Infants & Toddlers: The Power of Positive Attachment

By this time of year, you've made strong connections with the infants and toddlers in your program. Here are some ways to make those connections even stronger.

  • Grades: Early Childhood, Infant, PreK–K

DEVELOPMENT

Every baby needs tender loving care in order to thrive emotionally. A baby new to your program may be resistant to you at first. This is often because she has become so used to the way that a parent's arms enfold her, or the way in which a parent wraps her in her warm blanket and cleans her during diapering. So, at first, a baby may have a tough time adjusting to the new feel of being cuddled in your arms or the new voice tones that you use to croon her into sleep. Be courageous and be calm! As you daily provide kind actions to nourish a baby with milk and food, to comfort a fussy baby, to soothe a teething baby, you will be building a strong and deep feeling within each infant.

Clues to Secure Attachment

How can you tell when a baby has developed a secure attachment with you? Here are some clues:

  • The baby will sink into your arms for a feeding.
  • Sitting in your lap, she will mold herself trustingly to the contours of your body.
  • When you come back into your room after a brief "coffee break," the baby may paddle over to you quickly and stretch out her arms to be picked up. Or she may smile broadly and crow to you from across the room as soon as you re-enter.
  • When the baby is crabby or falls, she will look around for you and even demand comfort from you rather than from another adult.
  • If the baby came into your program looking listless the first days, you will now notice a brightening of her eyes.
  • If you are trying to teach pat-a-cake or sing a song with the baby, she will enthusiastically gurgle and enter into the game-as long as YOU are playing with her.

Recognizing Insecure Attachments

There are three additional types of attachment that are insecure. Each is worrisome in term-is of the infant's mental health.

Some babies avoid physical contact. They seem very mature and self-sufficient. They may not, however, have had enough experience with being cuddled and kissed, snuggled and rocked. These infants need your wooing ways!

Another insecure attachment type is called ambivalent/hesitating. This baby seems to want comfort, but when she gets into a caregiver's arms she seems unable to accept comfort and reassurance; she may squirm and struggle to get down. Often, this baby has received mixed signals from a primary caregiver who has provided nurturing when she felt like doing so rather than being in tune with the baby's needs and signals of distress.

A third type of insecure attachment is called dazed/disoriented. A child may look as if she is all ready to rush for a hug; but then she stops, and looks bewildered as if she is not sure why she started out or whether she can depend on the adult for consistently tuned-in, tender care. The reason for this hesitation might be that the child's parent had a frightening experience or loss earlier in life that hinders her from consistently responding to the child.

If you see signs of these three insecure patterns, then you know just how very important your job is in building a deeply secure attachment with each little person in your program.

Click here to view and download A Letter to Families (PDF)

  • Subjects:
    Child and Infant Care, Social and Emotional Development, Teacher Tips and Strategies
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