Children develop incredibly quickly in the first two years of their lives. And that means that EYFS professionals working with babies (children under two years old) have a duty to ensure those little people thrive as they should.
Though a vast percentage may not yet be able to talk to communicate their needs, responding to cues and giving them what they need to feel safe is vital. Babies require such secure attachments to be able to navigate their world from a place of safety and fulfil their potential.
It’s vital for all staff members working with this age group to understand not only how to keep babies in their care safe, but also how babies develop holistically and how they form attachments. Are you aware of all the factors that must be considered when caring for babies? Are your staff?
Let’s start with the legal framework itself.
The EYFS Statutory Framework
The Early Years Foundation Stage, or EYFS, sets out to standardise the provision that settings offer for children up to 5 years of age. This is to make sure that all children are kept safe and well and that they are well-equipped to take on the big world of school and beyond once they leave.
The EYFS framework centres on achieving:
- Quality and consistency across settings so that no child misses out.
- A secure foundation for each child, through individualised assessing and reviewing.
- Partnership working between home and childcare settings to achieve consistency and cohesion.
- A focus on equality, with anti-discriminatory practices in place.
Through learning and development requirements, the EYFS makes sure that activities and experiences planned and executed by childcare settings adhere to defined areas of learning and development. The requirements cover everything from early learning goals to how to assess progress and communicate with parents and carers.
Alongside the Learning & Development requirements, the EYFS ensures babies and children are kept safe through safeguarding and welfare requirements that providers must take to comply.
Overarchingly, the EYFS is founded upon four core principles, and it’s these that sit at the heart of EYFS care UK-wide:
- Every child is unique.
- Children thrive through positive relationships.
- Children develop best in an environment that both enables and supports their learning, with adults at home and in their care setting that respond to their needs and work as a team.
- Learning and development are central, and it happens differently for each child.
The 5 Fundamental Factors
Here at MBK Group, we’ve put together 5 fundamental factors to consider when working with babies. Each factor is crucial to giving babies the care they need and giving them the best start in their Early Years’ journey.
Positive Relationships For Positive Growth
Babies need secure attachments. It’s that simple. So when you’re looking after babies, building loving, trusting, positive relationships is vital. It’s this connection to their caregivers that helps a growing brain to organise itself whilst the child develops, and it makes them feel safe.
To ensure strong relationships, practitioners must build trust by consistently meeting the babies’ needs through warm and gentle interactions. It is the caregiver’s role to help the baby to feel secure and loved.
So how can you begin to develop strong, positive relationships with babies? They may not be able to talk yet, but there are plenty of pointers to be guided by:
- Non-verbal communication. Making eye contact, smiles and facial expressions are all ways of connecting with babies that can soothe them without the use of words.
- Talking to them softly. They can’t speak, but they’re listening! The regular sound of your voice will not only calm the babies in your care but help them to develop their language skills down the line.
- Established routines. Consistency will help a baby or toddler feel safe and secure.
As described by the EYFS framework, each child in an early years setting must be allocated a key person. As well as helping the child become familiar with the setting and offering a settled relationship with the child, having a good system in place that focuses on developing a strong partnership with parents or carers is imperative and will strengthen the relationships with the children themselves.
The EYFS also states that at least half of all staff in early years settings must have received training that specifically addresses the care of babies.
Key Take Aways
- Communicate, communicate, communicate.
- Remain calm and gentle at all times to build trust.
- Keep a good key person policy in place and develop relationships with parents and carers.
- Establish positive routines.
Safe Feeding Times
Food is important for everyone, but when it comes to keeping babies safe and well at mealtimes, there is plenty to consider.
All practitioners involved in preparing and handling the food, as well as feeding and supervising babies at mealtimes, must have a strong understanding of safe foods for young babies as well as any intolerances or allergies among the children.
Not only does each weaning journey look different, but babies and toddlers are at high risk of choking and this risk is elevated through unsuitable foods. Solid foods being introduced must be prepared properly to reduce this risk, such as cutting small round fruits, such as grapes or strawberries, lengthways and into quarters.
Babies and toddlers should never be left alone when they are eating and should be seated safely in a highchair or low chair at mealtimes depending on their age and ability.
Key Take Aways
- Ensure all staff have read and employ a good understanding of the settings policy, as well as the individual weaning needs of children in their care (including allergies).
- Provide safe and proper seating arrangements for babies that are age and stage appropriate.
- Make sure all practitioners are trained in paediatric first aid.
Secure Sleep And Rest Times
Babies and young children need a lot of sleep, so having safe and cosy sleep areas is important. These areas should be warm, inviting and comfortable to ensure babies feel secure and can get the rest they need.
During their naps and rest times, which will be different for each child, babies should be monitored regularly and thoroughly to make sure they are safe. This means that practitioners need to stay within sight and hearing distance of sleeping and resting babies so that breathing and skin colour can easily be checked.
Children of all ages should never rest or sleep with their face covered, and clothing and comforters that may cause risk to them during their sleep should be removed or changed. Babies should also sleep on their backs, as recommended by the Foundation of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (FSIDS).
To ensure safe sleep practices are in place, have a clear policy that is reviewed regularly and make sure all staff understand what it both means and looks like in a practical sense.
Key Take Aways
- Ensure a practitioner is always nearby during rest and sleep times.
- Remove anything that might pose a risk before undertaking a rest or nap.
- Provide a peaceful, calm area for sleep and rest times.
- Make sure practitioners are aware of the risks of SIDS and have a good understanding of sleep safety and your sleep policy.
Intriguing, Enabling Environments
In your provision, babies are developing skills that will serve them for life. They might take their first steps with you, or learn their first couple of words!
Your setting should be organised to meet the needs and extend the learning of children of different ages. Opportunities for play and exploration should be ample and provide sufficient age and stage-related risk and challenge while remaining safe at all times.
Outdoor play offers a whole world of different experiences for toddlers in your setting, including physical development and movement, but makes for rich quality time for babies of all ages.
Key Take Aways
- Understand each child’s unique needs and challenge their changing abilities.
- Risk assess all environments to ensure they are age and stage appropriate.
- Provide environments which are rich and exciting.
Effective And Ongoing Training
Over the last 2 years, it has become pretty difficult to find and recruit nursery workers. The ongoing struggle to bring on board new practitioners might have put training on the back foot; however, it’s important to remember that proper and effective training is a legal requirement. Without it, not only could your setting be putting children at risk, but it could result in poor inspection grading.
Here are some qualifications and courses to think about.
Paediatric First Aid
From September 2016, staff with childcare level 2 and 3 qualifications must have a full certificate to be included in care ratios.
Safeguarding training can support practitioners in recognising signs of potential abuse and how to report concerns correctly.
Behaviour Management Training
Some children need extra help in learning how to express themselves. Whilst many practitioners will have some experience with appropriate strategies, your setting SENCO may be able to help with in-house training.
Ongoing training in all areas is a surefire way of tooling up your staff and ensuring the children at your nursery are nurtured and looked after.
Babies Need Security And Guidance Through That Critical Two Years
Looking after babies requires a deep level of understanding about the way they learn and develop. And to comply with the statutory framework, at least half of all staff must have received training that specifically addresses the care of babies.
Worried about an upcoming inspection? Interested in upskilling your baby room practitioner team?
Our ‘Working With Babies’ courses are designed to give practitioners the knowledge they need to carry out their roles confidently.
Find out more about our upcoming courses here.
Don’t need to book training sessions but looking for something you can use yourself in-house? Sign up here for our free download covering the 5 Fundamental Factors When Working With Babies.