What Parents Should Look for in Child Care (page 2)
Good Human Relationships Among Staff, Children, Parents
Basic to the type of care children receive are the personal traits and educational background of the caregivers. A warm, nurturing adult who has a knowledge of how children grow and develop, and an understanding of the needs and interests of individual children, is essential for high-quality care. Children are valued for themselves and not for what they do or how they look. Good caregivers tend to view children positively and help them learn what to do rather than focusing on what not to do. They help children learn to take responsibility for their own actions and eventually develop self-discipline. Rules should be reasonable, consistent, and well explained. Children are treated with respect. When caregivers view themselves positively and feel good about their work, they model a good self-image for the children.
It is essential for caregivers and teachers to help parents feel a part of the program. Home and school should share information in order to understand more fully a child's needs and provide the best coordinated twenty-four-hour schedules for the child. Parents can share important family values, goals for their child, methods of discipline, and changes in the child's home environment while teachers can share the program goals, special activities for the child, weekly plans, and how they believe children learn. Teachers should utilize appropriate community resources for the school and help parents find needed resources.
Good relationships among staff members are important. If the children see adults working together cooperatively and solving problems successfully, they will learn to use some of these skills. All staff members must maintain professional ethics, which includes protecting the privacy of the children and families in their program.
Regulations, Facilities, and Program Activities
Licensing of child-care centers and family child-care homes gives parents some protection. To determine which regulations apply in the area, contact the local or state department of health or social welfare. States vary in their requirements for the facilities and the staff. Criminal clearance of caregivers, health and safely regulations, and child-adult ratios are usually included. Many states have no special educational requirements for their family child-care providers and, as mentioned earlier in this chapter, thirty-two states require no prior training for teachers in centers (Children's Defense Fund, 1998).
The adult-child ratio affects the individual attention given to each child and the group size affects the interactions of children. The National Academy of Early Childhood Programs accreditation advocates the following standards. Ages of children are followed by adult-to-child ratio and group size.
|Age||Adult-Child Ratio and Group Size|
|Infants and toddlers 0 to 24 mo.||1:3 for 6 children; 1:4 for 8 children
One teacher and one assistant for each group
|Two-year-olds||1:4 for 8 children; 1:5 for 10; 1:6 for 12|
|Two- and three-year-olds||1:5 for 10 children; 1:6 for 12; 1:7 (14)|
|Three-year-olds, four-year-olds, or four- and five-year-olds||1:7 for 14 children; 1:8 for 16; 1:9 for 18; 1:10 for 20|
|Five-year-olds||1:8 for 16 children; 1:9 for 18; 1:10 for 20|
|Six- to eight-year-olds (school-age)||1:10 for 20 children; 1 :11 for 22; 1:12 for 24|
Multi-age grouping is permissible and often encouraged. The staff-child ratio and group size requirements are based on the age of the majority of children, but when infants are included, ratios and group size for the infants must be maintained (NAEYC, 1984).
It is essential that parents visit a center and talk with the director, teachers, and children before enrolling their child. The school should welcome unannounced visits. The parents must check for safety in the total environment. Is the equipment appropriate and in good condition? Are gates latched so children cannot get out? Are activities well supervised? The child should also visit the program before being enrolled.
There should be a variety of developmentally and culturally appropriate activities as well as equipment and materials so that each child can develop in all areas—physical, social, intellectual, emotional, and creative. Physical development includes large and small motor skills and health issues. Particular attention should be paid to routines such as eating, toileting, and resting. Intellectual development involves the acquisition of language skills as well as general knowledge about one's "world" and how to function in daily tasks.
Children need opportunities to play and work with other children as well as to play and work alone. Activities should be balanced between active and quiet play both indoors and outside. Some activities should be teacher-directed while others should be selected by the child. The transition times between activities should be relaxed and provide pleasant learning experiences.
Learning centers should reflect children's families, cultures, and interests. Learning centers should include table-top activities with manipulative materials, activities with housekeeping props, dramatic play, books and quiet corner, music and movement, art and creative activities, cooking and science areas, and a block area. Look for outdoor climbing equipment, space to run, wheel toys, sensory motor activities such as obstacle courses, balls, beanbags, and hoops. Children need carpentry, gardening, and ample sand, water, and mud play. There should be nature walks and trips away from the center. (See How to Choose a Good Early Childhood Program by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1990.)
Children's View of a Child-Care Center or a Caregiver's Home
Who will take care of me? Will I be safe? What will I eat? Where will I go to the toilet? Where will I sleep? Who will be my friend? Judging the quality of a program from a child's point of view is what Lillian Katz calls from the bottom up approach (Katz, 1993).
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