Crying, splattered food, dribble, and endless amounts of jiggling up and down…….. Welcome to the world of working with the under two’s!
I’m Tara -the deputy manager and baby room leader at Officrèche. I have worked with children under the age of two for the past four years, and despite it being what I would describe as one of the hardest jobs in the world, I absolutely love it. This has not always been the case. Around five years ago I was promoted to room leader at one of my previous settings for a room catering for children aged eighteen months to two years. Then after a while, there was a demand for more baby spaces, so they decided to change the age group to start from three months. At this point in my career I had virtually no experience of looking after children this young, apart from watching my mother take care of my younger brothers and sisters many years ago. I thought there was no way I could take on such a huge responsibility of helping to care for these tiny babies and lead a room with two staff who had even less experience than me – I didn’t even know what swaddling was! It took me a good few months to get my head around how to offer the best care for these youngest children, and I soon began to understand their needs and appreciate just how amazing babies are. Over the next couple of years I attended training workshops about caring for babies, and through my Foundation Degree and EYPS training I began to really understand HOW babies learn, and the importance of early experiences that nursery practitioners should be offering them, for example messy play.
Cathy Nutbrown recently stated in her review that:
“More recently we have come to understand the importance of healthy brain development in the earliest months and years of life, and of ensuring that babies and young children’s early experiences support their developing minds and bodies and foster emotional security. We know too that babies and young children are born with the capacity to learn, challenging long-held views that babies are ‘boring.’ Communication with babies during their early months of life is essential in helping them to establish their social relationships as they tune into language.” (Nutbrown review, 2012).
I, for one, certainly do not think that working with babies is boring! In the baby room at Officrèche we encourage and support every child – regardless of their age – to access all activities we plan for the children, from messy play to singing time, story time to some sort of physical activity. I love the reactions I get from parents when I show them photos of their babies covered in paint, shaving foam or cornflour!
Of course there are days when I feel like I am sometimes completely helpless and unable to soothe a crying baby, but with the support of a fantastic team the days always seem to end on a positive note. Working with babies and young children is an extremely challenging and demanding job, but oh so rewarding. Just a smile or a cheeky laugh from one of the babies, or seeing them almost roll over for the first time is truly magical, and it makes my job so worthwhile. It is a joy to be able to share these most precious moments with a family, and to know that in some way I am helping their baby to learn and develop new skills to face the world head on.