There’s hard­ly an arti­cle I read that’s com­put­er relat­ed that doesn’t res­onate with me on many lev­els. I’m not a com­put­er geek but I some­how clear­ly see a rela­tion­ship between what we hope to find in our user expe­ri­ence on the web or in apps, and my world, which is Ear­ly Child­hood Devel­op­ment.

Cohe­sive User Expe­ri­ence (User Expe­ri­ence is abbre­vi­at­ed as UX), is what Cameron Moll wrote about here (he has gra­cious­ly grant­ed me per­mis­sion to quote from his arti­cle):

http://24ways.com/2014/cohesive-ux/

In my work I refer to it as ‘Con­ti­nu­ity of Care’.

A smooth­ly oper­at­ing web­site works right every time you vis­it.

That’s what I believe a child needs as they grow up – you, their car­er (par­ent, grand­par­ent, or care­giv­er in a facil­i­ty), should ‘oper­ate smooth­ly’, be pre­dictable; offer a pat­tern of care day after day that a child can depend upon and trust. When they trust you and their envi­ron­ment they are free to learn about the world they live in.

When a car­er is not pre­dictable and depend­able (even when it’s a rel­a­tive) a child tends to cry and whine more often than not, or even com­plete­ly shut down (fail to speak/communicate in any way, or worse, they sit or lay on the floor with­out any emo­tion, or with min­i­mal or repet­i­tive activ­i­ty — things I’ve observed on too many occa­sions to count!).

With Con­ti­nu­ity of Care cry­ing and whin­ing only occur when there is a real dis­cernible rea­son and it is then the carer’s job to work out what the prob­lem is. Shut­ting down should­n’t even hap­pen.

Just as a com­put­er geek will trou­bleshoot prob­lems on a web­site or with an app, when I’m with a baby or young child I trou­bleshoot all the time. I am search­ing for what­ev­er might be an issue and if I can pre­emp­tive­ly offer care – like a dia­per change or a bot­tle or even a wel­come lap – then life goes much more smooth­ly, for us both. With a tod­dler I make sure they know where I am, that I’m avail­able should they need me.

As with com­put­er design, these skills are devel­oped over time and based on lengthy expe­ri­ence in the field.

In the world of day­care, when staff are absolute­ly in sync all the babies and chil­dren know it, and days run smooth­ly. It takes just one adult to choose not to tru­ly under­stand the needs of young chil­dren and vir­tu­al­ly every child spends a good part of their day cry­ing, appear­ing hyper­ac­tive, or worse, shut down!

When a com­put­er geek designs a web­site he expects his back-end devel­op­ers to enable his design to func­tion as he planned. When back-end devel­op­ers don’t see the whole pic­ture: the design, their devel­op­ment work PLUS the func­tion­al­i­ty from the end-user’s/consumer’s van­tage point – vir­tu­al­ly at first attempt the site is dys­func­tion­al.

Every­one needs to be in sync for a Cohe­sive UX.

Cameron Moll explains things clear­ly in his arti­cle (RWD stands for Respon­sive Web Design):

“RWD!=Cohesive Expe­ri­ence”

THIS!: “uni­fy­ing all touch points for the entire user expe­ri­ence…”

“Toward A Uni­fied Whole”

“..the goal of UX is to deliv­er a con­sis­tent, uni­fied user expe­ri­ence regard­less of where the expe­ri­ence begins, con­tin­ues, and ends”

From my per­spec­tive work­ing with babies in my home, the child’s home or in a group care facil­i­ty:

“1. Func­tion and form” = space and mate­ri­als mat­ter
“2. Data sym­me­try” = what chil­dren ‘get’ from their total envi­ron­ment

Cameron gives an exam­ple, on page 3, of a phone user com­par­ing a web­site with the same site on his desk­top. He is con­fused because every­thing looks dif­fer­ent. He then doesn’t trust the site.

Chil­dren like­wise look to trust the facil­i­ty they are in and when the facil­i­ty acts con­fused (as in: there are con­stant changes of staff, even room envi­ron­ment) they are unable to trust. They don’t feel safe even though their par­ents tell them each day that they’ll have a won­der­ful time(!). Instinc­tive­ly (and a young child’s instinct is very pow­er­ful, even though we tend to ignore it!) the chil­dren know that this is not a place they should trust. Heck, I’ve worked in such places and I did­n’t trust many of the staff!

I quote Cameron again:

“When the holis­tic expe­ri­ence is cohesive………users’ men­tal mod­els and even mus­cle mem­o­ry are pre­served”; “…the expe­ri­ence is rough­ly the same…”

“It’s impor­tant to avoid mind­less repli­ca­tion of aes­thet­ics and func­tion­al­i­ty for the sake of cohesion…the goal is a uni­fied whole not a car­bon copy. Affor­dances and con­ces­sions should be made as con­text and intu­ition require”

From a child­care per­spec­tive this says to me (based on my expe­ri­ence): “We should not be pro­vid­ing numer­ous Montes­sori mate­ri­als (as one exam­ple), shelves etc., ‘for looks’, espe­cial­ly if they don’t in fact serve the needs of the chil­dren, the space or the staff.”

“Data Sym­me­try”

Cameron says: “Data sym­me­try involves the rep­e­ti­tion, con­ti­nu­ity or syn­chronic­i­ty of data across screens, devices and plat­forms”

In child­care there should be con­ti­nu­ity in all ways across the var­i­ous class­rooms. No child should feel ‘out of sync’ with his new class­room or teach­ers.

“Things to Con­sid­er”

“Inven­to­ry the ele­ments that com­prise your prod­uct expe­ri­ence and cohe­si­fy them.”

Cat­e­go­rize things need­ed in day­care: out­door space and access, indoor space to move around, safe­ty, mate­ri­als that are essen­tial to the dai­ly run­ning of the facil­i­ty. Learn from staff what items are fre­quent­ly out of stock and work on a plan to have reserves.

In my opin­ion: The great­est con­sid­er­a­tion is know­ing who is your end user!

When on the com­put­er – you are the per­son who mat­ters; the ordi­nary per­son, non-geek like me but with a rea­son­able brain. My opin­ion mat­ters but I have only been asked my opin­ion of how a web­site works…once!

In the case of a child­care facil­i­ty the ‘end user’ is not the par­ent (even though they are providers of the $$) it is the child.

A few years ago I did an infor­mal assess­ment of the chil­dren who had attend­ed the day­care where I worked for sev­er­al years. When I reached a point where 80% of the chil­dren who had attend­ed had expe­ri­enced mis­treat­ment and neglect at the hands of the very inex­pe­ri­enced staff, I stopped my study. After four years I left the facil­i­ty, very dis­cour­aged and very pes­simistic about group care in ear­ly child­hood.

In try­ing to assess the ‘whys’ I count­ed up the num­ber of dif­fer­ent staff over a four-year peri­od and arrived at twen­ty; that’s twen­ty new faces dur­ing the years most chil­dren attend­ed! When I eval­u­at­ed the work eth­ic of those staff mem­bers includ­ing atti­tude and expe­ri­ence, a high per­cent­age weren’t even remote­ly equipped to do a job, which in my mind is one of the poor­est paid and yet most impor­tant in a child’s life.

I’m becom­ing more and more con­vinced that this total lack of Cohe­sive User Expe­ri­ence in child­care insti­tu­tions (and on occa­sion in at-home care) is the rea­son for the bur­geon­ing num­ber of devel­op­men­tal delays in every cat­e­go­ry.

These issues will not be resolved by pour­ing more mon­ey into child­care. Nor can it be resolved by pay­ing staff more, nor by a facil­i­ty pre­sent­ing the façade of being exclu­sive by virtue of the name it car­ries across its front door — as in Montes­sori or Reg­gio Emil­ia, for exam­ple; two rel­a­tive­ly unreg­u­lat­ed (in the US) edu­ca­tion­al philoso­phies.

To my knowl­edge the only facil­i­ty that has reflect­ed and com­pre­hen­sive­ly doc­u­ment­ed Cohe­sive User Expe­ri­ence (com­mon­ly known as Con­ti­nu­ity of Care in the child­care world) with regard to ear­ly child­hood care for many decades, is Emmi Pikler’s post-WWII Loczy orphan­age in Hun­gary.

Those who have stud­ied there in the 21st Cen­tu­ry are gen­uine­ly striv­ing to uphold Pik­ler val­ues back in their home coun­tries. In the US the work of Mag­da Ger­ber and her Edu­car­ing Approach, known as RIE (Resources for Infant Edu­car­ers), strives to impart what Mag­da learned from Emmi Pik­ler, her own pedi­a­tri­cian, to par­ents, and their chil­dren from birth to 2 years of age. There are a hand­ful of ear­ly care facil­i­ties in the US which strive to repli­cate Pik­ler and Gerber’s phi­los­o­phy. Else­where in the world New Zealand seems to be work­ing hard at pro­vid­ing edu­ca­tion­al oppor­tu­ni­ties for its ear­ly care staff and rais­ing the lev­el of care for babies and young chil­dren. In Eng­land Pik­ler’s work is being com­bined with a Steiner/Waldorf edu­ca­tion for the care of young chil­dren.

My grat­i­tude to Cameron Moll for per­mit­ting me to use his arti­cle as a tool to explain how day­cares can bet­ter make pro­vi­sion for the true and nat­ur­al men­tal and phys­i­cal devel­op­ment of young chil­dren.

Find his work at:

www.cameronmoll.com/
https://authenticjobs.com/

Read more about Cameron here:

https://thegreatdiscontent.com/interview/cameron-moll

Links to RIE, Mag­da Ger­ber’s work and respect­ful care prac­tices for infants and young chil­dren:

RIE’s web­site: rie.org
A trib­ute site to Mag­da Ger­ber and her work: magdagerber.org
Janet Lans­bury’s Ele­vat­ing Child­care RIE blog: janetlansbury.com
Lisa Sun­bury Ger­ber’s RIE blog: regardingbaby.org

Links to Emmi Pik­ler’s work around the world:

Pik­ler UK site: thepiklercollection.weebly.com
Pikler/Loczy Fund USA site: pikler.org