Daycare facilities provide children with a quality environment which supports physical and psychological growth. Since behavior and environment are closely related, child care facilities should be flexible and responsive places that will foster developmentally appropriate play and learning. Child safety is an important issue, whether you run a daycare center or have children of your own. This is especially true in settings where multiple children are playing as situations often occur where providers need to anticipate and think quickly. To give you an extra hand, we provide you with examples of how to make your environment child-friendly and safe. From ways to prevent injuries to efficiently filling your space with the correct furniture, this guide is a useful how-to instruction manual for child care safety!
The Essentials of Safety in the Daycare Environment: General Daycare Safety Focuses
Caring for children has never been easy; children running to and from the next attraction, kids of all ages trying to coexist in one space - it can be difficult to keep an eye on everything! Before opening your daycare center, take time to plan out a simple set-up that allows you easy accessiblity to all areas of your space. The key to a positive experience for both children and caretakers is to focus on the four main components of a daycare setting:
One of the most fun, yet potentially hazardous areas of a daycare is the exterior portion such as a playground or yard. Common precautions like fencing and supervision are assumed; any areas where children will be playing outside need to be partitioned off to prevent children from wandering into unsupervised areas. The equipment used outdoors, environmental hazards and the number of activities allowed outside are also factors that should be tightly controlled. It is always good to ensure that playground equipment is age-appropriate and that there are enough supervisors for the number of outdoor activities. A yard with different block modules and lofts that can be individually controlled is the best way to ensure that children have options while remaining safe. Always use furniture and modules that can exist outdoors and are safe for children to play on in different weather conditions such as heat, wind and rain. Equipment that cannot withstand the elements should not be purchased, as storing these items can come at a hefty price and result in unsafe conditions.
The interior space of your daycare is the heart of the service and should be properly considered when initially setting up your daycare center. Accessibility and a safe environment are some of the things to keep in mind when choosing your location. When selecting a daycare center, decide the age ranges you will be able to attend to and then plan accordingly. Stairs and elevated spaces may not be appropriate for small children; rooms with many areas that would are not easily visible also pose safety hazards. Try to divide your space without creating visual obstacles; an adult should be able to glance around the space and quickly supervise without tall furniture or walls impeding their view. Room dividers and cubbies help the room feel like many rooms without obstructing your view of the children. With the use of different themed colorful decorations, one can make a big room look like several smaller rooms.
One of the most important factors in the interior of your daycare is the furniture you use and how you choose to arrange it within your space. Wide open spaces and less clutter offer safer choices and more options. Storage units keep hazardous or unsafe materials locked or above children’s reaches. Proper planning of wet and dry areas, high traffic sections, quiet and loud areas, active play areas and a quiet section should be mapped out ahead of time to ensure effective care. Another important part of selecting furniture is buying storage and cubbies that are child-safe and allow for the option of locking or hindering a child’s ability to reach things. Wall mount storage units and fold-and-lock systems have been well received by daycares and teachers because they allow caretakers to restrict what children have access to. Make sure that the furniture you select for your daycare or preschool classroom is of sturdy construction and does not have sharp edges or corners.
Toys and Manipulatives
In any daycare center, you need entertainment and education to make a child happy and a business successful while maintaining a safe environment. Toys and other playthings are meant to be safe but can lead to unsafe consequences if proper precautions are not taken. The greatest potential for an unsafe situation arises with toys that have small parts or intricate pieces. While marbles, dollhouse accessories, blocks and other smaller manipulatives are invaluable toys for older children, they do present a potential choking hazard for younger children. Therefore, whenever you are purchasing toys for your daycare center, be sure to assess the potential hazard they present and plan accordingly. As a point of reference, always use judgment based on the manufacturer’s suggestions of age limits and restrictions. You need not ban small toys from your daycare center - after all, smaller toys are important supplements to older children's development of motor skills and imagination. If your daycare center will be catering to children younger than three years of age, be sure to restrict access to toys with small parts by storing them in seperate toy bins and make sure there is always an adult on hand to supervise if younger children will be playing with smaller manipulatives.
Safety in All Areas: Providing SAFE Active Play, Quiet / Nap Area, Arts & Crafts and Pretend Play
When setting up this section of your daycare, you should take many things into consideration such as the use of proper equipment and safety mats, which foster a safe learning environment for the kids. The active play area is designated for physical activities and should have plenty of space for kids to use their energy. Block modules, lofts and inflatable play are some of the essential pieces that make a fun atmosphere which allows the children to exercise and interact with others at the same time. Having a large space for different activities is important to reduce the risk of accidents since there is more running and physical interaction in this area. Floor mats and wall mats should also be installed in any areas where children have a tendency to fall; we suggest placing them around physical activity areas such as ball pools, play pens, and obstacle courses. Also, another area of active play in daycare involves the use of ride-on vehicles like cars, wagons and trikes. Active Play can be one of the most enjoyable areas and safe areas in your daycare if planned and supervised properly - but must be supervised and have age-appropriate equipment!
Quiet Play / Nap Areas
On the opposite side of the daycare, lies a comfortable area in which children can read, work on a puzzle or take a nap. Looking for age appropriate bedding is the key to success with cribs for babies and toddlers and cots and mats for older children of many ages. When selecting a crib, choose a style that fits your daycare without compromising safety. Always buy cribs with slats that are no more than 2 3/8” apart, prohibiting babies and toddlers from escaping or injuring themselves. Also, make sure there are no sharp edges, bolts and other hardware or extra pieces that children can chew or get caught on. Cots and mats are versatile, easy to clean and can be moved very easily; make sure that this area is designated for quiet play and things that foster independence rather than depending on others. Reading, working on puzzles and napping should be the only activities in this area to ensure safety and the effectiveness of the quiet and peaceful setting.
Arts and Crafts
By showing their creative side, kids can enjoy many activities in the arts and crafts area that allow them to get dirty and enjoy hands-on playtime. Painting, drawing and playing with clay are just few of the many activities that can hold a child’s attention for hours! There are precautions one must take such as making sure there are no toxic materials in art supplies and providing the children with child-safe tools to use when cutting, pasting and drawing. Check for manufacturer warnings and find paints and art supplies that are appropriate for all children’s age groups. Proper seating for this area is also important to allow a group of children and supervisors to be able to work together. Use things like an easel to work more independently. With the proper seating and art materials, the children will be satisfied along with the teachers.
From kitchen and household play sets to baby doll furniture, there are many areas of pretend play where kids can take their imaginations anywhere and learn new things at the same time. Although pretend play is beneficial to a child’s time at daycare, there are some things to take into consideration: toys that have small pieces, correct play furniture, and age appropriate activities. Because of its diverse nature, toys and objects used in the pretend play area can have small pieces, so younger children should not be given access to certain items such as doll houses or small play figures. Baby doll furniture and theatrical toys can be played with by children of most ages where as areas like construction and tools and kitchen and household are for mature children that can handle small pieces and don’t have a tendency to chew or try to swallow them.
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