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Infant Care

Dear Debi,
I have been learning what to teach preschool age children, but how can I prepare for babies too? How can I set up the infantsí space and materials to best fit all the children's needs?
Maria, North Hollywood, CA
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Have specific equipment and materials for each infant
  • Create an infant space
  • Talk with older kids to prepare them
Expert Advice
Julie Ruelas
Julie Ruelas
Early childhood development specialist
Taking care of kids of all ages is great because it creates a family environment. And like a family environment, babies can learn from modeling and observing older children, and older children can learn by helping and teaching younger kids. This type of interaction is great for kids to develop language and social-emotional skills.

Before an infant starts in care, sit down with your older kids, toddlers and preschoolers and talk to them about the fact that there will be a new addition to the family. Tell them that heís little and needs to be treated with respect. You need to teach the kids how to touch him or play with him carefully with ďgentle touches,Ē especially for the toddlers who may not be in the developmental stage of being able to touch carefully. You can also explain to them that they can help with caring for the baby during appropriate moments, such as story time.

Remember that the other kids may feel jealous, so itís important to make sure that all the kids feel like they have individual attention and feel like they are loved and cared for. But itís important to teach the kids not to step on the babyís play area and also to pick up their toys so they donít fall into the hands of the infant because they may have small pieces that babies can get hurt on. Also, remind your kids to sit down when they eat, so they donít accidentally drop food on the floor where babies might pick it up and try to eat it.

When a provider is preparing to take care of an infant, itís important to have an area for the baby to sleep. You should have a crib for each infant in your care and a specific area where the babies can sleep. It doesnít have to be a separate room, unless an infant is particularly sensitive to noise. Infants can be around the other children, but just make sure itís a safe resting area for them.

Itís also important to have a play area for infants. I recommend putting down a soft comforter or blanket on the floor where the babies can crawl, roll and play. Providers should also remember to find a place for either a high chair or feeding table.

In addition to a crib, there are other items a provider needs to have ready when caring for an infant. Those items include: a mobile to place over the crib; a carrier; a high chair or feeding table; a stroller; a bouncy chair or a chair swing; a changing table; and a garbage can with a lid for diaper disposal. Make sure you have safe toys for the infant to access also.

Finally, remember to make the environment safe for infants. Cover all unused electrical sockets, make sure the fireplace is covered, have safety latches on cabinet doors, and make sure that babies donít have access to any choking hazards, like small toy pieces or food that they can put into their mouths. Get down on the floor and look at things from a babyís vantage point so that you donít miss anything dangerous they could come into contact with.
Child Care provider Comments
Child care provider for 8 years
For my little ones, I have a car seat for each of them so that I can take them with me when I run errands or pick up the other kids. At home, I make sure to have a baby gate to block off the kitchen. I also make sure that all the electrical outlets are covered so that itís safe for them and put latches on cabinets and cupboards to make them secure.
Family child care provider for 4 years
I have a designated space that has padding on the floor and a big basket with infant toys. The other kids know that they have to be careful around this space and around the babies. I think it really works because the babies are with us and can see the older kids. The older kids are really great about watching out for the infants and playing with them. Itís really functional for me because I can watch and be with all the kids at the same time in the same room.
Diane Ferguson
Diane Ferguson
Child care provider for 3 years
I think itís really important to talk to the other kids to prepare them for the new baby. I explain to them that weíre going to make a few changes and that everyone is going to participate in making those changes. The older kids love to help with the babies. I try to make everyone feel important and involved in the process. But I also make sure that kids understand a new set of boundaries and rules so the babies will be safe around them.

Investigation Space Featured Activity:
Investigation Space
Infant Care Featured Video:
Infant Care
Topic: Child Care Management
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