Primary caregiving for Toddlers in Early childhood education

8 August 2016

Essay: Primary caregiving for Toddlers in Early childhood education Within this assessment I aim to investigate primary caregiving for toddlers in early childhood education; considering the influence of historical and contemporary developments, theoretical perspectives, quality provision, specific pedagogical approaches and my personal professional philosophy of teaching and learning.

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Primary caregiving describes the relationship between toddlers and the most significant adult within their life, generally referring to their mother (Bernhardt, 2000); in early childhood education this concept refers to a kaiako taking on the primary role of their care within the learning environment.

Primary caregiving in early childhood education has been recognised as the perfect opportunity to engage in sensitive and responsive encounters; such as nappy changing, feeding and observing the toddler within the environment, the observations are used to gather information for curriculum development and to communicate to parents (Rolfe, 2004). Clarence Edward Beeby and his wife Beatrice established the first play centre, in Wellington in 1941 (Stover, 2010). The emphasis of play centre was parent involvement, parents stay with their child/children throughout the session.

Play centres are parent-led early childhood centres offering quality education for children in small mixed-age groups. The play centre association provide free parenting and early childhood education for parent members. In 1963, Sonia Davies established The New Zealand Childcare Association (NZCA) recognised as a courageous and charismatic leader, working to support private and community early childhood learning environments and those involved within the organisation.

The notion of NZCA was to promote a quality in early childhood education (Stover, 2010, p. 12). In the 1980s, quality in early childhood education was investigated leading to the development of the Meade Report (1988); the government commissioned and identified recommendations regarding quality in early childhood education services in Aotearoa/New Zealand the Meade report includes but is not limited to group size, staff/child ratio, and providing a safe and healthy environment.

Theoretical perspectives can be linked to Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory; identifying the layers of influence in a child’s life, focusing on the quality and context of the child’s environment. Bronfenbrenner explains how relationships within social and cultural worlds influence behaviours, development and learning, shaping us into who we become (Drewery & Bird, 2004).

Lev Vygotsky believed who we are and what we do is due to the influence of our cultural surroundings, referring to socio-cultural philosophy of learning (Vialle, Lysaght, Verenikina, 2005). Vygotsky an influential contributor to the evolving acknowledgment of the significance of relationships in learning and development, believed children engage in and undertake tasks when they have a mentor guiding them; involving positive interactions between adults and children (Arthur, Bleecher, Dickett, Farmer & Death, 2005).

The attachment theory developed by Bowlby and Ainsworth in 1969 was inspired by ethological research on imprinting behaviour (Lorenz, 1952); developed to provide information regarding the way children gain perception of relationships, identifying a set of observable behaviours relating to social and emotional attachment. Bowlby believed the quality of attachment relationships forms the foundation of emotional development; the attachment theory explains how young children from bonds with specific people, such as parents or other close adults such as kaiako.

A secure attachment status supports the toddler to explore freely, seeking support when needed. Loughran (2010) identified in pedagogy as the relationship between teaching and learning, understanding this interplay between teaching and learning and learning and teaching is an important shift in focus from teaching alone because it really means the two exist together” Relationship pedagogy recognises toddlers individual learning techniques accompanied by the kaiako’s reflection where the kaiako identify and implement personal values and beliefs into the care and education within the learning environment.

. Gallagher and Mayer (2008) recognised pedagogical involvements with toddlers as gentle, responsive and individualised timely adjustments, responding to children’s verbal and non-verbal cues, temperament, cultural background, interests and current ‘zone of proximal development’. The introduction of a three-year early childhood teacher-education qualification in 1987 provoked kaiako to reflect on their practice with infants and toddlers with the intent to see teaching and learning as a holistic endeavour going beyond physical care.

The concept of quality in early childhood education has been under investigation for the last three decades, with significant research undertaken to examine the components of quality within the organisation (Dalli, White, Rockel & Duhn, 2011). Rolfe (2004) believes to foster relationship based pedagogy kaiako need to understand attachment theory, and the implications of pedagogical relationships. Dalli, (et al., 2011) identifies relationship pedagogy comprising of care, respect and security involving responsive relationships, by understanding the manner in which the kaiako approaches relationship pedagogy is influenced by individual perceptions of the child as learner. Through building relationships getting to know the children kaiako are able to observe the learning which takes place (Dalli, et al. , 2011).

The Ministry of Education, [MoE] 1996 acknowledges the importance of responsive relationships in early childhood education: “In order to thrive and learn, a toddler must establish an intimate, responsive, and trusting relationship with at least one other person” (p. 22). I recognise relationships are an important characteristic of early childhood education, which impacts toddlers learning and development within the environment.

As an early childhood educator I am committed to supporting young children and their whanau throughout the child’s early childhood education; in able to support children throughout their learning journey it is imperative I understand the unique qualities of each child within my care, through implementing a primary caregiving system I would be able to form quality relationships with a small group of toddlers and their parents/whanau. Primary Caregiving System refers to the allocation of specific kaiako to individual children, the kaiako are responsible for the toddler’s overall well-being within the environment.

To ensure quality care the toddler needs to form a secure attachment with their primary caregiver. Quality relationships between kaiako and toddler’s, fosters learning and development; this supports the kaiako to adapt and support individualised learning opportunities. Many theorists, including those whose ideas underpin the principles and strands of Te Whariki, support the significance of nurturing responsive reciprocal relationships through primary caregiving.

Relationships developed from implementing the primary caregiving system can be supported by Bronfenbrenner and Vygotsky’s theories, by the way in which relationships shape and influence a child’s development. Relationship pedagogy recognises individual pace of learning, which in turn provides a structure for discourse. The New Zealand Childcare Association (NZCA) was founded in 1963 to support learning environments to promote quality early childhood education (Stover, 2010, p. 12).

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