I’m not a parent so my question has a different angle, but I was still hoping for your opinion and advice.
I work in a childcare centre where I am the primary caregiver of 5 infants and toddlers varying between the ages of 3 months and 2 years.
Our centre plans a trip once a year where all the children on our roll go on an excursion that fits with the current interests of the children (somewhat!). This year, our management has organized a trip to an underwater world called Kelley Tarltons. We will travel by bus and our journey will be approximately 45-60 minutes long, depending on traffic. The plan is then that we will be at the venue for 2 hours before eating lunch there and returning home.
I feel that this is far too stressful and over-stimulating for the children in my group and have discussed this with management. Two of the five children in my group have more than one sleep per day, and the rest of them usually go to sleep at around 11am. We would not return from our trip until 1.30-2pm!
It seems as though I am the only staff member on the team who thinks it is unnecessary for the children under the age of two to attend these big field trips. Whenever I bring it up, everyone says it’s only one day and tells me I’m being over the top about the infants’ and toddlers’ routines. They argue that children do this sort of thing all the time with their parents and families, and that they will be missing out if they do not attend.
Am I being over the top? What is your opinion on big outings for small children? I know it’s only one day, but if I could avoid one day of stress and unpleasantness in my life, I know I would!!
Thanks in advance, I hope this made sense,
This makes no sense at all. Helen, your instincts are absolutely spot on, and I’m stunned. If we were on the same continent you could see my jaw dropping. Infants and young toddlers taking a 5-hour group excursion for their own pleasure? So they won’t feel left out? What are these people thinking?
This, to me, is an example of 1) childcare managers and professional caregivers that don’t understand child development (evident beyond all doubt by their disregard for the perspective of the primary caregiver, the person who knows the children in her care best); and 2) the tendency all of us have to project our adult point of view onto our infants and toddlers. It sounds fun and stimulating to us, so it must be a good idea. It’s easy to make this misjudgment with pre-verbal children.
Do these choices harm babies? Probably not — even if they create stress, discomfort and exhaustion. But what these developmentally inappropriate activities are almost certain to do is waste a child’s time, time the child could be spending engaging in self-initiated learning adventures, creating and imagining, feeling content, secure and confident in familiar surroundings, socializing, free to move and explore, empowered by knowing the routine.
When my children were infants and toddlers, I had the sense that they shrunk every time I took them on an outing. They seemed so big and capable at home, kings and queens of their domain, but once they went out into the larger world they became small, more passive and a little more helpless — as if their powers had suddenly been stripped away.
Over-stimulation, unpredictability and the constant transitions that our infants and toddlers face on outings (going in and out of the car, the store, the restaurant, the bathroom, etc.), not to mention being restrained in seats for extended periods of time, are all fine in measured doses, but these are not the kinds of environments in which babies thrive and learn best.
Now, if we want to go somewhere or participate in an activity and need to include our infants and toddlers, that’s one thing… But what I’ve noticed over the years in myself and others is that we often forget to ask ourselves these questions: 1) “Who is this for?”; 2) “Are they really ready to actively participate in this experience, or would it be better to wait until they are a bit older?”; and 3) “Will this be more enriching than an afternoon dawdling in the backyard or a walk down the street?” (Hindsight being 20/20, I often realized I’d miscalculated #3 after the fact.)
Helen, I truly hope you can convince your staff that a glimpse of some lovely sea creatures is not worth the ordeal this field trip will be for you and the children. Even a two year old will enjoy the experience far more a year from now.
But either way, I am so glad these babies are in your care.
In response (and I had included in my note to her a request to post our exchange), Helen wrote:
Thanks so much for your speedy reply! You have certainly helped to ease my mind – I was starting to doubt my feelings!!
We are having a staff meeting next Monday and the trip will be on Friday so I’m really hoping I can make some changes for the sake of my little friends!
I’d be more than happy for you to re post my email on your blog. You needn’t change any of the information as I can 100% say that nobody from work will be reading it! And if they did, I wouldn’t be worried!
Thanks so much, Helen
(Photo “Stop! I Want To Get Off!” is by comedy_nose on Flickr.)