What It Looks Like in an Infant/ Toddler Classroom
TAMIRA LEVINE M.S.
process of separation can be one of the hardest developmental
tasks infants and toddlers are forced to cope with. When they
enter daycare, they are confronted with the difficult task of
spending extended hours away from their loved ones.
During this early period of child development, children are learning
about object and subject permanence, discovering that objects
and people continue to exist, even when they are not visually
present. Communication is a key component to helping children
cope with separation. Describing their feelings helps children
make sense of their experiences. Children need to be confident
that they have not been forgotten; that their parents will return.
Many new teachers feel intimidated by the crying and distress
of the young children. The following is a glimpse of what separation
can look like in an infant/toddler classroom.
At the beginning of the year, parents should be asked to spend
a four-day “phase-in” during which they separate from their child
for short periods of time, slowly building their time away from
their child. This is a time for the child to feel comfortable
with the school. In addition, parents and teachers can get to
know each other which will assist the teacher in taking care of
Developing a ritual and good-bye routine helps to make saying
good-bye predictable for children. Whether it is reading a book,
doing a puzzle or playing with play-doh, being prepared and planning
to say good-bye helps children feel secure and have control over
their parent’s departure.
The good-bye should not be drawn out. Children need to expect
that when their parent says good-bye they mean it. It is never
acceptable for a parent to sneak out and not say good-bye as it
will only make a child more anxious.
When the parent leaves, the teacher should continue to engage
in the child’s play. If the child is upset, the teacher can comfort
and reassure the child with physical comfort and language until
he or she is settled.
Reuniting at the end of the day is often an extension of a child’s
separation in the morning. Sometimes a child will ignore a parent
or he or she may begin to cry. Setting up a good-bye ritual at
the end of the day is as important as the good-bye ritual in the
The process of separation occurs throughout the year, especially
when children are moving on to new developmental levels or when
stressful or unusual situations arise in their lives. Dealing
with separation is a life long process and, one that children
and adults work on throughout their lives. #
author is an infant/toddler teacher at the Bank Street Family
Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001. Tel:
(212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919. Email: email@example.com.
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the publisher. © 2001.