Nothing can be more gut-wrenching for a new mother, than leaving her baby to be cared for by others when she resumes working. Sonia Chugh understands this. That's why she started Happy Minds International (or HMI in short), which now boasts the only dedicated infant daycare centres in Mumbai for babies as young as 4 months.
Caring for babies is VERY different from caring for older kids
Sonia designed the Infant centre keeping in mind that babies’ needs are significantly different from those of toddlers and pre-schoolers. For example, every baby has his or her own schedule - specific nap times, meal times and play times which their own body clock and earliest experiences have accustomed them to. It is extremely important to respect this individual schedule in a baby's earliest months so that he or she can thrive.
To make sure that this individual schedule is strictly adhered to, there is a dedicated caregiver, ‘Didi’ as she is called, for every two babies. Didi is supervised at all times by the teacher in charge of her section. Your child’s teacher and didi know your child's specific schedule in detail, and make sure that it is maintained exactly as you would wish.
The teacher, who is a qualified professional educator, also makes sure that each of the infants under her care receives the attention and guidance that they need at their particular stage of development. For example, an infant who is just learning to stand will be further motivated by involving her in activities that strengthen her limbs, and will be encouraged verbally and using toys, to learn to balance herself.
The teacher conducts a plethora of activities, such as finger-painting, music sessions and storytelling, which keeps the child engaged and alert and helps them grow and learn in a fun and sensitive manner.HMI’s mode of teaching has been designedbased on Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, which emphasizes the need to find each individual’s strengths and use them to accelerate the learning process.
HMI’s Powai Infant care centre manager, Dr.Prajakta Paranjape, oversees the teacher, while also taking a leading role in the teaching activities. Dr.Prajakta, a physiotherapist with extensive experience in the child care industry, feels that infant care requires specialised attention which a home-based arrangement might fall short of. “Young infants take their firsts steps in language development at birth, and by 8 to 10 months, some of them may begin to use protowords – sounds that are similar to words”, she says. “However well-intentioned a child’s ayah in a home-based arrangement may be, she might simply not know the right way to go about stimulating the baby’s growing mind and body.”
A growing baby has growing needs
As your baby grows and gets more comfortable at the centre, the teacher helps him or her transition so that he or she can socialise with the other babies and learn to speak and play by themselves. The day now starts with exploration, using blocks or stackers, followed by a nutritious breakfast. The rest of the morning is dedicated to rhymes, fine motor activities, exercise and, for the youngest infants, "Tummy Time" where the young tots get to zoom across the floor on all fours!
Lunch is prepared by the in-house chef using only the most nutritious ingredients sourced from the most reliable outlets. HMI prides itself on their dedication to serving only the most healthful food cooked using the most nutritious ingredients. High quality Milk and unpolished daals are used along with kolam rice that is easy to digest. Wherever possible, olive oil is used. Fresh fruits and vegetables are sourced fresh daily.
Lunch is followed by naptime. On waking up, the children have their milk, and then go out into the fresh air with their teachers and didis to play in the garden. Then come snacks, fruits, play time with drawing, painting and stories. At 7:30 PM the babies have dinner and get changed for the night, and are then engaged in musical and sensory activities until they're picked up by their parents.
Safety and Hygiene – every parent’s first concerns
The babies each have their own dedicated crib. Parents bring in freshly laundered sheets, while the rubber-covered mattresses are washed down and sanitised regularly. Activity toys, such as slides and blocks, are washed after each use, but teething, security and transition toys are personal, and unique to each child. The caregiver keeps an eagle eye open for your baby picking another child’s toy and putting it in her mouth – that’s a no-no! Each item belonging to the child is kept in respective child's allocated storage space.
At no time is baby ever left unattended – there is a separate cleaning staff so that the caregiver can give her undivided attention to baby at all times. And there are paediatricians on call at each of the centres at all times; Dr. Sanjeev Ahuja (Hiranandani Hospital), Dr. Ramesh Iyer, Dr.Meena G. Narayan and Dr.Ratnakar Shetty (Central Health Home). As Sonia says with justifiable pride, “We are NAEYC-accredited, but our attendant-child ratio and our hygiene and safety standards actually go above and beyond the industry-recommended standards. And we wouldn’t have it any other way!”
The emphasis is on complete transparency and constant communication
HMI understands that every parent needs to know exactly how their baby is doing, and what he or she is up to, at all times. Each child has their very own ‘Communication book’. The Communication book is a detailed log of the child’s day, where each and every detail of the child’s day - details about the feed, body temperature, mood, diapers, sleep, medications if any, along with precise timings and measurements are noted down. This means that at the end of the day, every parent knows exactly how their young darling has spent the day, and what activities he or she has been engaged in.
In addition, parents are encouraged to call in to inquire about their baby whenever they feel like it. Mothers can come in to breastfeed their babies in a separate room. Parents can visit the centre and view their child on the CCTV cameras, so that they can reassure themselves that their child is happy and safe.
At the end of the day, HMI will go that extra mile to ensure you will have the best possible idea of what your little one's day has been like. And if you want more details, the teacher can fill you in. Every possible facility will be granted so that you, and more importantly, your baby, feels comfortable, secure and loved at Happy Minds International.
In your baby’s happy gurgle is HMI’s greatest triumph
FalguniDoshi, Regional Manager at the Bhandup Centre who has a Masters in Child Psychology, has the final word. “Ultimately, every parent wants the best for their child – and so do we. While we are confident that we have tailor-made our facility to provide the best possible environment for your child, we realise that parents are the best judges. Hence, we encourage parents to voice their concerns on any issue whatsoever, however small, and we strive to improve ourselves at every juncture,” she asserts.
“Louis Pasteur has put it best; ‘When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments; tenderness for what he is, and respect for what he may become.’ Those two qualities – tenderness and respect for the child – are what we stand for,”she signs off.
Do you have some questions or concerns you’d like to share with HMI? Head over to http://www.thehappyminds.com/ for more details, or give them a buzz at 40125011 (Powai centre)/41236803 (Bhandup centre).Or you could drop them a message on Facebook at facebook.com/happymindspowai or facebook.com/happymindsbhandup. They’d love to hear from you.
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