Ethic of Care for Infant and Toddler – The Primary Caregiver

Early Childhood education has developed rapidly over the last century since the formation of Playcentre in 1941, to provide leisure for mothers and opportunities for the social development of the pre-school child and is still successful today.

Lifestyles and family structures have dramatically changed over the past few decades and more children are accessing early childhood education.  The number of women in work has increased due to economic necessity, personal choice, being a single parent or main wage earner. There is now a wider variety of choice in centres, kindergartens and home based care and hours have become longer providing more flexibility for parents.

Theoretical perspectives have altered over the years and new ways of understanding toddlers are constantly emerging.  Modern day theoretical perspectives understand how family, school and community help foster healthy, cognitively and socially competent children and enhance their growth and development .

The earliest attachment theorists believed that the first bonds formed by children with their caregivers had a tremendous effect on the rest of their life.  Caregivers who are available and responsive to infants needs allow the child to develop a sense of security and have a secure base to then explore the world.  Children who are securely attached develop self-esteem and self-reliance, they are more independent, perform better academically and have successful social relationships.

Present day research in brain development supports this attachment theory.  By three years old 85% of the child brain has developed and the cortex has formed – which allows us to make good or bad choices and where we learn to think logically, reason and have empathy.

A child, who is loved, valued and respected and has a close relationship with a primary caregiver will feel safe and secure in their world.  Quality provision such as low group sizes, continuity of teachers, low adult and child ratios, one on one interaction are all crucial to providing high-quality care and early education for toddlers.  Continuity allows for predictability and stability.

By Carolyn Atkinson, Bachelor of Teaching ECE

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