Last month I facilitated a professional development training that took me out of my comfort zone! Now, don't get me wrong, I love being in an infant room and I could stay in there all the day long, but to train others about infants was totally new to me. My thought was that all you do is play with them and nurture them and give them what they need throughout the day to be happy babies. From there, Tiny Tips for Little Bits was born!
Hey I can train on how to love them, feed them, read to them and all that good stuff. And so I did. Infant rooms are the heart and soul of an early childhood facility. This is where it all begins; where needs should be meet, where social stimulation should grow and where brains should have the fuel to take flight and soar.
An infant brain IS like a sponge, but it doesn't always absorb everything. It can also miss out on many developmental learning opportunities if not feed the right stimulation. Did you know that if an infant has poor stimulation to an event, that it's brain may not choose to experience that stimulation again? Say for instance, if a baby is not properly nurtured during a feeding time-is mistreated or abandoned during this time-the infant could eventually not show a positive reaction to feeding time. What if that infant is never loved and cuddled with? Is there a possibility that infant will not choose to be affectionate? The brain is a mystery at times, but the one thing we do know is that if you have negative experiences, it's most likely you will react negatively to those same experiences in the future; infant, child, or adult.
That's why as teachers, caregivers and parents we understand the importance of infant development and choose to give those babies experiences that nurture them and allow them to progress physically, socially, emotionally and cognitively.
I had the most fun during the workshop and it was an on-the-floor workshop! Where else would you train infant teachers? I think my theme for the night was how to entertain and teach infants with a bag. Teachers were amazed at the difference a bag made when it came to story time and what fun homemade finger paint can be.
I demonstrated a story time with the teachers showing them how to peek an infant/toddler's curiosity with a story in a bag. By putting the objects into a bag along with the book, it supports the curiosity of the infant/toddler. If you have crawling babies, this works wonders!
Always use the same bag for each experience (i.e. story time, play time, etc)so that they become conditioned to know what is about to happen. Have enough objects (puppets, babies, stuffed animals, rattles, etc.) to hand to each infant. You want them to know that as you read, they will get to hold something. This give them the ability to be involved in the story, not just getting read to.
Have a song that you sing to gather them to the quilt (I think you should always have a quilt or something for them to gather on, otherwise it's wide-open space). The quilt provides spatial awareness. Then as they begin to gather, ask about what is in your bag and then begin the story telling process.
You want to first peek with curiosity by changing your voice and asking, "Ohhh what's in my bag today?" Gestures and voice tone go a long way to get the attention of children.
The importance of having an object for each child is to introduce and nurture the concept of self regulation. Children who know that they will get a turn will self regulate until their need is meet. By beginning at the infant stage with self regulation, you are preparing them for developmental milestones that they will encounter over the next few years. Social abilities thrive on self regulation and when a child can self regulate they can have many more successful learning experiences.
Every step from an infant room to a prekindergarten classroom is vital to the success of a child. It's very important for teachers to see and understand that experiences should begin in the infant room and those experiences should be a continuum for years to come.
You will make many impacts as an early childhood teacher, don't you want those impacts to bring a smile to the face of a child...
Until next time, go teach the children!