Part 1. Core principles for infant and toddler pedagogy
This lesson will be available on April 1, 2024.
This lesson will be available on April 1, 2024.
This lesson will be available on April 1, 2024.
Part 2. Responsiveness
This lesson will be available on April 1, 2024.
This lesson will be available on April 1, 2024.
This lesson will be available on April 1, 2024.
Part 3. Communication
This lesson will be available on April 1, 2024.
This lesson will be available on April 1, 2024.
This lesson will be available on April 1, 2024.
Part 4. Caregiving
This lesson will be available on April 1, 2024.
This lesson will be available on April 1, 2024.
This lesson will be available on April 1, 2024.
Part 5. Play
This lesson will be available on April 1, 2024.
This lesson will be available on April 1, 2024.
This lesson will be available on April 1, 2024.
Part 6. Movement
This lesson will be available on April 1, 2024.
This lesson will be available on April 1, 2024.
This lesson will be available on April 1, 2024.
Part 7. Approaches to infant and toddler care and education
This lesson will be available on April 1, 2024.
This lesson will be available on April 1, 2024.
This lesson will be available on April 1, 2024.
Part 8. Working with families and colleagues for the best infant and toddler care
This lesson will be available on April 1, 2024.
This lesson will be available on April 1, 2024.
This lesson will be available on April 1, 2024.
This lesson will be available on April 1, 2024.

Caregiving

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Infant and toddlers’ language development is best supported through meaningful serve and return exchanges of communication with responsive caregivers, particularly in relation to things of infants’ and toddlers’ focus and attention. Other strategies include commentating, using parentese, repetition, and of course, reading and singing.

Quality caregiving practices help us meet the principles for effective infant-toddler pedagogy. Caregiving involves all of the key activities of an effective infant and toddler teacher. It requires teachers to be fully present in the moment of caregiving, and listen for and be responsive to children’s cues and communications so that caregiving becomes a reciprocal interaction in which the teacher and child work in partnership (and with considerable intersubjectivity) to perform the act of care.

One of the key principles for quality caregiving practice is that of respect. Before we even begin to think about caregiving, by which we mean those intimate moments with children that involve their bodies and very private and essential acts of care such as feeding, falling asleep, dressing and nappy changing, we need to examine how we might show respect to infants and toddlers in the ways that we handle, touch and communicate with them, and how, perhaps unintentionally, we might sometimes use touches and gestures that communicate disrespect. The next short reading is designed to provoke your thinking about that.

Read

Use the following reading, Developing respectful relations with infants and toddlers, to reflect on common and habitual ways of handling and responding to infants and toddlers.

Developing respectful relations with infants and toddlers

The questions below encourage you to imagine how an infant or toddler experiences rushed interactions and well-meaning actions that do not consider their perspective. Use them to reflect on what you think shows respect to infants and toddlers in early childhood settings.

Consider what it would be like to be picked up without warning, or from behind. Wouldn’t you prefer to be told what was going to happen, or, even better, invited? And, if invited, given time to consider the request, and time to respond and to prepare yourself for the movement?

Consider what it would be like to be put into a highchair, or baby seat or bouncer, from which you couldn’t get out by yourself, and which restrains you. Wouldn’t you prefer to find your own places to sit or rest, and to decide for yourself how to get there?

Consider what it would be like to be placed in precarious positions, in which you feel wobbly and unsafe, and unable to support yourself. Would placing cushions around you help?

Consider what it would be like to be laid on your tummy, where your vision is curtailed and your head and neck movements uncomfortable, because someone thinks you should build your neck muscles.

Consider what it would be like to be grabbed by the hands and pulled up to exercise your legs, because someone thinks it is good for your development?

Consider what it would be like to be passed from one set of arms to another, to people you didn’t know. 

Consider what it would be like to have your t-shirt removed, or to have your nose or face wiped without being told. Wouldn’t you prefer to be asked, and have time to prepare for the procedure?

Consider what it would be like to have something forcibly taken out of your hand, because it wasn’t ‘for you’. Wouldn’t you prefer to be asked to give it, and have that person wait while you process the request and begin to reply?

Consider what it would be like to have a hat placed on your head as you venture outside. Wouldn’t you prefer to be asked?

Consider what it would be like to be taken to bed, even when you weren’t tired. How would you like to be made to stay up when you were?

Consider what it would be like to be hungry but have to wait until a set time for something to eat, or to be made to eat when you weren’t hungry.

Consider what it would be like to be ignored when you were communicating with someone, or if you were experiencing strong emotions.

Consider what it would be like to have to follow a request immediately. Wouldn’t you prefer to be able to finish what you were working on?

Consider what it would be like to be talked about, as if you couldn’t understand the conversation. Wouldn’t you prefer to be made to feel part of the conversation and given a chance to contribute?

Click here to read this guide on The Education Hub website.

Workbook

Many ideas about respectful practice involve thinking more carefully about the ways in which we touch children’s bodies. How often, across wider society, are infants scooped up and moved out of the way without the adults performing these movements asking permission? How often do adults presume to be able to freely touch and cuddle babies without asking the infant? And how often are highchairs or baby seats used as a way of restraining an infant for the convenience of the adult rather than the needs of the child? It is important to be aware of, and start to question, habitual practices that may not be totally aligned with the image of the infant or toddler you are aiming for as the foundation of your practice and pedagogy.

The principle of ‘free movement’ as a respectful and developmentally appropriate activity for infants and toddlers includes ideas about not restraining children or putting them into positions they cannot access for themselves (such as a moulded baby seat to sit them up before they are able to sit independently). While the principle of free movement is underpinned by notions of respect for young children’s independent motor development, it is important to remember that, in another cultural context, showing respect to an infant or toddler may involve placing them into positions so that they can participate fully in cultural activities. We will look more closely at supporting children’s movement in Part 6 of the course, and at cultural diversity in infant and toddler practices in Part 7. 

In relation to our focus on caregiving in this part of the course, what is important is that caregiving activities are carried out in ways that are respectful of infants and toddlers as competent human beings who have the right to a say in their own care. This means that it is respectful to talk to an infant or toddler about what you are going to do before you do it. It is respectful to offer them an opportunity to participate in their own care and to make choices about what happens to them. And of course, it is respectful to touch children gently and considerately. 

As we know, infants and toddlers should be seenas competent and capable learners and communicators, able to make valued contributions. This applies completely to children’s caregiving needs. Even the youngest infant can communicate needs, and their agency supported and developed. Infants and toddlers should be enabled to be active participants in their experiences, and not just passive recipients of care.

The next reading explores acts of respectful and responsive caregiving a bit more deeply. It offers eight important features of quality caregiving, beginning with the importance of the key teacher or primary caregiving relationship as the context in which quality caregiving practices can be developed in an individualised way for each child. 

Read

Read Eight features of quality caregiving for infants and toddlers and take notes below. 

Eight features of quality caregiving for infants and toddlers

Caregiving is an important part of pedagogical work for teachers of infants and toddlers. It is not just a set of tasks that must be completed for the child’s wellbeing. Neuroscience has demonstrated that, especially in early life, development of the brain and the body are closely interrelated. This means that physical care is an integral part of, and stimulates, infants’ and toddlers’ learning and development. The nurturing involved in moments of care such as mealtimes, nappy-changing and going to sleep, offer a meaningful context for developing attuned interactions which are an essential component of infant and toddler pedagogy. Small group sizes, a high ratio of adults to children (ideally 1:3) and low staff turnover all help to enable better quality caregiving practices. Research into quality caregiving for infants and toddlers has identified the following eight features.

Key teaching  

Key teaching, also called primary caregiving, where a teacher takes primary responsibility for a child’s care, is essential for supporting attuned caregiving in which the caregiver is aware of and responsive to the child. This helps infants and toddlers build attachment and a sense of security. The intimate caregiving relationships established through key teaching build vital trust and reassurance for infants. Key teachers can support children through transition into the centre, daily separations and reunions with parents and whānau, and other moments of transition such as going to sleep or mealtimes. Key teachers also introduce the child to a widening range of relationships.

Key teaching contributes to strong relationships as it facilitates a multitude of interactions that allow the teacher and the infant or toddler to get to know each other. Children’s needs for nutrition, sleep, activity and comfort can then be met in individualised ways that further build their competence and strengthen the connections between caregivers and children. In a key teaching system, the child and family are often assigned a caregiver before they start at the early childhood setting, but it might sometimes be worth considering the personalities of children and teachers to see what the best match may be, or even allowing a bit of time for infants and toddlers to show a preference for a particular teacher. A good match is important for effective relationship-building. No child or parent should be forced into a relationship with a key teacher, so early childhood providers need to create opportunities for parents to voice concerns or questions, and be open to making modifications that are mutually agreeable.

Some settings may prefer to use a whānau caregiving approach, which entails a more collective approach to caregiving in which a child is cared for by multiple caregivers. A key teacher in this approach may have responsibility for an infant or toddler’s transition, and maintaining communication with the family, but this relationship would quickly facilitate relationships with other adults over time.

Continuity of caregiver 

Continuity of care means that children remain with the same caregivers for more than a year, and ideally up until the child is three years old, giving children and teachers time to get to know each other. A lack of continuity can have negative impacts on children’s learning and development as repeated detaching and re-attaching to new caregivers is emotionally stressful for infants and toddlers.

Many practices can support continuity of care. For example, you might consider building ‘family groups’ of children and two or three teachers which remain together in a small group for large parts of the day, and which also remain constant over a prolonged period of time. Planning multi-age groups with each teacher means that children need not transfer caregiver when they reach a birthday. Another alternative is allowing ‘looping’, where same age groupings move on to a new physical space with a familiar caregiver until they leave the setting, at which point the caregiver takes on a new group.

Of course, it is likely to be impossible to have the same caregiver present at every moment of a child’s time at the setting due to shift times, leave and other absences. Strategies to overcome these difficulties include identifying other teachers to build a relationship with and knowledge of the child, and making sure that, if a teacher leaves, there is overlap between the familiar teacher and a new one. When new caregivers need to step in to cover, this should be explained to the child. It is important to ensure a consistency of practice across caregivers: while it does not replace the security of a key teacher, it helps children know what to expect from each adult in your setting. For example, if one caregiver always gives children a few minutes notice before coming back to change their nappies, another caregiver who was caring for children in his or her place would also give children the advance notice they are used to.

Effective settling processes 

It is important to have parents involved in the transition to early childhood education and the settling process. Ensuring the child’s emotional security in the new setting should be seen as a joint task between the parent and the caregiver. Try to have only one child settling in at a time, because the presence of the parents during this new child’s visits can be unsettling for the other children. A settling process might look like this:

  • A short first visit so that feeding or changing will not be necessary, with the parent present the whole time. The parent and child explore the setting and ensure the child has a positive experience.
  • A second visit in which the key teacher starts to interact more closely with both the parent and child, so that the child becomes aware of their presence. On this and subsequent visits, the amount of time that the parent and child spend in the setting each day might increase. When the parent and teacher agree the child is ready, the parent can start leaving the child; over the following visits, the length of time that the child is left without the parent can be increased.
  • The key teacher might ask the parent to carry out the first nappy change while they observe, in order to plan a nappy change routine for that child based on what they are used to with their parent. This practice might be repeated, observing the parent’s routine for mealtimes and sleep times.

Adapting to the child 

Teachers should take time to find out how a child prefers to be fed, how they like to fall asleep and how they react to loud noises or different kinds of touch. This means adapting practices to the child, rather than expecting the child to meet teachers’ expectations or to adapt to the setting’s fixed routines. A flexible programme supports individualised care, as it enables teachers to follow the child instead of a roster. The aim is for infants and toddlers to develop a sense of security that comes from knowing what to expect of their world, both at home and in the early childhood setting.

Attentive responsiveness 

Caring involves genuine attentiveness. For example, this means watching attentively for cues that the infant is ready for the next mouthful during feeding. This gives the child a role in the feeding process and demonstrates that their every communication is meaningful and listened to. Every interaction provides an opportunity to interact in a caring way, which offers children guidance but also freedom to learn and develop. The gentle and considerate handling of and interaction with an infant or toddler affects their developing self-concept as someone worthy of respect and consideration.

Partnership

Care is not effective when the independence of either the child or the caregiver is reduced. Both teacher and child need to be heard by each other and feel able to express wishes, preferences and dislikes. Caregiving is not about meeting children’s needs at whatever cost. Not all needs must be met: sometimes there are other priorities or children’s demands are unreasonable or unsafe. At times, not complying with children’s requests might provide opportunities to build resilience, self-control and tolerance.

Maximising learning

There are multiple learning opportunities present within caregiving routines and the flow of everyday experience. When teachers and infants and toddlers are both focused on the same activity of care, it allows for the development of the shared meanings necessary for attuned caregiving. Within attuned interactions, teachers can regulate and influence infants’ and toddlers’ attention and build their interest, awareness and understanding. There are opportunities for co-operative action, where the infant or toddler contributes to particular tasks during a nappy change, or during feeding, where both parties must synchronise their movements. These are also rich contexts for language development and conversation.

Widening the range of relationships with others 

The safety and security promoted by a predictable relationship with a permanent caregiver ensures that the child is supported to develop relationships with other caregivers and children in the setting. This enables the child to engage in, and learn from, a wider range of interactions.

As you can see, a lot of the guidance here for quality caregiving aligns with the key principles of infant and toddler pedagogy. However, the ideas presented help expand our understanding of the kind of relationships that are required in the infant and toddler context, and how these relationships might be structured by practices such as key teaching and processes for settling-in and continuity.

To read the full version of this research review, with references, click here.

Workbook
Watch

Watch Alex Neilson and Janine Brooker, teachers from The Learning Centre in Ponsonby, Auckland, talk about their caregiving practices. Their discussion of what is important for quality caregiving focuses on building strong, responsive and intimate relationships with children, and exemplifies the ideas of respect and partnership that we have already discussed. 

Introducing Alex and Janine:

Janine has been a kaiako for infants and toddlers as well as young children. She values the opportunity to be a part of continuity of care at The Learning Centre so she can move with her cohort of children as they grow and develop. She currently works in the Tui space with 3 to 5 year olds as she is halfway through her second cycle of continuity. She appreciates the way that cycles of continuity enable kaiako to work together with children and their families to learn about each other and build and strengthen key relationships.  

Alex has been in early childhood education since she was 17 years old. She is deeply passionate about the RIE philosophy and says she has had the great pleasure of working for the past four years at The Learning Centre which is a RIE inspired centre. Alex expresses warmth and respect in her relationships with infants and toddlers.

Transcript

Janine Brooker, educational leader and key kaiako, and Alex Neilson, key kaiako

The importance of one-to-one caregiving routines in infant and toddler care

Janine: For us, it’s the relationship. The relationship grows in those moments, because you’re connected with each other, you and the child, and especially in the beginning when you’re settling: those are the most important times, because you’re getting to know each other. You’re getting to learn how each other communicates. You’re getting to learn the cues for the child, and it’s really – they’re just beautiful moments where you kind of think, ‘hey, I know you don’t know me very well, but I’m here for you, and this is our time, and I’m going to look after you, and take care of you’.

Alex: Yeah, that opportunity for that child to feel the way you touch them – the way it’s like this unhurried moment. They understand that you are there for them to keep them safe, you care about them, you care about how their body is treated – they get to see that they are secure with you, and they do get to feel really good about being in the space with you. And they know that things like a nappy change or kai time can be such a joy, and it’s not this interruption to their day. It’s another beautiful part of the day, both for you and for that child, which I think makes such a big difference – this thing that is going to happen for every child every day.

Janine: It’s going to happen anyway, isn’t it? I mean, the thing is, they’re moments that happen multiple times in a day, so why aren’t they special, valuable times, where you can refuel, and learn about each other and kind of have those communications, and we learn so much.  So, that’s how we always see them. That’s why they’re important, I guess.

How do you ensure that you have one-to-one care moment with children?

Alex: The whole team understands those one-to-one moments are such a huge priority. Having that one-on-one time makes such a massive difference for every child, getting to be seen and heard, and checked-in with like that means that after that moment is finished, they can move away, and they can play freely. They’re not going to need to check in with those teachers as much, because they’ve had that time together. So, because everyone has that understanding that really it makes the day easier for everyone, the teacher or teachers who aren’t involved in that moment are more than happy to kind of take the reins on everything that’s not within that bubble that teacher and that child are in, and it means that teacher who’s in that one-on-one moment knows that if someone arrives, they aren’t expected to welcome them. If a child needs something, they aren’t expected to be a part of that. They can completely engage in the moment with that child.

Janine: Yeah, and that’s I think the key, that we all have that belief that these one-on-one moments are what we do. They’re the most important part of our day. All of the learning and that connectedness happens in those moments. So, we are there for each other, and we make sure that it’s … less distractions and the most valuable times that we can have. It’s the same with the nappy changes. If someone has to do nappies, the other person is there, and they are there for the other children, and they’re there to prepare the space, but the nappy changes – that’s that time, that’s that one-on-one time, and however long it takes, it takes.

Tell us about how you approach the caregiving routines like nappy changing and meal times

Janine: I think for us, the most important thing is having the organisation – having everything ready, being prepared, having the space ready for you. So, as soon as you invite the child, and you can do that by verbally inviting them, body language, facial expressions for the little – for the youngest infants. The cues: we use a bib, and all of these things are setting up that expectation that the child knows what’s coming next, and that’s that sense of security, too. So, preparing the space: that’s a big one. Then, just having that one-on-one, and like Alex said earlier: once you’re there and having that moment, it’s an uninterrupted time, and everyone else, and your team mate, and your fellow teacher takes care of everything else.

Alex: Yeah, and it means that you can check in with that child, and you can kind of have an understanding of who they are and how they are in that moment, where they’re at with their learning, how they’re feeing with their mood. You may notice that there’s something else that they’re needing while tending to that need in the moment. You may see that they’re tired, and you hadn’t noticed that before, and maybe you’re going to go straight to bed from there. Whereas, initially you hadn’t quite figured out what was happening for them.

Janine: You can’t be afraid to go back a little bit if you need to – take a step back.  Often, especially with the toddlers, we know emotionally they’re back and forward with how they’re feeling. So, sometimes, just because they’re at the table, sitting down having a meal, they might be having a rough day. So, we’re like, ‘you know what, you need some extra time with me, let’s have a cuddle, let’s do our meal on the chair again’. Not be afraid to do it: you’re not regressing the child, you’re just really responding to how they’re feeling. 

Alex: Yeah, and not looking at it as a step back, and more just tending to their needs – how they are in that moment. If you’re not feeling well, you may need more care than you would when you’re feeling the best. It’s the same for everybody.

Janine: You might just need a bit of closer time. That’s fine. It’s the same for everyone, yeah.  That’s what we do. That’s how we are responsive, and that’s how we look at nurturing that emotional wellbeing which is key, hey? Even downstairs with the older children, but fundamentally it starts up here. That’s what we do.

How do one-to-one caregiving moments create opportunities for learning and collaborating with the child?

Alex: When you are having that one-on-one time, and you are fully focused, and you are seeing it as this opportunity to be with that little person, you can also kind of see where they’re at in their development, what opportunities you can provide for them to extend on that development. Maybe they’re really eager to be a part of that experience in a new way.  Maybe they have been grabbing their nappy from the shelf, and now they’re ready to be opening the tabs – allowing them to really be a part of that, and understand that.

Janine: Yeah, it’s that partnershipThat’s what we – so, fostering that cooperation: ‘hey, you could do this part here, because this is your body, and you should have a say in what’s happening here’. It’s that slowing down again, seeing when that readiness is there, eh?

Alex: Yeah, absolutely – just that fundamental understanding that things are happening with them and not to them.That it is their body, and that they’re a part of this moment, and that they are their own person, and maybe there are a lot of things that you need to do for them right now, but that doesn’t mean that they are an object that you’re just doing things to: they’re a person that you’re having time with. I think that understanding and those base levels of autonomy just makes such a huge difference to that little person’s development.

Janine: It’s the same with the mealtimes. We use cues and play to see where they might be for the next step. Can they sit up on their own? Okay, you can sit up on your own, your posture is beautiful. Let’s start introducing you to sitting on a stool – let’s open that up and just see how it goes. It all depends, and that’s how we look at it, as well.  So, we look for those cues so that the child has some say in all the things that happened with them.  

Alex: It can work the other way round as well. If you see that a child is struggling with lifting their glass, you can kind of provide something that’s going to build that wrist strength within the space, and then you’re going to be preparing them for –

Janine: Yeah, tipping and pouring in the water trough, or strengthening those muscles up. So, it gives you an idea of how you can prepare the space inside and outside, to kind of grow those muscles.

Does that look the same for every child?

Alex: Yes and no. I think the fundamentals of the way that we care for children and the way we are with children is going to be the same for every child, but every child is a person who is different to every other person, and so there’s going to be a lot of things that are different for them. As we said, everyone’s going to be at a different stage in their development, and being able to provide them with those opportunities to extend upon that development is going to look different for every child. There may be a lot of similarities over time, and their time frame is just different to another child, but yeah, really seeing what works for each child I think is really important.  

Janine: I think the practice is the same. So, how we get to know the child, how we talk, how we let them know when we’re doing things, or before we do things – that’s all the same, but like Alex is saying, once we get to know these things about them, then we may respond a bit differently, depending on where everyone’s at.

Alex: Yeah, it can be really helpful for there to be kind of sense of ritual and repetition in those moments so that they do know what to expect and they can feel really secure knowing.

Janine: We’re consistent, too in practice. I think that’s important, so that anyone can step in and the child knows that there’s still going to be something that they’re familiar with, in the way that they handle – 

Alex: The way a child’s whole body changes when they see you walking towards them with a bib. It shows that they just have that understanding of what that means for them, because that’s something that they’ve been through, they’ve witnessed it with other children, they’ve been a part of that every single day that they’re at the centre. Kind of having that opportunity to just be able to predict what’s coming, and just feel totally secure in knowing what these moments are going to be like for you.

How do you approach caregiving routines in a way that is individual to each child?

Janine: Yeah, everybody has their own rhythm to when they want to eat, so we keep it flexible as well. Sometimes, they might be hungrier earlier – they might not have had much of a breakfast, and we learn this because we communicate with the parents, and we get this feedback. So, we know where we’re at. So, we’re already prepared: okay, you’re going to have a little play and settle in, but you’re going to want to have something to eat sooner rather than later. So, knowing this, we prepare again. We might have a bottle ready if it’s a bottle they might need. We might have heated up some mash, and prepared the dishes in the space, so that when the child really lets us know – we don’t want them to get too upset, but as soon as they start letting us know that they’re ready, then we are prepared, and we say, ‘okay, I can see that you’re hungry, I’d like to take you in for some kai’. Then, we can bring out the bib, or have the bib ready, and then we can take them in. Then, it’s just that time for togetherness. We’re there, and hopefully they’ll be ready to play or they might be ready for a sleep. So, it all flows individually for each child, and we just … be prepared for them.

Alex: With nappy changes, I feel like where I see the most individuality for children is almost the things that they find really engaging and interesting within and outside of that nappy change. There’ll be children who want to, before you even start, point at every single basket of every single child, and run through who each set of nappies belongs to, and what an incredible opportunity for that kind of literacy learning that just is so valuable when it’s child-led like that, and knowing that that’s something that child wants to engage in, it means you are creating that space and time for them. You’re not expecting to start that nappy change straight away. You know they’re going to want to have that moment together discussing that kind of – talking about the nappies together, before you even begin. You’re not wondering why are you looking over there when we’re trying to have this time together?

Tell us why it is so important to approach caregiving routines the way you do

Janine: Relationships – they’re just the core of what we do. Building those relationships and having them – strong, reciprocal relationships with the children, trusting relationships with the families, trusting relationships with each other – it sets every moment that happens from there, it’s all cemented with those relationships, and we just know each other, and knowing each other means you feel secure and you feel safe when you know that your needs will be met because this person really understands you, really knows you. What a gift for a child to be in a space, away from their family and the people they know best, but coming somewhere where they’re like, hey, this is alright, this is a great place – this person knows me, and cares for me, and listens to me, and understands who I am. I think that’s why I love it.

Alex: Yeah, and I feel like that is why we get to see this incredible play and this incredible confidence in these children, because they can look to that adult and see that they know them – if they have a need, that need is going to be met by that adult, and they can go off and explore and take risks, and try new things, knowing that, if that feels hard, or if that gets to be too much, then they have that secure person to go back to.

Janine: Yeah, and sometimes they might have to wait, because the reality is this is group care, but that’s okay, because they know that this will happen for them. So, they’re learning that resilience, and they’re learning to be able to wait a little bit for that special moment with that person.

Delve deeper

Alex and Janine talk about caregiving in their centre as ‘beautiful moments’, special times that are beautiful for the teacher as well as for the child. They see caregiving moments as ‘our time’: intimate, joyful moments that both teachers and children look forward to, a time for deep connection.

Alex and Janine also share that a caregiving moment is a time for learning about the child, particularly learning their cues. This means that caregiving is not just simply a chore to get through, but a time of important work for the teacher, as they try to ascertain what and how the child is communicating and what their particular cues are. This is the knowledge and skill a teacher needs in order to develop the kind of attuned, intersubjective interaction that we identified as so important in Part 1 of the course. One of the reasons that stability in caregivers for children is important is due to the time and effort it takes to learn about children’s individual cues, which are all very different and often very subtle. Having very dedicated, one-on-one time for caregiving tasks, several times each day, enables teachers to really get to know children, and likewise children to get to know and understand what teachers do for and with them.

The teachers at The Learning Centre find that having multiple times each day to ‘check-in’ with children helps them to be able to support children more fully. They might notice something about a child’s needs or mood that may have gone unnoticed otherwise. Caregiving offers a wealth of opportunities not just for meeting care needs, but also for meeting emotional needs, enhancing children’s emotional wellbeing and sense of connection, and ensuring that every child is seen, heard and responded to. 

Caregiving also presents opportunities for teachers to support children’s learning. Alex and Janine introduce the idea of the caregiving moment as a time to assess and extend learning. They give many examples in the video of opportunities for children to learn different skills during the caregiving moment, and they also talk about the way they spend time looking for and noticing the child’s signs of readiness for moving on to a new skill. This underlines again how the caregiving moment is not simply a chore or task, but a time for teachers’ pedagogical work. It is also interesting to note the way Alex and Janine talk about how skills learnt in caregiving exchanges (such as holding a glass) are extended to the play context (pouring in the water tray) and vice versa. 

Alex and Janine draw attention to another part of their work together as a team, which is the idea of a sense of consistency in their practice. This means that children experience ritual and repetition, and they feel secure in knowing what to expect. It also means that, whichever teacher supports them in a caregiving moment, they can be confident about aspects of the routine and how they will be handled. 

Finally, notice how important this understanding of caregiving as a joyful moment of deep connection is for developing a team approach to caregiving in which each teacher is highly supported in their one-to-one caregiving interactions. In busy centres, a shared understanding of the crucial importance of teachers being able to give children significant one-to-one time enables teachers to work together to make this happen for every child so that every child can thrive. This teamwork means teachers taking on extra responsibilities while one teacher is with a child for a caregiving moment. There are also practical requirements like the ongoing organisation that happens behind the scenes so that each caregiving moment can run smoothly – and with a focus on the child rather than on finding a bib or wiping down a surface. We will look more closely at teamwork in the final part of the course, as this is a crucial element in any infant and toddler programme that enables attuned and respectful caregiving.

Workbook