Across the globe, in places like Uganda and Dublin, mothers are being made aware that the 1,000 day period from the beginning of pregnancy to a child’s second birthday will, as midwife Susan Ejang says. Nutrition, stimulation, prenatal care, nurturing, and high quality early childhood education settings all combine to provide a child with what they need to succeed or what will set a course that will be difficult to undo.
Maritza is a key contributor to Blake’s development as his caregiver during his first 1,000 days as is his mother. So, what are some ways an infant/toddler teacher like Maritza can help Blake gain the foundation that will lead him towards a wonderful life?
Encourage good nutrition from the first food to snacks at school. Supporting nursing mothers is key to providing nutrients the child needs. Maritza is already providing a quiet place where Blake’s mother can nurse when she picks him up at the end of the day as a perfect transition from center to home and from caregiver to mother;
Provide a stimulating environment. Martiza knows this is key to successful development. Blake is beginning to pull himself up to a standing position and when he does, Maritza is quick to notice and encourage such “practice.” While practicing before a child shows signs of readiness is never advised, a sensitive caregiver like Maritza watches and notices these signs;
Be responsive. Maritza knows that if Blake is crying, it is the only language he has right now. Just as she would never ignore a child who is speaking to her, she also acknowledges Blake’s early attempts at communicating by figuring out what he needs and providing it. Has he dropped his favorite toy? Is he hungry? Could he be teething? Would showing him a book while he sits in the rocker with her work? Maritza realizes that children Blake’s age are never trying to manipulate but instead communicate.
Share joys with parents. Care giving for parents and teachers alike can be exhausting. Sharing news when Blake’s mother comes at the end of the day of his activities allows her to feel connected both to the Center and to Blake. Maritza knows it is in Blake’s best interest to have an open, communication filled connection to his mom and she works hard to maintain that with her daily notes home, her sharing of stories, and of his routine for the day.
Never stop learning. Because Maritza is enrolled in a CDA Certification with the Council, she is learning all about the long lasting effects that care during the early days of life can have on an infant. The importance of good nutrition, a healthy and safe environment, and partnering with parents are all topics she is learning about while also working daily with children in her care.
Organizations such as the Council for Professional Recognition and the National Association for the Education of Young Children as well as Zero to Three are all partnering to shine the light on the earliest days for the youngest in our care. Educated, credentialed caregivers are the front line staff who in concert with a child’s parents, can seize the opportunity of the first 1,000 days to make life long lasting effects in a child’s life.