INFANTS USUALLY SHOW ONE OF THREE MAJOR temperaments, and each calls for particular insights and attention.

Cautious Babies

Some babies are just very hesitant, approaching new foods, new teachers, and new situations with wariness. Cautious babies may exhibit lower activity and more somber moods, even if they are securely attached to you and their parents. If pushed or urged too much, shy, tentative babies pull back and may look scared.

Fussy Babies

Some babies are very sensitive. Getting to sleep or waking up may cause them distress. These babies are often irritable. They are sensitive to touch or to any change in position, such as during diapering, and respond with intense crying to small changes in routines. These are infants who take a long time to adapt, responding to daily separations with extreme distress. These babies can be frustrating to care for, especially when there are several infants in one environment. Since they have difficulty managing body rhythms, it is harder to predict when they are hungry, sleepy, or need a diaper change.

Always try to remember that a fussy baby is not "spoiled" if she cries every day when left in your care. She is responding to her own discomfort. Offer generous caresses.

Easygoing Babies

Easygoing babies are often in a pleasant mood. They tend to have more regular body rhythms (such as eating and sleeping) and a moderate activity level. Rather than avoiding new experiences, as the cautious baby does, an easygoing infant will often welcome new situations, new foods, or a new classroom aide. These babies adapt easily to routines and to change.

Because she doesn't cry or fuss much, she may not be getting as much attention as those babies who do. So be sure that easygoing babies get plenty of personal attention from you throughout the day. Offer them lots of cuddles, smile at them from across the classroom, and send admiring glances their way.

Toddlers and Temperaments

Temperament styles differ remarkably among toddlers. The three most prevalent are fearful/shy; irritable/active/fussy; and easy. Don't expect the fearful toddler to join readily in a group activity. Take him to the activity and stay there until he seems adjusted to the new situation. Step back as you pick up cues that he is comfortable and well engaged with the materials or his playmates.

Gather up lots of patience, and try to keep a good sense of humor when caring for fussy toddlers. Developing a calm acceptance of the reality of a child's particular temperament also helps.

When all the teachers in the classroom tune in to individual temperaments, you will find ways to help each child flourish. ECT