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A Learning and Devlopment Guide for Infant and Toddler Care Teachers

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A Learning and Development Guide for Infant and Toddler Care Teachers

Julie Wiegand

ECE 345

Instructor Crystal Daniels

January 14, 2011

A Learning and Development Guide for Infant and Toddler Care Teachers

"Even before a child is born, characteristics are developing that make him unique, with special gifts and needs. Each child comes with a personality, talents, strengths and the potential to grow and develop (Playbright 2002)." Early Childhood professionals can help children reach their potential by understanding the areas of child development-cognitive, language and motor as well as the factors that affect learning. In this handbook I will first, describe my personal educational philosophy. Second, I will discuss theories and stages of child development. Third, I will discuss teaching strategies that support emotional and cognitive development theories and the stages of cognitive, language and motor skills development. Then, I will depict a few planning guidelines for the planning and implementation of learning activities for infants and toddlers. Next, I will suggest activities that reflect my educational philosophy. After that I will identify ways to engage families in their children's learning and development. Finally I will provide Early Childhood Educators with a list of resources to use when planning learning activities for infants and toddlers. Throughout this guide I will refer to infant and toddler teachers as care teachers.

Children have a natural need to learn through play. Children learn with their whole body and with their senses. Jean Piaget once said "Knowledge arises neither from objects, nor the child, but from interactions between the child and those objects." (Schickendanz, Schickendanz, Hanzen, Forsyth 1993) As an infant and toddler care teacher, I will offer age appropriate, individualized, creative experiences and activities for children to learn. I will assist each child in growing to their potential by recognizing each stage of development and provide an environment that encourages the success of each child. I will respect the differences of children's culture, languages, special needs and family differences. My philosophy of education is heavily influenced by Jean Piaget's theories on child development. I believe that the ideal classroom should have a predictable, yet flexible, routine. This means that the daily schedule is organized and consistent, but still accommodates for each child's individual needs. Children thrive on routine, it gives them a sense of security and helps build trust. Inconsistency creates emotional anxiety in children. I believe that it is imperative that a care teacher establishes and maintains a safe, healthy, and nurturing learning environment. This includes having different learning centers such as a home center, discovery (sensory) area, book area, science area, table toys, art center, block area, and a quiet area. These learning centers enable children to explore, experiment, and interact with the environment at their own rate of development. Children need a balance of store bought toys and open ended toys. It is my opinion that open ended materials can be used by the children to expand their understanding of concepts and demonstrate creative uses of materials. When children are in an environment that they feel safe and comfortable, they are willing to take risks and learn something new!

It is my firm belief that child initiated activities are important in early childhood education. This means that children make decisions about what they want to do, where, with whom, and with what materials. This gives children time to explore their own ideas. Children learn through age appropriate, playful activities. Through children's actions, new connections are made and reinforced in the brain. While children are actively learning, they need support from adults. Adults need to encourage conversations with children and help children expand on their ideas.

I believe that an early childhood classroom should be developmentally appropriate. "Developmentally appropriate practice involves teaching and learning that is in accordance with children's physical, cognitive, social, linguistic, cultural and gender development" (Morrison 2009). In order to teach through developmentally appropriate practice, a care teacher must allow children to complete hands on activities, teach through age appropriate activities, allow children to use their imaginations, individualize for each child and respect each child's interests, personality, learning style and cultural differences.

I believe that care teachers and children are equals in an early childhood classroom. Adults need to be physically available at all times to reassure and comfort children when needed. Care teachers need to be on the floor with children at their level and participate in children's play as naturally as possible. This means that care teachers should not interrupt children's play or impose on them, their own ideas. Care teachers should engage children in conversations, asking questions and encouraging them to build their language/vocabulary and ideas. This kind of adult child interaction will allow children to trust adults and feel respected.

It is important for care teachers to know what cognitive development is. Cognitive development is the way infants and toddlers learn naturally though their need to play. Children learn directly through, hands on experiences with both people and objects. Infants and toddlers go through two stages of cognitive development. The first stage of Jean Piaget's stages of cognitive development is very complex; it is called the sensorimotor stage and occurs, approximately, from birth to age 2. During this stage infants explore the sensory qualities of objects and practice motor skills. This is observable through a child's physical movements and interactions with objects and people in their environment. It is also observed though rooting, sucking, grasping, banging, throwing, and mouthing. The second stage is known as the preoperational stage and occurs, approximately, from age two to age 7. During this stage we see children transfer objects into symbols, things that represent something else. This is observable when a child is exploring dramatic play activities. Children in the preoperational stage are learning the use of language. It is important to know that children of the same age often function on many different levels. Care teachers should observe and interact with children to see what stage of cognitive

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