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What is Child Care?
Child care is an area of employment responsible for the safekeeping and education of children in a functional environment. Individuals working in this field are responsible for the safety and well being of children under their charge as well as providing early foundational education as part of a curriculum that is often masked by playtime. Individuals in this field may work in preschools, kindergartens, or daycare and after school programs.
What Do Child Care Professionals Do?
Throughout the course of a day, a child care professional may engage in a number of activities that may include reading books, playing outside, teaching yoga, preparing meals, recording activities, organizing the classroom, managing circle time, and writing lesson plans. Regardless of the daily requirements of the school and the emotional undulations of children, child care professionals generally agree on a few basic tenants. The overarching goal of child care is to ensure each child has what they need to engage, learn, grow, and develop in age-appropriate means. Regardless of teaching philosophy, child care professional invest time in the lives of children to help them in the following ways:
Grow Strong & Healthy
Books upon books have been written about health and living a healthy lifestyle starting at a young age. When children jump, run, roll, throw, catch, or swing children are building muscles and establishing positive lifestyle patterns early. Physical play improves strength, endurance, balance, and self-esteem.
Provide Meaning & Purpose
Child care professionals help to provide children meaning and purpose in the world around them. Games help children learn what words mean, like “top”, “go”, “faster”, or “slower”. They learn to collect and use information from sources around them and discover how things feel and taste. Children learn about art, science, math, music, nature, animals, and people in significant ways when they engage freely.
Develop Interpersonal Skills
Child care settings should be a safe medium to help children learn about other people as well as about themselves. While playing and engaging together, children will learn to take turns, share, listen, talk, follow rules, lead, follow, and talk about their wants & needs.
Grow Self Efficacy
Learning and doing helps children grow in a way that helps them feel good about themselves. Science has proven time and time again that it is easier to learn when we are relaxed. Even when a task is challenging, children are excited when they discover that they can control their bodies and actions. Child care professions should offer children an unending wellspring of potential success opportunities.
Create Long-Lasting Positive Life Skills
Play is important because it is practice for being a grown-up. Children at play learn to pay attention for elongated periods of time and tend to stick with a job for longer periods of time. They learn to face problems and solve them in creative ways. Play helps them learn what is right and wrong. They learn to be good sports, great collaborators, exude honesty, and become trustworthy. Children develop their imagination when they play. They learn to follow directions. All these skills will be important as children age and mature towards adulthood.
What is Taught in Child Care?
Plenty is taught in child care. Teachers and classroom assistants are geared to provide a safe, nurturing environment with a pedagogical purpose. This notion in an of itself tips the notion of daycare on its head as learning and developing is the cornerstone of child care. Consider play as a pedagogy as postulated by Jean Piaget. To an adult it seems pretty basic, however most children go through a process when playing which include a combination of the following:
Anticipation: waiting with expectation, wonderment, curiosity, perhaps a little anxiety if a nominal amount of risk is involved, which leads to…
Surprise: the unexpected, a new sensation, unique discovery, idea or shift in understanding, which produces…
Pleasure: a positive feeling about the preceding activity. Next, we have understanding: a new understanding of something, knowledge, synthesizing concepts, and ideation which leads to…
Strength: a mastery that flows from constructive experiences, grasping new elements of the world, power that comes from self-discovery and self-mastery, which ultimately leads to…
Poise: composure, grace, and a sense of balance in life. Scott Eberle’s diagrams this process in the shape of a wheel, once a person arrives at poise they are ready (mature) to move on to a new source of anticipation and beginning the journey anew.
What Types of Play Exist in Child Care?
Many types of learning modalities exist within child care with the most popular being play. Play may be simplified to only mean free play, but a world of development exists just below the surface. In fact, there are many different types of play that benefit children of all ages. Examples of play in a child care setting include:
Fetal Play - Starting as a fetus, neural circuits are taking shape to help determine brain patters for years to come. The seemingly random movements are derived from our central nervous system as a means of establishing vital connections between the brain and limbs.
Bonding Play - Long gazes will undoubtedly turn into a smile on baby’s face and the parent will reply in kind with a burst of emotion and return the smile creating a harmonic, relational intimacy known as synchronized neural activity.
Movement & Body Play - Play-based enjoyment associated with body movements, rhythmic early speech, loco-motor activity, and rational events are done for their own sake as they are both pleasurable and internally derived. At the same time, they actively sculpt the brain.
Object Play – Children of all backgrounds find immense pleasure in the physical part of play such as assembling a puzzle, throwing a football, kicking a soccer ball. It is through object play we help craft a brain ideally suited to understand and solve problems dynamic problems of all types later in life.
Imaginative or Dramatic Play - It has been said that imaginative play is one of the most powerful abilities a human possesses. It is a means of allowing a person access to a simulated situation or event we can explore without giving up access to the real world. Throughout life, imagination remains a pillar to creatively solving problems, emotional resilience, and innovation.
Social Play - Humans are social beings and play acts as the fuel for the social engine. It is play that allows us, as a society, to properly function and individual relationships to flow seamlessly through time and space again and again. Social play can be parsed into friendship play, parallel play, mutual play, contact play, ritual play, mental play, narrative play, and creative play.
Guided or Structured Play - This type of play actively engages children in seemingly spontaneous and/or child-directed, pleasurable activities that promote academic exploration and learning. Embedded within this free-flowing exploration, the teacher has specific learning goals they will achieve by subtly directing or guiding. The key element within the guided play methodology is in the teacher’s ability to integrate each child’s prior knowledge and experience into a meaningful context – all the while expanding on the existing foundation through the aforementioned exploration and question-and-answer exchanges.
Educational Requirements in Child Care
A degree in child care prepares individuals to care for and assist children in preschool and kindergarten. Child care is often taken as an associate program, providing skills and education in regards to working with children. Child care requires the caretaker to be attentive, innovative, careful, and energetic. An associate degree in child care takes between 1 and 3 years to complete depending on credits taken per semester.
A curriculum in child care may include:
- Child Abuse Recognition
- Special Needs Children
- Educational Technology
- Child Development
Due to the variance in requirements from state to state in regards to working with children, interested individuals should research their state's requirements and if such requirements are in place, cross check them with their intended program of study to see if it complies with state standards.
Schools Other Students Requested Information From:
Employment Opportunities for Child Care Graduates
Child care positions do not necessarily require any formal education beyond a high school diploma or GED for most states. When seeking employment an individual should review their state's requirements as some states require a license while others have no employment requirements at all. Regardless of state requirements, it is important to note that employers are increasingly looking for individuals with some sort of education, preferably in child care or early childhood education.
Child care specialists typically work in:
- Kindergarten Classrooms
- Day Care Centers
- Church Based Child Supervision Programs
Job Growth and Salary Overview in Child Care
As job growth increases demand and available positions, the desire for qualified individuals is expected to increase in this field, resulting in a demand for more education when considering hiring of an individual. The average salary of a child care specialist is approximately $28,790 per year according to the BLS. Salary can expect to increase with experience and continued education. Individuals interested in a degree in child care may also be interested in elementary education, teacher assistant, and preschool teacher.