Tag Archives: infant child care

Would You Choose This Infant Room?

The front entrance is locked and has a doorbell so that staff at the reception desk are alerted to visitors.  The co-director didn’t seem to be expecting the new parents and me, even though I had called and scheduled the visit.

The lobby and corridor have large, low windows that allow children to see outside.  The reception desk and lobby are spacious but mostly bare, with an industrial feel that was not warmed by welcoming signs, comfortable furniture, displays of children’s work, or much information posted for parents.

In the very large infant room were three very young infants with one teacher who had been working in the room for several years.  There was a daily schedule and a lesson plan with infants’ names, indicating that the teacher plans activities for each individual baby, and the center provides daily reports and an annual assessment of the child’s development to parents.  But when I asked about curriculum and how children’s activities are planned, the director responded that children learn through play and neither she nor the teacher explained the curriculum, the teaching, or the children’s learning.

There was a soft mat on the floor and some, but not many, cloth books and manipulative toys on low shelves for the infants, and cribs with clear sides and ends on the other side of the room.

One infant was asleep and swinging in a baby swing, rather than in a crib as recommended by the American Association of Pediatrics because infants in swings can get into positions that result in suffocation.  There was also an infant in a baby swing in the adjacent room.

There is an outdoor covered play patio/porch with a ceiling fan immediately outside the classroom door.  The patio is a hard surface that accommodates a soft mat for infant time outdoors.  But when I asked about outdoor time, rather than explaining the NC requirement for daily outdoor time unless it’s actively precipitating or there’s a public weather announcement or advisory, the director explained the time depends on the weather.

In the corridor outside the classrooms is a video monitor where parents, staff, and managers can observe the rooms.  The director said there is another monitor in the office, but when I asked about taping the classrooms, the director said that they could if they needed to.

The director explained that the operating hours are 7:00-6:00 and that a child can be in care for 10 hours, and the fee is $199 per week.

The center was awarded the top 5-star North Carolina child care license, earning all 7 of 7 possible program points and 5 of 7 staff education points, plus the 1 possible quality point.  This coincides with the ample space in the classrooms, the adult-to-child ratios of 1:4 infants, and the age-appropriate interactions and curriculum materials.

The center earned a perfect score on their most recent sanitation inspection, which is reflected in the spacious, new- and clean-looking facility, where eating areas are separate from classrooms.

The center is not accredited by an outside professional agency such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the largest professional early childhood association.

Would you choose this infant room?

Five Stars? Really?

I visited a 5-star center in Guilford County with parents and their first baby.  The infant room teacher and assistant have their AA degrees and many teachers have higher degrees, which coincides with the 7 out of 7 education points awarded to this 5-star center.  The center was awarded 6 out of 7 program points and the additional quality point.

We had to walk through the toddler room to enter the infant room (divided by a half wall) where we saw a baby asleep on his stomach on a soft mat on the floor.  Thankfully, the director picked him up.  A second baby was on his stomach on another soft mat with a ridge, which he was using to help hold his little head and shoulders up.  Thankfully, one of the teachers responded to his verbal cues by asking if he was tired of tummy time.  There was no teacher on the floor with him.

There were three older babies sitting quietly in high chairs lined up along the wall, who had nothing to do but look around.  The teachers did not interact with the babies or give them a toy to play with while sitting there.   They placed two of the babies in hard low chairs that kept them upright but still didn’t give them an activity.

Toddler teachers were also providing routine care.  Toddlers were sitting and waiting quietly on a wooden seat for their turn on the diaper-changing table, while others went to the open area.  Toddlers waiting to be changed, as well as toddlers who had been changed, had nothing to do. When toddlers began fussing with each other over a toy that one picked up, the teacher did respond very appropriately by getting another toy and giving it to one of them.

The toddler room was small, not divided into curriculum areas, and not supplied with many curriculum materials/toys/children’s supplies.

The parents were definitely not interested.  After visiting another 5-star center and a 3-star center, which I’ll also write about, they decided to look for a nanny!

Why 5 Stars for the NC Piedmont Triad Center?

I’ve written in previous posts about my visit to a 5-star center in the NC Piedmont Triad center. How did the center earn 5 stars?  The center infrastructure and systems are well-established:  The building is well-designed.  The classrooms are well-furnished and well-provisioned.  The environment is orderly and pleasant, without written or verbal directives or loud voices.  The staff is trained in maintaining routine procedures.  Best of all, the director is very energetic and eager to improve the program for children, families, and teachers.

What I recommended:

Consider how to balance sanitation with children’s learning.   Family style dining is such a valuable daily learning experience for children, with great opportunities for language and social skills development.  Placing a prepared plate in front of each child while they wait with hands in their laps for everyone to be served is a passive activity, requiring them to learn restraint but not much else.

Cleaning the tables and cleaning up after them doesn’t help young children develop self-sufficiency skills.  Help children develop skills rather than doing everything for them because it’s easier and cleaner than helping them learn.  In the 2’s room, a girl spilled a little milk on the floor and the teacher handed her a paper towel and the girl started to clean up the milk, but the teacher said, “No, your mouth,” and then cleaned up the milk on the floor for her.  Help teachers understand these are teaching and learning moments as they interact with, rather than direct, the child.

Consider having children brush their teeth after lunch.  Labeled toothbrushes can be stored in covered hanging toothbrush stands that keep each toothbrush separate from the others.

Remind teachers in the room to talk softly to each other, not in normal voices, when children are starting to sleep.

Improve the welcoming appearance of grounds and front porch by adding attractive plants and perhaps comfortable rockers or other seating with homey touches near them.  Replace the bulletin board if one is still needed.  Add a sign about using the door bell.  Consider an interior sign that welcomes parents and children and instructs them to proceed directly to child’s classroom.

Improve playgrounds by adding natural elements – grass, small trees, plants – and varying surfaces for children.  Mulch is difficult to walk on, and infants can’t crawl on it.

Use bulletin boards to display and document children’s work, with short captions that explain why children are doing what they’re doing – what they’re learning.

Provide open-ended materials for children’s art, scribbling, writing, crafts, creativity.  Encourage exploration and creativity, problem-solving, thinking.

Provide teachers with planning time, or consider purchasing well-designed and planned curriculum resources, e.g., some of the Creative Curriculum kits that provide simple, age-appropriate pre-planned activities and instructions for teachers.  Current lesson plans may not provide enough information and if teachers don’t have time to plan and prepare, their implementation is probably fairly superficial.

Engage staff in discussing their ideas for how to improve beyond achieving 5 stars, by focusing on the individual child’s day-to-day experience in the center.  Encourage interactions, exploration, and active learning.  Encourage infants to move around on the floor and explore their environments.

Encourage children to interact with each other and with teachers and to explore their environments – Teachers may focus too much on order, control, and the great systems that have been developed and followed and too little on encouraging children to learn by exploring, doing, talking, and interacting.

Be sure children are interested in the books or other materials that teachers use during group times.  Reading a passage and then asking children to answer questions about it may be ok for a very short time activity to encourage listening and remembering but it should be limited to a short time and should be something that’s interesting for them.

Don’t keep children sitting with nothing to engage their bodies and brains.

What do you think?  What do you see in child care and preschool centers?

20 Years of Smart Start in North Carolina

About to wrap up the 3-day National Smart Start conference with a luncheon to celebrate 20 years of improving child care quality and school readiness in North Carolina.

North Carolina leaders started Smart Start because some kindergartners weren’t ready to succeed in school.

What do you think is most important for children who are entering kindergarten?  What should they know and be able to do?  How do we make sure they have this knowledge and abilities?

Take Me Outside!

Teachers in the NC Piedmont 5-star center didn’t take the babies outside the morning that I visited, even though it was included in their Daily Schedule that was posted, as required by their NC license, on the wall. Maybe because the playground was largely covered with mulch, which babies can’t walk or crawl on! I recommended adding a poured-in place surface or another smooth surface for infant crawling.

All children need to go outside….every morning and every afternoon!

Children’s Work

At the 5-star center in the NC Piedmont Triad, the bulletin boards installed around the center displayed commercial and adult products, not what children are doing. I recommended the teachers display and document children’s work, with short captions that explain why children are doing what they’re doing – what they’re learning.

Likewise, classrooms had an abundance of adult-initiated work, use of templates that children added something to. Instead, teachers can provide open-ended materials for children’s work: their art, scribbling, writing, crafts, creativity – materials that encourage exploration, problem-solving, and thinking, rather than following an adult template or pattern.

What do you see in child care centers?

5-Star Center

I visited a NC 5-star licensed center in the Piedmont Triad area, thinking I’d have few recommendations. But when I entered an infant room, babies were lined up facing the teacher: two were in swings, three in infant seats, and one in a seated playpen. There was a mat on the floor, but teachers had placed seats, rather than babies, on of it. Being restricted to seats, swings, playpens, and cribs when awake doesn’t help babies learn to move their bodies, use their muscles, or develop their minds and personalities.  Put them on the floor – on their backs unless you’re sitting with them.

Don’t Use Cribs Sold Before June 2011

Baby cribs with one side that drops down are no longer sold.  The drop-down side separates too easily from the crib, and babies get trapped between the side and the mattress.  The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) reports multiple child deaths from unsafe cribs and the more dangerous cribs were recalled.
All of the older cribs are now prohibited from public use, including child care centers and hospitals.  Cribs manufactured and sold after June 2011 must meet new federal standards for safety.
New crib hardware has to be stronger and the slats closer together.  A crib’s mattress support, slats, and hardware are now required to be more durable and manufacturers have to test cribs to ensure they meet the more stringent requirements.
The CPSC asks that you tear old cribs apart before throwing them away.  Don’t give them away or sell them.  How terrible that another baby might die from sleeping in an unsafe crib.
For more information, see www.cpsc.gov/cribs

“The Hell of American Day Care”

Please google and read The Hell of American Day Care in New Republic magazine, published on Monday. It tells the story of how four children died in a fire in a child care home in Texas, and gives some reasons why child care is often unsafe. It focuses on a mother who spent two hours interviewing the child care home operator, who seemed open and honest, warm with the children, and promised to teach Christian values.

Infants on Tummies?

Just one more story from the Virginia-licensed and nationally accredited child care center I visited. A teacher placed an infant on the floor on his stomach and said it was “tummy time”. She worked around the room, changing diapers and attending to other babies, as did the other teacher in the room. After eight minutes, she noticed that the little guy on his tummy was tiring and showing an inability to continue to hold his head up, so she sat next to him and picked him up.  The problem? 

Teachers placed some infants in cribs without putting on their sleeping sacks, which make it more difficult for infants to roll over onto their stomachs.  The problem?