Guest Blogger Sarah Brendle
Looking back on my own experiences as an assistant director, I remember the many families we guided through the transition process. I would say the most difficult promotion for both children and parents was the move from infant to toddler care. Once a baby was settled into their infant classroom, I noticed the child and parents were more at ease. Teachers in infant classrooms created special bonds with the babies in their care and parents recognized that bond and were grateful they had someone they could trust to care for their child. As a parent, I was comforted knowing someone was there to snuggle and feed and sing to my babies when I could not. Even though I worked in the school and knew my children would be taken care of in the toddler room, it was a big step in admitting that my babies were growing up.
As an administrator, promoting children to the next age group is part of the process. However, a good administrator does not simply look at a child’s birthday and arrange for the transition. While ratios must be met, directors and teachers also need to be aware of both physical and emotional readiness. Once the infant has reached the milestones set by the center to transition to a toddler room, it is important to give the parents ample notice of the upcoming change.
As a parent, it took time to adjust to the idea of my baby being moved to a classroom of active, curious “big kids” who seemed to tower over his blond curls and could run circles around his stumbling walk. Of course, I wanted him to have more experiences and opportunities. The educator in me knew he was ready, but the mom in me loved the idea of the security of the baby room where I was comfortable with both the staff and daily routines.
The ITERS-R Environment Rating Scale places emphasis on giving the child sufficient time to adjust. Quality centers are expected to provide a visitation period where the child spends small amounts of time in the new classroom getting to know the teachers and routines. ITERS-R also encourages a familiar adult to visit along with the child; for instance, a teacher from the Infant Room would move to the Toddler Room during the visits. To maintain ratios, a toddler teacher can move to the Infant Room. By allowing the child to have frequent shorter visits at first, then move to longer visits after they are more comfortable, the child will be less anxious and adjust more quickly to the changes. As a mom, it was important for me to have feedback from these visits. Transitioning children will cry and may not participate fully in all activities but knowing that the teachers were encouraging him to engage and comforting him when needed put me at ease. Parents appreciate knowing specific activities that their child enjoyed or disliked. Toddler teachers can use this information to help during the next visit; for example, is there a particular toy the child latched onto? Immediately before the next visit the teacher can make sure it is available to comfort the youngster when he or she enters the classroom.
I was fortunate to know the staff in both the infant and toddler rooms as a director, but I still appreciated the opportunity to meet with the toddler teachers and discuss my children’s personalities and daily schedules prior to his/her promotion. Quality centers provide an agreed-upon meeting time for parents and at least one member of the new classroom to discuss expectations and routines. This gives both sides the chance to offer feedback and will help the parents feel more at ease with the move.
When a child is being transitioned from an infant to toddler room, it may feel as stressful to parents as it might to the child. Directors, teachers, and parents must work together to make it a smooth process. Having a designated plan in place and implementing that plan well in advance will make the adjustment much easier on all involved.
Sarah Brendle is a mom of three and a former early childhood educator and administrator.