[Image: caregiver with toddlers]News Release Distributed May 2004
Child-care environments play an important role in the healthy growth and development of infant and toddlers, according to LSU AgCenter child-care associate Cheri Gioe.
"Since infants and toddlers spend a large portion of their day in routines such as saying hello or good-bye, getting dressed, diapering, toileting and mealtime, the child-care environment should reflect these important shared learning times," Gioe explains. "The environment provided for infants and toddlers should be welcoming and responsive to both children and their families."
Gioe says a welcoming and responsive environment promotes a sense of security, which, in turn, fosters trust among caregivers, children and families.
"Infant and toddler environments should reflect caring, belonging, safety and comfort," Gioe says, adding that these elements should be evident in infant and toddler environments provided at child-care centers:
- Special items from home should be available to the children.
- Familiar household items should be accessible.
- Soft spaces should be made available to the children.
- Pictures of children and their families should be displayed.
- Daily communication about the child’s day should occur.
- Furniture should be sized and arranged so that children will not be hurt while exploring.
- Materials should be organized for children to find them and put them away with assistance.
- Walls should be decorated with pictures, textures and colors for children to explore.
- Rooms should be child-proofed to keep children safe.
- Adult/child ratios should be low, and each child should have a primary caregiver.
- There should be a designated area for diaper changing with needed items within reach.
- Each child should have a place for his or her belongings.
- Each child should have a crib or cot for resting.
- Food should be prepared and served in a designated area.
- Children should be fed on their individual schedules.
The LSU AgCenter expert also says there are a variety of points to keep in mind when you visit a child-care program and evaluate it in relation to how it will be for your child.
Among those points, she says infant and toddler environments should avoid overstimulating children. There should be a limited number of toys available for them to play with, and the amount of artwork or number of pictures displayed on the walls also shouldn’t be excessive, Gioe says.
"Since infants and toddlers are naturally curious, their environments also should allow for them to move freely about their space," she says, adding, "Restraining children prohibits critical motor development and prevents learning."
Gioe also says the environment provided for infants and toddlers should be easily maintained, and surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected often.
"Of course, children should have access to a wide variety of books and toys," she says. "But there also should be areas where children can get away for quiet time or time alone."
The LSU AgCenter’s "Be Child Care Aware!" educational program is designed to educate parents and child-care providers about quality child care. It is funded, in part, through a contract with the Louisiana Department of Social Services’ Office of Family Support.