More Than Babysitters

After overhearing the statement that begins this blog one too many times, 4C Infant and Toddler Specialist Christine Fields wanted to share just how important she believes the work of early childhood educators can be…

“We’re not a school. We’re a daycare.”

How do you feel when you hear that statement? Many teachers and parents view early care and education programs as “babysitting facilities,” but we know better! Teachers in early care and education have a unique opportunity to support a child during the earliest and most critical years of their development.

A child’s brain is 90 percent developed by age 5, and an infant’s brain is constantly creating connections which allow the brain to more efficiently process information. A positive environment helps facilitate those connections, and it is the responsibility of parents and caregivers to provide their children with that environment. A stressful environment, like one where children are not given the support they need, can affect their brain development. Stress can actually alter the shape of the brain. If a child is consistently under stress, their cognitive, emotional, social, language and communication abilities may be affected.

What is stress for a young child? It varies because children are individuals, just like adults. What causes you stress? Is it loud noises? Bright colors? Crowds? Loud music? Strange smells? Early care and education programs are full of these things! A toddler classroom may have as many as 14 children in one room with two caregivers. There are shelves full of noisy, battery-operated materials, and music may be playing at all times. There are pictures hanging on all of the walls – each painted a different, bright color – and posters suspended from the ceiling. Feeling overwhelmed? So is the toddler, who doesn’t yet have the ability to self-regulate, ask for help or explain how he is feeling.

Teachers in early care and education programs aren’t babysitters. They are responsible for assisting the child’s brain to grow and develop, and creating a supportive and less stressful environment doesn’t have to cost money. Play music when children want to dance and when they are done, turn it off.  Instead of battery-operated toys, create home-made toys out of recycled materials: make blocks out of orange juice cartons, jewelry boxes, pizza boxes or anything else you can get your hands on; create see through bottles by putting hair gel in a used Gatorade bottle and adding interesting materials such as sequins to see how they float in the gel. Instead of shouting across the room to speak a child, go to them, get down on their level and speak calmly. If there are 14 toddlers in a room, have one caregiver take his primary care group outside and have the other caregiver keep her seven children inside. Having seven children instead of 14 reduces the noise level, the “fights” over materials and allows the caregiver to give attention to children in a small group.

If someone believes you’re “just” a babysitter, remember how important your work is. Value your profession and the children in your care!

4 thoughts on “More Than Babysitters

  1. Janine

    I truly appreciate the hard work of early childhood educators. I support the efforts to increase the professionalism in the field, to change the mindset of parents, teachers and the community from early childhood staff from “babysitters” to the educators that they are.

    I come from an elementary education background. A good majority of my work is with staff in school-age programs. I will admit, my experience with early childhood education prior to working at 4C was minimal.

    The first time I heard the statistic (mentioned above) “A child’s brain is 90 percent developed by age 5…” I thought, *Wow. The work that early childhood educators do is so important.* But, then I started thinking about my work with school-age programs, programs which cater to those children whose brains are, according to the above statistic, almost completely developed. I started feeling like an afterthought, my work suddenly unneeded.

    The first thought I had, that ECE is extremely important, is so very valid. Educating children as infants, toddlers and preschoolers IS important. I would just ask that we not forget or dismiss the children and their learning, their experiences, their growth once their brain is 90% developed. That last 10% is pretty important, too. We are all in this to help children be the best they can be.

  2. Christine

    I completely agree that we should all remember the importance of older children as well. Children of any age should be given the opportunities to be successful. The human brain is always making connections, even in adulthood. Support is so very vital to everyone and it means something different to each individual. Each child, each adult, each interaction, each opportunity is important to a child’s growth and development.

  3. Jimmy

    Lets be honest!! Early Childhood is glorified babysitting. We say education to make parents feel better about leaving their kids with strangers to go to work. These staff members are not teachers, and as a teacher it is insulting to have you be called a teacher. Some have degrees while many dont. This is just wrong

    1. Angie Good

      I choose to work in the field of early childhood because I understand the importance of helping a child grow and develop at all ages. If it weren’t for good teachers such as myself and many others in the field, you couldn’t be as successful in your classroom because the children you encounter wouldn’t have the solid foundation necessary to become successful in the age range/grade that you teach.

      I do agree with you that the field of early childhood education has some room for growth when it comes to professional development of those who teach our youngest children. And I will also say that the school settings, kindergarten and higher, also have some room for growth when it comes to developmentally appropriate practice. It would certainly be refreshing if we could choose to work together for what’s in the best interests of all the children instead of demeaning one group or another.

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