The development a child undergoes in the first three years of life is amazingly rich and rapid, and can manifests itself at its best when his/her needs are met. This essay will consider the physical and psychological needs starting from the rights of the child as outlined by the United Nations. Using Maslow's hierarchy of needs as a reference, it will explore more in detail how the satisfaction of these needs can help the child to realize his/her own full potential, and what is the contribution a day care setting can give in this regard.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (Unicef, 2008) details the human rights that apply to every child in the world. The four fundamental principles assert that these rights must be guaranteed to all children regardless of race, gender, language, religion, opinion; the priority must always be the interest of the child; every country must fully commit to safeguard the life, the survival and the healthy development of the children and every child has the right to be listened in all circumstances which affect him/her.
Only through the application of these rights the children's fundamental needs can be fulfilled and they will have the possibility to reach their full potential. As stated by Maslow, humans are driven by needs which are of physical, emotional and psychological nature. The physiological needs are the first to be satisfied. Only once they are met a higher level need will emerge (safety, belongingness and love, esteem and self-fulfillment needs). The right of life and survival recognized by the UNICEF corresponds to the basic needs. These include access to food, water, air and rest. Because young children depend on others to respond to their needs, the governments have to play an active part in guaranteeing that these rights are respected. Only a child who can grow up without worrying about food, a safe place to live in and is surrounded by a loving environment, can work towards the realization of his/her potential.
The minimum standards set by the DSD cover premises and equipment, health safety and nutrition, management, active learning, practitioners and working with families. The first two points aim at securing that the physical needs are met. The environment must be well ventilated and free from dangerous fumes and smoke. The premises must be weatherproof, to prevent heath loss or excessive temperature, and the children must be dressed properly. It is the adults' responsibility to make sure the environment is safe from dangers and to be vigilant, helping the children to be aware of hazardous situations without creating anxiety. This is especially true for children with disabilities, whose development and health should be promoted within the limits imposed by the condition (Macleod-Brudenell & Kay, 2008). The DSD specifies the minimum play area per child to allow children to move freely and get appropriate exercise. This is essential for the physical maturation and promotes a sense of wellbeing, which puts the basis for an adult healthy lifestyle. Encouraging children to run, climb, jump, hope, balance etc. they will improve their gross motor skills and will learn to control and coordinate their body, becoming more confident. The fine motor skills, namely the control of small muscles, are developed when the child holds small objects, uses pencils to scribble and turns the pages of a book. Montessori believed in providing a "prepared environment", which means child-friendly, with objects and tools adapted to the child's size so he/she can express him/herself freely and spontaneously. Activities that a nursery can propose are playing with sand and water, doing obstacle races outdoors or indoors, climbing jungle gyms so to develop the gross motor skills. Dancing together, riding tricycles and doing simple yoga lessons will also help with coordination and posture. Arts and crafts like painting, drawing, using play-dough and pasta to thread will extend their fine motor skills. Montessori stressed the importance of "richness and variety of objects": the use of hands and manipulation lays the foundation for a thriving intellectual development. I personally like, as an activity that involves physical exercise and intellectual engagement, easy scavenger hunts outdoors or even indoors, to stimulate the child to explore the surroundings and create excitement. After all these activity, children must be given the opportunity to rest, either lying down or sitting quietly.
Practitioners also need to guide young children on how to keep their bodies safe and healthy. This includes activities on eating wisely, and looking after teeth and hair. In regards to nutrition, the DSD suggest to seek guidance from the Department of Health or other medical institutions, to make sure the needs of different ages and individuals (including special needs) are considered. Being it a social moment, the practitioners should show a positive attitude during meals' time, encouraging children to try different foods without forcing them and creating a pleasant atmosphere. The premises should also provide for safe and clean toilet facilities and for low sinks so that children are encourage to look after themselves.
The health safety is another important responsibility of the day care setting. Each child should have a Medical History Form, containing information about his/her general health state, a medical record summary of a child's health and contact details. There should be policies and procedures in place that cover the way health care is handled. Staff needs to be trained in first aid, so to intervene promptly. The carer plays an important role in managing an illness: he/she can contributing to an early diagnosis by observing the first signs and report a condition; he/she can notice the side effects of medication and report the progress; he/she can help the child to develop a positive attitude, offering a caring relationship and helping the child to cope better and the other children to understand the situation;