(Contined from the previous page)
- Diapering and Toilet Use. The center or home should have documented clear practices for how diapering is handled for infants, and for how toilet training and use is facilitated for toddlers and preschoolers. A diaper changing station separated from the space that children have access to should be provided for infants. A sink should be present in or near the changing station so that the caregiver can wash his or her hands both before and after each diaper change. Used diapers should be stored in sealed containers, and these containers should be emptied regularly. Each child should have his or her individual container of wipes and of diaper cream. In most cases, parents will be required to provide diapers and wipes for their child on a regular basis.
Bathroom facilities appropriate for toddlers and preschoolers should be available. Such facilities should include child-size toilets and sinks. Toilet training should be offered for toddlers, but this should always be done with the parents’ explicit permission and then with the parent and caregiver working together to cooperatively promote consistent practices. Most centers will have toilet training guidelines which will specify when a child must be fully trained in order to move on to an older preschool room.
- Sleeping Practices. A sleeping area should be provided for use by children. Parents should be able to view the sleeping area during their visit, and to be informed about the center or home's sleeping procedures and practices. A section of the sleeping area (or a separate room) should be outfitted for an infant's sleep needs, and child-safe cribs should be present. As should also be the case for infant eating schedules, sleeping times should be permitted based on the infant’s personal schedule and needs and not otherwise regulated. Toddlers and preschoolers, on the other hand, will generally have set nap times and will sleep on cots or mats. There may or may not be a separate sleep area for this age group as all children under care will be ceasing activity during the set nap time.
- Discipline Practices. A center or home's discipline procedures should document in writing how different types of "offenses" will be handled. Ideally, parents should be clear on the ways that a center or home may discipline their child, and should have the ability to request modifications to these procedures and expect to have their requests honored. Discipline should involve redirection (rather than just saying "no" to children) and limit setting rather than any type of punishment. Discipline should never include physical punishment or abusive language. Discipline procedures should be communicated in understandable language to both children and parents and should be consistently implemented by caregivers. Older toddlers and preschoolers may occasionally benefit from a "time-out" situation in order to help them regain control over their emotions, but this procedure should be used sparingly.
- Play and Development. Play and activities are a crucial part of the development process for children. The requirements and needs for children are different at each level of development, and therefore, provided toys and activities should be age-relevant for each child under care, regardless of care setting. Proper age-relevant toys and activities constitute an "enriched environment" and contribute to the intellectual, emotional, social, and language-related development of children.
- Infants and toddlers learn by experience. They see, taste, hear, and touch the world around them in order to learn. They establish trust relationships by being held and touched in consistent, safe and soothing ways. The environment around them should be filled with bright colors and different shapes and should be fully childproofed to allow for safe exploration. There should be room for eating, sleeping, and playing with appropriate cribs, bouncy seats, highchairs, and changing areas present. Toys should be soft and colorful with different textures to promote learning. Books, puzzles, music, and physical activities should be provided to help each child develop many different abilities.
For older toddlers and preschoolers (approximately two to five year olds), scheduled play activities should help promote language development and motor skills, particularly gross motor (physical coordination) skills. There are two types of motor skills – gross and fine – that each child must learn and develop as they grow. Gross motor skills involve large movements, including activities such as walking, running and climbing. These help children to develop balance and muscle tone. In contrast, fine motor skills involve smaller movements, such as those used when picking up a cheerio or cracker (pinching movements), drawing or painting (grasping movements), and eventually writing. Both types of motor skills are critical for development, but at the toddler/preschool stage, it is especially important to develop the gross motor skills. Fine motor skills will be further developed when the child enters school and begins the writing process.
There should be puzzles, block sets, containers to sort and place toys in, gym sets to climb on, and toys for pretend play to enhance children's imaginations. Tasks to increase children's memory and learning skills should be provided. Set rules for play should be applied consistently to help create and teach structure and boundaries. The physical space provided for play activities should include areas for both activity and for quiet times. Appropriate bathroom areas should be available. Some type of cubbyholes where personal belongings can be stored should be provided to help teach children about personal property and responsibility.
- Daily Reports and the Caregiver/Parent Relationship. Caregivers should provide daily reports on how children under care are doing, in either verbal or written form. Reports should include specific information including times that the child ate, slept, and had a diaper change or went to the bathroom, any activities that he or she participated in, and any problems that occurred over the course of the day. The daily report is important because it not only creates good communication between the parent and caregiver but can also be used to catch developing problems or patterns early on so that they can be corrected early on. The daily report also helps parents feel more connected to the child’s day and what is occurring when they are not present with their child. Learning this information can help to alleviate parent's anxiety or stress feelings.
- Relationship Between the Caregiver and Child. A final important concern has to do with how easily and well the caregiver(s) are able to interact with the children under their care. Caregivers' tone of voice should be friendly and caring. When speaking to individual children, one-on-one, they should be at the child’s level and not speaking 'down' to the child. Caregivers should hold infants and talk quietly to them and be comfortable getting on the floor and playing with toddlers and preschoolers. They should be competent at redirecting inappropriate behaviors or actions in a positive and caring way.
Parents should walk away from their interviews confident that prospective caregivers share their personal caregiving philosophy and will do right by their child before agreeing to place their child into the caregivers custody. As caregivers may end up spending as much time with the child as do the parents, it is important that parents trust the caregivers to responsibly handle and care for their children.
See Appendix C for a checklist of these variables that parents may use when conducting an onsite visit.