by Carly Poole

GETTING TO KNOW AN INFANT OR TODDLER IS DEFINITELY A family affair! Caring for very young children includes building collaborative relationships with the most important people in children's lives-their parents. Parents are the "experts" on their babies and know their personalities, preferences, and daily routines. When teachers create a respectful and trusting climate in their rooms, parents feel comfortable sharing intimate details about their infants and toddlers.

It takes time to build the kind of rapport with parents that will help you learn more about the infants and toddlers in your care. Here's how you can nurture the process along:

  • Encourage parents to stay in the room. Be sure there is a comfortable spot for adults-a soft rug with pillows and an adult-size chair. When parents linger in the room interacting with their children, you can watch how they care for their little ones. This will help you duplicate their caregiving routines, allowing you to offer consistency and continuity of care, and easing the children's transition into group care.
  • Conduct home visits. These are especially important for getting to know what makes a toddler "tick." When you observe a toddler in a familiar setting, you gain a clear picture of her interests and capabilities. Parents often talk about their daily routines during a home visit. If the parent seems comfortable, you can ask detailed questions about these routines, such as "How does your baby like to fall asleep? Lying in the crib with her back rubbed? In a rocking chair?"
  • Use a notebook that travels between home and school for important messages when someone besides a parent brings the child to the program.

Caring for infants and toddlers is demanding and passionate work. Dedicated teachers become emotionally attached to these endearing and dependent children. That's the way it should be. But sometimes these deep attachments lead to feelings of competition with parents. Likewise, parents often wonder if teachers are judging their parenting skills. By asking parents questions such as, "What do you do when Rachel is fussy before naptime?" you are collaborating with parents and learning together how to decipher the signals of their intriguing children who are just learning to communicate through language.

Discovering the unique personality of a child is a joyful adventure! joining with the family to celebrate and support her growth and development deepens the pleasure for everyone-especially the busy and thriving toddler!

Share the Care

Conversations that occur at drop-off and pick-up are the best way to share information about the child. Be sure to let parents know that you are asking a lot of questions so that you can get to know their child and duplicate their routines.

  • Find out how children fared during the night. Discuss any unusual restlessness or sleep disturbances.
  • Ask about feeding and sleeping habits and any cultural or dietary requirements.
  • Let parents know about your plans for the day.
  • Share detailed news at pick-up time, such as how their child played with one other child for most of the morning and they are becoming good friends!
  • Ask about any new things the child may be experiencing or exposed to at home.