Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Teacher-Caregivers' Perceptions of Toddlers' Adaptation to a Childcare Center

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Teacher-Caregivers' Perceptions of Toddlers' Adaptation to a Childcare Center

Article excerpt

Recently, the age of children entering childcare centers in Korea has decreased (Park & Moon, 2012). According to the Korea Institute of Child Care and Education (2013), children aged under 2 years who were enrolled in Korean childcare services increased from 19% in 2008 to 34.5% in 2012. With the increasing number of toddlers being enrolled in childcare services, young children's adjustment to childcare centers has become an issue of increasing interest in the field of early childhood education. Many researchers emphasize the significance of helping toddlers transition to the new environment of the center (Kim & Kim, 2008; Shin & Cho, 2012). They suggest that the initial sudden separation from a primary caregiver (usually a parent) and the transition to the strange environment of a center can make such young children feel isolated, unstable, and scared (Balaban, 2006; Gu, 2004). As a result, on entry they often show maladaptive behaviors, such as shouting, biting, or hitting peers. Researchers have shown young children's negative adaptation experiences to influence their later socioemotional and school adjustment (Peisner-Feinberg et al., 2001; Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). In particular, those toddlers under 2 years of age who do not fully understand the transitional situation and simultaneously have to overcome their separation anxiety, usually experience more difficulties in their adjustment than do older children.

This trend has meant that many researchers have begun to investigate toddlers' early adaptation to childcare centers. Toddlers' temperament (Ahnert, Gunnar, Lamb, & Barthel, 2004), attachment security with their parents (Ahnert et al., 2004), parental child-rearing attitudes (Gu, 2004), relationships with the caregiver in the center (Silver, Measelle, Armstrong, & Essex, 2005), and environment of the center (Legendre, 2003) have been suggested as being among the main factors that influence this adaptation. In addition to examination of these factors, the need for strategies for facilitating early adaptation has also gained researchers' attentions (Lee, 2005). Researchers (Bove, 2001; Elliot, 2003; Kim & Kim, 2008) have found many strategies to promote this, for example, teacher-caregivers expressing warm and welcoming attitudes toward toddlers, showing toddlers ways of interacting with their parents, and making an effort to connect between the home and the center by allowing the child to bring their toys from home or by creating home-like environments. In such strategies young children's emotional stability is taken into consideration and the aim is to try to distract them from their separation anxiety using interesting toys or activities. Communication with parents to get more information about the child's temperament is also considered an essential strategy.

Scholars (Ahnert et al., 2004; Kim & Kim, 2008; Lee, 2005; Silver et al., 2005) have provided practical knowledge about how to help toddlers adapt to a childcare center. However, they have focused only on how to overcome the transitional difficulties, considering the transitional phase as an obstacle to be quickly and effectively overcome. I believe the transition process should be viewed as an important opportunity for the young child to develop his or her socioemotional skills. Toddlers' adaptability gained from this early experience continues to affect their later development (Kim & Kim, 2008; Ladd & Troop-Gordon, 2003), and, thus, should be considered as a foundational process to be progressively developed rather than a simple obstacle to be overcome.

In addition, in most of the previous studies (Bove, 2001; Elliot, 2003; Gu, 2004; Legendre, 2003) researchers have focused either on factors influencing toddlers' adaptation or on strategies for a smooth transition. Based on their findings, these researchers have provided suggestions for what the teacher- caregivers should do to ease the young child's transition. …

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