Friday, January 31, 2014

Child Care: Finding the Right Fit for Your Baby – Part 1

Today we’ll be starting a series on child care about finding the right fit for your baby and easing the transition from home to the child care setting.  First, we’d like to share some tips on matching your baby’s specific temperament to the right type of child care. This information is based on the handout “Matching Your Infant’s or Toddler’s Style to the Right Child Care Setting” by Zero to Three, a nonprofit organization focused on early child development. We spend a lot of time finding the right caregiver for our babies, but do we think about what setting is the best fit for their personalities? While we realize that your choices may be limited for child care options, especially if you live in a small town, here are a few things to consider about your baby’s temperament when choosing child care.

  • Personal Style: How would you describe your baby? Is she adaptable/flexible, cautious or intense? If your baby is adaptable, she will probably do well in a large group setting with lots of social interaction. If your baby is more cautious, look for a smaller group setting that’s less stimulating. And if your baby is very intense in her emotions, whether the setting is large or small, make sure she has a primary caregiver that will get to know and understand her specific needs (of course, this is best for all babies!

  • Sleep needs: Does the setting allow individual schedules, separate sleep areas, and a quiet sleep environment? Since in reality this is not always possible in large centers, it’s important to find out if the provider will work with you to facilitate ease of transition in your baby’s sleep patterns. Find out ahead of time what the center sleep schedule is and you can gradually transition your baby closer to their schedule.

  • Social vs. slow to warm up babies: If your baby is very social she’ll do great in a group setting that allows her many opportunities to play with others. On the other hand, if your baby likes to take it slower and tends to be shy around strangers, find a setting that allows your child to gradually transition from alone play to playing with one other child or a small group as she warms up. Responsive caregivers will be sensitive to your baby’s temperament and support her in slowly warming up to her new environment.

  • Tolerance to change: If your baby is sensitive to changes and challenges, a setting with children the same age as her will be more comfortable.  A baby that adapts more easily to change will do well in either a mixed-age or same-age setting.

We realize that you may not always have a choice as to what type of child care setting you choose. You may live in an area with only large centers, or you may live in a rural area with no large centers. Either way, it’s important to consider your baby’s personality when choosing a caregiver and child care setting and find the best fit that’s feasible for your family.
No matter what your baby’s temperament, it’s important to find a caregiver that is willing to adapt his or her approach to meet your child’s needs.  Responsive caregivers treat each child as unique. While all babies show similar cues, they each have individual temperaments and personalities. For more information about temperament read these posts:

Babies with Personality! How Temperament Influences Babies' Relationships (Part I)

Babies with Personality! How Temperament Influences Babies' Relationships (Part 2)

Next time we’ll cover important questions to ask when researching childcare programs.


Matching Your Infant’s or Toddler’s Style to the Right Child Care Setting” by Zero to Three.

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