How educators and caregivers interact with toddlers, in a childcare setting, greatly influences how children grow, learn, and develop in the long run. Researchers concluded that: “…teacher influence at the individual-level and that at the classroom-level are unique, and that each contributes to child-perceived peer social experiences.” That’s why, at the Bethesda child care center, teachers continually provide warm, supportive, responsive interactions to toddlers they care for.
Making Sense of the Research
Collectively, there’s a lot of research data, tables and graphs that support positive classroom interactions to deliver wholesome childcare experience to toddlers and young children. At the heart of it, data from several research studies show that, through trusting and stimulating interactions in the classroom, early childhood educators (ECEs) help shape how toddlers and young children feel about their environment. By providing an array of stimulating learning experienced, educators:
- Build trust with the children
- Infuse self-confidence in the child, even though they’re still toddlers
- Sow the seeds in children, so they look forward to their child care experiences
Researchers found that positive and wholesome “…teacher–child interactions broadcast children’s attributes and likability to classmates who observe the interactions.” This means that caregivers at Bethesda day school help lay the foundation for toddlers to have positive peer-to-peer interactions – not just in child care settings, but also beyond.
Positive Interactions 101
There are a wide range of tips and strategies that caregivers may use, to have positive classroom interactions with toddlers. However, they all revolve around three basic principles:
- Nonverbal communication: A warm smile; a friendly gesture, such as an energetic wave; an encouraging pat on the back; and “smiling” eye contact
- Verbal contact: Staff at the Bethesda child care center always use a calm tone with toddlers, and talk slowly to ensure the child listens, hears, and understands their message. Calmer voice interactions also soothe and pacifies anxious children
- Cues and Signals: Listening to, and being watchful for signals and cues that toddlers provide, and then acting on them appropriately
Using these three pillars as their guiding posts, teachers, educators, and caregivers can ensure positive teacher-toddler interactions in a daycare or child care setting. More importantly, it’s vital for teachers to encourage toddlers to practice positive interactions too. For instance, if one shares their toy with a classmate, the caregiver should encourage the “sharing interaction” among the class.
Beyond Childcare settings
How toddlers develop, however, is not limited to classroom interactions alone. The interactions they have, with teachers, caregivers, and peers in the classroom, sets the foundation for how they (toddlers) translate those interactions outside of the classroom. If young minds experience conflicting interactions in different environments (e.g.: Sharing toys in class; but seeing parents encourage non-sharing among siblings at home), it undermines the positive impact of the classroom interactions.
Parents, guardians, and homecare givers may use these same three principles to guide their own interactions with infants and toddlers. When young children experience consistent positive interactions, both, at their Bethesda day school and outside of it, it’s more likely to have positive outcomes on their growth, learning and development.