Parents of toddlers are often concerned about the care their children receive at daycare. Because toddlers have trouble communicating, parents must rely on their own observations to determine if their child’s needs are being met. Perhaps the most important thing for parents to look for is a structured schedule, supportive adults, a rich environment, and non-punitive discipline techniques.
Maintain a Structured Schedule
Though a great deal of flexibility is required in caring for toddlers, a daycare must also maintain a structured schedule that emphasizes several key elements. First there needs to be time devoted to activities such as reading, crafts and other age-appropriate lessons such as learning songs. There also need to be plenty of time allocated to physical activities and quiet down time. However, central to every toddler’s schedule should be playtime, which encourages independent exploration of learning.
Learning Through Play
Playtime should be the cornerstone for any toddler care program. Children learn to play, and then they play to learn. They explore the environment around them and develop independence, creativity, and problem-solving skills. In essence, toddlers learn about themselves and the world around them using all of their senses. Everything is an experiment to them, and adults should expect frequent changes in activities.
Parents also need to carefully watch how adults handle caring for toddlers. Teachers should be warm, nurturing and caring, as toddlers need the security of a trusted adult to guide their playtime. Additionally, teachers should encourage guided exploration. Toddlers tend to dump out a toy and then move on without fully exploring it. Teachers can help guide a child back to the toy for further investigation. Adults should also encourage positive social interactions with other children.
Provide a Rich Environment
A daycare must provide a rich environment for children if they are to truly learn through play and exploration. Not only should the center be clean and safe, but it also must provide plenty of age-appropriate toys and books. It’s not just a matter of safety but a matter of learning development. In addition, the toys should be routinely rotated to avoid boredom. There should also be plenty of space both indoors and outdoors for physical activities.
Discipline Through Redirection
Finally, parents need to look carefully at how discipline is handled. Harsh or punitive discipline tends to stifle children’s desire to explore, which is critical for their learning. Instead, teachers should rely primarily on redirecting inappropriate behavior toward more positive exploration. Of course, issues that are more serious can be handled with such techniques like timeout. At no time is physical punishment acceptable while caring for toddlers.
Many people may think that caring for toddlers is just child’s play, but it’s not. Play is critical to a child’s learning, a daycare should foster this by providing a structured schedule, supportive adults, a rich environment, and discipline that encourages instead of stifles. Children in such an environment will feel free to explore and learn about themselves and the world around them.