For my assignment, I observed at the daycare program housed inside my church called Gateway To Learning (2930 Rayford Rd., Spring, TX 77386), a Christian childcare provider for ages 6-weeks to fourth grade (after school). There are currently 185 children enrolled in the GTL program, including after-schoolers. GTL employs approximately 50 people, not including substitute teachers. The teacher:student ratios are as follows: ages 6 weeks to 12 months – 4:1, 12 to 18 months – 5:1, 18 to 24 months – 9:1, 2 year olds – 11:1, 3 year olds – 15:1, and four year olds – 18:1. All of the teachers must be CPR certified, First Aid certified, and trained in SIDS, shaken baby syndrome, infant brain development, and child abuse. I was placed in the infant room with babies 6-weeks to one year. The room was set up well. There were eight cribs and/or pack-and-plays aligned around the walls of the room with allowed for easy movement of teachers and crawlers. In the center of the room was a bright, primary color plat mat that the little ones loved rolling around on.
There were also bouncers and jumper play toys for the kids to hop inside and have fun with. In one corner of the room was the changing table, kitchenette for warming milk and mixing baby cereal, and refrigerator for storage. There was ample storage space in the kitchenette and the entrances were blocked with childproof gates. Each child has a cubby to put their diaper bags in as well as extra toys, blankets, etc. I think that the room was just the right size for the amount of children in the class, and I think that it was set up in a user-friendly way so getting around was simple. The infant room was on a schedule, but the babies are tiny and all on their own schedules at home, so it was difficult for the teachers to get all of the children doing the same thing at the same time. For instance, when it was time for lunch, some babies had just fallen asleep.
The schedule was fairly straightforward: arrive, breakfast, nap, play, lesson, lunch, nap, play, leave. But like I mentioned, some babies were doing their own thing, napping when they could have been playing or playing when they were supposed to be eating. Upon asking the teachers about the schedule, they all agreed that if everyone is happy, then the schedule comes second. I think I would agree with their opinions. Although the infant room wasn’t strict on scheduling, all of the babies were happy during my observation. None of the children in the infant room were talking much.
There was only one baby (11 months) that could make actual words. He could say “Mama” and “Dada.” Pretty basic. The other babies were verbal, definitely able to let you know if they were hungry, wet or tired, just not producing identifiable words. At one point during my time, one baby was in a jumper talking with another baby across the room. They were chatting back and forth and laughing with each other. I wish I could have understood what they were saying, because it was so cute. My favorite age in the infant room were 6-9 months because they were so bright-eyed and ready for anything. All of the teachers spoke with cheerful voices and kept their tones light. When they would talk directly to a baby, they wouldn’t use baby-talk and instead focused on using the same words over and over again to teach the baby to remember select words or phrases. For example, when one baby was hungry and started crying, the teacher that fed him kept saying, “Let’s get your milk.”
I asked if the babies tended to remember the short words or phrases and she responded that half of the time there was success. When it came to diapering, the changing table was sanitized after each diaper change and new wax paper is laid on the cushion before the next baby is changed. Employees must wear gloves when changing diapers and wash their hands after finishing. Every few hours, the toys in the infant room are sanitized. The floor mat is sanitized three times a day, once in the morning, once at lunch, and once in the afternoon. To prevent bad health/hygiene, employees are required to wash their hands before handling personal baby items such as food, clothes, pacifiers, etc. If one child has a runny nose and the teacher uses a tissue, she will then have to wash her hands even though her skin never touched the baby’s runny nose. The teachers in the infant room were constantly washing their hands, just to be safe.
When the babies were ready to be fed, the teacher would wash her hands, warm the milk/mix the baby cereal, and either sit in a rocking chair or place the baby in a freshly sanitized high chair to feed them. After the baby was finished, the teacher would wash out the bottles/bowls and sanitize the high chair. Then she would wash her hands again. Each baby was on their own feeding schedule, so running water was a noise I heard constantly throughout the day. When the babies were ready to go to bed, they were placed in a crib designated for them. Each baby was given a blanket provided by the parents during nap time and a pacifier if provided by the parent as well. Some babies slept in 20 minute intervals while others slept for an hour depending on their age. Like I mentioned, it is hard to get all of the babies to sleep at the same time, but I was surprised that the ones who would fall asleep stayed asleep while their classmates fussed when hungry or wet. There were a variety of toys for the babies to play with. From dogs that sang songs to maracas for them to shake, each baby had plenty of options.
The favorite toys in the room were the ones where the baby could lay down while playing with them, so mobiles and jumpers were the most popular. There were also electric swings to lay the babies in if they weren’t happy sleeping in their cribs as well as pack-and-plays. When it came to communication between teachers and parents, there were quite a few ways of transferring information. Each baby had a clipboard with their name on it with papers that were sent home with the parents at the end of each day. The slips had time slots when diapers were changed, bottles were drunk, and naps were taken. I liked how easy it was to organize the information and still keep the parents happy. Notes were often sent in diaper bags for specific inquiries like “Can you please send an extra onesie tomorrow?” and of the sort. Overall I think the communication process is very organized and is easy for everyone. My overall opinion of GTL is very high.
I had a great time observing and learning about how my church provides care for kids that don’t always come on Sundays. The atmosphere of GTL was very positive and everyone seemed genuinely happy to be working there. All of the teachers were friendly with the kids, even when they had to punish them or take something away, and did everything with a kind heart. The room was very clean and the babies were all happy (most of the time). I liked how each baby had their own crib and cubby, and how everyone was so personable. There were a lot of people stopping by the door just to say “hi” to another teacher, and I liked knowing that all of the employees seemed to get along with each other without too many issues. The director was pleasant and inviting, as well as knowledgeable when it came to procedures, trainings, and employing new team members. I really enjoyed my time at GTL and will definitely go back when I need to gather more information for my Pre-School observation.