A toddler community childcare model that re-creates a mini-village that helps raise the children

Copyright National Lilac Publishing, LLC

I found a community childcare model operating in a small USA Pacific Northwest town, and would like to share about it here. Too often, group activities with toddlers can be disastrous when too many of these very raw developing minds converge with just one or two adults to watch over the free play, or be expected to control and direct every toddler activity.

In this small town model, toddlers thrive in free exploration in a true village with intergenerational ages all doing a variety of pleasant, safe village activities. No director controls every toddler activity, they are free to explore.

Yet, a parent or other main caretaker is nearby along with a variety of other village members to interact (or not), model good behavior, and interrupt bad behavior. Therefore, the burden for raising the children doesn’t fall on just one commander in chief.

This small town toddler project can adapt itself to larger city neighborhoods or even rural communities.

How this community childcare model works:

- The city hall gym is reserved for the toddler community childcare program for a couple of weekday morning hours when it’s not in use for sports.

- Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles – anyone taking care of the toddler can get out of the house for a while to let the toddler burn off energy with other toddlers, while the caretakers stay there with other parents or caretakers and visit, knit, read, daydream, plan, journal, and interact with any of the toddlers if they approach them. No controlled toddler activity is organized that expects the parents to interact directly. They can just lay back and interact passively if needed.

- It’s drop-in, just three dollars per toddler (ages 1—4), and a punch card is given so parents can pay just once if they want to come and go many times with their child.

- Toddler toys were collected for this project, which they call a "community supported exploratory toddler play group." And, they ask participants to donate more if they have them.

Sometimes the best adult and toddler activity is just being with the village

While this isn’t the type of toddler childcare where parents can leave their kids behind, it’s a true village relief for the at-home parent or babysitter. Toddlers get the benefit of village energy and hearing and seeing a variety of other adult role models acting responsibly. Participants can come and go with their kids, can show up with their kids or not, with no pressure. They get a more relaxed way to interact with children by not being the sole recipient of constant questions and pulls for attention. Plus, they can visit with other adults in the same situation.

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