Sprout spotlight on...working with children under two
Every educator and service leader in childcare has a preferred age group to work with. Some enjoy working with infants and toddlers, engaging in helping them feel safe and secure while they learn about the world around them.
For other educators, working with children who are preverbal sounds challenging - how do you know what they need when they can’t talk?
In this Sprout spotlight series, we explore some of the benefits and challenges of working with children under two years of age, explore what contemporary theorists have to say about this special time in a child’s life, and look at some examples of best practice.
What’s it really like to work with children under two?
Working with children under two is largely about following the routines, rhythms and practices of families, while helping children to learn, develop and grow.
As well as following routines, children under two in your care will need a program of activities and learning opportunities consistent with their needs, interests and the outcomes of the EYLF.
For infants and toddlers, many of these needs centre around developmental milestones such as crawling, walking, learning to speak and self care. Once the initial milestones are reached, the educators role becomes to extend on the learning the child has already shown.
A child who has begun to pull up on furniture, for example, would then need support with “steady standing” and opportunities to practice this new skill as they work toward the milestone of walking.
Because children under two are using emergent language, they are not always able to clearly communicate their needs, wants and interests, making collaborative partnerships with families especially important in this age group.
While working with children under two can sometimes be challenging, with higher levels of personal care needed, many educators find this age group especially rewarding.
“There are rewarding moments throughout the day – a baby in my care might make a new sound or take their first step and it’s wonderful. What I also like is that not only are you helping a child develop but you are building up a relationship with the parents as well. The job satisfaction is enormous,” educator Sophie shared.
Contemporary theorists talk about working with infants and toddlers
One of the most significant statements about working with infants and toddlers is Donald Winnicott’s memorable quote, made in 1964, when he said “there’s no such thing as a baby.”
What Mr Winnicott meant by this is that babies, and by extension, infants and toddlers, exist in
a complex web of interactions with others, including their educators. Educators and parents shape the cognitive development of infants and toddlers, who in turn shape the lives of the adults who care for them.
Even the smallest of signals from babies, such as a smile or a crumpled eyebrow, drive the adults in their lives to respond, and in turn, babies and toddlers learn that they have the capacity to influence others.
While it can be challenging for educators to be present with infants and toddlers without trying to engage with them or entertain them, sometimes these are the places where the most significant learning and development takes place.
In this space, Ms Lansbury explains, “we’re being present. Our body is relaxed. We’re not trying to engage. We’re not trying to entertain. We’re not coming from a place of worry in these moments, ideally. We’re just there. We want to see and we want to hear what’s going on.
It takes practice, but it really is the key to understanding children, making a lot of things clearer.”
“Infants feel this attention that we give them. They’re feeling that energy. They’re sensing that we just like to be with them, and that whatever they do or are not doing is enough. We are interested in them, as-is.”
Best practice with infants and toddlers
Australian educators are well supported with guidance and examples of best practice when working with children under two, both from within Australia and around the world.
In this piece, national regulator ACECQA offers information about babies and outdoor play, sharing how educators can support babies to interact with the outdoor environment by planning quality experiences to promote engagement and maximise learning and development.
Here, ACECQA gives video examples as part of the connecting with practice series, sharing examples of toddlers engaging with a learning environment in a variety of ways. The role of the physical environment in supporting learning is highlighted, as well as educators’ contributions to learning through communicating with language.
Finally, this piece of footage, shared by SBS, showcases that even very young children can have a role in shared meal times, determining portion sizes, helping their friends, and assisting in clearing the table after their meal.
By taking the time spend and worry out of compliance, Sprout frees up educators to do what they do best - delivering high quality education and care for children and families. If you’d like to learn more about how Sprout can help your service, please visit our website, or book a demo.
Author Freya Lucas, The Sector
Freya is the editor of The Sector, and has over 20 years of experience in education and care services. Her previous roles as an early childhood teacher, primary teacher, and ECEC operations manager giving her a unique insight into the ECEC sector at all levels.