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Feature Articles — Child Care


Quality child care means a clean and safe learning environment


It is not easy to provide quality child care. According to Renette Wardlow, a human development specialist with University of Missouri Extension, too often people think caring for another’s child is an easy way to make a few dollars. However, providing quality child care requires a clean and safe learning environment and that is not something that is easy to do.


“Too many times child care providers are ill-prepared and at best only provide custodial care. Be wary of this kind of person,” said Wardlow. “Providing quality care takes time and patience on the part of the caregiver.”


It also takes planning and knowledge of how children grow and develop.


“You, the parent, need to be the final judge about this question of quality. You must ultimately approve of and be comfortable with the care your child receives. You must expect quality care and you must be willing to pay for good care,” said Wardlow.


Providing a clean and safe environment does not mean toys are never strewn around on the floor. It means that the kitchen and bathroom areas are kept clean and that the floor and surroundings are relatively free of clutter according to Wardlow.


Safety is also a big factor. If the home and outside play space are not safe, then the child will be constantly hounded by the caregiver to be careful and will be exposed to high-risk situations.


Safety means having all poisons and prescription medications under lock and key, access to stairs fenced off, and dangerous rooms or areas closed so that a child can’t get in.


A quality caregiver will routinely serve the child nutritious meals and snacks. It means sweets and soft drinks are kept to a minimum and fresh fruits, vegetables and juices are available.


“It also means the child has a safe, clean and healthy place to take a nap or rest,” said Wardlow.


Having a safe area for outdoor play is also an important factor. It may be that the caregiver has a small swing set and sandbox in the backyard or it might be that the caregiver routinely plans walks and trips to a park where equipment is available.


“If the weather is nice, the caregiver and child should move outside for activities and not stay inside because the caregiver has other things to get done,” said Wardlow.


Quality child care also means the caregiver will be available to act as a consultant to the child as he goes about his daily play routine.


“A caregiver who believes the child in her care is a child who is learning is a quality provider. She will help the child learn by giving the child opportunities for activities, a balanced diet, exercise for the mind and body, and considerable time reading with the child, telling stories or even singing songs,” said Wardlow.


Children also need an adequate number of toys to play with according to Wardlow. This does not mean a caregiver’s living room has to look like a toy store.


“Far too often the television becomes the caregiver as the child spends endless hours watching program after program,” said Wardlow. “The provider does need to have different kinds of toys available for the child’s use.”


For more information, contact either of MU Extension’s human development specialists in southwest Missouri: Renette Wardlow at (417) 581-3558 or Dr. Jim Wirth at (417) 881-8909.


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Last update: Wednesday, June 01, 2011