into this world ready for relationships-each with a unique personality and style of communication. Babies tell us about their feelings and needs through their facial expressions and body movements, as well as by cooing, babbling, and crying. Crying is one of the main ways babies communicate. They cry to tell us that they want or need something to happen-perhaps a diaper change, a bottle, a nap, or a hug.
Routine care, such as feeding a baby or changing a diaper, provides rich opportunities for one-to-one contact. Be sure to feed and change infants and put them down for naps based on their needs, not according to a schedule. Hold your baby during bottle-feeding in order to take advantage of this time for closeness and interaction. Keep in mind that too much stimulation, such as bright lights and constant noise, may overwhelm infants and cause them stress.
Infants' immunity to infectious disease is just beginning to build. Remember to wash your hands and take other sanitary precautions before and after feeding, diapering, and toileting. Keep sick children home so the infection or illness is not spread to other children and adults.
Talking with Infants
Even before they understand words, babies love to hear language and respond by cooing, babbling, and making sounds that gradually resemble adult speech. During the first two years of life, children understand much more than they can say. You can help children learn new words by noticing the things that catch their attention, naming them, and talking about them. Repeatedly using newly learned words will reinforce them and build your child's vocabulary. By using the same words in different ways ("You have a face. And the clock has a face, too"), or finding different ways to say the same thing ("It's big, it's huge, it's gigantic") you can help children build a richer, more expressive vocabulary as they grow.
Infants need many opportunities to explore their world using all of their senses. As your baby begins to crawl and then walk, a safe environment is essential. From your child's perspective, if it's in view, it's interesting; and if it's in reach, it will be investigated. That's why it is important to "child proof" all settings where young children spend time. Potential dangers include unlocked cabinets, uncovered electrical outlets, medicines and cleaning supplies, and small objects that can be put into a child's mouth. You can prevent accidents with close supervision and frequent inspection to spot new dangers that crop up as children grow and develop.
Toddlers' Intense Feelings
Toddlers are very involved in learning about themselves in relation to the world around them Their day often involves conflict with siblings, playmates, and the adults around them. Keep in mind that when a toddler wants something, she typically wants it intensely and immediately. If you are caring for more than one child, you can help reduce conflict by making sure there are enough toys and materials for all to share. It's also important that your toddler has enough time and space to fully explore her environment. Be sure she has plenty of opportunities to make real choices and decisions, like what snack food she prefers or which shirt she wants to wear.
When toddlers don't get what they want, tempers often flare. Children can be frightened by their own feelings and actions, and they rely on the adults around them to remain calm. In simple language, say what specific behaviors are expected and what will happen if the rules are not followed ("Stop throwing the crackers, or snack time will be over.") Let your child know that you (or other caregivers) are there to help her work through her intense emotions.
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Separation and Stranger Anxiety
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