Clayton Early Learning
29Oct/13Off

Why is Handwashing Important?

Brenda Hoge

Posted by Brenda Hoge

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?

HW1029Proper 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.

References:

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

2Jul/13Off

The Importance of Taking Infants and Toddlers Outdoors

Brenda Hoge

Posted by Brenda Hoge

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).

Outdoor Checklist for th Health Benefits of Outdoor Play

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.

Baby girl sitting on lawn areaInfants 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.

References:

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).

5Jun/13Off

Quality Suitcase: What Would You Bring? – Republished from 5/30/12

Brenda Hoge

Posted by Brenda Hoge

By

Brenda Hoge

The ERS (Environmental Rating Scales) Team at Clayton Early Learning is holding one of their bi-annual trainings here on campus this week. Because of this, it only seemed appropriate to republish Brenda Cobb-Hoge's blog on Early Childhood Classroom assessment from last spring.

From May, 2012

Assessing quality in Early Childhood Classrooms is not new to many of us in Colorado. We have been assessing quality in many of our classrooms and family childcare homes for over 12 years, primarily through the use of the Environment Rating Scales (ECERS-R, ITERS-R, FCCERS-R). As Colorado begins building a new version of the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), it’s important to reflect on what we have learned along the way – and what challenges remain. So as I think in terms of packing my “Quality Suitcase,” these are some of the things I would bring along on this next adventure:

The Importance of Training: One of the first things we’ve learned with our involvement using the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scales (ERS) is that training before implementation is critical. Providing overview trainings for teachers, providers and Directors on the tools as well as more in-depth training for coaches was key to improving quality based on the tools because it gave everyone the “why” behind the indicators and assured everyone that they could pick and choose the indicators that they felt was important to implement in their program.

Coaching Support is Key: Another thing we learned along the way is the importance of coaches and their role in the “Improvement” part of this process. As some communities began using the Rating, their programs were getting money for materials based on their ERS scores but we weren’t really changing the quality. We also had TA services where someone would come in and help the program “get ready for the rating” which worked for the “month rating window” but it really didn’t help create lasting improvements. Centers and homes that have been provided with individualized coaching have focused on not just the “test” but rather on more introspection, goal-setting, and education, and again, quality in these programs has improved over time. As coaches have begun working with the Raters, it has become more of a unified support system for the program, which has been very beneficial.

Reliability equals trust: The third thing we’ve learned along the way is how important it is to have a reliability system for our Quality Ratings. As the Qualistar Rating has become more “high stakes” having well-trained Rating Specialists whose reliability is checked regularly has been crucial in building trust in the system. Yes, not everyone can be consistent 100% of the time due to the high variance in the types of programs Rating Specialists encounter, but by having highly reliable Raters, program disputes over the observation portion of the rating have decreased over time.

Incentives: Because child care is so expensive to implement at a “quality level” the fourth important thing is that we need to provide incentives for programs that participate. Whether the incentives come in the form of grants for staff training or coaching or whether it comes in the form of higher reimbursement rates, programs need support to make “quality” happen.

Buy-in to the system: Finally one of the last things we learned over time is the importance of buy-in to the process both from the provider perspective and from the parents who put their children in our child care centers/homes. We want providers invested in improving the quality of their classrooms; that they really understand that quality is something you work on every single day – not just the day or month of the rating. Yes anyone can “pass the test” on any of these quality measures, but to really commit to quality every single day is extremely important. In our programs who have invested the time and energy to work on quality every day, the benefits to the children enrolled in those programs can be life-changing.

For parents, who are the consumers, it’s also important that they buy in to this system and that they no longer accept poor quality care for their children. Yes, the problem that we continue to face is that many parents’ choices in child care may, out of necessity, be driven by costs of programs rather than the quality. I’m fairly certain that if you asked any parent, they would prefer to put their child in a quality program if we could find a way to make it affordable.

So as we look to introducing more quality improvement measures for our child care centers and homes, it’s important to take what we have learned and improve upon it. And like any suitcase, there are some things that we take with us but we never use, and some things we forgot to bring along or couldn’t fit that are critical to our journey. Some of these include the buy-in of providers and parents, approaches and tools for working with Dual-Language Learners and Staff, support for the wide array of curricula that are being used by our programs, funding for our improved QRIS system, and having resources in place in all areas of Colorado and for all types of programs. And while this is just a small list of what we’ve learned and what we still need to answer, it’s a start. What other things have you learned from our ERS journey that we need to pack with us in our “Quality Suitcase” as we embark on this new direction?

30Jan/13Off

What Am I Teaching? What Are We Learning?

Brenda Hoge

Posted by Brenda Hoge

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? Little Girl in Classroom

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.

30May/12Off

Quality Suitcase: What Would You Bring?

Brenda Hoge

Posted by Brenda Hoge

By

Brenda Hoge

Assessing quality in Early Childhood Classrooms is not new to many of us in Colorado. We have been assessing quality in many of our classrooms and family childcare homes for over 12 years, primarily through the use of the Environment Rating Scales (ECERS-R, ITERS-R, FCCERS-R). As Colorado begins building a new version of the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), it’s important to reflect on what we have learned along the way – and what challenges remain. So as I think in terms of packing my “Quality Suitcase,” these are some of the things I would bring along on this next adventure:

The Importance of Training: One of the first things we’ve learned with our involvement using the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scales (ERS) is that training before implementation is critical. Providing overview trainings for teachers, providers and Directors on the tools as well as more in-depth training for coaches was key to improving quality based on the tools because it gave everyone the “why” behind the indicators and assured everyone that they could pick and choose the indicators that they felt was important to implement in their program.

Coaching Support is Key: Another thing we learned along the way is the importance of coaches and their role in the “Improvement” part of this process. As some communities began using the Rating, their programs were getting money for materials based on their ERS scores but we weren’t really changing the quality. We also had TA services where someone would come in and help the program “get ready for the rating” which worked for the “month rating window” but it really didn’t help create lasting improvements. Centers and homes that have been provided with individualized coaching have focused on not just the “test” but rather on more introspection, goal-setting, and education, and again, quality in these programs has improved over time. As coaches have begun working with the Raters, it has become more of a unified support system for the program, which has been very beneficial.

Reliability equals trust: The third thing we’ve learned along the way is how important it is to have a reliability system for our Quality Ratings. As the Qualistar Rating has become more “high stakes” having well-trained Rating Specialists whose reliability is checked regularly has been crucial in building trust in the system. Yes, not everyone can be consistent 100% of the time due to the high variance in the types of programs Rating Specialists encounter, but by having highly reliable Raters, program disputes over the observation portion of the rating have decreased over time.

Incentives: Because child care is so expensive to implement at a “quality level” the fourth important thing is that we need to provide incentives for programs that participate. Whether the incentives come in the form of grants for staff training or coaching or whether it comes in the form of higher reimbursement rates, programs need support to make “quality” happen.

Buy-in to the system: Finally one of the last things we learned over time is the importance of buy-in to the process both from the provider perspective and from the parents who put their children in our child care centers/homes. We want providers invested in improving the quality of their classrooms; that they really understand that quality is something you work on every single day – not just the day or month of the rating. Yes anyone can “pass the test” on any of these quality measures, but to really commit to quality every single day is extremely important. In our programs who have invested the time and energy to work on quality every day, the benefits to the children enrolled in those programs can be life-changing.
For parents, who are the consumers, it’s also important that they buy in to this system and that they no longer accept poor quality care for their children. Yes, the problem that we continue to face is that many parents’ choices in child care may, out of necessity, be driven by costs of programs rather than the quality. I’m fairly certain that if you asked any parent, they would prefer to put their child in a quality program if we could find a way to make it affordable.

So as we look to introducing more quality improvement measures for our child care centers and homes, it’s important to take what we have learned and improve upon it. And like any suitcase, there are some things that we take with us but we never use, and some things we forgot to bring along or couldn’t fit that are critical to our journey. Some of these include the buy-in of providers and parents, approaches and tools for working with Dual-Language Learners and Staff, support for the wide array of curricula that are being used by our programs, funding for our improved QRIS system, and having resources in place in all areas of Colorado and for all types of programs. And while this is just a small list of what we’ve learned and what we still need to answer, it’s a start. What other things have you learned from our ERS journey that we need to pack with us in our “Quality Suitcase” as we embark on this new direction?

12Oct/11Off

There’s an Outside World Waiting for Our Children

Brenda Hoge

Posted by Brenda Hoge

By

Brenda Hoge

Time in nature is not leisure time; it’s an essential investment in our children’s health.” Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods”

Close your eyes and think back to a happy time in your childhood. What were you doing? Who were you with? For most of us, including myself, I think about all of the time I spent outdoors as a child. In the summer, my neighborhood friends and I would get up and spend the entire day outdoors. We played at the park, we played at the school playground, we searched creeks for roly-poly’s, and we rode our bikes all around our part of town (and yes, with no helmets ). Our play wasn’t organized by the adults and there were no boundaries to our creativity-okay, maybe a few boundaries like “don’t attach that rope to the highest tree limb and try to swing off of it.” We stayed outside until we were called in for dinner and then, if it was a great day, we would all meet again after dinner to play a game of “Kick the Can” before bedtime.

Now think about our children today. Do they have these same opportunities to have un-organized free play outdoors? Do they get to explore the natural world around them? I was pondering these questions as I was traveling in France and Italy last month. In Nice, we came across a playground that was full of children playing. There was not one more spot for a child on the climbing net. And in Levanto, Italy, every day after school the children of all ages would meet and play in the town center. Some were playing on the playground, some were organizing a soccer game, and some were riding their bikes. When was the last time you have seen this in America? The only time I can think of when I’ve seen that many children playing recently is indoors at the Cherry Creek Mall where children were climbing on the “Looney Tunes” characters. Yes, it’s good they are playing but it’s indoors and it’s  "Looney Tunes" rather than nature. This can’t be good for our children.

But where did outdoor play go? Often the first thing to get the blame is children’s increased access to computer games, the internet and television. And yes, those probably have a lot to do with it. But what about our role as parents and teachers? In a study conducted in the late 1990’s, Rhonda Clements surveyed 830 mothers throughout the U.S. 85 percent of mothers cited television viewing and 81 percent cited computer play as among the reasons why their children played outdoors so infrequently. However, in the same survey, most of the mothers admitted that they themselves restricted their children’s outdoor play, and 82 percent cited safety concerns, including fear of crime, as reasons for doing so.

And as teachers it’s also important to recognize our role in preventing children’s access to outdoor time. In a recent study based on interviews with preschool teachers in Ohio, Participants noted physical and socio-emotional benefits of physical activity particular to preschoolers (e.g. gross motor skill development, self-confidence after mastery of new skills and improved mood, attention and napping after exercise) but also noted several barriers including their own personal attitudes (e.g. low self-efficacy) and preferences to avoid the outdoors (e.g. don’t like hot/cold weather, getting dirty, chaos of playground). Because individual teachers determine daily schedules and ultimately make the decision whether to take the children outdoors, they serve as gatekeepers to the playground.

And what are the benefits for our children if they play outdoors? Physically, outdoor play increases fitness levels and builds active, healthy bodies which helps combat the current rise in obesity among children. Spending time outside also raises levels of Vitamin D, helping protect children from future bone problems, heart disease, diabetes and other health issues.

Cognitively, exposure to natural settings may be widely effective in reducing ADHD symptoms. In addition, schools with environmental education programs score higher on standardized tests in math, reading, writing and listening.

And social-emotionally, studies have found that children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces.  Play also protects children’s emotional development whereas loss of free time and a hurried lifestyle can contribute to anxiety and depression.  And finally, the success of children's interactions is measured by the ability of children to develop and sustain friendships, to cooperate, to lead, and to follow. Unstructured active play with others, including with parents, siblings, and peers, is a major opportunity to cultivate social skills. All of this leads children to develop social and emotional capabilities such as empathy, flexibility, self-awareness, and self-regulation which continues into their adult life.

So it’s time. Time to start taking action by not letting another generation of children grow up without having an opportunity to play outdoors. Because if those of us who had the opportunity to spend the entire day outdoors have raised children who don’t have the same opportunity, what kind of children will our children raise?

*If you would like more information on the importance of outdoor play and/or creating a natural outdoor learning environment for children, the Environmental Rating Scales team at Clayton provides a training on this for child care programs. You can find the information on our Clayton website.

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21Jul/11Off

The Road to Quality Child Care in Colorado

Brenda Hoge

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Brenda Hoge

If you haven’t heard the news, the rules and regulations for Child Care Licensing are changing for child care centers in Colorado. In the last few weeks there has been a state-wide debate over whether Child Care Licensing rules should be limited to regulating health and safety aspects of centers or whether they should move beyond that to encompass aspects of “quality” in children’s learning environments and interactions with caregivers. Media portrayal of this debate has mostly focused on whether child care centers should be further regulated, the cost of adding “quality” for the centers, and what the specific criteria should be to determine whether a center is licensed or not.  What the media have not discussed is the history of child care quality improvement efforts in Colorado as well as the research behind how we define quality child care and the long-term outcomes for children.

So how did we get here? Colorado’s involvement can be traced back to the 1990s when child care centers in Colorado were part of the Cost, Quality and Outcomes study that was published in 1995. This study looked at the quality of child care in 4 states and the effects of quality on children’s development.  Quality in this study was measured using the Environment Rating Scales (ECERS and ITERS). 100 randomly selected centers in Colorado were chosen to participate. Results showed that 12% of the centers were rated “less than minimal in quality” and 15% of the centers were rated “good”.  The remaining sites fell between those two points. For infant/toddler classrooms, 40% of the centers gave “poor care.” A follow-up  to the Cost, Quality and Outcomes study (Peisner-Feinberg, et al., 2000)  showed that environmental quality is predictive of child outcomes both during the period of time children are in these classrooms/homes and as they move into school.  As a group of children moved from child care into second grade, results showed that children who attended higher quality child care centers performed better on measures of both cognitive skills (e.g., math and language abilities) and social skills (e.g., interactions with peers, problem behaviors) both during their child care years and through the transition into school. 

In response to these findings, there was a big push in Colorado to improve the quality of care in the state. These efforts resulted in the formation of organizations, like Qualistar (formerly Educare Colorado) and local Early Childhood Councils. Grant money was and still is being invested into centers to make improvements. School Readiness Legislation (HB 1297) was passed in 2002 and defined the parameters of the star rating system.  In this legislation components of quality included 1) quality of the learning environment (again through the use of the Environment Rating Scales); 2) the quality of the adult-child interactions; 3) adult-to-child ratios; 4) provider credentials and 5) parent involvement. Since the ratings given to programs affected funding, a reliability system for Qualistar raters was created.  Additionally, coaching and technical assistance became available to help classrooms improve their quality. Since 2004, 968 centers and 326 homes have been rated by Qualistar – about 30% of licensed settings in the state of Colorado.

Throughout this process, the Environment Rating Scales have been important tools chosen by the state to measure the overall quality of centers and homes. The Environment Rating Scales have been used for the past 30 years around the world (current versions are ECERS-R for preschool, ITERS-R for infant and toddler classrooms and FCCERS-R for family child care homes). Research has shown that these instruments can be used reliably and consistently across a wide variety of settings and cultures, including programs that use different curricula, programs that serve at-risk populations (such as Head Start), and corporate programs, family child care homes, and military programs.  

The Scales have also been shown to provide stable results if classrooms do not improve quality, yet are sensitive to organized attempts to improve early childhood environments.  All rated classrooms start at a certain level on the seven-point scale and specific feedback is given to classrooms regarding strengths as well as areas of improvement. From there, classroom staff can create a plan to make identified improvements in the areas that are important to them.

Finally, the Scales are also comprehensive and include three important areas of quality. The first is learning environments. This includes materials in the classroom, children’s access to those materials, and how the teacher/provider uses those materials to teach children important concepts and reasoning. The second area is health and safety. Items on this include providing good supervision of children and meeting standards to help keep children healthy. The last area is interactions. This includes teaching children social skills to help learn how to deal with peer conflicts, for example.

So what does this mean for Colorado’s licensing of centers? The proposed new rules and regulations for licensing do include indicators from the Environment Rating Scales, most from what the Scales define as “minimal” level of quality and a few from what is defined at a “quality level.” Most of these requirements are not new for centers since many programs have been involved in some sort of quality improvement effort. Adding these indicators will provide more consistency between the learning environment component of the Qualistar rating and Licensing Regulations.  Most importantly, it will provide a clear roadmap to improved quality for all  centers.  Now is the time to provide higher quality early childhood programs for all children in licensed child care.  Colorado ranks 43rd nationwide for child care center regulations and oversight, according to the National Center of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies.  Colorado’s youngest children deserve better. It is my hope that we are ready for this important step.

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7Jun/11Off

Who’s Taking Responsibility?

Brenda Hoge

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Brenda Hoge

See that child over there?  The one who is getting ready to go off to Kindergarten but hasn’t learned her letters or numbers. The one whose family has been moving constantly from house to house. The one who occasionally lives with her Grandma and sometimes with her mother. The one who is constantly distracted and can’t focus during group time.

Who’s to blame?  Who is taking responsibility?

This April at the  Rocky Mountain Early Childhood Conference, the keynote speaker, Geoffrey Canada spoke about this topic as it relates to the educational field. Since 1990, Mr. Canada has been the President and Chief Executive Officer for the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ), which The New York Times Magazine called "one of the most ambitious social experiments of our time." The HCZ designs, funds, and operates a holistic system of education, social services and community-building programs within Harlem to counter the negative influences of crime, drugs and poverty and to help children complete college and go on to the job market. The two fundamental principles of the HCZ Project are to help kids as early in their lives as possible and to create a critical mass of adults around them who understand what it takes to help children succeed.

One of the things Mr. Canada mentioned around blame is that there are a lot of excuses that we, as a society, have for why our children are not doing well in school and the “blame game” is more prominent when talking about why lower-income children aren’t succeeding. The teachers blame the families, the families blame the teachers, the schools blame the government, the government blames the schools, and so on and so forth. But while we are playing this “blame game” more and more of our children are falling through the cracks and no one seems to be taking any responsibility. As I listened to his speech, one point he made really resonated with me.  He said that when they started the HCZ, he told his board that he takes full responsibility for its success.  If it succeeds, great.  If it doesn’t, he pledged to immediately remove himself.  And he expects that same level of responsibility from all of his teachers if they are unsuccessful teachers. While this seems harsh, it’s important to think of the consequences for the children if a teacher who can’t teach is left in the classroom year after year. The school also has high expectations for the families it serves by making sure that they are highly involved in their child's education as well as high expectations for the community. By everyone taking responsibility for each child, these children are successful. However, if we keep blaming each other the problems and lack of responsibility continue to grow and, in the meantime, that child never learns to read and the schools keeps passing that child and their “problems” off to the next teacher.

So as this school year is coming to a close and we have been assessing our children who are heading off to Kindergarten next year, I worry. Yes, many of them are leaving Clayton Educare knowing all of their letters, letter sounds, and rhymes and they seem fully ready for Kindergarten. But what about the children who aren't ready? What will happen to them when they enter Elementary School?  We hope that we have taken responsibility for them while they’ve been here and that we have shown families how to be involved in their child’s education. But some children  have a lot of things stacked against them before they enter the door of their Elementary school. Will school administration, teachers, families and the community use barriers like poverty, or challenging behaviors as an excuse to blame someone else when learning doesn't happen? Or will they take responsibility and ensure that all children learn, no matter their background? What is our role here at Clayton in continuing to make sure that all children succeed, even after they leave?  So many questions where the answer is critical for  each child's success.

So as we ponder this responsibility, Geoffrey Canada also has a particular talent. He is also a poet and has written a poem titled “Don’t Blame Me.” He recited this poem at the end of his speech.  I’ve attached a video of a child reciting the poem because after all, it really is about the child.Ayana Marie Recites \"Don\'t Blame Me.\"

To hear a discussion that Geoffrey Canada gave after the conference about the impact of early care and education on Rocky Mountain PBS, click here

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2Feb/11Off

Baby Fat…Cute or Harmful?

Brenda Hoge

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Brenda Hoge

Look at this picture of this infant? What do you see? Do you see a healthy, chubby baby? Do you notice all of those cute rolls of “baby fat”?  Is this child really healthy?

This year a study was published out of the University of Michigan based on a survey called the “Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort", which contains data on 8,900 babies at 9 months of age and 7,500 of those same babies at 2 years of age. The babies’ weights were based on CDC growth charts and infants in the 95th percentile were categorized as “obese” while infants in the 85th to 95th percentile were counted as “at-risk.” Researchers found that even at 9 months, many babies fell into these two categories. In the 9 month age group, 15.2% of babies were at risk and 16.7% were obese. When these same infants turned 2 years old, just under 14% were at-risk and almost 21% were obese. Brian Moss, one of the co-authors of the study pointed out “of the combined total, more kids are obese than at-risk.”

So what are the long-term effects of being obese as an infant? Well, as early as 3 years of age, obese children have elevated levels of inflammatory markers that have been linked to heart disease that is manifested later in life.  At a summary of the “Conference on Preventing Childhood Obesity,” it was remarked that, “The prenatal period, infancy, and early childhood may be stages of particular vulnerability to obesity development because they are unique periods for cellular differentiation and development”. This statement has been magnified by the numerous studies demonstrating the association between rapid or accelerated infant weight gain and subsequent obesity as well as type 2 diabetes mellitus. Further, numerous studies have now shown that overweight infants and toddlers are at increased risk of staying overweight as they age.  So based on this, the current focus on preventing childhood obesity should not only be focused on children 5 years and older but should in fact, start at infancy and possibly pre-natal.

So looking beyond these alarming statistics, what are some of the things we can do to help prevent obesity in infants? Should infants go on “diets?” No, definitely not.  But there are some other solutions that will help. Prenatally, mothers and pediatricians can monitor the weight gain of pregnant mothers. They can also target more intervention techniques to mothers who smoke during pregnancy.  And once the infant is born, encouraging mothers to breast-feed longer rather than using formula, helping parents to realize what signifies a hunger cry versus needing alternative soothing, and teaching parents sleep-lengthening techniques to help infants get the appropriate amount of sleep will all help prevent obesity. As infants get older, other interventions include delaying the introduction of solid foods until 4-6 months of age and teaching parents and caregivers about infants’  responses to new foods. Parents often interpret the initial rejection of new foods as “she doesn’t like it”, and the food is not offered again. However, the infant’s initial response about disliking the food is usually transient, and that infants’, toddlers’ and preschoolers’ intake of new healthy foods will typically increase if the infant has repeated opportunities to taste them.

Finally the last thing we can do is encourage physical activity with our infants and toddlers.  Late last year an Institute of Medicine study committee was charged for the first time with developing obesity prevention recommendations specifically for the 0-to-5 set. The report, due in about 18 months, will look at the role of sleep and early feeding patterns, as well as physical activity. In general, parents and caregivers of infants should choose physical activities that are interactive, stimulating, easy to do, and that can be incorporated  into their daily routine to reinforce the concept that physical activity is rewarding. Also limiting the amount of sedentary activity will greatly help.  This includes limiting infants and toddlers access to television, limiting time in “containment” devices such as swings, bouncy seats, high chairs and cribs, and encouraging free movement and exploration.

Experts say change may require abandoning some cherished cultural attitudes. “The idea that a big baby is a healthy baby, and a crying baby is probably a hungry baby who should be fed, are things we really need to rethink,” Dr.  Leann Birch, director of Penn State’s Center for Childhood Obesity Research said.  What do you think?

And because this is such new and important information, please feel free to share it with anyone you may know who is pregnant or has a young infant.

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13Oct/10Off

To Germ or Not to Germ-The Anti-germ Perspective

Brenda Hoge

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Brenda Hoge

The other day I was listening to the morning program on a local radio station and they asked the question “what has 39 times more germs than a public toilet seat? “ Give up? Well the answer is elevator buttons. And as I checked myself into a hotel this morning and was face to face with those elevator buttons, I hesitated for a brief moment to ponder which body part should I use to press the button. The elbow was of course the most logical choice and my elbow has become quite talented since the “war on germs” first started. So elbow it was and up to my floor I went, germ-free and happy. But is this level of concern necessary and what is exactly fueling this “war on germs?” Is it science and research or is it the media?

Science and the “War on Germs”: Our “war on germs” has been around as long as we have been around. In an article published in the Ecologist Report, Garry Hamilton writes that “Ever since microbes were identified as the source of infectious diseases, humans have been intensifying efforts to stamp out germs, dreaming of a day when these invisible enemies are no more. The battles that have been won — the defeat of polio, the dramatic decline of infant mortality in the west, the eradication of small pox worldwide — spur the endeavour onward. Recent setbacks such as the threat of new pathogens, the return of old enemies and the development of antibiotic resistance, remind us that we must never let down our guard. In the war on germs, the wisdom says, there's no such thing as going too far.” And for the most part science hasn’t gone too far. Scientists are working hard every day to make sure that there are new drugs to combat the “large germs,” such as H1N1 which was running rampant across the nation last year.

And what about that Hygiene Hypothesis that I wrote about last month in my blogpost? The "hygiene hypothesis" is a theory that young children who are exposed to a variety of germs will have a lower risk of developing asthma and allergies later in life. Last year researchers from Erasmus University in the Netherlands found no evidence for either a long-term protective or harmful effect associated with day care attendance in their study involving nearly 4,000 children followed from birth through age 8. Lead researcher Daan Caudri, MD stated that “If day care attendance truly was protective, we would expect to see this protection persist, but that is not what we saw. We found no lasting protective effect against asthma.”

The media and the “War on Germs”: The media has also played a big part in how we look at germs. In 1998, media began reporting about bio-terrorism and the likelihood that we would someday be attacked not with weapons, but with an incurable disease. And then the media and a few select scientists starting looking at our living spaces and found that not only could we be attacked by terrorists but that  we were being attacked in our homes by high levels of illness-causing germs in our bathrooms, beds, kitchens, and should we leave our homes, taxis, airplanes and our hotel rooms. We were also told that children were bringing germs home from their adventures in the outside world and that is what was also causing us to be sick. So we started washing, sanitizing, and limiting children's exposure to that outside world.  But even doing that wasn't totally effective so companies started developing products (like antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers) that would help protect us. And finally, we changed how we operated in our environment-i.e., opening doors with paper towels and using our elbows to hit the elevator button. So it is no wonder that we are afraid, especially with all of the conflicting information that we are being given.

So what should we do? Should we go to extremes and put ourselves and our kids in a germ-free bubble or should we roll around and dirt and never wash our hands? As with most things in life, a healthy balance may be the way to go. All doctors and researchers on both sides of the germ-debate agree that the best thing we can do is to wash our hands with soap (not anti-bacterial) and water, especially when we eat, use the bathroom and are out in public places. And yes, they also agree that our children need to be given the opportunity to play in that dirt. So as for me and the elevator buttons, when I go back downstairs to get dinner, I’m not going to use my elbow, but rather my fingers. And then I’ll wash. What will you do?

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