What Is High-Quality Child Care?
Quality of care is not related to where the care is offered but to how it is offered. It is difficult to provide high-quality care in an environment that is dirty, the equipment is in poor repair, toys are scarce, and space is cramped. But poor quality care can be—and too often is—delivered in beautifully designed settings with all the toys and materials your child could wish for.
Defining High-Quality Child Care
Our definition of quality mixes what researchers, child care providers, and other parents have learned together with a solid dose of common sense, drawn from our many years of personal and professional experience in both child development and child care. Searching for the best way to explain the meaning of quality, we found ourselves coming back to four basic words and phrases: caring, tuned in, respectful, and safe and secure.
Caring and Tuned In
These two qualities work together. A caring and tuned-in provider is one who
- listens to and is aware of the child’s communications, both verbal and nonverbal.
- watches for clues to how the child feels and picks up on those clues as she interacts with the child.
- attends to the children all the time and does not spend time chatting with other adults.
The tuned-in, caring provider is not afraid to show physical and verbal affection but is not overly effusive. She can simultaneously hold one child in her arms, listen carefully to a second who is tugging at her sleeve with a question, and watch a third struggle to accomplish a task, ready to assist if the child gets too frustrated. This person does not need to say she likes children because her feelings are clear. Her warmth is obvious, and she spends most of her time directly interacting with the children.
Many adults do not respect young children. They are not particularly interested in children, and this attitude shows in their tendency to ignore children. Unfortunately, some people who work in the child care profession fit into this category.
The traditional assumption has been that all women love children and that all have a natural ability to be good child care providers. Both assumptions are myths. Many women and men who love children do not have the patience or the skills to be great early childhood teachers and caregivers.
The capacity really to listen to very young children and to understand the ideas they are trying to express is central to showing respect for them. Listening and responding sensitively shows real consideration for the feelings and needs of the child. Children feel valued when they receive such undivided attention.
A respectful caregiver values children’s ideas, is considerate of their feelings, and demonstrates high regard for them through her warm and affectionate manner. Teachers and caregivers who can appreciate children in these ways often show the same respect toward the parents and co-workers they interact with.
Reprinted with the permission of Cornell University. © 2008 Cornell University
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