An introduction to CDLS’s infant program

The Child Development Laboratory School (CDLS) full-day infant program is for children ages 3 months to 15 months. The program focuses on enriching early experiences through responsive caregiving practices and a relationship-based approach. Ultimately, the program strives to support infants during this critical period of development in forming secure attachment relationships.

The program curriculum, routines, relationships and environment support the overall goal. Exceeding the Minnesota Department of Human Services, licensing ratio regulations, the program offers 1:3 ratios as compared to 1:4, so that in a full capacity enrolled group there are three teaching staff members to nine infants. Teachers focus on individualized care based on temperaments, development, and strengthen secure attachments through small group experiences and interactions. Through close observation and attentive interaction teachers are able to support each infant as they learn to anticipate, predict, and become attached to their teachers.

The infant program teachers serve as an “active observer and learn alongside the infant to gain insight into their developmental needs and interests,” says Chelsey Gulsvig, full-day infant program lead. In practice, this requires teachers to be physically and emotionally present with the child. Throughout the day, teachers work to follow the infants’ lead and respond to their cues. Through verbal and physical interactions the teachers will look to the infant as the director of their own development.

During routine meal times, play time, and changing time, teachers allow the infants the space to explore on their own. To engage during meal time, teachers look for eye contact from the child before feedings and ask the child if they would like more in sign language and verbally. In play time, teachers will observe the infants’ interaction with materials without directing the child to use materials in a certain way. The developmental benefits of this teaching style include language acquisition, social-emotional development, sensory-motor development, self-awareness, and the formation of secure attachment relationships.

Overall, the program aims to respect each infant’s discoveries while supporting them in their exploration. The full-day infant program works to lay the foundation for learning and prepare infants for success in their next stages of development as they grow throughout the CDLS program for school readiness.