Working in the infant room can often be the most difficult teaching position in a child care center. Teaching infants requires a lot of patience, as well as superb time management skills and the ability to multi-task. Also required is a vast knowledge of child development, and the ability to create a floor plan and lesson plan, that work in harmony with each other. While infant rooms usually do not resemble preschool classrooms, it is possible to create spaces that resemble a center. Infant room ideas for centers can include music, sensory activities, and gross motor play.
The Music Center
The music center in an infant room will not contain pianos, cymbals, or a drum set! Instead, focus on teacher made materials and noise making toys to fill up your infant room music shelves. Be sure your infant room is stocked with sturdy wooden shelves at appropriate heights for mobile infants to crawl up to and pull to a stand with ease. Placing these shelves against walls will prevent them from accidentally being moved or tipped.
To create teacher made musical instruments, all you need is a few water bottles and a good imagination. Clean all water bottles with warm soapy water and a bleach solution. Allow them to dry overnight. Fill the bottles with items that make noise when shaken, such as jingle bells, rice, beans, or even colored water. Use a hot glue gun to attach lids to the bottles. Display these noisemaking bottles on the shelves that infants are able to explore on their own. Be sure to inspect the bottles every few days for cracks, as well as cap wear. If the cap can be turned, it is time to reapply glue or get rid of the bottle and create another.
The Sensory Shelf
Infants are in the heart of the sensorimotor stage of development, meaning that they are learning about their world by touching, moving, and mouthing objects. Providing several different ways to explore materials is essential to an infant’s development. Use a low shelf to display several mouthable, touchable toys and materials for infants to explore on their own. The sensory play area is a good place to use daycare mirrors displayed at floor height for infants to explore.
There are many different ways of using infant learning toys in sensory stimulation, but the sensory play needn’t end there. Create a feely basket for your infant classroom. Take a visit to a fabric or craft store and spend some time exploring the different textures of fabrics. Collect a few samples of as many different textures as you can. A small rectangle or square of fabric is usually enough for a fabric feely basket. You may want to gather a few samples of the same fabric in case the material begins to fray or becomes worn. Use pinking shears to cut the fabric into squares to slow down the fraying process. Display the feely basket on a low shelf for infants to explore on their own. Some good fabrics to include in the basket include satin, fake fur, corduroy, and cotton.
Gross Motor Play
Ideally, the entire infant room will function as a safe place for babies to stretch their muscles by rolling, crawling, standing and taking first steps. That does not mean you cannot include a gross motor dedicated center. Infant room ideas for a gross motor play area can include, soft blankets for lying and rolling on, sturdy shelves for pulling to a stand, and soft, washable blocks for stacking. Sturdy pillows for crawling over can be included in this area, also, as long as they have removable covers for easy washing. You can also include a large basket of different sized balls for rolling, throwing, and patting. If budget permits, a low mounted ballet bar with a mirror behind it is a very appropriate piece of equipment for an infant gross motor play area.
Infants should be allowed to play outdoors every day if weather permits. Crawling infants can explore grassy areas, as well as soft play surfaces and concrete walking paths. Use caution when playing outdoors with infants. Sand, wood chips, and other ground coverings can be dangerous to infants if swallowed.
Setting your infant room up for maximum learning benefits can be a rewarding endeavor. Use your imagination to create inviting spaces that infants will enjoy exploring.
“Infants, Toddlers, and Caregivers”; Janet Gonzalez-Mena, Dianne Widmeyer Eyer; 1993