Choosing Childcare For Infants and Toddlers- Essential Considerations


In the day-to-day give and take of good infant/toddler child care, children and their caregivers relate in a way that looks much like a dance, with the child leading, the caregiver picking up the rhythm and following. When a caregiver reads and responds to the young child’s messages with sensitivity, the child’s hunger to be understood is satisfied. The conviction that “I am someone who is paid attention to” becomes part of the infant or toddler’s identity. Doctor J. Ronald Lally

It’s a wonder I haven’t tackled the topic of what to consider when choosing childcare for infants and toddlers before, because it’s one parents often ask me about. Part of the reason I tend to shy away from this subject is because I have a bias against center based or group childcare for children under the age of three, partly because I know firsthand how woefully inadequate many programs are at truly meeting the unique needs of babies and toddlers.

  baby bentrup

As Doctor Ronald Lally of the Program For Infant Toddler Care  says, “Simply put, a preschooler has already formed a pretty solid sense of identity, with definite likes, dislikes, inclinations and attitudes, but an infant or toddler is forming his or her sense of identity. Part of what the infant gets from the caregiver is a sense of who that caregiver is; this sense is incorporated into the infant’s own definition of self. The process of forming a strong positive identity should occur in a setting that offers security, protection, and intimacy. It doesn’t happen in “school”; it happens in a continuing relationship with a caregiver.”

This is not to say that group based center care for our youngest can’t be done well, because it can. The Santa Cruz Toddler Center, Little Learners Lodge, and The Gazebo, are three centers that I personally know of that provide ideal environments and exemplary relationship based care that allows infants and toddlers to thrive.

I understand it isn’t a possibility for many families, whether due to personal choice, family structure, or financial considerations, to stay home with their babies, and/or to hire a nanny to provide in-home care until they are three years of age or so. In the event that a family chooses or requires care outside of the home, I encourage parents to consider small home based family childcare centers, as well as larger centers. Little River School Online wrote a very informative and helpful post describing the different options parents have when it comes to choosing childcare, outlining some of the pros and cons of the different choices, that you may want to take a look at: Finding The Right Child Care Fit. Ultimately, it’s not the type of care that is as important, as it is the quality of care.

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