What it Means to Teach Infants and Toddlers

What it Means to Teach Infants and Toddlers

by Carla-Littel-Hildebrand, T.E.A.C.H. Counselor

Have you tried to explain to others outside the early education field what it means to “teach” infants and toddlers? As a fellow teacher, I know we fight against the “babysitter” label and claims that we are not really teaching.

iStock_000019609330XLargeBut the research and our own experiences tell us differently. Teachers of infants and toddlers develop responsive care routines, build a trusting relationship with the child and family, design safe, engaging environments, and create developmentally appropriate experiences that expand learning. Young children require these experiences for healthy brain development.

“The vulnerable baby is dependent on relationships with adults for physical survival, emotional security, a safe base for learning, help with self-regulation, modeling and mentoring social behavior, and information and exchanges about the workings of the world and rules for living.”1

It is truly an awesome, and fast-moving responsibility. Have you ever taken a long weekend or vacation and upon your return, the children in your care have made significant advances in one or more developmental domains? As an Early Head Start Teacher, this is one of my fondest memories. The child that didn’t walk is now trying a few steps.  Another can roll over and yet another child is beginning to use the “baby signs” you have been diligently modeling.

As a reflective caregiver, you observe these milestones and assess the needed environmental changes, create opportunities to scaffold on new learning, and assess the social emotional needs of the children as they embark on skill acquisition.

“If caregivers are mindful of how a child’s whole experience-particularly the emotional tenor-influences the developing brain – they can provide caring relationships that help the child feel secure and open to an engaging world of exploration and learning throughout the early years.”

Teaching infants and toddlers requires a flexibility that is unique, with caregiving taking on the nature of a “dance” – with the teacher encouraging each infant to try out more complex steps so as to master new compositions, beats, and tempos.3

Training with an Infant /Toddler focus

It can be difficult to find training that specifically addresses the needs and concerns of Infant Toddler Teachers. Not at the WECA Conference! WECA has heard your voice and is offering a range of workshops November 10-11, 2017 at Chula Vista.

Pam Bennett and Cheryl Heiman will start us off with an inspirational Early Ed Talk followed by an innovative workshop, “Bebe Café.” We’ll come together for a facilitated conversation, sharing our wisdom, expertise, challenges, concerns, and passions in a collective learning experience.  Don’t miss out on this exceptional opportunity to learn with colleagues and dive deeper into the issues that are most relevant to you as an early childhood teacher.

To find out more and to register go to: http://wisconsinearlychildhood.org/conference/

  1. Lally, J., & Mangione, P. (2017, May). Caring Relationships, The Heart of Early Brain Development. NAYEC, 17-23.
  2. Raikes, H. H., & Pope Edwards, C. (2009). Extending the Dance in Infant & Toddler Caregiving. Bear, DE: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., Inc.
  3. Bredekamp, S. (2009). Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs (C. Copple, Ed.). Washington, DC: NAEYC.

Additional Infant and Toddler Resources:

TRY IT Tuesday: Legislative Visits

One of the best ways to understand what the term “high-quality early education” means is to see it first-hand. By hosting legislative visits in your child care program, you can give legislators an opportunity to do just that! Because your US representatives will be in recess throughout August, now is a great time to invite them to come and experience your early education program. During each visit, you can take some time to discuss the federal and state legislation that affects your work every day. When you build these relationships with your legislators, it will pay off in the future when you contact them to be supportive of (or opposed to) a particular bill or program.

Don’t think you could have a legislator visit you program? Brenda Wagner- a Director and Lead Teacher of the Discovery on Dousman child care center in Wauzeka, Wisconsin- TRIED IT and here’s what happened:


Senator Dan Kapanke visits with children at Discovery on Dousman child care

Brenda started inviting legislators to visit her program several years ago to celebrate the Week of the Young Child (WOYC). She found legislative visits on a list of suggested WOYC activities and decided to give it a try. Brenda went online, found out who her legislators were, and sent them email invitations. She didn’t think they would respond – but they did, and the visits have become a yearly event. This year both Senator Dan Kapanke and Representative Lee Nerison visited.

At first Brenda was nervous about having legislators visit her program, but now she would advise others to “just relax and do it!” because it’s not as hard as it sounds. Her legislators have always been friendly, down to earth, and excited about visiting. They visited with staff members, got down to each child’s level, and participated in some activities. They asked questions about what a typical day was like, inquired about staff, and were always amazed at how well-behaved the children were! Brenda also used some of her time to discuss the R.E.W.A.R.D. ™ WISCONSIN stipend program and how she benefits from it.

Are you ready to TRY IT too? Find out who your legislators are by clicking here and entering your home address. Contact us if you would like assistance with scheduling a visit or download a “tool kit” from The Early Care and Education Consortium to use when preparing for a visit. If you TRY IT, leave a comment to let us know how it went- we would love to hear from you!

Infant and Toddler Policy Progress in Wisconsin

States across the country are introducing policies that are designed to improve the quality of early education for infants and toddlers. These policies were created to achieve a variety of goals including: improving infant/toddler trainings for providers, increasing access to comprehensive services for infants/toddlers, and establishing core competencies that providers should know before working with infants/toddlers. In Wisconsin, the introduction of the Infant Toddler Professional Credential is highlighted as an example of a policy change that promotes a strong, knowledgeable workforce. With specialized training in infant and toddler development, providers are able to provide higher quality care for the youngest Wisconsin residents. Other state examples of infant/toddler policy progress are included in a recent report by the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). You can view the full report here.

Early Head Start Expansion Grant Webinar

The federal government has made $619 million available to expand Early Head Start services through competitive grants (see earlier blog entry for more information and a link to the federal application). Applying for these grants is a complex and time consuming process. WECA, with financial assistance from the Department of Children & Families, will be hosting a free, informational webinar to help you navigate the process. Join us next Tuesday, May 26th from 8:30-10 am.

What you will learn:
• Early Head Start background information
• Fundamentals of the federal grant writing process
• How to get further training and technical assistance throughout the process

Don’t miss out … REGISTER HERE. Once you register, you will receive an email with instructions for logging in on webinar day. We hope you will join us to learn more about this exciting opportunity!