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Predictable environments offer children a sense of security and responsibility, and that certainly is true of the child-care setting. A setting where arrivals, play times, meal times, nap times, bathroom breaks and departures are dealt with consistently by caregivers offers children a sense of security and responsibility. Secure children thrive in organized environments where caregivers follow a schedule that is consistent, yet flexible enough to respond to children’s individual needs.
By providing a predictable environment, teachers ensure that the curriculum focuses on all areas of development. Caregivers should plan a wide range of activities designed to spark critical thinking and exploration – with routines in mind. Routines, unlike schedules, are flexible enough to allow children and caregivers to take advantage of teachable moments that may occur throughout the day.
According to Diane Trister-Dodge, author of the Creative Curriculum, it is important, when establishing a routine, to remember to provide a balance between group and individual activities, quiet and noisy activities, and indoor and outdoor play. Of course, an important thing for caregivers to remember is that indoor activities may be taken outdoors. Dodge also points out that routines should include times for transitions. For example, center time is nearing an end and cleanup time is about to begin, so what do you do? Dodge stresses that children need a five-minute warning about upcoming activity changes. Then, once warned, children should be encouraged to finish the activity they are engaged in, and when time is up, children should be allowed a realistic amount of time for the transition to take place. Experts say that if children know what to expect and the routine is predictable, such a transition is more likely to occur smoothly.
Some common daily routines that caregivers may consider a challenge are arrival, nap times and restroom breaks. As children arrive, it is important to call them by name and make physical contact. This lets children know they are important and that you care for them. It is also important that children have a place to keep their belongings, because this communicates to them that they belong in their environment. In addition, by providing early morning activities that children can readily engage in, the transition from parent to school is much easier.
Visits to the toilet present a "great challenge" for child-care providers. Caregivers must remember that their understanding and patience are critical during the ‘potty training’ process. By working with families to establish routines most like those the children have at home, toileting success is likely to occur.
During this training process, caregivers and parents should keep these tips in mind:
- Dress children in clothing that is easy to take on and off.
- Provide extra clean clothes at the child-care center at all times.
- Celebrate a child’s toilet success but never display disapproval when a child is not successful.
- Handle toilet training accidents calmly. Never make the child feel as though he or she has done something wrong when an accident occurs.
- Be sure to follow proper disinfecting procedures, and always follow up with appropriate hand washing.
Naptime also poses a challenge for many caregivers. It is important that children should be able to rest, if not sleep, when they are provided with a relaxed and quiet rest time. To create a relaxed environment, caregivers can allow children to bring blankets and pillows from home, allow children to rest with a special doll, or stuffed animal, dim the lighting, read quietly, play quiet music and/or rub children’s backs.
The LSU AgCenter’s "Be Child Care Aware!" educational program is designed to educate parents and child-care providers about quality child care. It was funded, in part, through a contract with the Louisiana Department of Social Services’ Office of Family Support.