By Dr Sarah Alexander
The best person for parents to leave their child with for the purpose of childcare is one who genuinely likes children.
Such a person has a natural affinity with young children. You will see the person always noticing young children in their presence and paying as much or more attention to children than to adults.
What makes a person more likely to have this characteristic?
- being born into a large family with younger siblings
- a parent who has had a child and been an at-home-parent for at least one year so they may have developed 'cluckiness' about children (note that not every person, parents included, naturally like children, especially other people's children)
- a person who has done a lot of volunteer work or babysitting of other people's children so that they have gained experience and may have also developed a true liking for children before deciding that their vocation will be working with children
- having a parent who they are close to who has been involved in social work with young children and families and who passes on deep feelings of compassion and wanting to help others.
Further personal characteristics that a person needs to care well for a child include:
- being healthy, getting enough sleep to maintain energy levels during the day, being willing and able to play with children and lift and carry them, and an ability to look after their own emotional and physical wellbeing well
- humour and an ability to laugh with and have fun with children at their level
- ability to 'read' what children are thinking - a strong intuitive sense of what different children want and are interested in
- reliability and dependability
- ability to do two or more things competently at the same time, calmly and without becoming frazzled
- honesty / truthfulness
- an attitude and response to both children and parents that their role is to serve them and they do so with respect, humility, and discretion
- intelligence to know when to speak up, when to stand back, when to help for the child's and family's best interests.
Depending upon what other reasons you are leaving your child in the care of someone else for, other characteristics may come into play:
- ability to speak a particular language
- ability to cook / clean
- drivers license holder and clean driving record
- knowledge of different preschool type activities and preschool areas of play, such as how to make playdough, how to make finger paint, how to guide a child in doing a puzzle without doing the puzzle for the child, how to set up a bowl for water play with pouring equipment, etc
- expertise or qualifications in a particular area e.g. in nursing, in music, in childcare/early childhood teaching, in art or crafts.
In early childhood centres it is also essential that the people caring for your child have skills in managing groups of children, including an ability to watch and track several children who are playing in different areas of the playroom or playground.