Primary Caregivers: Creating meaningful and lasting relationships with your child

6 August 2020

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At Treetops Early Learning Centres our children are cared for in “rooms”  guided by their level of development and based loosely on their age. For birth to up to 2 years, we have the Nest, for 18 months to 3 or 3.5 years we have the Tui Room and for our older children (3½ to 6) we have the Kea room. Our Pukekohe centre has four rooms, with the fourth room being the Moreporks for four year olds. 

Treetops has always applied the Primary Caregiver principles to our two younger groups. This has been a great success. The teachers in charge of our senior groups have been researching Primary Caregiving and we have been inspired to initiate this into our daily practices for the Kea room too. For us, Primary Caregiving will be a positive change as we endeavour to continue the practice that is now well established in our Nest and Tui Rooms. 

What is Primary Caregiving?

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Primary Caregiving involves each teacher being responsible for the care moments (feeding, changing and sleeping) for your child. Through this, we are able to build trusting relationships with children, enabling us to understand each child’s individual rhythms.  Thus, Primary Caregiving is also about anticipating needs, who might need what, and when.

Having a Primary Caregiver enables children to have a secure attachment with a teacher who will be able to read and interpret their cues, ensuring their needs are promptly met. Parents and whānau will build a closer relationship with their child’s Primary Caregiver, enabling deeper communication and understanding between whānau and the centre.

Te Whāriki, New Zealand’s Early Childhood curriculum document clearly states that infants’ ability to thrive and learn is reliant on whether they establish an intimate, responsive, and trusting relationship ‘with at least one other person within each setting’ (Ministry of Education, 1996, p. 22).

What does this mean for your child and family?

We hope you will be able to see the positive changes as we implement this approach within the room, as your relationship with your child’s Primary Caregiver deepens. This does not mean that your child will only have an exclusive relationship with one teacher, but that they will develop a meaningful relationship with that one key person. This teacher holds responsibility for providing consistent care in a way that maximises the potential for learning in all experiences. This allows a strong and secure attachment between child and Primary Caregiver to develop and helps the child to gain a positive sense of self-worth.

Theilheimer (2006) says that “setting up a system of primary caregiving establishes an environment in which meaningful and lasting relationships can develop between caregivers and children and between caregivers and their families”.

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Throughout their daily routine, children are interacting with other teachers in learning experiences, mat times and meal times. The overall responsibility of the children is still with the whole team.

Primary Caregiving is not in the big things but in the little everyday things. It means that children get uninterrupted one on one time with their caregivers. It is spending time getting to know and understanding your whānau. We hope that you are happy to talk with anyone, but can seek out your child’s Primary Caregiver just for a chat.

What if my child’s Primary Caregiver is away?

Primary Caregiver, Quality education

Children are still interacting with and developing relationships with all of the teachers within the room. If your child’s Primary Caregiver is away from the centre, they will be cared for by another teacher within the room, and their routines will be maintained.

Our older children who need to explore and challenge new learning experiences within the room will be given lots of opportunities as an older group together. They will be involved with purposeful learning experiences and age-appropriate learning experiences throughout their day.

We encourage you to embrace this journey with us as we learn together the benefits of this approach for children. If you have any questions, please see your child’s teacher, they are more than happy to discuss this with you!