Before we begin and some may not read this entire article and since vulnerability exists in infants and toddlers, I ask you to help answer and list “How are babies exposed to stress?” I thank you for your response!
To continue this article, today, developmentally appropriate care is rare for infants and toddlers in all settings, than it is for older children. For infants, the cornerstone of their curriculum and nurturing is the teacher and the relationship the infant establishes with their teacher. It also creates a partnership with parents and gaining a greater understanding of each infant. It is critical for the teacher to be able to meet that infant’s need and to feel secure and give the support to the infant, as they gain a greater understanding of themselves, their world, and others.
• Babies come into this world primed to communicate. They look to their parents and caregivers to help them make sense of the sensations they experience and regulate their responses. By the third birthdays, nearly all children will speak at least one language.
• Babies need adults who love them. A baby’s sense of self and of the ability to make things happen grows day by day in the context of relationships with a few caring adults. A trusted adult provides a safe haven in times of stress and a secure base from which to explore the world and take on new challenges. A baby whose successes are rewarded by the smiles and praise of the important people in their lives learns to persist at challenging tasks.
• Each baby is unique. They have their own patterns of activity, development and learning and their own ways of responding to challenge, change, stimulation, and soothing. These patterns are shaped both by inborn characteristics and by the baby’s experiences and relationships. The cultures of a child’s family and caregivers influence their responses to their explorations and bids for attention and these responses in turn influence every aspect of their development. A caregiver who knows a child well can help them learn to communicate their needs, feelings, and questions in socially acceptable ways, thus building a strong foundation for later identity, self-control and learning.
• Babies and toddlers are avid learners. They are eager to explore, try new things and practice new skills. Their physical, social, emotional and cognitive development is more intertwined than they will be later in life. Growth in all domains is far more rapid in the infant/toddler years than during any other period.
• Babies are social beings. They are drawn to each other and are capable of forming friendships by the time they are two. Even young infants notice others’ distress and will fuss if they hear another baby cry. Relationships with peers become increasingly important as children learn to imitate, cooperate and pretend in their play together.
• Babies are particularly vulnerable. Their rapidly growing brains can be harmed not only by toxic chemicals or the lack of essential nutrients, but also by insufficient stimulation and challenge and by chronic exposure to stress. Their eagerness to explore often outpaces their judgment and motor skills, leading to accidents. With immature immune systems, they are especially vulnerable to infection since much of their learning involves touching and mouthing.
Next week we will continue with the “hallmarks of excellent care giving.”