Baby School 101 - A Guest Post

January 13, 2012

I recently asked my friend Cecilly a few questions about baby's learning/development and what to look for when you want to start sending your baby to Mother's Day Out.  (I plan on sending Georgia in the fall to the one year old class 2 days a week)  I also asked her what were some good things to do at home with babies to keep them learning and engaged.  I figured a lot of blogger moms would want to know/would have the same questions so, she gave me the go ahead to post her answers on my blog for all to read.

{Here she is holding Georgia at the hospital.  She was actually the first one to hold her other than Jonathan or I!}

Cecilly is the Lead Infant Teacher at her school as well as the Infant/Young Toddler Team Leader.  She has a BSFCS (bachelor of science in family and consumer science) in Child Development and Family Studies from Baylor University.  We went to High School together.  Were on the dance team together.  AND, we went to college together.  She was in my wedding and I was her matron of honor, so I trust her opinion on the matter.

Here is what Cecilly had to say in her email she sent me last night:

It's probably a fact that a Mother's Day Out program will just be daycare. They can't pay their teachers enough for them to be of quality, sorry it's just what it is. That's not to say, though, that some of the teachers will be interested in genuinely caring for G or the other babies. However, they will more than likely be mothers of young children or not educated in the field and older women. Experience makes us who we are, but I firmly believe that people in my field need an education. You have to know what an infants next developmental cues will be in order to provide a successful learning environment, and that is exactly what you are looking for. 

Be on the lookout for a NAEYC accredited school, there aren't many in the Houston area, it's a coveted title (which my school possesses). If the school isn't NAEYC accredited then look for a SACS accreditation. This will ensure you the center is above minimum licensing standards; minimum being the key word. In a minimum standard licensed school an infant class can have around 12 infants starting at 2 months, but my class has a maximum of 7 infants no younger than three months with two teachers, and it's challenging, 12 seems impossible i.e. not quality. 

There are day schools and other centers that offer part time classes if that's what you're looking for, not just mother's day out, but they will be more expensive. Just be sure they are accredited in some way to ensure it's not simply a day care. Also, look for a lesson plan. If the classroom teachers have a focus this will mean a productive learning experience. Curriculums differ, but look for a lesson plan written by the specific teacher; that will tell you if she's legit or just there to earn the cash. You really have to have a passion for child development and a nurturing spirit to hang out with infants all day. It's exhausting, but I am so interested in their growth that the money and the challenges are not an issue. 

Next, find their mission statement. This will tell you a lot about the program. The program should emphasize play. It should be the key ingredient. Infants and toddlers (as well as children of all ages) need play to learn. This is how they figure things out and how their brains work. I can't suggest any curriculum, but a creative teacher.

The structure can be a bit tricky. They definitely need a schedule, but play in and out of the classroom for children as young as G just needs to be available. They need a feeding and sleeping schedule, but everything else is up to the child.

If the children are not eating then we are on the floor playing, reading, singing, talking, dancing, working on motor skills like grasping, reaching, rolling over, and fine motor skills with various toys and objects, all the things you do with G. A scheduled feeding and sleeping routine is all the structure they need. No weird circle times with books or singing or anything. Books and singing are usually individualized. They can start that circle time stuff the second semester when they're two, they're brains can't comprehend that kind of structure just yet and starting at two years old may not work either.
We do a lot of singing of all kinds of songs to get the atmosphere in the classroom down from chaotic. I've made up several songs for lunch time with picky eaters and they love the songs. They were even saying the main word in one of the songs by the end of the year because I sang it sooo much. Board books that are accessible for the children are crucial. They need to explore books in their own way even if it means eating them. Teachers will have to take initiative and read with G, because she's so young. I'm not sure if she brings you books yet, but other children her age won't. We have play mats with the hanging toys, but we recently retired those to practice different skills. They can all grasp things and bring them to their mouths so we use the same toys that were hanging, but in different ways. The classroom has to evolve with the children as they grow. Just like baby proofing a house to make it more child friendly, we have to adapt the classroom to keep it interesting for the child as well as safe. They do get bored with the toys, so I try to change them out and add a new toy once a week. Something they've never seen. It's all in the lesson plan. Typically when they get bored we move locations, this is when we transition to outside or just go on a buggy ride, today we went to the library and picked out new books, because it was too cold outside.
We've done some cool stuff with the infants, but it's hard with our licensing standards, so things at home are much easier like your edible paint. We could do that at school despite the mess, but I'm really interested in painting with fruits and that requires the children to be a certain age and not allergic to the foods. So, food painting at home could be cool on some construction paper. We do a lot of tempera painting. We've painted bubble wrap and contact paper, wax paper, foil, cardboard, and Christmas ornaments. This month we have some cool sensory things: ooblik (cornstarch and water), and cloud dough. Shaving cream, flour and water.  Water, ice, things that smell: lavender (herbs are good sensory experiences.)  Small, empty water bottles filled with bells, beads, sequins, colored water, or anything colorful are always a hit and infants love bubbles. Just be sure to glue the lid on so none of the things can come out of the bottle. Buckets are a hit, textured balls, puzzles, sorters, and stacking rings. These are staples in our classroom. All of which can be utilized at home, and activities using all of the senses. There aren't many creative activities out there, but I'm always looking and if I come across any I'll let you know.

Just some random thoughts:
--If you know you want your child to be in a program avoid swings, and bouncers. They can really make it hard on teachers. Every parent should find a way to get their child to sleep and calm without contraptions. 

--Also, avoid programs (if possible) without these things. I opted to take the swings, jumperoo, and most of the bouncer seats out of my room for a more intentional experience. I want to be with the children, not put them somewhere and walk away. We have one bouncer we use to feed the young ones solid foods that aren't really good at sitting in the wooden chairs yet.

--Let G experience everything. I know you do a great job of that. Let her see everything and constantly talk to her and explain things. This is relevant and important for everyone with infants and young children.

--Observe the classroom before enrolling G. Watch the teachers and the other staff. Set up a tour of the program. If they don't offer one, don't enroll!

--Look at the licensing website. It will tell you every good and bad thing about the program. search for the school here.

--You'll know when you walk in if you are interested in the program

If you have any questions or if anything is unclear just let me know! :)   Hope I was helpful and not overwhelming.

Thank you SO much Cecilly!  This gave me A LOT to think about.  I loved everything!

1 comment:

MICHELE said...

Thanks. I loved reading that!


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