Jobs for child care workers is expected to grow 20 percent from 2010 to 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, faster than the average 14 percent expected for all jobs combined. This means more facilities are opening up to meet the demands of parents seeking care on a full- or part-time basis. Parents go to work knowing that child care workers are responsible for providing reliable, safe and educational care for their children.
Whether a child care worker is with an infant on a changing table or a toddler on the jungle gym, her first priority is the child's safety. Walking away from an unstrapped baby in a high chair or allowing a toddler to walk barefoot outside are examples of negligence. Workers must always be on the lookout for children mishandling supplies, being physically assertive with others and venturing off into unsupervised areas.
Child care workers organize snack and meal times, and prepare and serve food. During these times, independence is encouraged by asking the children to pass out utensils or to bring their empty plates to the trash can. Child care workers must keep food areas clean and well-stocked, follow sanitary procedures such as washing their hands, and pay attention to dietary restrictions as instructed by the parents.
Supervise Good Hygiene
Child care workers change babies and toddlers' diapers, and help children who are learning to use the toilet and encourage independent use as much as possible. They teach good hygiene to the children in their care. They ensure that children wash hands before eating, after going to the rest room and after coming in from playing outside. They teach children to cover their mouths when sneezing and coughing. And if a toddler has a runny nose, they either wipe it themselves or help the child do it for himself, perhaps reminding the child to be mindful of keeping his germs to himself.
Teach Social Skills
When children are playing in groups, child care workers encourage and may expect sharing. They supervise activities that foster values and good manners, such as crafts that show the importance of helping others in the community and songs that tell of the importance of treating others with respect. Child care workers take classes and continue learning the newest exercises and trends in child care so that the children they care for have the best tools for social and emotional success.
Meet with Parents
Parents are given frequent updates on how their child is doing. If the child care worker sees anything unusual, such as a child's refusal to make eye contact, aggressive behavior or inability to pay attention, she discusses the issue with the parents. Perhaps the parents are unaware of the behavior, are already seeking outside help or have suggestions for the child care worker. The child care worker and parents work together for the child's success.
Educate Through Play
Rooms set up for child care must include a variety of stimulating, developmentally-appropriate toys and games, such as puzzles, tactile materials and toys that show cause and effect. While child care workers facilitate organized play much of the day, they must also allow children to explore individual interests using natural curiosity by scheduling free play time into the day. In addition, child care workers use toys such as colored blocks to introduce math and sorting concepts, and books and puppets to develop narrative skills.
A crucial part of caring for children is the ability to nurture in a loving, supportive environment. Child care workers must be patient and willing to intervene when necessary without getting frustrated, such as when children argue or a child refuses to sit during circle time. In addition to establishing routines and providing guidance, workers need to implement positive discipline and pass out plenty of praise.