According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, infants in nonparental child care spend between 31 and 40 hours each week in either home-, school- or center-based programs. If your baby is one of those kids, you know that's a lot of hours to fill with activities. While your infant is certain to sleep and eat during her day care day, the center providers will also engage her in a range of activities.
Infant Development Background
Before taking a look at what types of infant activities your child care provider offers for your baby, you should understand the developmental patterns for the first year of life. An adequate background in infant development is necessary when creating activities that are age-appropriate. The American Academy of Pediatrics's Healthy Children website notes that by 7 months, most infants can sit up, roll over, move objects from one hand to the other, respond to their own names, babble and respond to other people's expressions. By 12 months, infants can typically crawl, pull up to a standing position, use a pincer grasp, respond to the word "no," say basic words such as "mama," explore objects in multiple ways and imitate other people's gestures.
The Group Environment
One of the key facets of the child care environment is the group setting. Unlike at-home activities, day care activities allow the young child to interact with other kids. Although infants have limited social skills and typically don't initiate interactive types of play, activities that include groups of children can help to build budding social behaviors. When planning or understanding infant activities in child care, it's crucial to look at the group or social aspect. When teachers create activities, they must consider how the infants can come together to learn. This can vary from 2- to 6-month-olds banging on the same toy piano to a small group of 12-month-olds finger-painting a class masterpiece.
Child development experts at the National Network for Child Care recommends that infants engage in activities that allow them to explore. Child care providers should allow babies to make discoveries for themselves. Providers can observe the infants at play, watching what they choose to play with and how they explore the objects. Encourage the infants to pursue activities that already seem to interest them. For example, if 12-month-old Johnny enjoys stacking everything from sippy cups to cracker boxes, introduce a soft block stacking activity.
Safety and Activities
Not only should infant activities in child care centers engage children, the activities should meet safety standards. The primary safety measure that any provider must take is ensuring adequate supervision. Licensed centers must conform to state or local ratio requirements. For example, California requires one teacher for every four infants. The National Network for Child Care also recommends that providers ensure that all toys and objects that infants use for activities have no sharp pieces or edges, are easy to clean and sanitize, don't contain any potentially toxic or harmful chemicals or materials, and aren't choking hazards.