How could educators best convey these messages to infant/toddler families: make sure the child feels like he belongs, can trust, is comfortable, safe, and can move freely to explore?
Thinking about messages that many may send to infants and toddlers by the characteristics of the physical environment, as well as deameaner and actions that one displays on a daily basis.
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There are several theories on child development which can affect parenting techniques and styles, and most doctors, psychologists, and parents would agree that no one theory is fully correct, nor is there only one way to achieve the above outcomes when raising a child. Therefore, an educator would probably do best to present the above list as basic human needs and then show parents or child-care workers the basics necessary to achieve this list of outcomes through controlling the environment as well as their own actions toward the child. Once some basic ideas have been established, it is easier to work with parents and children on a case-by-case basis to further educate or address problems.
Most experts agree that in infancy (birth through 3 months), the best way to provide safety and security, emotionally and physically, is to respond to the baby's immediate needs by feeding him, changing his diaper, making sure he is warm enough, comfortable, and protected from harm. At this age and stage of development, a baby cannot do anything for himself at all, so all of his needs must be provided. When parents do this (either on a healthy schedule or as a response to crying) the baby develops trust and feels secure.
The immediate response of a care-giver wanes on a natural progression as a the baby gets older. The ultimate goal is to gradually train a child toward independence. Obviously there is a very large difference between an infant and a toddler, but essentially, through a series of natural steps, the parent slowly backs away from constant contact and immediate response.
Controlling the physical environment, also known as "baby-proofing" includes making the area in which the child has physical contact as safe as possible. This means closing or locking up harmful objects and chemicals, buffering or padding sharp corners, keeping the child secure when he is off the ground (straps in the high chair, car seat, etc), making sure his crib is at a size-appropriate depth, and providing appropriate things to touch, play with, chew, etc. Again, the level to which a family decides to "baby proof" a house or yard can vary, and will ultimately depend on how much independence the parent is going to allow the child to have.
Emotionally speaking, trust, belonging, comfort, and security, are provided in a number of ways. Most of these qualities are developed by the consistency with which a parent gives time, attention, and love to the baby or child. Tone of voice, facial expression, and eye contact also communicate these qualities. This is where much of the child-rearing debate takes place, and where a parent has the most flexibility in style or technique. But despite the debate, most would agree that emotional security is best accomplished through consistency, unconditional love, and logical boundaries.
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