Let's talk today about the CLASS tool being used for infants and toddlers. You may be familiar with the fact that the Infant measure (birth to 18 months) has one domain—Responsive Caregiving— with four dimensions, while the Toddler measure (15-36 months) has two domains—Emotional and Behavioral Support and Engaged Support for Learning—with eight dimensions.
These tools share some similarities. Both tools are driven by the cues of the child—which can be subtle or quite apparent—though the meaning of the cues requires thoughtful response by the adult. They also both look at the connection between the child and caregiver, and how the adult's responses meet the developmental needs of the child. And of course, both consider the effectiveness of the interactions to build opportunities for growth and development.
Think about the similarities and the differences of the CLASS measures that I mention in my video below.
Did you pick up on what's so different from toddlers than infants? Why is there a need for two different tools?
Infants are driven by their need to connect with an adult to regulate their physiological state. They relay on their caregivers not only for warmth and nurturing, but also to provide safety and the ability to explore and process new experiences. In other words, infants become one with their provider.
Toddlers, on the other hand, still need that connection to their caregiver, but they are beginning to see themselves as an individual. This sense of individuality is key. Because of their new-found sense of self, toddlers love to test the limits and explore the world (as we all know!). So, the role of effective caregivers has now changed. Caregivers begin to help the toddler navigate their own expressions of strong feelings, beginnings of self-regulation, and exploration through supportive and sensitive responses.
Young infants develop a unique relationship—known as attachment—with their caregivers. To develop secure bonds, infants need to know that at least one person really cares about them. Caregivers provide that comfort by helping infants regulate needs and emotions, such as hunger and sadness. With healthy attachments, infants develop a sense of safety and trust.
Infants need to be held, to have face-to-face interactions, to feel another human heartbeat. By meeting these needs, caregivers foster attachment. Plan how you will meet these essential needs—while keeping yourself and infants safe.
Children need to feel safe before they can explore their surroundings. While curiosity and exploration help awaken children’s talents, teachers help reinforce their learning through guidance and repetition. All children benefit from intentional interactions that inspire them through new experiences—and some children need additional or individualized support.
Given the natural need to be around others, children might have a hard time with social distancing. Organize materials in spaces where two friends can explore together. Make yourself available to facilitate their exploration while ensuring safety.
Toddlers reinforce their trust in caregivers while venturing into the world on their own. Along with stable relationships and independence, they need frequent reminders of behavioral expectations to keep themselves and their peers safe. With support and regulation, educators can help buffer the effects of stress or trauma and promote healthy child development.
Children learn best in a warm, safe environment. While positive interactions strengthen a classroom community, clear safety expectations promote healthiness. Remind children that these measures are in place because you care about them.
Calvary City Academy & Preschool closed on March 13, along with most programs in Florida. While closed, we had much to prepare for reopening. While children were home, we prepared packets to send home, met with children virtually, and even hosted things like field day, spirit week, and graduation virtually! Even with those successes, we were so happy to be able to return to being in-person when we reopened in June. Since June, we’ve learned a lot. Here’s what’s working for us: