About the Child and Family Center
The Rockefeller University Child and Family Center (CFC) is a progressive early child care provider and preschool. By providing high-quality early childcare, education, and subsidized tuition to families affiliated with the university it plays a key role in the university’s commitment to supporting its biomedical research faculty and students. We are open 50 weeks a year from 8:30 am-6 pm for children ranging in age from 3 months to 5 years. Our location on the university’s leafy 16-acre campus near the East River includes 15 classrooms filled with natural light, outdoor playgrounds, indoor play spaces, and a children’s garden. Our families and staff come from all over the world and speak 26 different languages. We celebrate our diverse community and teach tolerance and empathy for others.
We are a member of the National Coalition of Campus Child Care Centers (NC4), the Independent School Admissions Association of Greater New York (ISAAGNY), the Parents League of New York, the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), and Zero to Three (0-3).
The CFC is open 50 weeks a year from 8:30 am to 6:00 pm, Monday through Friday. We are closed the week between Christmas and New Year’s, the week before Labor Day for the teachers’ set up week, and for Rockefeller University holidays.
Helping children to form new relationships and say good-bye to their parents is a key component in the program. For this reason, we ask parents to spend time with their child at the CFC during the first weeks each year, helping their child to establish trusting relationships with their new teachers. During this phase-in period, children come in small groups for increasing periods of time until at the end of the phase-in, they are staying for the whole day. Parents spend time in the classroom playing with their child, assisting their child with daily routines, and helping the child establish relationships with the teachers. For the infants and toddlers, while the parents are still caring for the child in the room, teachers will observe and ask questions to enable them to continue a consistency of care after phase-in is over.
For all the children, the amount of time that parents will be required to stay in the room depends on the child’s own temperament, development, previous experience with child care and the parents’ feelings about leaving their child at the CFC. Some children may be excited by the newness only to need extra support later as they try to settle into the day-to-day routine of life at the CFC. Others will stick close by a parent for a long period before beginning to explore the room or meet new people. Still others cheerfully say good-bye (perhaps even before Mom or Dad is ready) and grow steadily more comfortable as time goes on. As time at the CFC increases, parents leave for short periods of time, gradually extending the time the child spends at the center without them.
Primary Caregiving for Infants and Toddlers
Each infant and toddler’s family is assigned a primary caregiver at the beginning of the year in September. This teacher-caregiver carries out most of the daily routines with the child (eating, sleeping, diapering or toileting) and is responsible for building a particularly close relationship with the family and child. Some children continue to need their primary caregiver throughout the year, while others become more comfortable with all the teachers in their group, and eventually in the whole center. Children’s individual styles of interacting and coping are respected. The level of consistency and predictability that a child needs to feel safe and comfortable will be met by the teachers.
15 Rooms for Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers
We have two infant rooms, four toddler rooms and four preschool rooms at the Child and Family Center. For our purposes, an infant is any child from three to 11 months old, a toddler is 11 to 32 months old and preschoolers are three and four years old. There are eight infants, 10 toddlers, 15 three year olds, or 18 four year olds in a room.
We use mixed-age groups where we can: In toddler rooms the children are one and two years old. In preschool rooms, children may be two and three or three and four. There are social and intellectual benefits to having mixed age groups. Older children often are helpful to younger children. For an older child who has difficulty with accepting limits, they may be easier to accept when helping a younger child. Less outgoing older children can feel safer interacting with younger children, solidify social skills and then feel more comfortable with age mates. Younger children, of course, have the older children to emulate. In addition, research shows that children can adapt their language to different people. In a mixed age group children have the opportunity to sharpen their communicative skills when they have to deal with people with varying verbal skills. Younger children have the opportunity to observe and participate in more complex play when they are grouped with older children.
Many of the children at the CFC have the opportunity to spend two years in one room. This provides them with the experience of first being the younger and then the older child in the group. Also, for the teachers, when the group is made up of children with different ages as well as the natural differences in abilities, it is even more obvious why teachers have to consider each individual child in their planning and it can be more intellectually stimulating.
The CFC is an inclusive setting. We welcome children with special needs and we work with and guide parents to have an evaluation and get services if concerns emerge. Speech and language therapists, physical therapists (PT), occupational therapists (OT), counseling therapists, or special education itinerant teachers (SEIT), come to work with children at the CFC on an as needed basis. The goal of the specialists is to fully integrate the child socially, emotionally, physically, and intellectually in the room, whether working with them individually or in small groups.
It is important to set limits in order to help children become self-disciplined. Young children don’t yet understand that hitting hurts, or that they should be “nice” or “polite,” but they can learn that hitting, grabbing toys, throwing objects other than balls, biting, et cetera, are not allowed. If and when children misbehave, they are never isolated. If a child does need to be separated from the group, he or she will be accompanied by an adult who can help redirect the behavior. Setting firm, consistent rules helps to build a child’s conscience and self-control.
Outdoor Playgrounds and the Rockefeller University Campus
The Child and Family Center has three outdoor play spaces for the children with climbing equipment, wheel toys, big sandboxes, and outdoor building blocks. The children use the whole Rockefeller University campus all year around. In the winter it’s great to roll down a snowy hill and in the summer it’s fun to do it as well. The children become familiar, at a young age, with the outdoor and indoor art collection that the university is so fortunate to have. When the wonderful grounds are in bloom the children are there to smell the flowers (but we don’t pick them!).