By Brenda Hoge
“When handwashing is done correctly by children and adults - there can be a 17% reduction in respiratory infections for young children This translates to preventing more than 100,000 colds per year.
What is the issue?
One of the most commonly missed indicators on the Environment Rating scales is using proper handwashing techniques for children and teachers. We hear from many teachers that they are spending most of their day washing hands. They say that following the proper procedures are “impossible.” We want to clarify why handwashing is important and give some helpful tips about how to wash correctly.
Why is handwashing important?
Handwashing is the most important way to reduce the spread of infection. Many studies have shown that unwashed or improperly washed hands are the primary carriers of infections, particularly among infants and toddlers. Since many infected people carry communicable diseases without having symptoms and many are contagious before they experience a symptom, staff members need to protect themselves and the children they serve by carrying out hygienic procedures on a routine basis.
What does the research tell us?
Proper handwashing is extremely important for infants and toddlers. Research has shown that infants are especially vulnerable to infectious disease between 6 months and 9 months of age, when the protection of being in utero wears off. From that point, it takes until children are 2 years of age before their immune systems are fully functioning.
For preschoolers, studies have shown that deficiencies in handwashing have contributed to many outbreaks of diarrhea among children and caregivers in child care centers. In child care centers that have implemented a hand-washing training program, the incidence of diarrheal illness has decreased by 50%. Another study found that handwashing helped to reduce colds when frequent and proper handwashing practices were incorporated into a child care center's curriculum. Finally, when handwashing is done correctly by children and adults- there can be a 17% reduction in respiratory infections for young children. This translates to preventing more than 100,000 colds per year.
So why do we need to wash correctly?
The correct handwashing procedure is as follows: Hands must be wet first with warm water, which helps loosen soil, including infection-causing organisms. Next, soap must be applied. The soap lather also helps to loosen the soil and brings it into solution on the surface of the skin. To be effective, this process should take at least 20 seconds to complete. Hands must then be rinsed, which moves the lather off into the sink, as well as the soil from the hands that the soap brought into solution. Finally, hands must be dried with a single-service dispensed towel, which prohibits the spread of germs between children. Without these steps, potential infection-causing organisms will remain on the skin and then those can be transferred between teachers and children.
So what are some helpful tips for carrying out these procedures?
- The most important tip that teachers can use to teach children how to wash hands correctly is to role-model by washing their hands correctly. Often times it is the teachers who are not doing the procedures correctly, rather than the children. By being good role-models children understand not only how to wash but it emphasizes the importance of washing.
- The second tip is to supervise children while they are washing. Children need to be reminded of the handwashing steps regardless of their age. The programs that are the most successful at handwashing are the programs that have the teachers supervising the procedures. This does not necessarily mean that teachers need to be at the sink with the children (although this is recommended for younger children and at the beginning of the school year), but that they are watching from wherever they are in the classroom and reminding children when steps are missed and praising them when it is done correctly.
- One helpful tip that can help children remember the steps is to have a poster with pictures of a child (preferably one of the children in the class), performing each of the steps. This should be posted at all sinks that children and adults are using. One school district made a story board out of the pictures, and children practiced which steps come first, next, etc.
- Another tip for having children wash for 20 seconds is to have them sing a song. Some popular songs that are used are“Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” “ABC song,” and “Happy Birthday.” Feel free to have the children make up their own songs, or give them a list of songs that they can choose from.
- Finally, if you are having trouble with the amount of time it takes to wash all of the children’s hands during transitions, one way you can do it is to wash as a group. One of our home providers came up with putting water in a spray bottle which she then sprays onto the children’s hands (hands are wet step). She then applies dispenser soap to each child’s hands, and they sing a song together as a group (soap and 20 sec. step is met). She then has them line up at the sink and they rinse their hands under running water (rinse step). Then they dry their hands with a paper towel (dry step). This process is very quick and it eliminates a lot of the issues of children waiting at the table and in line for a long amount of time.
So can handwashing be done correctly?
Yes, it can. It just takes some creativity (like what was mentioned above), some persistence, and some supervision. One thing to remember is that if children and teachers are absent because they are sick, the children are not learning. So it really is worth taking the time and effort to make sure that handwashing is done correctly.
American Academy of Pediatrics, National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care (U.S.), American Public Health Association, & United States (2002). Caring for our children: National health and safety performance standards : guidelines for out-of-home child care (2nd ed.). Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.
Hawks, D., Ascheim, J., Giebink, G. S., & Solnit, A. J. (1994). Caring for our children: National health and safety performance standards-Guidelines for out-of-home care. American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, & National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care.
Krapp, K., Wilson, J., & Thomas, G. (2005). Immune System Development. In Encyclopedia of Children's Health.
Roberts, L., Smith, W., Jorm, L., Patel, M., Douglas, R. M., & McGilchrist, C. (2000). Effect of Infection Control Measures on the Frequency of Upper Respiratory Infection in Child Care: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. Pediatrics. doi:10.1542/peds.105.4.738-42.
Niffenegger, J. P. (1997). Proper handwashing promotes wellness in child care. Journal of Pediatric Health Care. doi:10.1016/S0891-5245(97)90141-3 11: 26-31
Wald, E., Dashefsky, B., Byers, C., Guerra, N., & Taylor, F.(1988). Frequency and severity of infections in day care. Journal of Pediatrics. doi:10.1016/S0022-3476(88)80164-1 -112:540-546
By Sena Harjo
Food is crucial for development in any age of people. Babies and young children need nutrition in order to assist their bodies in developing the strength, ability and cognitive processing that will carry them into many years of joy and learning. Elementary age children and teens need nutrition to keep their bodies and minds growing, changing and transforming into the amazing adults that will create new beginnings within in our communities and in families of their own. And adults and elders need nutrition in order to maintain healthy lifestyles and to be able to engage and interact in their world to the best of their ability. As important as fresh food and healthy choices are, we at Clayton Early Learning have found that for many of our families, food insecurity is a persistent concern and stress in their everyday lives.
During the 2012-2013 school year, Clayton surveyed parents about whether they were able to afford all of the food they need for their families. Families were asked questions like: How frequently are you anxious about running out of food? How often does the food run out before you have money to purchase more? What we found was that many of our families are facing some very difficult circumstances. 47.1% of our families worry about running out of food regularly and 35.6% of families are regularly facing empty cabinets at mealtimes. For our families this means over a third of our students are going without food at home from day to day.
So what is Clayton Early Learning doing about it?
First of all, Clayton Early Learning is making sure to consistently provide exciting healthy and fresh meals and snacks to the students enrolled in the many different program options that we serve. We also have a nutrition staff to support families who have questions and situations needing dietary supports. We cultivate two on-campus gardens to provide produce used in the kitchen, as learning opportunities’ for the classrooms and in fundraising opportunities’ for the programs. Also, throughout the year we offer Cooking Matters classes, where families can sign up to learn how to prepare healthy meals at home. Clayton’s new initiative, however, connects the learning from the classrooms into a service model, while offering a connection to fresh vegetables and fruits. Clayton will be having their very first Youth Farmer’s Market right on the Clayton campus!
This October 23rd from 2:30pm to 4:30pm the students and families of Clayton Early Learning will be running a fresh produce market where families, staff, and the community will have access to low cost fresh produce. Patrons will be able to purchase a variety of items promoting a yummy, healthy lifestyle. We will be selling carrots, chilies, cucumbers, onions, jalapenos, red potatoes, squash, pears and apples!
We invite you to come and join in the conversation about food resources and healthy options in our community. The staff and families at Clayton Early Learning are invested in creating the best outcomes possible for our children and communities. We look forward to seeing you there!
Youth Farmer’s Market
Time and Location:
Date: October 23, 2013
Time: 2:30pm - 4:30pm
Clayton Early Learning (school parking lot)
3751 Martin Luther King Blvd.
Denver, CO 80205
Resources: Images courtesy of Sena Harjo.
By Debbie Gray
Building with blocks provides one of the most valuable learning experiences available for young children. Block play stimulates learning in all domains of development, intellectual, physical, and social-emotional and language. The current research shows that block play is fundamental for later cognitive success for learning math and numbers. In a research study, “Block Play Performance among Preschoolers as a Predictor of Later School Achievement in Mathematics”, published in the Journal of Research in Early Childhood Education, the researchers proved that children who play with blocks when they are three, four and fives years of age will do better in math, especially Algebra in middle school.
The progression of block play and concepts learned
There is a natural progression of block play and introducing infants and toddlers to block play is invaluable.
Toddlers- When toddlers are first introduced to blocks they may learn how to hold on to them, how they feel, how heavy they are, they explore the bright colors, and begin to carry them around. They will experiment with how blocks may sound when they fall, or when they bang them together. Soon toddlers are learning cause and effect as they are filling and dumping, stacking, knocking down and laying blocks side by side on the floor. Concepts such as learning sizes, comparing objects by making exact matches and the order of objects are also being learned. Socially, block play contributes to their developing self confidence, for example as they learn how to stack blocks they are proud of their success and feel a sense of accomplishment. Through block play a young child’s expressive and receptive language is being expanded by learning words such as “fill,” “dump,” “pick up,” “stack,” “balance,” “tall”, and “short.”
Three year old- Three year olds block play will look different as they move into a simple constructive type of play. A three year old usually plays alone or near other children and are beginning to engage in pretend play. They are starting to build enclosures that resemble zoos, farm pens, roads and castles. They are learning concepts such as sorting, ordering, counting, one to one correspondence, size and shape.
Four and Five Year olds-At four and five children’s block play is more experienced, developed, balanced coordinated and organized. Constructive play involves play that is more open- ended and exploratory. Children begin to combine structures to make more complex buildings. Socially, four and five year olds are beginning to share ideas and are starting to cooperate and build with others. They may use block accessories such as people, transportation vehicles, and animals to engage in imaginary/ pretend play. They are learning more complex patterns, classifying, sequencing, counting, fractions and problem solving. According to article “Constructive Play” written by Walter Frew et.al, “Block play shows the opportunity for conceptual understanding in the area of structural engineering as children explore forces of gravity, compression, tension and the relationship between materials and successful design to achieve balance, stability, and even aesthetic sensibility.”
Preschoolers are beginning to notice and explore more 3– dimensional objects such as cones, cylinders, cubes and prisms, (geometry). Science is also being learned through block play as children start making predictions, comparisons, experiment with cause and effect, stability and balance. Their vocabulary is also expanded by block play as they develop an understanding of spatial relations and words such as “under,” “over,” “off,” “bottom,” “top,” “through,” and “beside.”
What type of environment and materials are needed to encourage block play?
Toddler Environment- Block play should be set up in an area that is free from other distractions and out of traffic. The type of blocks needed in meet the Environment Rating Scale for Infants and Toddlers – Revised Edition, should be non-interlocking and at least 2 inches by 2 inches. The ITERS-R tool suggests at least three sets of different types of blocks. Each set should contain at least 10 blocks to allow the children enough to properly explore. Accessories such as people, animals and transportation vehicles should also be available to expand play. Types of blocks recommended are:
- Light weight hollow brick blocks
- Cardboard blocks
- Fabric blocks
- Hard and soft plastic
- Wooden and foam blocks
Preschool Environment- The space in a classroom for block play is critical since preschoolers will be doing more constructive play where larger complex structures are made, with larger sized blocks, and many children working together. It is essential the block space is large enough to accommodate this type of play. The Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale – Revised Edition recommends the block play area should be big enough to allow at least three children to build sizable structures. Block play is more vigorous and louder than other areas in the classroom and should be located in a more active area of the classroom. Many teachers locate the block area next to the dramatic play area since both areas encourage cooperative imaginary play. The ECERS -R recommends the preschoolers have at least 2 different sets of blocks with 10-20 blocks in each set. Types of blocks suggested:
- Large hollow blocks, ramps, boards
- Unit blocks (as many shapes and sizes as possible, wooden or foam)
- Cardboard blocks
- Blocks made from boxes or milk cartons, covered with cloth or contact-paper
- Packing boxes Boards, sticks, logs, tree-stump rounds and stumps
- Cardboard, metal, or plastic tubes
Accessories are also essential to allow children more imaginary play. The blocks should be stored in low open labeled shelves. The unit blocks should be labeled by shape to encourage organization, shape matching, and easy clean up.
Block play is also strongly encouraged outside as there is often times more room for children to build even larger structures. The ECERS-R tool recommends a large flat surface, out of the way of traffic, with enough blocks and accessories for three children.
The teacher’s Role?
In the article, “Constructive Play” the authors suggest the teachers receive “Professional development experiences that feature hands on constructive play with open-ended materials. Adults who engage in active inquiry and construct knowledge through creative exploration with materials are more positively disposed to encouraging children to do the same.” The article goes on the say that teachers who play develop an understanding and appreciation of play!
Teachers who describe the children’s action while they are engaged in block play are helping the children develop receptive and expressive language. Teachers who ask open ended questions encourage more conversation and opportunities to expand on the children’s thought process. Encourage children to reason by asking “reasoning type” questions, “ What will happen if you put that block on top?,” “Which row is bigger, which one is smaller?,” “How many blocks high is that structure?” “Is that taller than your friend?”
The lessons learned in block play are fundamental to the growth and development of children. It is an activity which should be a part of every child’s experience throughout the early years.
Walter Drew, James Christie, James Johnson, Alice Meckley, and Marcia Nell. July 2008, “Constructive Play” NAEYC Young Child, 38-44
Eugene Geist, May 2009, “Infants and Toddlers Exploring Mathematics” NAEYC Young Child, 39-41
Charles H. Wolfgang, Laura L. Stannard, Ithel Jones, Spring- Summer 2001, Block Play Performance Among Preschoolers As a Predictor of Later School Achievement in Mathematics”,Journal of Research in Childhood Education, Spring-Summer, 2001. Retrieved July, 2 2009 from, http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb1439/is_2_15/ai_n28877649/
Thelma Harms, Debby Cryer, Cathy Riley, 2003, All About the ECERS- R, New York, NY: Kaplan Early Learning Company.
Thelma Harms, Debby Cryer, Cathy Riley, 2003, All About the ITERS-R, New York, NY: Kaplan Learning Company.
By Brenda Hoge
One of the more challenging criteria to meet on the Infant-Toddler Environment Rating Scale-Revised (ITERS-R) is taking infants and toddlers outdoors to play for an hour every day. We often hear from providers that “parents don’t want their infant outdoors because they’ll get sick” or that “there’s no time to take young children outside when there are so many routines and individualized schedules.” So why is it important to take infants and toddlers outdoors? How do you set up a safe outdoor environment for them? And finally, what do you do with them once you get them outdoors?
Importance of Outdoor Play
During the first few years of life, infants and toddlers are trying to make sense of their world. One of the ways they do this is by soaking up every noise, every sound, and every experience that they have. They then take this information and come up with ideas about how the world works. So, not only is being outdoors an enjoyable experience for infants and toddlers, it’s critical for cognitive development. During the first three years of life, brain synapses form at a rapid rate. These synapses are formed based on the richness of the child’s sensory environment. So, it would make sense that childcare providers would want to provide a stimulating environment for infants and toddlers, both indoors and outdoors. In addition, the knowledge they gain outdoors provides a foundation to literacy and science learning (Dewey, 1938/1963).
Outdoor experiential learning also promotes early language development. Having a rich sensory experience gives young children something to talk about. When an infant feels the leaves or the toddler notices the airplane in the sky, they are more inclined to verbalize this experience because it will elicit a favorable response by their caregivers.
This verbalization to others also promotes social development. Even infants, who do not have the ability to physically play with others, are able to watch others, which is the first step in social development (Oesterreich, 1995).
Finally, outdoor experiences are critical for infant and toddler physical development. According to Gabbard (1998), the “window of opportunity” for acquiring basic motor movements is from prenatal to five years of age. During this time the brain gathers and stores information, and a solid foundation for movement activities is built. Infants need interesting things to look at from a horizontal and vertical position. They need materials and space to practice
crawling and things to pull up on, so that they can learn to walk. Toddlers need space and materials that will help them act out prepositions-over, under, on top of, inside, outside, behind, in front of, up, and down (Rivkin, 2000).
How to set up an Outdoor Play Environment
Infants and toddlers require constant supervision when they are outdoors. Because they are exploring their world, they often taste it first, which can result in more exposure to germs or to choking hazards. Therefore, it is necessary to make sure that all potential choking hazards are removed from the area and that caregivers are in close proximity to children so that they can remove unwanted objects from mouths.
Infants and toddlers also need a surface that will allow them to move around easily. This surface should be accessible to all children. It should be made of materials that will not get too hot in the summer or too icy in the winter. It should provide comfort, tactile experiences, and protect children when they fall. Because children are still mastering balance, there must be enough room to move without hitting a hard surface or sharp edges. The surfacing material should be around all equipment over 18 in. tall so that when children fall, it won’t cause any life-threatening head injuries or broken bones.
The outdoor equipment should challenge children, but should be based on realistic expectations about what children at this age can and cannot do. All anchored equipment should be designed for toddlers, based on the new ASTM F 2373-05 guidelines for children ages 6 months to 23 months. Many playground manufacturers are not aware of these new standards therefore, it is important to check with them before purchasing equipment. Also, keep in mind that young toddlers are just learning to walk. They do not need high equipment, ladders, or climbers because they haven’t mastered taking large steps. Walking across a low, wide bridge or balance beam is challenging to them. Playing with riding toys, trikes, wagons (where they can put other materials in it), and different sizes of balls are just as interesting as climbing onto a structure. For infants, providing grass, balls, push toys, tunnels, and a ramp for crawling is just as stimulating as having a slide or a baby swing.
“A playground should be like a small-scale replica of the world, with as many as possible of the sensory experiences to be found in the world included in it. Experiences for every sense are needed for instance: rough and smooth; objects to look at and feel; light and heavy things to pick up; water and wet materials as well as dry things; cool materials and materials warmed by the sun; soft and hard surfaces; things that make sounds or that can be struck, plucked, plinked, etc.; smells of all varieties; shiny, bright objects and dull, dark ones; things both huge and tiny; high and low places to look at and from; materials of every type-natural, synthetic, thin, thick, and so on. The list is inexhaustible, and the larger the number of items that are included, the richer and more varied the environment for the child (Greenman, 1988).”
So what do you do with infants and toddlers outdoors?
Beyond the activities already mentioned, there are many interesting and fun experiences that you can provide for both infants and toddlers outdoors.
For children 0-3 months:
Provide a blanket for the baby to lay on. Point out the leaves moving, let them feel the leaves or grass, and point out the nature sounds that they hear.
For children 3 months-6 months:
With the blanket, let the child explore on his/her stomach. Bring out objects to grasp, books, or activity gyms. Again, point out the things happening in nature and let them feel natural objects.
For children 6 months-9 months:
Create a texture path on the ground using assorted textures, such as carpet squares, rugs, grass, and resilient surfacing. The children can crawl along this path to explore large motor skills and sensory stimulation (Miller, 1989). Provide tunnels, balls, and safe sensory tubes.
For children 9 months-12 months:
Provide balls, bubbles, and toys that are sturdy enough for them to practice standing. For early walkers, provide simple push toys. Attach musical toys, activity centers, and mirrors to the fence at different levels for children who are still crawling and for children who are standing.
For toddlers: Continue to add more materials that reflect the variety of developmental skills. Bring out riding toys and trikes, wagons to pull, baby carriages with dolls, large trucks to push, etc. Bring some music outdoors so that children can practice dancing, jumping, and twirling outdoors. Set up simple games. The HAPPE (High Autonomy Physical Play Environment), provides a great list of games for toddlers that can be played outdoors. Set up obstacle courses where toddlers can climb over and under material and walk a curved path. And finally, provide a garden outdoors so that children can learn about soil, plants, and insects.
So what about the weather and the parents?
The ITERS-R does require that infants and toddlers spend an hour a day outdoors, weather permitting. “Weather permitting” can be subject to interpretation of course. Thelma Harms, who is one of the authors of the Environment Rating Scales, often speaks of an old Swedish saying that says “there is no bad weather, only bad clothes.” If you travel to different sites across Colorado you will see this reflected on the Western slope where infants and toddlers are dressed in snow suits, gloves, hats, and boots to go outside in the winter. If the mountain communities waited until the weather was “appropriate,” they would only get to be outside from June-October. The children are warm, happy, and excited to be outdoors. The only complaints are from the teachers who are often not dressed appropriately. Work with your parents on providing appropriate clothing for all kinds of weather and a change of clothes for when children get dirty. Also set up a clothing donation box so that parents, teachers, or other adults in the program can drop off winter clothing that no longer fits their child. You can then use that clothing for children who do not have extra warm winter clothes. Even if infants and toddlers are only out for 5 or 10 minutes because the weather is bad, it will help prevent illness and it will give them some of those sensory experiences that are so critical for their development.
Remember that the experiences that infants and toddlers have outdoors while they are in child-care, may in fact, be the only opportunity they have to really explore the outdoors. By taking infants and toddlers outdoors, you are providing wonderful opportunity and you are setting up a good model for parents to follow. If children learn to love being outdoors when they are young, it will make them healthier. It will also help ensure that they will take better care of our world when they are adults.
Dempsey, J. (2005) Outdoor play and playgrounds for infants and toddlers [Electronic version]. Available online. Accessed October 18, 2007.
Dewey, J. (1938/1963). Experience and Education. New York: Collier.
Gabbard, C. (1998). Windows of opportunity for early brain and motor development. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, Volume 69, pp. 54-55.
Greenman, J. (1988). Caring spaces, learning places. Children’s environments that work. Redmond, WA.: Exchange Press.
Harms, T., Cryer, D., and Clifford, R. (2006). Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale-Revised Edition. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Oesterreich, L. (1995). Ages & Stages-Newborn to 1 year [Electronic version]. In L. Oesterreich, B. Holt, & S. Karas, Iowa family child care handbook [Pm 1541] (pp 192-196). Ames, IA: Iowa State University Extension.
Parish, L.E. and Rudisill, M.E. (2006). HAPPE: Toddlers in physical play [Electronic version]. Journal of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Retrieved October 18, 2007, from www.journal.naeyc.org/btj/200605/parishBTJ.asp.
Rivkin, M.S. (2000, December). Outdoor Experiences for young children [Electronic version]. ERIC Digest. Retrieved October 11, 2007, from www.ericdigests.org/2001-3/children.htm (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 448013).
If you are a program or a practitioner working with infants and toddlers, or a parent of a child in this lovely stage of development, you may be interested in the topic of “Continuity of Care”. In fact, I would argue that if you have a stake in the development of a young child in the age range of 0-3, you SHOULD be interested in this topic.
Continuity of care describes a care setting in which children stay with the same caregiver from the time they enter group care as an infant to the time they transition to a preschool classroom at the age of three. This concept is very different than what typically takes place in many centers across the United States, where children transition to a new classroom with new teachers when they reach new milestones like walking and toilet training. Because infants and toddlers are establishing their identities and striving to make sense of their world at this stage of development, they need a close bond with a responsive, primary caregiver to feel secure enough to explore their world. When they stay with the same trusted person and receive consistently loving care, they develop a schema that they are taken care of, therefore they are loveable. The infant or toddler who develops this trust in their world can turn their attention to new discoveries in physical, cognitive, social-emotional, and language and literacy development and really thrive in a learning environment (Howes, 1998; Lally, 1995).
Although this concept has been accumulating positive data in terms of child outcomes since the early 1990s, it is an approach that brings many challenges in implementation. Aside from the special waivers a center must obtain from the state licensing department so toddlers and infants can be in the same space together, there are a myriad of questions to consider: Should we have mixed-ages of 0-3 together or should children be of the same age range (often called “looping”)? In a looping situation, should the room set-up change as the children grow or should the children move with their caregivers to new classrooms as they develop into busy toddlers? What trainings are needed for staff to feel comfortable working with both infants and toddlers? In a mixed-age group, how should the environment be set up to ensure that both infants and toddlers have a space in which they can thrive? How does a center attract and retain teachers who are responsive and in-tune with young children? What does continuity mean for enrollment? What are some of the challenges that may come up for families?
At Clayton Early Learning, we have begun to explore these questions as we embark on providing continuity of care on a new level. This spring, Clayton opened a new classroom that is being enrolled to include up to three infants under the age of 12 months, as well as five toddlers. In addition, two of our current infant classrooms will be exploring looping by retaining their children as they age and changing the environment to meet the growing needs of the children. We are excited about these new learning opportunities and will no doubt share our discoveries as they occur. What is your experience with continuity of care? Is this the type of environment that can most effectively help children develop a healthy identity?
Howes, C. (1998). Continuity of care: The importance of infant, toddler, caregiver relationships. Zero to Three, 18(6), 7-11.
By Dawn Sweeney
February marked Educare Denver at Clayton Early Learning’s third annual participation in “I Love to Read” month. During the month, a committee of Child and Family Educators and teachers partner together to carefully plan for the event by creating several eye appealing and comfortable areas throughout the Educare building. These reading nooks encourage and entice young children and their families to sit together and read from Clayton’s tremendous selection of developmentally appropriate and interesting books. At our school, we find value in creating a special time for families and children to sit together and share the excitement a good book can bring, but more than that, we know that the bonding and connection between parent and child during those special moments is equally important.
Each year this dedicated committee plans a month-long calendar of events to provide several rich opportunities for families and children around reading books. This year, we offered two days of dialogic reading training for families in both English and Spanish. According to Grover J. (Russ) Whitehurst, Ph.D, “Dialogic reading is just children and adults having a conversation about a book” . In our school, teachers have been trained to use this technique with children in the classroom. They document children’s comments and questions as well as make note of unusual words that they then incorporate into their daily conversations with children. Whitehurst also asserts, “Dialogic reading works. Children who have been read to dialogically are substantially ahead of children who have been read to traditionally on tests of language development. Children can jump ahead by several months in just a few weeks of dialogic reading.”
Shauna Scott, Mentor Coach Child and Family Educator is one of the “I love to Read” committee members. She is passionate about reading and the benefits of children and families doing this activity together. “I love to Read month for me is a great way to instill a love of reading. We might look at dialogic reading and think it is so complex, but it’s not. [Families] are already doing it. It’s such a great way for parents and children to feel valued. Parents can take a trip down memory lane and recall what they loved about reading and remember the books they loved as a child.”
As families read or use dialogic reading, they are encouraged to document the books they have explored with children to be displayed in the Atrium of our Educare building. This year the theme used for the display is a giant apple, which is home to a big green book worm. Little apples documenting the book read and the child’s name are attached to the giant apple display. Last year by the end of February, more than 1000 books had been read! Staff and families were encouraged to guess the total number of books read, and the closest to the actual number received a gift card. This year, we will accept documentation of the books read through the end of the day Thursday, February 28, 2013. Another drawing will be announced for those who guess the total amount of books read.
February and “I Love to Read” month is a fantastic opportunity for us to highlight the work we do with children all year long. Every day teachers spend time reading to children during classroom time. Full-day Head Start Teacher, Vivian Sandoval believes reading is an excellent way to make a “real” connection with children. “Reading is great for children because regardless of what situation they may be in they can escape with a book to go anywhere they want to go.” Part-day Head Start classroom Teacher, Megan Bock appreciates the value of “I Love to Read” month as well. “I like I Love to Read month because it accentuates the importance of families and children reading together.”
Please take a few minutes to sit with a child and help them to explore the wonderful world of books. This simple act has long-lasting and profound benefits to the children in our lives. Together, we can make the love of reading last throughout the year!
Working With Young Families: Training That All Early Childhood Providers Should Have, But Rarely Receive
Most early childhood professionals have taken at least one course (if not several) about how to engage families in their child’s education, how to promote cultural diversity in early education programs and the educator’s role in serving families from all socio-economic backgrounds. While these courses are incredibly invaluable to the competent and intentional teacher, they typically fail to provide an adequate focus on one of our country’s most vulnerable populations: the 1,354 children that are born each day to a teenage mother (DeJong, 2003) Having worked in the early childhood realm for over 8 years as a teacher, administrator and family services professional, I have enjoyed the benefit of extremely advantageous access to professional development opportunities; though I have been consistently surprised regarding the lack of formal training or education that is available for early education professionals who will almost certainly serve teen parent families at some point in their careers. As educators, we know that developing effective relationships with our students and their parents will only serve to support a positive education experience. Like all families, serving teen parents and their children requires a professional approach that is culturally competent and individualized according to the needs of the family. In order to provide this, educators require in-depth training that recognizes the unique needs of teen parents.
My experience with teen parents is both professional and personal. At the age of 16, I became a mother for the first time. Like many teen parents, the news that you will be having a baby took me by surprise and stimulated a great deal of stress and fear for myself as well as the father of my unborn child. The most primitive logistics of how I would care for another human being were completely overwhelming to me throughout my pregnancy and even after Kaleb was born, I lacked confidence in my ability to care for my child. For this reason, introducing Kaleb to a group childcare environment was simultaneously a relief and an additional stress. Throughout Kaleb’s earliest years, I experienced both positive and negative interactions with his early education teachers. Some professionals treated me with the same doubt and shame that I already innately felt, while others were nurturing to me as well as my son. In addition to the challenges presented by the educators’ own biases, my own behaviors were as incomprehensible to them as most teenagers’ actions and words are to their own parents. After years of reflection, I continue to wonder how the interactions between me and providers could have been improved had the teachers been trained on how to support teen families. What kind of parent could I have been for Kaleb if I hadn’t been so resistant to the advice of his teachers? Is there a way that Kaleb’s caregivers could have approached me so that I wouldn’t have felt so judged? So inadequate? Ultimately I wonder how Kaleb’s experience could have been more complete and successful if his parents had been more engaged in his preschool community.
This month I will be presenting my personal story with supporting data and research at the Rocky Mountain Early Childhood Conference. I am looking forward to this opportunity to provide guidance for educators and administrators who strive to develop effective relationships and program engagement with the teen parents they serve today or may serve in the future. The sub-topics that I will discuss are intended to guide teachers in understanding what type of individualization may be necessary to effectively communicate with teens, as well as encourage teachers who may not realize the extent of the impact that providers can have on young families. Some of the content areas that will be reviewed include:
- Teen brain development and how we can use Erikson’s 8 Stages to better understand challenging teen behaviors
- How the psychological effects of teen parenthood may present challenges for providers
- Strategies for building effective and trusting relationships with teen parents (including establishing appropriate roles and professional boundaries)
- How effective early educators can positively impact teen families immediately and in the long-term
Though I will not be the first to present this information for educators, I believe that this topic requires far more academic attention than early education professionals receive in traditional degree or certificate programs. As providers see more and more teens bringing their children to early education centers for care, we must take the initiative with our professional development plans to ensure that we can effectively serve families of all kinds. Teachers can have a powerful impact on parenting behaviors and philosophies. While I look forward to hosting a forum where I can support educators’ practice and approach with teens, I am mutually excited to remind teachers of the potential that exists within their relationships with all families; but especially our teen parents. Though the interactions that teachers have with young families may not be without challenges, there is a great reward in knowing that you have been a support for a parent as well as their child. The chance to educate young families is an opportunity that early education programs cannot afford to lose; especially when the greatest barrier to teacher efficacy is simply a lack of training.
Are you ready to learn more about how we can effectively serve teen families? If so, please attend my presentation at the RMECC on March 1, 2013 at 3:30pm in room 503.
DeJong, L. (2003). Using Erikson to Work More Effectively with Teenage Parents. Young Children, v58 n2, 87-95.
By Brenda Hoge
Think back to when you were in school. Was there something teachers insisted that you learn that you never used and you wouldn't even know when or why you should use it? For me, it was logarithmic functions. When I was in high school, my math teacher insisted that I must learn how to do logarithmic functions and tried to assure me that I couldn't possibly have a career without knowing this. Well, as it turns out, other than the math modules I had to take in college, I have never had to do a logarithmic function and I’m pretty sure I wouldn't even know when to use one. I’m sure it’s useful, maybe even essential knowledge for some professions. But the one thing my teacher neglected to tell me was, “what is it that I need to know and why do I need to know this?” In other words, what was the objective behind logarithmic functions and how is it relevant to my life?
The lack of clarifying the learning objective also happens in preschool. Right now, we are observing classrooms across Denver using the CLASS™ Pre-K tool and one of the indicators that classrooms score low on is Clarity of Learning Objectives. Most teachers have a plan for what children are going to learn each and every day they are in school and most lesson plans have objectives stated. But do we take the time to verbally explain to the children “what is it they are learning and why they are learning this?” Often times we don’t. So what does clarifying the learning objective look like?
According to the CLASS™ Pre-K manual, clarifying the learning objective means that “children should be aware of the point of the lessons or how they should be focusing their attention during activities.” The teacher can do this in a variety of ways:
The first thing you can do is use what is called an Advanced Organizer. Basically what an advanced organizer means is that you state what the objective of the lesson is or what children should be focusing on prior to starting the activity. For example, if your classroom is doing a unit on sea animals and last week you talked about whales and this week you are introducing dolphins, you can use an advanced organizer by saying “We are going to read a story about whales and then a story about dolphins. Think about things that are the same between whales and dolphins and things that are different about them. And as we find the things that are similar and different, we will write them down on our chart.”
The second thing that you could use are Summaries. Summaries are stating what the objective was or what they just learned after the activity. For instance, using the same whales vs. dolphins example, you could use a summary statement by saying, “We just learned that whales and dolphins both live in the ocean and that they are both mammals. They also both have a blowhole at the top of their head. They are different in that whales are bigger, they swim slower than dolphins, and they swim by themselves while dolphins swim in groups.”
The third thing you can use is called a Reorientation statement. This is one of my favorites because there is always one child in your classroom that gets the conversation “off-track.” Now whether that child is really getting the conversation “off-track” or whether they are making some connection you aren't aware of is something that you don’t know. So you want to make sure that you acknowledge what they are saying but then you want to re-orient back to the planned objective. For example, if you are talking about whales vs. dolphins and you said that you could see whales and dolphins at aquariums, one child starts talking about their visit to zoo, and how they saw monkeys, and then another child talks about the elephants, and someone mentions the lions, and before you know it, you are talking about zoo and zoo animals. A reorientation statement is a statement you use to bring it all back around to the whales and dolphins while still acknowledging what the child said. For instance, you could say, “Sometimes the zoo has sea animals in it including dolphins. An aquarium is similar to a zoo except that you can see all types of sea animals there, including whales. So let’s think about what size tank you would need to hold a whale.”
Clarifying the learning objective can be used anytime-during group, free time, and even in routines, like meals and snack time. The important thing is to practice because it’s not something that comes naturally to most of us. Put up little reminder statements in your centers, write the objective on your board so you remember to tell the children what and why they are learning this, and practice with your co-teachers. You know that you have achieved success when your children can tell you what it was that they were learning.
By Megan Bock
Open the pages of Paul Tough’s new book, How Children Succeed http://www.paultough.com/the-books/how-children-succeed/ , and you will find stories, research, and narration offering insight into the ways children harness grit and curiosityto overcome obstacles to reach their potential. The book highlights research studies which challenge what Tough calls the “cognitive hypothesis,” the belief that IQ is the key indicator of success. Instead, Tough argues strong character and behavior skills are a better indicator of success than standard measurements of intelligence.
Tough examines different factors influencing a child’s ability to eventually graduate college and pursue a career of their choosing. He discusses how children who grow up in highly stressful environments must become resilient to adversity in order to be successful in school. One research study by Michael Meaney, a neuroscientist at McGill University, demonstrated how rats were able to overcome stress with a parental buffer. Meaney noticed how rat pups’ stress levels increased when scientists handled them but recovered when returned to their mothers who licked and groomed them. He noticed different rates of licking and grooming among rat mothers and set up an experiment where researchers compared rat pups that experienced high and low rates of licking and grooming. He found that rats who had high rates of licking and grooming did better on all tests; they were better at mazes, more social, more curious, and less aggressive. They had more self-control, were healthier, and lived longer. Meaney also found striking differences in the size and shape of brain centers that regulate stress response of high- and low-licking and grooming rats. While the social and intellectual worlds of human children are likely far more complex than those of rats, Meany and other scientists have seen this phenomenon in humans as well, which is often referred to as attachment. Children who are securely attached to a caregiver have similarly positive results.
Tough also explores Walter Mischel’s marshmallow test and subsequent research studies as evidence of self-control as an essential non-cognitive skill (Tough, 2012, p. 64). In the late 1960’s, Mischel conducted an experiment at Stanford University where children were given a marshmallow and told they could eat the marshmallow or wait until the researcher returned and receive another marshmallow. The experiment tested students’ ability to defer gratification, an important element of self-control. Follow-up studies showed that children who were able to delay gratification longer received higher scores on the SAT assessment.
A focus on social emotional development has been commonplace in Head Start since its inception in 1965 (“Domain 6,” 2003). Social emotional development is included as a domain in Head Start’s Child Development and Early Learning Framework and Clayton’s early learning curriculum. Just as students need to leave preschool with critical thinking skills and letter and number knowledge, kindergarten-bound students must learn self-control, deferred gratification, and positive responses to failure in order to do well in school. As described on the Head Start website, “Promoting young children’s social-emotional development is a major responsibility of any early childhood program. Because so many Head Start children experience emotional and social risk factors, the Head Start program has the added responsibility of taking steps to help children develop skills that contribute to resiliency. These steps include providing warm, positive relationships with teachers and other adults, helping children make friends with other children and developing their interests and abilities” (“Domain 6,” 2003).
While social emotional development has been a priority in ECE for many years, educators on all grade levels are beginning to prioritize both cognitive and social skills. Tough describes how Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) kindergarten through high school charter schools emphasize both academic and character education. Students at KIPP receive report cards that describe both academic and character skills. Teachers discuss students’ progress in grit, self-control, zest, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism, and curiosity (Tough, 2012, p. 76).
Tough’s work causes readers to think about how we educate our students and examines why students need support and teaching beyond ABC’s and 123’s. Tough (2012) wrote:
Science suggests… that character strengths that matter so much to young people’s success are not innate; they don’t appear in us magically, as a result of good luck or good genes. And they are not simply a choice. They are rooted in brain chemistry, and they are molded, in measurable and predictable ways, by the environment in which children grow up. That means the rest of us- society as a whole- can do an enormous amount to influence their development in children. (p. 196).
As a community invested in molding our next generation, we need to remember what we can do. When teaching students, do we praise students’ work ethic and their persistence to complete a task? Do we remember the significance of students waiting their turn, the importance of a positive teacher/student relationship, and the enormous effect of a smile and a high five? Do we consider the profound impact of engaged and responsive parenting and our ability to influence a child’s environment to create positive outcomes?
Domain 6: Social and Emotional Development. (2003). The Head Start Leaders Guide to Positive Child Outcomes. HHS/ACF/ACYF/HSB. Retrieved from http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/tta-system/teaching/eecd/Domains of Child Development/Social and Emotional Development/edudev_art_00016_061705.html
Tough, P. (2012). Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
On multiple occasions a year, the staff at Clayton Early Learning gathers into one of our many meeting spaces for professional development. This is an opportunity for us to look at various aspects of research and we are challenged to deliberate and often are called to action. This school year has been no exception. Early this year we gathered together to review a piece of research that would help us improve our practice and encourage us to focus on building stronger relationships with the families we work with; Metatheories of Childrearing by Ronald Lally can be found in the pages of Concepts of Care: 20 Essays on Infant Toddler Development and Learning.
Lally draws attention to the fact that every person has a theory, fed by experiences, that contributes to their point of view on child rearing. This is important to understand, especially by those who are in the position of working directly with parents, caregivers or home visitors in matters of childrearing, guidance and discipline. Being that each individual will be bringing a different set of values and opinions, there can be a difference of opinion between practitioners and clients. These differences are typically caused by conflicting Metatheories of Childrearing. Simply put, a meta-theory of child rearing is the story carried by an adult about what makes a children act and how a child must be treated given those actions. By identifying our individual and organizational beliefs in child rearing we are able to work more effectively with our children and families by reaching a third space where you can work together around new ideas. These Metatheories are popular amongst both caregivers and parents:
The Blank Slate (Empty Vessel): From this point of view the way children turn out is completely based on the experiences the children have in the environments in which they are raised and through the provision of information by others.
The Unfolding Flower (Noble Savage): The child is viewed as a flower that is blossoming with a trajectory for healthy growth that is present from birth. From this meta-theory a child’s development can be damaged from too much interference from the outside.
The Constantly Tempted: Also referred to as the “Devil On Left Shoulder – Angel On the Right”. Individuals who see child rearing this way want the child to be on guard so that they pay attention to whom is whispering in the ear. They will warn the child to pay attention to that angel whispering, not listen to the temptation of the devil and to stay vigilant. They continually remind the child that they are in a struggle between good and evil, and will be tempted to do bad things.
The Savage: From this point of view unless impulses are strongly inhibited and controlled right from birth the child will be an un-socialized wild person.
The Unknowing/UnfeelingThe Unknowing/Unfeeling: This metatheorie suggests that little engagement happens until age two and pretty much anything can happen in front of children of a younger age without permanent consequence.
The Late/Early Bloomer: This philosophy believes that until a child is about 5, 6, or 7 years old – the age of reason – that the child does not have the capacity or the responsibility for right or wrong actions. children are given free reign to explore, allowed to play, allowed to transgress i.e. to “be children”. But come age 5, 6 or 7 things change dramatically. Expectations of children change quickly, almost over night as do socialization patterns and educational practices.
The Predestined: From this perspective those who care for children see their roles as both one of nurturance and of facilitation of the child’s learning agenda.
What if your Metatheorie on Childrearing? How does it impact your decisions as a parent or educator?
101 Three Friends 7131 (2010). [Graph illustration http://mrg.bz/5yqfhD February 12, 2010]. Retrieved from http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/648996