In full disclosure, I was provided with The Best for Babies book from Gryphon House, Inc in exchange for my honest review. An affiliate link is also included.
You endured 9 months of pregnancy then labor and delivery, and now you are enjoying the precious time you have at home. But for so many moms that time ends far too quickly as many parents must return to work. Whether it is after only 6 weeks or one year, most parents have to make the very important decision of who they will trust to help raise their children!
Choosing the right day care, nanny or even preschool is a tough decision and one that should not be taken lightly. It should involve thought, research and trusting your gut! I was recently provided with a wonderful resource that can help moms and dads assess infant-toddler programs. It is also a great tool for center directors to evaluate the effectiveness of their programs.
The Best for Babies offers expert advice from Dr. Alice Sterling Honig, a licensed New York state psychologist and Professor Emerita of Child Development at Syracuse University. Dr. Honig’s career has been dedicated to understanding the best ways to nurture and support infant and toddler development.
The Best for Babies: Expert Advice for Assessing Infant-Toddler Programs is a wonderful book for parents, caregivers, educators, school directors and more. It highlights the importance of finding quality child care in order to help ensure healthy child development. According to Chapter 1, “highly skilled and well-trained caregivers are the most important ingredients of quality child care.” Just because a school has the most expensive toys and the most beautiful decor, it does not mean it is the best child care facility for your family. The personal interaction between a child and the caregiver is the key to fostering positive child development.
Chapter 2 of The Best of Babies focuses on the ingredients that are essential for care quality. For starters, caregivers/educators must understand developmental milestones. Knowing the appropriate time frame during which a child develops certain skills helps educators develop expectations and devise appropriate lesson plans and activities. Understanding cognitive, academic, physical and language milestones can help guide educators on effective ways to interact with the children they care for including when to make things easier and when to make them more challenging.
Not only do caregivers need to focus on academic and cognitive development, they also need to be very aware of emotional and social development. It is essential to understand a child’s temperament and personality in order to best help them grow socially and emotionally. Caregivers also need to be aware of sensory processing needs as well as developmental attachment styles.
Chapter 3 explains in detail the key characteristics that a caregiver must have in order to provide appropriate interpersonal interactions that fosters successful child development. There are 24 distinct areas that Dr. Honig focuses on in The Best of Babies. After reviewing this list, my 10 favorite caregiver characteristics that I find the most important are:
- Makes Families Feel Welcome to the Program (It is so important for a parent to feel a teacher is approachable and willing to work collaboratively with the parents)
- Good Observer
- Boost Thinking and Reasoning Skills
- Encourages Creativity and Pretend Play
- Provides Positive Contingent Reinforcement (rewards good behavior.)
- Language Enlarger (promotes language development)
- Recognizes and Takes Advantage of Teachable Moments (My personal favorite characteristic!)
- Promotes Children’s Mental Health
- Uses a Variety of Positive Discipline Techniques
- Shares an Adventurous Love of Learning
One of the greatest resources The Best for Babies provides is a comprehensive Care Quality Checklist. This checklist covers each of the 24 categories that are thoroughly explained in this book. It provides a series of questions that can be answered while observing the educator in the classroom setting. The Care Quality Checklist is a wonderful tool for helping to determine the quality of care that is available at infant-toddler programs.
Who could benefit from using the Care Quality Checklist?
- Mentor Teachers can use this to help provide quality feedback to the teacher they are mentoring.
- Caregivers in Training/New Teachers can use this checklist as a way to self-reflect and understand where improvements are needed.
- Agencies that fund child care facilities can use the checklist to help determine the centers effectiveness and level of quality teaching. It can also be used to decide where training and funding may be needed.
- Parents can use this tool to help choose a day care center as well as to assess the current one they are using. In addition, directors can share their checklist results with parents in order to provide greater feedback especially during parent/teacher conferences.
How do I think this checklist can be used?
I believe that parents should make numerous copies of this checklist. You can take a copy to each day care center you tour before deciding which one you will enroll your child in. The results can be used to determine what center best fits your child’s needs and abilities. You can also share this information with your friends who are looking for quality child care.
For parents whose children are already enrolled, I recommend scheduling at least 2 classroom observations per year at which time this checklist can be completed. This can be especially helpful if your child is struggling or coming home crying. It is also useful when there are teacher and/or classroom changes mid-year.
I believe center directors should use this checklist twice a year as part of the teacher evaluation process. The information gained can be used to develop an action plan to improve areas of weakness as well as decide what trainings are needed. The information can also be used to choose a Teacher of the Year, determine raises, decide who will be lead teacher and determine who you can use as a model teacher for new teachers or teachers that are struggling.
Although this book focuses on infant-toddler relationships, I also believe this book is a wonderful resource for special education teachers. Many special education students have developmental delays meaning they are functioning well below age and grade expectation. This checklist is a great tool for special education directors to use when evaluating preschool and kindergarten disability programs. It can also be used by parents when deciding which program you would like your child to attend.