What to look for in a crèche for a young infant and toddlers

The family fabric in India has undergone a sea of change especially in the middle class urban society. There are more and more working women and no longer the luxury of having grandparents to look after the infant and toddlers are available. Therefore children are sent to baby care centers away from home or they are in the working place crèches. Are these places well equipped with personnel’s and equipment to cater the needs of these children? Since we do not have any prescribed standards we find that most centers are not suited to the optimal development of these young children.

Let us see what could be the requirements which a parent should look for before sending their child to these infant care centers, if done well, these centers can enrich children's early experience. It can also be great service, providing a safe and consistent base for child to develop his or her potentials. For this we have to train these providers in early child care to expect a good quality care as it cannot simply be an extension of a preschool program as it is now in most of the places.

Unlike a preschooler an infant is forming a sense of identity, which is what a baby gets from her caregiver in a continuing relationship with the caregiver, who provides a setting that offers security, protection and intimacy. It is best when a child giver responds to a child’s message with sensitivity and fulfills the desire of the child. The child understands that ‘’ I am someone who is paid attention to” and this becomes a part of the child’s identity. At home this is done by the parent or the grandparents who is following the child’s leads and responding to it all the time.

A good child care centre should be sensitive enough to provide an atmosphere for a child to have a single care giver as much as possible. The infant should be able to bond with the person and feel secure. A care giver should at best have three children to look after. Too many young kids in a centre could create a state of confusion noise and it could be very overwhelming to the young child. The following were the recommendation from the Zero to three organization. I quote

"For children not yet mobile, ZERO TO THREE (1992) recommends that group sizes should be no larger than six; the caregiver/infant ratio should be no more than 1:3. For children crawling and up to 18 months, the group size should be no more than nine, ratios no more than 1:3 (explorers are active and need a watchful eye). For children 18 months to three years, group size should be no more than 12, ratios, 1:4. Centers, group homes, and family day care homes with mixed age grouping. Infants and toddlers with disabilities who do not require special medical support can easily be included in environments with this suggested ratio and group size. Children with disabilities are children first; the care they need is often exactly the same as the care typically developing children need."

The environment should be free of restriction for the child to move about and to explore. Few outdoor equipments like low swings, hammock, slides, rocking horse and similar play materials help in a child developing coordination and balance. Indoor should have bed for the child to sleep and few pull along toys, stacking rings, musical instruments ,banging toys ,music player and other toys to keep the child interested.

There should be space available for parent to visit, if it is a working place crèche, mother should be allowed to breast feed the child at intervals. A proper breast feeding space must be provided.

Young infants need frequent feeding and this must be provided. The primary care giver should to some extent create a home atmosphere for the infant. She must know the child well in terms of her or his temperament, feeding habits, sleep patterns and should cater to the needs with lots of love and affection. Parents and this caregiver must constantly interact to see the child has a supportive and a stimulating atmosphere to grow and be a happy child.