Caring for an infant can be challenging, however when your infant is part of a high quality child care program, the results can be beneficial to both the child and the parents.
Things to consider when choosing a good child care environment for your infant are the group size (the maximum number of infants per teacher), the quality of the actual physical environment of the day care facility, and how the needs of each individual infant are going to be met.
- Group Size: Most infants tend to be more comfortable and relaxed in a calm and quiet environment. Therefore, a smaller group is beneficial. The number of infants that can be cared for by one teacher varies widely from state-to-state. Some states allow up to 7 infants per teacher, which can create a chaotic environment that impacts the individualized attention that each child receives. At Educational Playcare, the maximum number of infants per teacher is 4; allowing each child to have plenty of individual attention.
- Environment: As with the group size, the environment of the child care center classroom can mean the difference between an enriching experience and a miserable one. The environment should be calming, comfortable, and relaxing, encouraging positive interactions between the adult caregivers and the infants. There should be plenty of space for infants to explore and lots of toys for them to manipulate. Cleanliness is of the utmost importance. Individual space should be available for each child’s belongings and everything should be organized and clearly labeled. There should also be a place for mothers to privately nurse their infant.
- Meeting Each Child’s Needs: The ability to meet the needs of each infant is directly related to the size of the group. Smaller groups allow for more intimate care, more flexibility for sleeping, eating, and playing schedules, and it allows for children with special needs to receive the attention they need when they need it. Organization is key when there are several infants to care for. Be sure to find out how the caregivers stay organized and be sure that your child’s things are clearly labeled.
One more thing: Caring for children, especially in a group setting like a childcare center, is a profession. One other factor in determining the right place for your infant is the teachers. Infant caregivers must be kind, patient, calm, and organized. Look for teachers who appear calm and relaxed, even when an infant is upset. Be sure to ask them how they handle certain situations and make sure that your infant’s caregiver communicates effectively with you, especially during the first few weeks when being away from your child can be quite difficult.
Choose your childcare center wisely based on the needs of your family and the ability of the center to meet those needs.