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Primary Caregiving – What does it mean for you and your child?

Primary caregiving. Two words that on their own aren’t too complicated to understand, but put them together and all that simplicity turns into one question: What does that mean?? We could give the academic, historical answer that primary caregiving is the educational approach founded by Dr. Emmi Pikler and advocated for by Magda Gerber through the Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE) philosophy… but then you’d have SO many more things to Google, so let’s take it back a step and look at what this primary caregiving approach is all about!


As the Primary Caregiving philosophy becomes more widely known and used in infant and toddler settings it’s important to explain just what the term Primary Caregiving means. With this approach, children are given time, space and most importantly respect to develop at their own pace and at their own speed. This allows their abilities to naturally unfold and grow. Instead of talking at the children, we talk to them, letting them know what is happening and give them time to respond and participate in the process.


A key component in this approach is the Primary Care Giving System where a primary teacher builds authentic, responsive, reciprocial and trusting relationships with the children in their care. Building these relationships is not only important – we see this as essential! This involves each teacher in the classroom taking a lead role for the care of certain children. For the children this means that there is one person who they can form a trusting relationship with, and for parents and whānau this system ensures one teacher is responsible for their child, who will get to know their child’s personality and routine, and who the child being cared for will have someone to develop a trusting relationship with.


Alongside the child/teacher relationship is the most important relationship of all: your relationship with your child. A parent is a child’s first caregiver and this relationship is paramount.


This all sounds great doesn’t it? Now the next question... what does this look like? That’s a GREAT question! We do this through something we here at Ashburton Baptist Preschool call “Care Moments.” These are moments with children that are, in nature, ‘one on one’ time. You will see this while we are changing, feeding, sleeping and dressing children. These are all times where a child gets to spend one on one time with an adult. We like to take our time and make these moments enjoyable and calm, supporting the feeling of togetherness.


In our almost 40 years of teaching, we’ve found that this concept of “Primary Caregiving” is the most respectful and beneficial way for us to offer a trustworthy environment for your child. This approach to teaching creates a feeling of security that encourages children to become confident, life-long learners – this is supported by our own confidence in the approach that this has a positive effect on the children at our preschool and enhances the educational experience for all.

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