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Supporting a Need for Training Infant Educarers

by   Phyllis Porter, M.A.
boy & girl infants each holding a flower The change in the American work force is putting more and more infants and toddlers into some form of non-parental care every day. The people who provide this care must be educated to both the developmental and psychological needs of infants. They need to have as their goal "insuring good infant mental health". (Honig, 1993, p.69).

Much has been written about maternal care and how it affects the emotional development of the child. (Montanaro, 1991). A large part of this maternal care is now taken on by a primary caregiver, or infant educarer. Today, most day-care facilities focus more on filling the spot of infant teacher than on finding a trained infant educarer. The infant staff is basically thought of as "diaper-changers" and "bottle-feeders" and is not respected for the tremendous responsibility placed in their hands.

The infant educarer is the "link between the child and the environment" (Pabst, 1989, p.10) and is thus responsible for keeping the environment responsive to the needs of each infant. The baby will develop deep bonds with a primary caregiver and only when secure in this relationship, is there freedom to be independent in play with peers and toys. (Honig, 1993).

A Phil Donahue presentation in April, 1993 discussed mother/infant bonding. It was apparent that few members of the audience fully understood the concepts of "bonding" and "attachment". Little mention was made of the positive effects of bonding with a good primary caregiver. If an infant educarer is properly trained and truly understands the developmental process, this bonding can only add to the mother/infant bond. "Babies need loving and will thrive if they are well 'mothered' regardless of the age or sex of the caregiver". (Honig, 1993, p.73)

One theme that runs through much of the recent literature on infant care is the treatment of infants with respect. Instead of doing things "to" babies, involve them in all activities pertaining to their care. Offer choices. Let them do for themselves when they can and help whenever possible. This respectful, loving care should begin at birth and will instill a strong sense of personhood in the child. Magda Gerber is an active proponent of this infant care method.

During the time a child is in a toddler group in day-care, the child's growing cognitive skills are making the child think about and work on the problems of separation. This is usually a gray time for the baby, causing much crabbiness. The baby also tests the caregivers a lot during this phase. If the caregivers understand the normal development of infants, they will be able to help them progress naturally. (Honig, 1993).

Many early education courses, workshops and conventions focus the majority of their time and materials on ages three to five. Today, 1999 and beyond, there is a need to stress infant and toddler teacher training in order to insure a good beginning to life for these children.


References

Honig, A.S., (1993). Mental Health for Babies: What Do Theory and Research Teach Us? Journal of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, pp. 69-76.

Montanaro, S.Q., (1991). Understanding the Human Being. California: Nienhuis Montessori USA.

Pabst, M.B., (1989). The Components of Quality in Child Caring: A Guide for Infant and Toddler Providers. Unpublished master's thesis, Saint Mary's College, Winona, MN.

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