Two important things almost all daycares are missing

I have observed a number of daycares and early childhood centers as a part of my RIE training. They range vastly in terms of quality of care, environment, philosophy, etc. However, almost every daycare for infants and toddlers (0-3 years old) is missing two things – and their absence baffles anyone who understands attachment theory.

1) Most daycares or early childhood centers do not practice primary caregiving. 

Touching is an intimate act. Like most adults, babies don’t want strangers to support them during times of (bodily) need; they want it to be the special person with whom they are most intimate and trusting. According to RIE, primary caregiving in a daycare setting means that one person, and one person only, attends to the bodily care of the child, such as of bathing, diapering, and feeding.

Most daycares have lead teachers and assistant teachers, all of whom may take turns diapering and feeding the babies. They might say that they practice “primary caregiving,” but this can mean a variety of things. For example, it often refers to the practice of assigning one teacher as the point-person to communicate with each family. However, this definition of primary caregiving does not help the child know who to seek out during times of duress or need.

According to RIE, bodily care is a time to communicate our affection and attention – a way to establish the human connection. Therefore, why would you want anyone else other than someone with whom the baby is intimate to complete these so-called tasks of bathing, feeding, and diapering? RIE is concerned with the quality of the interaction rather than getting the job done. With a trusted partner, these moments help the baby feel a sense of well-being; they re-fuel the attachment between two people in a deep and trusting relationship.

2) Most daycares don’t provide “continuity of care.”

In the majority of daycares, relationships between the caregivers and the babies do not remain in tact as the child grows older. When the infant becomes a toddler, for example, she “graduates” to the next classroom where she is introduced to a new teacher. RIE disagrees with this approach – we don’t break the relationship as the baby approaches a new developmental stage. We believe that a baby needs to stay with the same caregivers throughout early childhood (zero to two years old or ideally zero to three years old). Developing a deep and trusting relationship with another person doesn’t happen overnight -- it takes time.   Therefore, the whole group of babies would move to the next classroom together while remaining with one primary caregiver (aka, “classroom looping”).

Throughout early childhood, infants and toddlers demonstrate the need to stay in close contact with their primary caregivers (the attachment figures). According to the well-known