Topic Introduction B: Making a plan for a stimulating environment for babies and toddlers in the Secure Base Model
“I had a kid. He was always shaking his head and licking his hand’s back. I guessed he had a mental retardation because, I had seen such children before. I used more the techniques that I learnt through this session on this kid more often and elaborately. Now, he is sitting and he does not lick his hand and swing. But sometimes, he is biting his nails. However, I will overcome this problem, too.” Staff member’s statement
In institutions a few caregivers are often responsible for many babies and toddlers.
This makes two things very important:
How can we develop a generally stimulating environment, especially in the daytime?
How can we use “mother’s tools” for stimulating babies when we don’t have time to give them as much physical contact as a normal mother will naturally do?
In the rest of this session you will get a number of suggestions for practices and for adjusting them to your workplace.
Perhaps you will need to repeat this for a number of times until you have developed a number of new practices. When you make these changes, daily life may seem a little more chaotic and difficult to structure.
SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVING STIMULATING ENVIRONMENTS
The “family group”: Make a day activity schedule where the children only stay in beds in the daytime for naps. The rest of the waking time, a mattress or a carpet is placed on the floor, and the group of caregivers sit on low chairs or sit on the floor with young babies on their lap, and toddlers can crawl around them a “family group”. This is how small groups of women have been caring for babies and toddlers for thousands of years.
Ask yourselves: if we were 3-4 women with a number of toddlers and babies in our private life, how would we plan the day, and how should the room we stay in be decorated and look? An institution room should be like “home”, not like “an institution”.
How can we create a culture where we often give the children hugs, patting them in a friendly way on the shoulder, swing them around, hold hands when we take walks, and in general have many habits that support physical closeness?
How do we make a general practice where we carry the babies often, or sit with them on the lap? What tools can make it easier for us, such as slings or light carry bags that can be strapped on the caregiver?
Make a plan for improving beds, or for replacing them with hammocks or cradles.
A bed can be improved in several ways: by using flannel or terry cloth for sheets which improve skin stimulation (make sure that the bed does not become too warm).You may also sew and place a hammock between the two railings of the bed, so that it hangs just over the mattress and still can swing freely. Or you may drop the beds completely and use hammocks placed just above a soft mattress on the floor. Beds may also be altered so that the child can see what is going on around it when it is awake.For toddlers,you can place hammocks or swings over mattresses in the room or in the garden, and plan daily routines where the children exercise balance stimulation. When you plan this: remember that these tools should not be placed in special rooms. If you do this, the children will not use them much. They should be placed as close as possible to the place where the caregivers spend their time. How can we build or get things for the playground such as swings, carrousels, and other balance stimulating devices?
How can we hang interesting objects over the beds (such as mobiles), or otherwise find things that the children can look at when they are awake in their beds?
How can we paint the walls in bright and different colours and hang up objects and pictures?
How can we use songs and music we produce ourselves? Singing for babies and singing with children is essential for language development. Lullabies have a very soothing effect on the baby brain. Almost anything can be used to produce rhythms, such as spoons, buckets, etc.
NB: about radio and TV:
In general the sound from radio and TV is very confusing for babies: babies must learn to connect sound and movement with a person talking in order to learn language.
A radio or TV confuses the baby, because the sounds are not connected with what a caregiver is doing with the child. The noise will also make it difficult for the baby to hear and see clearly what caregivers are saying.
Radio and TV should only be used with toddlers and only for short periods. If toddlers see something, you should talk to them about what they are seeing.
“Many habits have changed. We didn’t want the infants to get used to hugging. Because the 3-4 babies would start crying at the same time and this would drive the caregiver crazy. First of all, the stable beds were changed with the swinging beds. We started to change the nappies in a different place away from their beds. Thanks to this, we had the opportunity to stimulate the babies back of head. My babies sleeping periods became regular.” Staff member’s statement
Discussions and reflections
Please discuss in the group for 20 minutes now:
What will be difficult in changing our environment towards a more informal “home-like” or “family-like” way of working? Will anyone object to this (leader, guests, others)? How can we inform them about why this is a good way of practicing childcare?
Will it be difficult for us a staff group? Why? What can we do to support each other in this development of practices?
If we look at the list of suggestions, which ones do we already practice?
Those we do not practice – which ones will be easiest to start doing?
What are the practical problems in trying this?
How can we resolve them?
How do we regulate the speed of changes so that the children have time to adapt to their new environment and our new stimulation practices.