Providing child care for infants is different than caring for older children. Babies have special ways of communicating, specific nutritional needs, and unique scheduling routines. It is important for child care providers to know and understand infants' specific needs and ways of communicating so they can better provide for the infants at their child care facility.
Infants need caring adults they can depend on. Child care providers can build trust by by spending time one-on-one with babies and responding quickly to their needs. A trusting relationship has a special name, a secure attachment. When children have a secure attachment, they feel sure that you will care for them. These babies feel safer and spend more time exploring their world.
Infants have their own special ways of telling you when they are happy, tired, hungry, bored, need to stop playing or need a fresh diaper. They have many ways to communicate with their child care providers. Watch where they are looking with their eyes, the kind of facial expressions they make, and take notice of all their different body movements. Listen to the little babbling sounds infants make and their different crying messages. All of these signals and more will help you get to know each infant in your care.
It is important to talk to infants even though they aren't talking. Even when they can't speak a word, infants are capable of communicating. Infants say things with their bodies, waving arms and wiggling feet, when they cry, and through the little cooing sounds they make. Talk to infants throughout the day. Babies learn language, by hearing you speak. Make eye contact, smile and laugh. Listen and look for the many ways that babies communicate with you.
Get to know each baby's schedule. Some babies have very regular routines and are often hungry and tired at the same time everyday. Other babies are irregular in their habits, and you will have to work a little harder to get to know just what they need. This can sometimes make it challenging for child care providers. Tune into babies' needs and let them eat and sleep on their own timetable. As they get older, they will be more able to stick to the same schedule as other babies.
Playing games with infants is more than just fun. Infants learn a lot when you play games like peek-a-boo with them. Try playing the same game regularly. Infants are always processing and putting together the world around them. Simple games teach them cause and effect. They enjoy anticipating what is going to happen next.
Take infants outside every day. There is so much to see, feel and do outside that it is one of the most important parts of a the day for infants in child care. Have an outdoor play area that is safe and interesting for babies. Find ways to explore the outdoors with the babies in your care. Even trips around the neighborhood or block can be great learning adventures for babies.
To learn more about how child care providers can meet infants' needs, take a look at the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles:
To learn more about what child care providers should expect in infant development, check out the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles: