Reprinted with permission.
Providing child care for infants is a task not to be taken lightly. Besides general care of the infant, you are also there to support the infant’s social and emotional health. To get expert tips for infant daycare, Own A Daycare looked to Diane Bahr, Speech-Language Pathologist, Feeding Specialist, Certified Infant Massage Instructor, and Author of Nobody Ever Told Me (or My Mother) That! Everything from Bottles and Breathing to Healthy Speech Development.
I highly suggest book marking this interview if you care for infants and you don’t have time to read it at the moment. It is chock full of important and valuable information. Here is our interview with Diane Bahr:
QUESTION FROM Own A Daycare:
How can child care providers help support infants' social emotional health during mealtimes, play time, rest time and diapering?
ANSWER FROM Diane Bahr:
Each of these times is important for communication and social development (which go hand-in-hand). Children who feel competent and confident in their social and communication skills are more likely to interact with others and become successful in life. Also, awareness of social/communication development, or lack of development, can help a provider and a parent know when something is going wrong (e.g., Autism spectrum or another disorder).
Child care providers usually have some training in feeding and social/communication development, but I suggest that they have an accurate and detailed resource where they can look up specific skills by age as they need it. This is the main reason I wrote my book. Child care providers are busy folks who have a “big, important job” and can’t be expected to know everything.
During mealtimes, children in daycare interact with one another and with adults. Child care providers can encourage successful feeding as well as communication/social development during this time (specific feeding and communication development information can be found in my book by age and skill beginning at birth).
While a child’s social, communication, and feeding needs/skills change according to age (particularly in the first three years of life), below are some general guidelines for encouraging social/communicative interaction. Many of these guidelines can be applied to the various settings you mentioned (i.e., playtime, rest time, diapering) as well as mealtimes.
Turn off the TV, and create a relaxed, home-like setting for snacks and meals.
Sit down with the children and have at least a snack with them so you can be a good role model. Children are terrific imitators and need to see people eat and interact while eating. You can do this even if you are feeding a baby during this time.
Make statements instead of asking questions to encourage communication (e.g., Rylee, your sandwich looks really good! – wait for her response).
Give appropriately limited choices (even to babies -- by holding up two jars of food and feeding the one the child reaches toward or looks at). Everyone likes choices (e.g., Jason, do you want grape juice or cherry juice?).
Pay attention to the things children say to one another, and join into their conversation (but don’t take it over).
Encourage conversational turn-taking even if a child is very young. With children who are only vocalizing or babbling, babble back-and-forth with them or have pretend conversations (e.g., “Oh really? And then what happened?”).
Encourage concept development by labeling and talking about food and other items at a meal. Children need to hear and talk about descriptors in order to develop language. So, you can talk about taste, smell, texture, color, use, etc.