Everyone is impacted by children in some way. They might have their own, babysit someone else’s on the weekends, or only see them in passing in the grocery stores. Others have chosen to dedicate every day of the week to children. This article is for all of those caring, kind-hearted, and loyal men and women who spend their days hugging babies, teaching children to walk, feeding them, changing their diapers, and playing with the same toys over and over again. This is for every infant and toddler teacher, assistant teacher, classroom aide, and substitute teacher.
1. There is that one toy in the classroom that you wish would just end up in the trash.
You know the one. The shape sorter whose shapes you find in every nook and cranny of the class, no matter how many times you clean it up. Or the telephone that rings and rings and rings. But no matter how much you hate it, you know that the babies love it so you leave it on the shelves anyway.
2. You can change diapers in less than a minute with your eyes closed and one hand tied behind your back.
Okay, this one is a bit of an exaggeration. We all know that one hand can’t be tied behind your back because it has to be on the child at all times. But seriously, we can change diapers in record time.
3. You can recite NAEYC standards off the top of your head.
I can tell you the exact photos that need to be at child eye level, how many kinds of blocks need to be on the block shelf, and the exact distance that needs to be between each sleeping child. You are also prepared with a camera to document anything that could possibly relate to one of these standards to use as proof in your NAEYC portfolio.
4. You refer to your students as “my kids,” “my babies,” or “my friends,” and no one is completely sure how many kids are actually related to you.
As far as your friends know, you have not birthed any children. But they are never surprised when you talk about how one of your babies wouldn’t nap today or finally started sitting up by themselves. They understand that your babies will always be your babies, even when they move up to preschool.
5. Parents ask you for advice on how to help their child eat new foods or take longer naps.
Even though you do not have any children of your own, these parents seem to believe that you’re an expert, and maybe you are. You know exactly what tricks to use to convince a 7-month-old that spinach is yummy. You will go above and beyond and try every trick in the book to get that 3-month-old to sleep longer than 15 minutes at a time. Then, you relay those tricks to their parents and suddenly they’re convinced that you’re a baby whisperer.
6. You can name 15 ways that “simple play” is contributing to their personality and development.
Fine motor, gross motor, creative thinking, print recognition, social-emotional development, math skills, science skills, etc. From picking up rattles to sitting in a circle to looking at books to climbing up climbers, each play experience leads to an even greater personality or developmental experience.
7. You’re constantly asking your friends and family to save empty water bottles and juice bottles to use as homemade instruments or sensory experiences.
And they do it because they know how much these kids mean to you. They’ll even go to Michaels and AC Moore to help you find the perfect leaves to put inside your weather bottles.
8. You wash your hands just as much as, and maybe even more than, doctors and nurses.
You wash your hands when you enter the room, between diaper changes, when preparing lunches, administering medication, after wiping noses, when you’re washing the children’s hands, and when re-entering the room after playing outside. In the winter, your hands are cracked and dry no matter how much lotion you apply. But the health of our students and teachers are most important, so you push through the cracked hands and wash them again.
9. You’ve gone out in public in your classroom booties at least once.
Many infant rooms have the no shoes rule. “Because little hands touch our floor, please leave your shoes at the door.” It’s yet another way to keep the classroom clean. Because this rule applies to the teachers as well, some centers may provide Operating Room shoe covers to keep the environment as sterile as possible. And because they are so common in the classroom, and in the school, you don’t even realize that you’re wearing them in the grocery store on the way home from work.
10. You’ve lost and found more binkies than you even knew were in the classroom.
You have 8 babies in your classroom. Two babies don’t use binkies but three babies have two binkies and one binkie is currently AWOL. How many binkies does that leave you with? No one will ever know because suddenly you have 12 binkies and you have no idea what is happening in your life.
11. You can immediately tell when one of the children is not feeling well.
The second that your child feels warmer than usual, touches their ear for a second or cries more than usual, you are on the case. You’re paying closer attention to sleep and eating schedules and are willing to call a parent at the first sign of fatigue or fever.
12. You have multiple Pinterest boards dedicated to science experiments and art projects that are perfect for your children.
“For the Babies” and “Toddler Time” are two examples of Pinterest boards that are currently home to hundreds of lesson ideas to use for my students. They contain developmentally appropriate art projects and science experiments that you know the children will love and actually learn from.
13. You find yourself bringing peanut butter sandwiches, squeezable apple sauce, and goldfish crackers for lunch because they just look so good when the kids bring them.
Why are apple sauce pouches frowned upon for adults? They are convenient and perfect for the on-the-go teacher life. Their lunches are perfect sizes, have great nutritional value, and actually taste good.
14. You can calm a classroom full of 8 crying babies in 30 seconds or less with a cheery rendition of “If You’re Happy and You Know It” or a soothing “Row Row Row Your Boat.”
Seriously, it’s like magic. I don’t really understand it myself, but if you ever need to silence a room, singing works 95 percent of the time.
15. You have most of the classroom books memorized but you still enjoy the stories.
I Love You Through and Through, Bubbles, Bubbles, and Five Little Ducks will never get old. “I love your top side, I love your bottom side. I love your inside, and your outside…”
16. You spend your day communicating entirely through exaggerated facial expressions, baby sign language, and short phrases.
And when they start responding in comprehensive manners? Life changing. The minute you’re offering Cheerios, saying and signing “More?” and the child signs back is an experience you will never have the same way twice. And for every new method of communication that they conquer, your day gets a tiny bit easier and your smile a whole lot brighter.
17. Seeing each of their faces light up when you walk through the door every day makes all the tough parts of your job worth it.
When you walk through the door for each and every shift, you know that these children are the reason you get up every day and continue to walk through that door. You know that the smile they give you when you walk in will make up for the screaming fits because you can’t hold everyone at once. It makes up for the times when the children don’t nap, or refuse to eat, or pull hair, or bite. Those smiles make all the hard times easier.