Is your baby ready for their first early education experience? Even though they're years away from reading and writing, a program to teach infants how to learn can help your child to build physical, social, emotional, and cognitive skills. If you're not sure what a high-quality infant learning environment includes, take a look at the questions to ask before you pick a program.
What Types of Learning Materials Are Available?
Infants don't need pens, pencils, paper, and calculators to learn. Instead, they need toys and other materials that invite exploration through the senses. These include age-appropriate, safe items that allow infants to learn without the risk of choking or another hazard.
The specific materials each infant classroom has will vary by program. But the toys/learning items could include:
Books. The first few years of life are a prime time for early literacy development. According to the national early childhood organization Zero to Three, literacy activities (such as reading books) can help infants to build language skills before they can talk.
Mirrors. Unbreakable mirrors for infants to look into can help them to learn about themselves, the rest of the world, and even emotions. Your infant can make silly faces and get to know the "other baby" in the mirror.
Soft blocks. Soft building blocks give infants the opportunity to build fine motor skills, such as eye-hand coordination and dexterity.
While you don't need a list of materials from your child's potential future school, the program should provide these and other age-appropriate items for the infants to explore. Ask the director or teacher what types of materials they use regularly or take a look for yourself during a visit to the learning center.
What Do You Look for In a Teacher?
This question is primarily for the school or center director. Most states and local areas have specific educational and experiential licensure requirements for teachers and caregivers who work in early learning settings. Along with meeting these standards, look for a program with teachers who:
Have a background specific to infant learning. An early childhood educator who spent the last three years working with five-year-olds may have never taught in an infant room. Make sure your child's teachers or caregivers have an educational background in infant learning, experience working directly with infants in a group setting, or both.
Can create an interesting educational curriculum. What will your child do all day? The answer to this question depends on the activities the teacher plans. The early childhood infant educator should have the ability to create activities or a curriculum that is developmentally appropriate and encourages active exploration.
Will stay for the whole school year. How many teachers will your child go through in one school year? If the program has an extremely high staff turnover rate, your child may not get the consistent care and education you expect.
You can also learn more about the teachers during a classroom tour. Observe and activity and get first-hand information.
Although most people tend to think of education as something that they need to do in a formal setting, the world is filled with lessons if you just look around and soak it in. I started focusing more and more on education about ten years ago, and it was really great to feel how much of a difference those early lessons made in my personal life. Before I knew it, I really felt like things were starting to open up for me, and I was starting to feel happier about the direction my life was heading. I wanted to start a blog all about education, so that you can learn what you need to in order to improve your life.