Can you please help us understand the new ABC guideline that suggests we need to have a “least restrictive environment” in our infant toddler classrooms? There seems to be some confusion about whether or not programs will lose points on an ABC visit just for having the equipment in the room vs. having it and overusing it. Also, there is some confusion about how this guideline applies to Strollers and ‘Bye Bye Buggies’.
The ABC Level B standards have always encouraged a “least restrictive environment” for children ages 0-2. Recently, the addition of the new “ABC Grow Healthy” standards have placed even more emphasis on this practice. It is important for young children to have opportunities to freely explore their environment, provided that proper safety precautions have been addressed. Young children are developing muscle control and need many opportunities to practice their newfound skills. Caregivers should design their classrooms to encourage movement by providing many places for infants and toddlers to move and explore.
Per the new “ABC Grow Healthy” standards, all ABC Level B programs are required to have a Physical Activity Policy which includes the practice of providing a least restrictive environment for infants, toddlers and two’s. This policy should be shared with parents and staff annually.
In the classroom, ABC highly discourages the use of any confining equipment. Examples of confining equipment can include an exer-saucer, chair with strap, or a “bucket-seat” table. If any of these items are observed in the classroom during an ABC review, the monitor will assume that they are used and no points will be given for “least restrictive environment” items.
Cribs and high-chairs can also be considered confining equipment if children are placed in them for extended periods of time or for any other purpose than sleeping or eating. If this practice is observed during an ABC review then no points will be given for “least restrictive environment” items.
For active outdoor play, providers may use a “Bye-Bye Buggy” or stroller to transport children to the play space. Children must be removed from the equipment and allowed to explore the outdoor play area in order to receive credit for outdoor play. If the outdoor experience for children only consists of a “ride” in the “Bye-Bye Buggy” or stroller then no points will be awarded for outdoor play and no points will be awarded for “least restrictive environment”.