Creating Your Infant Curriculum
The foundation of a good infant curriculum begins with an understanding of how they learn. By understanding how infants and toddlers learn, creating a sound curriculum becomes a matter of intentionally building on every aspect of that information.
One of the ways that infants and toddlers learn is through their interactions with other people. For the interaction to be memorable the child must first have a strong relationship with the person, such as the connections between the child and her parents or primary caregiver. Because infants and toddlers are just beginning to build language, words hold little to no meaning, however the tone of voice and facial expression of the caregiver when relating to the child carries much meaning. The child is learning social and emotional behaviors through the way the caregiver interacts with her.
Building a relationship with the infant in your care begins with respecting his primary attachment to his parents. By following their instructions regarding the care of their child, responding to his needs quickly, relating to him individually and being consistently caring in your interactions with him will help to develop a seamless transition between home and child care. As he learns that you can be trusted to meet his needs and becomes more comfortable with you, you are building a secure and trusting relationship where he knows he is safe and can thrive.
An effective infant curriculum uses schedules and routines to cement the relationships between caregiver, parent and child. Consistency in schedule provides the child freedom to explore because she knows that her needs are regularly met. She is free to try new foods, because she knows that even if she refuses it, she will not go hungry. She is free to play hard and tire herself because she knows that she will be able to rest. She is free to sleep soundly because she knows that she is safe in your care.
The second way that an infant learns is through observation. If the child’s eyes are open, he is learning. Notice how intently an infant watches an object suspended above him. As he hits the object and it begins to swing, he is learning the concept of cause and effect in that he caused the movement, and then observes the effect of his actions. However, if there was no object for him to observe or interact with, then the learning time is diminished. Thus, another part of an appropriate infant curriculum is the environment that is provided for the child.
The environment must include sufficient space for the child to move freely, yet safely. She must be able to run and play while knowing that her caregiver is within reach. She can explore awhile, and then come back to her caregiver to share a new discovery or to sit beside her caregiver if she desires reassurance. Climbing areas that will challenge her physically, as well as soft and cozy areas that will allow for calm, quiet inspection of books or toys are strategic parts of the environment piece of the infant curriculum as well.
There also needs to be a variety of interesting things to explore. A well balanced curriculum for infants and toddlers will address the materials that will be provided for the child’s exploration. As the caregiver observes his interests and developmental abilities, decisions can be made regarding the appropriate options that are provided each day.
The third way that an infant or toddler learns is through her experiences. When playing with a rubber duck floating in water, she will learn that she is able to hold the duck in her hand while the water runs through her fingers. She is learning physics through her experiences with the properties of liquid and solid.
By building on the selection of materials to be used in the environment, the effective infant curriculum will address ways to keep the child interested and challenged from one day to the next. The curriculum must allow for the child to experience each activity for as long as he is interested. Then, by making a slight modification, create a new experience for him. After the child begins to tire of playing with the duck in the water, the caregiver can add items that sink to the bottom of the water instead of floating as the duck did. Now he is able to experiment with surface tension and the effect of size, shape and weight of objects in the water, as well as water displacement when he puts too many objects in the water.
Tying all of the components together happens with the final piece of a developmentally appropriate infant and toddler curriculum. Planning the environment and experiences while maintaining and supporting the schedules of each child and family is the key to implementation. This piece looks different for infants and toddlers than it would for older children, however. With older children, the caregiver looks to the desired outcome of the learning in planning the experiences. When working with infants or toddlers, each child has her own agenda and the curriculum is needed to support the learning timeline set by the child. The caregiver must observe each child, and with an understanding of early childhood development, allow the needs and interests of each child to guide the activities and experiences offered each day.
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