Primary Caregiving Infants and Toddlers
The care of infants is specialised but is often unrecognised in early childhood services. In a quality early childhood setting infants will develop a positive sense of self worth and secure attachments by participating in a safe, nurturing learning environment.
2007 saw the introduction of a new care giving system for the infants attending Puddleducks’ Nursery School (Palmerston North). A window for change to our existing programme opened and research was undertaken into how Puddleducks’ could implement a primary care giving programme. The primary caregiving system is valued as the only philosophy implemented in Puddleducks’ infant classrooms.In order to provide the highest quality care for infants, effective teamwork within a primary caregiving system ensures infants will develop secure attachments in a safe, nurturing learning environment.
A “Primary Caregiver” is the child’s special teacher. Primary Caregivers are responsible for the child’s care routines, observations, discussions with families and setting appropriate learning objectives in partnership with families. This does not mean that the child and their primary caregiver maintain an exclusive relationship. However, the primary caregiver becomes the in-centre expert on the child, within the team, and holds responsibility for providing consistent care in a way that maximizes the potential for learning in all experiences. This allows a strong and secure attachment between child and primary caregiver to develop, and helps the child to gain a positive sense of self worth. Each child is assigned a primary caregiver before they start their pre visits. Each primary caregiver has a focus group consisting of approximately 4 children and each primary caregiver has an assigned buddy. A buddy is another teacher who works alongside the primary caregiver with their focus group of children. The buddy knows the children and their routines to ensure the child’s needs are met at times when the primary caregiver is unavailable. When an infant starts at the Nursery School they have their needs met foremost by their primary caregiver and then by their buddy teacher in order for them to establish a strong bond from the beginning. If a child has a preference to a particular teacher after a primary caregiver is assigned, changes may be made to acknowledge and respect this child’s feelings.
Infant and toddler care routines are acknowledged as special times which allow opportunities for valuable teaching and learning opportunities and they are to be uninterrupted; staff are flexible throughout the day and prioritise children's needs, parents needs and break times to ensure consistent care for all individual children.
Primary caregivers recognise learning and plan for each individual within the group, ensuring positive experiences for the child within the programme. Within the team is a support system incorporating consistent primary caregivers who all know the children well and support their team members when needed. As part of Puddleducks’ primary caregiving system relief teachers unfamiliar to the children will not participate in care routines. Relievers are encouraged to interact with the children and will support the teaching team with the daily housekeeping tasks.
A caring and nurturing environment is provided for our infants and toddlers. We recognise that each child’s emotional security is paramount and that this directly affects their learning and development. We therefore strive to maintain a peaceful and unhurried environment. Our daily routine is relaxed and flexible, allowing for each child’s home routines to be followed as much as possible. This maximizes consistency and continuity and eases the transition between home and centre.
Reviewed: November 2009, June 2011