While caring for children of any age is a privilege and a responsibility, caring for children under one is a unique challenge that not all childminders and childcare practitioners will be suited for.
For those who are, it is an incredibly rewarding aspect of childcare.
If you are caring for a baby for a significant portion of the week, you become instrumental in their earliest development. Licensed childcare practitioners can care for babies from birth, but six-nine months old is when their parents usually enlist a childminder or childcare in a nursery, often so that they can return to work.
At this age, babies are developing daily. They are constantly learning new schemas and how to assimilate them. Between these ages, babies reach many milestones, including sitting up by themselves and enjoying solid foods. They will learn to grasp, make sounds but not yet words, and may get their first teeth.
Keep in Touch
Naturally, primary caregivers are anxious not to miss out, so keeping in contact is essential. Our digital learning journals include a safe and private instant messaging function that enables you to share updates and images throughout the day. Both the babies and the primary caregivers may experience separation anxiety during this period, so it is important to be sensitive to these feelings and try to alleviate the stress they can cause.
Babies may also ‘imprint’ on their childminder to an extent and develop separation anxiety towards you too. This can make things difficult if you are caring for more than one child, particularly if the group includes toddlers and older children.
You will need to be flexible. Babies (children under a year old) have a complex set of needs over and above those of older EYFS children. Children under one require significantly more sleep and constant attention.
While older children may have learned to self-soothe and may be able to get to sleep with little help, babies may need specific rhythmic actions such as gently patting their back or stroking their hair to send them off to sleep.
You should have a sleep schedule worked out with each child’s parents or primary caregivers. However, babies may fight sleep if they feel like they are missing out or are distressed, such as by separation anxiety.
Depending on the age of the baby, you may need to start feeding them solid foods. Agree on a menu with the primary caregivers and be prepared for sudden disinterest or dislike of different foods. What they eat is one of the few actions babies have any control over. They are also exploring new tastes and textures, not all of which they’ll like. A bib is a must!
Until a child is one year old, they will still need breast milk, baby formula or a combination of the two. The primary caregivers should be able to provide you with clear instructions. Always test that the milk is not too hot before you give it to the baby on your wrist or the back of your hand. Drinking water from a beaker should be introduced at around six months. As the solid food increases, reduce the amount of milk or formula but make sure this is led by the child’s needs.
Teething begins between six and nine months and can cause the baby pain and discomfort. Whether to apply teething gel or administer baby paracetamol or Calpol will be agreed upon in advance with the primary caregivers. However, you should have some cold teething rings on hand. Cold pieces of carrot or apple that they can chew on can also help. Monitor the child’s temperature to ensure it doesn’t reach dangerous levels.
The normal temperature for babies and toddlers is around 36.4C but it varies slightly from child to child. You should be aware of each child’s usual temperature, to determine if they are overheating. A fever is usually 38C or more but anything over 40C for two or more days requires urgent medical attention. Likewise, if the fever is accompanied by other symptoms that suggest it is not caused by teething, such as abdominal pain, no urine output, difficulty waking up or an inability to retain fluids.
Safety & Exploration
As babies become more mobile, they also increase their risk of getting hurt. Babies tend to explore the world primarily through their mouths at first, so ensure there are no small objects around that could be swallowed and create a choking hazard. If you have older children in the group, impress upon them the importance of being careful and gentle with the younger children.
Babies love noises and repetitive songs and rhymes. Though they won’t yet sing along, they may start to perform some of the actions such as ‘the wheels on the bus go round and round’. Providing instruments, reading picture books, and singing nursery rhymes are just a few of the ways in which you can create an engaging environment for children under a year old. These activities can also be shared with older EYFS children, as can messy play, movements such as yoga and sensory experiences such as mood lights or sensory trays.
Our short course on ‘The Baby Room’ can help you to understand all the ways in which babies learn, such as through sensory play, repetitive movement and motor activity and communication with caregivers and peers. You will gain more confidence in planning activities to enable development, be provided with tools and sources to draw from and, hopefully, feel more prepared for the privilege and responsibility of caring for very young children.