What kind of childcare would best suit your little one's personality? It may be an option you haven't considered. Tiffany Brown explains.
As parents or primary caregivers, we understandably have a range of feelings about the ideal childcare situation for our tamariki. And yes, it’s absolutely okay for those ideas to involve practical considerations such as proximity to your home or workplace, inclusions in the service, or cost. Other thoughts may include the philosophy or culture of the centre, group size, or the relationship between your child and their teachers, caregivers, or fellow students. But it’s surprisingly easy to overlook another vital part of this equation. None of this will help your family if your child ends up in a situation in which they don’t feel secure or comfortable. It’s wise to try to make the right choice from the beginning, because chopping and changing childcare arrangements can be extremely disruptive not only for small children, but for the whole whanau. Here are some considerations to match your child’s personality to the right childcare option.
The reserved child
Is your little one more inclined to observe the action than get involved? Kids who hold back often earn the label “shy”, but a better term may be “careful”. As new parents, our expectation may be that a child who doesn’t stride into the play – literally or figuratively – has a problem with confidence and should perhaps be encouraged to be more forthright. But think about that for a moment. You may be very grateful when your careful child grows into a careful, rather than impulsive, teenager.
Reserved children may feel anxious in unfamiliar settings, so whichever childcare option you choose, take it slowly and prepare to give your child plenty of time to adjust. Maintain plenty of physical contact and speak in calm tones as you introduce them to their new environment. Remember if you feel anxious your child is likely to pick up on that, so try to relax and give both you and your child time and space to make the transition.
Good childcare choices for reserved children cross the spectrum from nannies, small in-home childcare providers, smaller daycare facilities, or facilities that separate into smaller groups and facilities that provide plenty of quiet play options with as high a teacher-to-child ratio as possible. The more important consideration is their sense of security, and it will help if they establish a bond with a caregiver before you leave them to it.
The easygoing child
Chilled-out children may be the envy of your parent-friends, but there are a few key things
to be aware of if you’ve been so blessed. It’s understandable to let easy children get on with
it and play on their own, and while this is great for their independence, it limits the benefits they’ll gain from interactive play. The mellow child will tolerate inattention up to a point, but when the eventual meltdown comes, you’ll be left reeling because it’s so unusual.
Try to stay in tune with your easygoing child in terms of transitioning to a childcare situation. Make sure you keep communicating with them so they know it’s okay to share feelings or ask for help. Mellow kids can be hard to read because their needs and feelings aren’t immediately obvious, but they do have emotions so it’s up
to us to ensure they feel safe to share them.
Smaller settings like group in-home childcare or small centres may suit easygoing children best, as they’ll get a good balance of interaction with other children and focused attention from carers.
The energetic child
Full of joy and expression these passionate children wear their feelings on their sleeve and let us know in no uncertain terms when they’re upset. Equally, they’ll delight with their loving, spirited play and interactions.
Parents and caregivers of energetic children would be wise to anticipate struggles whenever possible, as whatever these children come up against that challenges them will generally repeat itself until they can learn coping strategies. Feisty kids also benefit from clear direction and adults getting down to eye level to talk to them.
Energetic children may thrive in larger daycare settings with plenty of variety, including options for quiet time. Although these kids can be the life and soul of any party, they’ll also benefit from bonds with caregivers who can recognise when they need to give themselves, and others, a break.
The explorative child
Fearless explorers who love to learn and explore can be wonderfully independent, but that same spirit of adventure can spell trouble. These kids are likely to be the escape artists and early walkers out of any group, possibly also reaching other milestones first, too.
It pays to empower your curious child by teaching them early how to manage things like brushing their teeth, using a remote control, or helping in the kitchen. Making exceptions to rules such as letting them have extra time at the playground can also help them feel like you’re on the same team, and they’ll be less likely to push back against reasonable boundaries. It’s important to be firm about napping and resting times, as explorative kids get worn out easily from their tireless adventures.
Explorative kids will thrive in childcare environments that offer plenty of diversity of
play and activity. This could come from daycare centres with tonnes of resources and plenty of play equipment, but equally from energetic individual care such as a nanny or in-home educator who has the stamina and skill to plan varied and exciting days for your busy child.