Curriculum for Infants & Toddlers- What It Is and Isn’t

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I’ve been reading a textbook called “Infants, Toddlers, and Caregivers : A Curriculum of Respectful, Responsive Care and Education” by Janet Gonzalez-Mena and Dianne Widmeyer Eyer.

It’s given me so much information, and I’ve only read through chapter 2 of 14 ! In the first few chapters, this book goes into detail about what an infant and toddler “curriculum” should look like and what it should not look like. Anything in quotations below is an excerpt from the text :

“[Curriculum] is not just a book of lesson plans or activities for a day, a month, or a year. It’s not a package of posters, books, toys, and materials that go along with themes of the month. It’s not even a form with blanks to fill in about what to do each day or session related to each developmental domain.”

The word curriculum “mean[s] ‘a plan for learning,’ but we don’t mean lessons! Our concept of curriculum is that it is all-inclusive and centers on connections and relationships… curriculum is about educating, but in the infant and toddler world care and education are one and the same. Curriculum has to do with respecting and responding to each child’s needs in warm, respectful, ad sensitive ways that promote attachment. The term “curriculum” embraces all the sensitive interactions that occur during the day… may be part of activities, both planned and unplanned, but they go way beyond. The interactions that occur during caregiving routines are an important part of the curriculum. Even down times during the day when caregivers just hung out with the little ones can include the kinds of interactions that make up curriculum.”

As caregivers, we must “promote infants’ and toddlers’ total well-being, including physical and mental growth and development, mental health, emotional stability, and human relationships… this book also looks at the importance of sensitive care and proper program planning have on the identity formation of infants and toddlers.”

We must “treat babies like the human beings they are… Respect is an attitude, but what counts is when that attitude shows up in behavior… those involved [in an infant’s care should] explain what’s going to happen rather than surprising him or her with uncomfortable procedures. Even the statement “this will feel cold” is a sign of respect for that person.”

A respectful interaction : “The caregiver walked up in a way that enabled [the child] to see her coming rather than rushing over and swooping her up unexpectedly… consciously slowed her pace and made contact before checking to see if [the child] needed a diaper change. She initiated a conversation… When she changed the diaper, she was human-oriented rather than just focusing on the task; she put the human interaction first and efficiency second… the caregiver engaged [the child] in the changing rather than distracting her to get the job done. … This scene illustrates a responsive interaction chain that is the basis of effective caregiving. A number of interactions such as this kind of diaper changing build a partnership. This feeling of being part of a team instead of an object to be manipulated is vital to wholesome development”

“Relationships can develop through all kinds of interactions, including ones that can happen during what some adults call chores… Imagine the opportunities lost if adults focus only on the “chore” and don’t interact with the child.”

Important Things to Remember : Involve infants and toddlers in things that involve them, invest in quality time, learn each child’s unique way of communicating, invest time and energy to build a total person, respect infants and toddlers as worthy people, be honest about your feelings around infants and toddlers, model the behavior you want to teach, recognize problems as learning opportunities, build security by teaching trust, be concerned about the quality of development at each stage (don’t rush milestone achievements).

“[Some parents] may expect to see some evidence that caregivers are providing “cognitive activities.” Their concept of cognitive activities my be based on what they know about preschool. They may expect caregivers to teach such concepts as colors, shapes, even numbers and letters through an activity approach… be careful about falling into the trap of thinking that you can stimulate cognitive development without working on physical, social, and emotional development at the same time. It isn’t the clever little toys you provide or activities you do with the children that make a difference. It’s the day-to-day living, the relationships, the experiences, the diaper changing, the feedings, the toilet training, and the playing that contribute to intellectual development.”

“Caregivers feel the pressure from every side… as they are urged to speed up development. Yet development cannot be hurried… [caregivers need to] encourage each baby to do thoroughly whatever it is that he or she is doing. Learning is what counts – not teaching. The important learning comes when the baby is ready – not when the adults decide it’s time… doing something very thoroughly is the best preparation for moving forward… the idea that perfecting skills is more important than pushing children to develop new ones. The new ones will come when the child has thoroughly practiced the old ones.”

“The word ‘stimulation’ has become synonymous with the word ‘education’ in the minds of many when talking about infants… if you are primarily concerned with stimulating… you ignore a vital requirement for learning and development: babies need to discover that they can influence the people and things around them… when stimulation is provided without regard to the baby’s response, the baby is being treated as an object… getting someone to meet the baby’s needs is what is called for- not merely providing stimulation.”

“Education happens during care giving routines as well as during free playtime.”

“The primary function of the adult in the infant-toddler education is to facilitate learning rather than to teach or train.”

“When an adult scaffolds as part of the infant-toddler education, he or she provides the smallest bit of help possible, not to try to get rid of frustration but to keep the child working on the problem. This type of help improves attention span and teaches children that they are capable problem solvers. … Stress and frustration are an important part of infant-toddler education and come naturally with problem solving. … The right amount of stress … promotes development. The optimum level of stress depends entirely on the individual.”

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