My 22-month old attends a day-care center daily. He carries his blanket to school every day and holds it tight as I leave.
The caretakers take his blanket from him after I leave and put it up where he can see it but not reach it. During the day there are times that he wants it back. The caretakers feel that if he has it, the other children will have to have their pacifiers, etc.
Some of the other parents only want their children to have these things at nap time. This refusal brings long bouts of tears to my son. They have recently started refusing him his blanket because he would sometimes put it down and the other children would grab it. The caretakers said this caused too much conflict.
I think they look upon a security blanket as a crutch for the children. How should blankets, teddy bears and other security items be handled at a day-care center?
There's a misnomer here. A care giver is supposed to give care, not take it away. And that's what these caretakers are doing.
Logically, it may seem to make sense for them to put blankets, teddies and pacifiers away for safekeeping, but such arbitrary rules are never wise when dealing with emotions. It's tough for young children to be away from their homes and their parents, and depriving them of the security they get from holding onto something special -- something that has that nice smell of home -- makes it that much tougher.
It's a matter of looking at a security blanket or a pacifier not as a crutch but as a support -- or a transitional object as it's called in the day-care trade. If a child needs a bridge between home and day care, he should have it.
As he'll discover, other children will be curious about its magical properties, and you -- and the caretakers -- can expect a few scenes. In the process he'll learn some of the things that day care teaches so well: to negotiate; to compromise; to share.
Whatever grabbing goes on at first will encourage your child to keep his blanket in his own cubby -- the home base of every child in day care -- and the diversions at the center will do the rest. The walks and the gym set; the play dough and painting; the puzzles and trucks should be so interesting he'll have less and less time for his blanket.
Right now he needs its reassurance, however, and the right to control his most important possession. If the center won't change its policy, its time to change centers.
Observe others for at least a half-day each, looking for one that is clearly run for the benefit of the children and the parents, not the caretakers.
A good center is clean, but not tidy, and has a few rockers in which to cuddle the children. There are family photos and a birthday chart on the wall; artwork hung at the eye level of the child, not the adults; areas for housekeeping; dress-ups; blocks and science; a kitchen where children can cook; perhaps a water table and a sand table (or a sand box) inside, and a well-equipped play space outdoors.
At good centers the caretakers get along with each other and are mutually helpful, but they spend most of their time with the children. When they talk to them they usually kneel or sit on the floor, so they are face-to-face, and they often talk with individual children. They listen well, even when the chatter seems pointless, and they explain what they're going to do next, even to those who can't talk yet.
They respect a child's feelings -- when they're afraid or hurt or sad -- and they are affectionate, giving frequent hugs and pats on the head.
The children, however, are the true litmus tests. Most of them seem happy, most of the time -- which means that they have easy access to their small securities.
The Parents' Guide to Daycare (Bantam, $8.95), by Jo Ann Miller and Susan Weissman, will help you figure out your rights as day-care parents and what your child's needs really are and will introduce you to other day-care options you might consider.
A child under 3 often does better in a home where the provider is licensed to care for a few extra children, along with her own.
Whatever place you choose, the transitions between home and the center will be less stressful -- and therefore the need for the blanket will be less -- if you or your husband get your child there a little early for a while, so you can take a leisurely leave, and dawdle a little when you pick him up at night.
To avoid this transition altogether, you could hire a housekeeper to care for your child at your house, or, if you have an extra bedroom, hire an au pair to live in as a member of your own family, paying her a healthy stipend every week. For more details and many addresses, send $7 to National Press, Inc., 7508 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda, Md. 20814 for Au Pair American Style by Cindy F. Miller and Wendy J. Slossburg.
Day care is a problem with many possible solutions, which should be pursued until you find the right one for your child at each age. Questions may be sent to P.O. Box 15310, Washington, D.C. 20003.
1987, Tribune Media Services Inc.