Creating Intimate Relationships

When needs are met adeptly and with care, when important adults respond promptly to infants' signals of distress, babies are able to become "securely attached" by 12 to 18 months. Securely attached babies are more likely to reach out and call for an adult when stressed. They also tend to be more compliant and cooperative with adult requests as compared to "insecurely attached" infants (those who have received less sensitive and responsive care). Most securely attached babies grow up to play in friendly and accommodating ways. Insecurely attached babies may later become bullies, victims, or social "loners." Teachers who interact with consistent, quality care do make a difference.

Babies Look to You

Babies look to their special adults for social cues. If you, a special adult in the life of a 10-month-old, stand at one end of a table behind a "scary" toy, a baby at the other end will look up and scan your face to see if he should crawl toward the toy or turn back. Babies use this "social referencing" technique to figure out what is safe and what is scary.

Stranger Anxiety

Fear of strangers is a typical behavior for many babies as they near one year, though some feel this more intensely than others. Your calm reassurance, close presence, and care in not forcing children to get close to or interact with strangers will help carry everyone through this social phase.

Tune in to Temperaments

Take time to learn the feeding and toileting rhythms of each baby, then go with the flow. Some babies just get hungry more often than others. Some need to be carried for weeks after they enter child care. Others don't. Some babies like to be bounced; others prefer gentle rocking. Babies will adapt more easily to the social rules and regulations of your nursery when you're able to tune in to their unique temperaments.


Socialization Struggles

Growing minds make toddlers very aware of the confusion in their lives. They go back and forth between wanting to be independent of you and of social requirements and needing to run to you for comfort and cuddling. They want to be able to do things for themselves and often dash about impulsively. Rules are important for keeping toddlers safe.

However, children this age may react with great indignation. Let toddlers know you are there for them, particularly when you can see emotions seesawing between wanting to obey rules and deciding whether to defy them. Use soothing and loving touches and try to avoid pitched battles. The toddler who loudly says, "No!" when you call out "Lunchtime!" may well gallop over to eat if you choose to cheerfully emphasize, "Mmm, good hamburger!"

Be Patient and Supportive

Most toddlers are strong on will and weak on skills. Try to stay positive when children seem to defy suggestions and rules. Encourage toddlers to cooperate. You might energize cooperation when a child is picking at her spaghetti by saying, "I bet you can twirl your fork and pick up lots of noodles!" Most important, never shame toddlers for eating with their hands or pressure children into early toileting.

Keep Rules Simple

First, safety proof your room to avoid fusses over safety rules. Then set fair, firm rules about personal rights. A child may not hit or grab a toy from another child. Also, set reasonable rules so that each child gets a few minutes with a popular toy. Remember: Toddlers need a lot of practice and many reminders to learn the social skills of sharing!

Help Toddlers Focus

Gain children's attention before asking them to do something. For instance, you might say, "Look at the big ball, Tom! Now roll the ball to Joey." When you help a child focus first, he will be more likely to understand and comply.

When you tune in to children's needs based on observations of each child's unique personality, your reward will be a more cooperative, friendly, and peaceful classroom.

The Child Care Group Relationship-Centered Child Care(R)

Bring Relationship-Centered Child Care (RC3)(R) to your program with The Child Care Group's highly interactive workshops. Discover the what, why, and how of RC3, including:

  • the ins and outs of teaching children in mixed age, constant care groups
  • proven ways to help each child and family feel uniquely cared about - from their first day to their last, and beyond
  • effective techniques for partnering with parents
  • practical ideas for creating home-like environments in your center
  • successful strategies for staff development

Our award-winning materials put RC3 know-how at your fingertips.

  • Apply RC3 principles and practices as detailed in easy-to-use program guides, desk references, and samples of classroom materials.
  • Enjoy a self-guided CD-ROM tour of RC3 facilities, featuring virtual reality classrooms and an interactive makeover segment.  
  • Experience RC3 programs serving infants, toddlers, and preschoolers through a video tape that will inform and inspire you.
  • Help parents know they have made the right choice in selecting your program through gifts of booklets to prepare them for entering child care.

Visit us at or call us toll-free at 1-888-8CHILD8 to learn more about Relationship-Centered Child Care workshops and materials.