Clayton Early Learning
17Dec/13Off

Culture Night at Clayton Early Learning Schools

By

Kelsy Petersen-Hardie

It is that time of year again for Culture Night, a special night that gives the schools of Clayton Early Learning a chance to celebrate culture in a meaningful way with staff, families, young children, and community members.  Each year we strive to offer an experience that is not only fun, but one that provides opportunities for young children and their caring adults to learn about and reflect on their own culture, as well as a chance to come together to celebrate as a community.  This year the planning committee got excited about delving deeper into an aspect of culture that all groups share.  Families and staff voted for their favorite cultural element from a long list of topics and music was nominated as the focus this year.

In reflecting on what music means from my cultural lens, I had visions of my facabinmily gathered together listening to old country western records as my grandpa took turns dancing the grandchildren all around the living room of my family’s cabin, a crackling fire in the background.  Images of practicing my violin and choreographing dance moves to Paula Abdul flooded my mind.  Music played a part in all special events I can recollect, like weddings, parties, and funerals.

When we talk about culture from a theoretical perspective, we lose children and adults alike. Have you ever heard someone say, “I don’t have a culture” or “I don’t know what my culture is”?  Culture is experienced every moment of every day, but we don’t necessarily recognize that we are living it because we are IN it.

I wanted to understand culture from my six year old daughter’s perspective so I asked her what she thinks about when she thinks of music.  She then gave me a laundry list of what music means from her cultural lens:  music as a school special, old country western records like Johnny Cash (that’s my girl!), music that people dance to, music from the Nutcracker, the rhythm and beats of jazz (she then proceeded to demonstrate the different tempos of jazz, illustrating the different lengths of notes with her stuffed animal collection).  There you have it, from the eyes of a young child.  Culture is lived.  Culture comes from experiences.  Culture is shared among people.  The special people in our lives touch us with these experiences, forever shaping our cultural lens.

What musical memories made the biggest impact on your life? What do you think about when you think of music’s impact in your family?

We hope you will join us at Clayton Early Learning’s Culture Night as we share the musical cultures of our staff, families and community, as well as engage in experiences that create new cultural memories among our children and our learning community.

Culture Night 2013:

Join us for an evening of celebrating culture through music as you mingle throughout the rooms, experiencing the movement, sights, and sounds of our School Family!

Tuesday, 12/17 from 5:30-7:00 P.M. at the Far Northeast Campus

Thursday, 12/19 from 5:30-7:00 P.M. at the Near Northeast Campus

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Would you like to join our Blog conversation? How do you celebrate culture in your community? If so, you can leave your statement in the Comment section at the bottom of this blog.

12Dec/13Off

A Tribute to Nelson Mandela: His Legacy of Walking in Cultural Humility

Shant'a Johnson

Posted by Shant'a Johnson

By

Shant'a Johnson

It is fitting to use this space and time to honor and celebrate the life of one of the world’s most influential and courageous leaders of whom we have recently lost-Nelson Mandela.  Mandela, a South-African anti-apartheid activist and revolutionary, also served as the first black South-African President from 1994 to 1999.

Over the past week, as I viewed news clips of his life and legacy, one theme continued to shine through about who he was and the life and work that he lived.  It was his legacy of forgiveness and resiliency.  This legacy is one that many of those on either side of the former apartheid system attributed publicly to being the unifying factor of the 52,981,991 people who live in South Africa today.  Being an African-American female in the U.S., who still feels the impact of racism, classism, and gender inequality; I am thankful to have an example such as Mandela to look to as I journey and grow towards cultural humility.

You might be asking, what is cultural humility and what does this have to do Nelson Mandela?  Cultural humility, is a concept first birthed out of the health field to address the issue of lack of patient compliance to doctor prescribed treatment.  In the article Cultural Humility versus Cultural Competence: A critical distinction in defining physician training outcomes in multicultural education, cultural humility is defined as being:

“A lifelong commitment to self-evaluation and critique, to redressing the power imbalances… and to developing mutually beneficial and non-paternalistic partnerships with communities on behalf of individuals and defined populations” (Tervalon, 123).

A young African American boy immitating a picture Nelson Mandela's raised fist during a speachMandela’s legacy embodies the very essence of cultural humility and its standing principles.  One standing principle that I feel reflects the life and legacy of Mandela is that of self-reflection and the life-long learner model.  Mandela states, “As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself.  You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself…Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.”

This principle deems it “imperative that there be a simultaneous process of self-reflection (realistic and on-going self-appraisal) and commitment to a lifelong learning process” (Tervalon, 119).  One must first be willing to “consciously think about their own, often ill-defined and multidimensional cultural identities and backgrounds” (Tervalon, 120).

Mandela is characterized as a highly self-reflective individual, he shows what he has learned about himself and accepted through the following quotes:

“I am fundamentally an optimist.   Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say.  Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward.  There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair.  That way lays defeat and death.”

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find ways in which you yourself have altered”

We also can see Mandela’s process of letting go and forgiving in the following quote, as he reflects upon being released after serving over 27 years in prison, due to his involvement in anti-apartheid activism, “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.”

Mandela, with a firm foundation of understanding who he was, and the strength to accept what came, changed the course of a nation’s history and impacted the world.  If we were to take a closer look at his life’s journey, we can see one who lived by the principle of self-reflection and the lifelong learner model, allowing his life’s tragic events to transform him from being not only an influential activist against the apartheid, but also an advocate for the cause of peace on behalf of all.

In conclusion, let us all be challenged to take more time to self-reflect and accept what comes, using it to strengthen ourselves and others in this journey called life.  Together, we can have a hand in helping to shape the future for those little ones who will follow.

References:

Tervalon, M., Murray- García, J. Cultural Humility versus Cultural Competence: A critical distinction in defining physician training outcomes in multicultural education.  Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved; May 1998; 9,2; Research Library pg. 117.

http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/278812-as-i-walked-out-the-door-toward-the-gate-that

http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/367338.Nelson_Mandela

 

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

15Oct/13Off

Clayton Early Learning vs. Food Insecurity: Opportunities for a Healthy Lifestyle

Sena Harjo

Posted by Sena Harjo

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.  Watermelon on the vineElementary 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.

1015-strawDuring 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?

1015-eggPFirst 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!

Corn on the stalkWe 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
Location:
Clayton Early Learning (school parking lot)
3751 Martin Luther King Blvd.
Denver, CO 80205

Resources: Images courtesy of Sena Harjo.

27Sep/13Off

Childhood Obesity: What can WE do?

Becky Keigan

Posted by Becky Keigan

By

Becky Keigan

We’ve heard it, the newspapers are reporting it, states and the federal government are addressing it, our universities are studying it and we in the field of early care and education see it on a daily basis…  our preschoolers are getting heavier!

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that “obesity now affects 17% of all children and adolescents in the United States - triple the rate from just one generation.” obesity-927 Obese and overweight children have increased incidence of risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, breathing problems, joint problems, fatty liver disease, and Type 2 diabetes. Obese and overweight children also have a greater risk of social and psychological problems including poor self-esteem and are more likely to become obese adults. http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html  Sobering statistics for all of us who have been charged to ensure the health and welfare of all of the children in our care and in our communities!

As a Food Friends® Program Coordinator at Colorado State University since 2009, my work has focused on the research, development and implementation of a nutrition and movement program focused on establishing healthy eating and physical activity habits in preschoolers to prevent future weight gain.  The Food Friends program received an implementation grant in 2009 from The Colorado Health Foundation to take the research based program in to 950 preschool classrooms and 600 family child care homes.  In 2012 The Food Friends was awarded an additional $875,000 from The Colorado Health Foundation to implement a sustainability plan with all of the Food Friends participants. The grant was written based on my capstone project in the Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program where my Food Friends team and I were able identify the needs of the participants, write them in to the grant proposal and secure funding to help address those needs.  The Food Friends program is in 58 out of 64 counties with a current cumulative reach of 50,924 children and families.  This reach was made possible in part to the incredible networking with my Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program fellows.  A fabulous representation of how the Buell Network supports children and families throughout Colorado!

foodiesHere is a brief overview of how The Food Friends program is addressing childhood obesity preventionThe Food Friends: Fun With New Food is an evidence base social marketing campaign aimed at increasing children’s willingness to try new foods in an effort to enhance food choice, and hence dietary variety.  A physical activity companion program, The Food Friends: Get Movin’ with Mighty Moves® develops gross motor skills to improve the programs’ overall efforts to establish healthful habits that prevent childhood obesity early in life. Both programs have demonstrated significant behavior changes in preschool children and are published in the research literature.

In recognition of September as National Childhood Obesity Awareness month I would like to share The Food Friends 7 Simple Tips to Overcome Picky Eating and to Get Moving.  These simple tips can be incorporated in early care and education centers/homes and shared with families.

Fun with New Food:  7 Simple Tips to Overcome Picky Eating

  1. Make trying new foods fun
  2. Keep offering new foods
  3. Offer one new food at a time
  4. Be a good role model by eating new foods with the children
  5. Let children choose new foods
  6. Avoid forcing children to try new foods
  7. Teach children about new foods

Get Movin’ With Mighty Moves: 7 Simple Tips to Get Moving

  1. Let children explore with movement
  2. Make activity fun
  3. Be creative with activity
  4. Add activity into daily life
  5. Budget TV and screen time
  6. Engage children’s imagination
  7. Be a good role model by being active with children

I have learned so much in my work over the past four years and my passion has grown to ensure that our precious little children have the opportunity to be healthy as they grow and develop!  With that said, I want to emphasize it is we, the adults who are responsible for the health of our children!  It is our job… our job! We are the adults, they are the children.  We are the ones who are buying the food they eat and scheduling how/where they spend time.  We owe it to the children to provide healthy food and beverage choices… to give them opportunities to move their bodies… build those gross motor skills… allow for free, glorious play throughout the day… to have fun learning about food and what their bodies can do!   Join me in this critical cause, together we can join the national movement to address childhood obesity.

For more information on The Food Friends and/or program participation and healthy children please contact me, Becky Keigan at 970-491-3562 or by email rebecca.keigan@colostate.edu

21Aug/13Off

Mixed Company: Preparing ALL Children for School – repost from 8/2012

Rebecca Soden

Posted by Rebecca Soden

By

Rebecca Soden

Are you a parent or grandparent looking for a quality preschool experience for your child? Great news! Our high quality NAEYC Accredited school here at Clayton Early Learning would like to announce that we now have a limited number of preschool openings available for tuition-based children.

This might be news to some folks in our community who have known Clayton as a program that primarily serves low-income children and families. We recognize that this is a shift from how we have traditionally gone about improving educational opportunities within our local neighborhoods. We want to take a moment to highlight a few of the reasons WHY we are making a change to serve tuition-based families and how YOU can help us to create a future where all children are prepared for success in school and in life.

Why Are Mixed Income Preschool Classrooms Good for Kids?
Here at Clayton, we are always striving for evidence-based practices. We want to be doing the kinds of things that we know are related to better opportunities for children down the road. As universal access to preschool becomes more common across the nation, we have more evidence to help us understand the value that economic integration has for children’s school readiness. Data has been mounting for years that quality early learning experiences (especially literacy building experience that teach vocabulary and expressive language skills) help to prepare children for reading success down the road. Studies that have looked deeply at this issue have found some preliminary evidence that economic integration within preschool classrooms can lead to stronger language skills for ALL children.

  • Low Income Children – After just one year of preschool, low-income children in economically integrated classrooms moved from below the national norm (93) on language scores to above the national norm (101) while children in the low-income only classrooms were still well below the national norm in the spring (Schechter & Bye, 2007). Classroom quality was high within all of these preschool rooms suggesting that learning alongside peers from different economic backgrounds might have played a role in these gains.
  • Middle and Upper Income Children – Gains in the mixed-income classrooms were similarly strong for children who were coming from more affluent homes. The great news is that ALL children benefited, not just low-income children (Schechter & Bye, 2007).

Another reason that we are striving for economic integration is because we are working with families to gain upward economic mobility. As families in our program achieve their goals and their income levels increase, we want to provide avenues for children to stay at our school with the continuity of care that we are so committed to providing. Offering a tuition-based preschool option is one more way that we are trying to meet the needs of our families and our community.

How Can You Help?

Give the gift of high quality learning to your child. We want our preschool to be full when the new school year begins. We want every preschool child (low, middle and upper income) within Northeast Denver to have a quality early learning experience and to be fully prepared for success in Kindergarten. Please take a moment and complete an Interest Form online or call us at 303-355-4411.

31Jul/13Off

Why is Block Play Important for Toddlers and Preschoolers? What are they learning?

By

claytonearlylearning

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

Toddler playing with colored blocksThere 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
  • Homemade
  • 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.

References:

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.

17Jul/13Off

Remembering the Airplane Rule

By

Candice Leary-Humphrey

Mother providing oxygen to child on airplaneAnyone who has taken an airplane flight is probably familiar with the safety instructions that insist: “In the case of emergency, adult passengers should always put on their own oxygen mask before attempting to assist children and other passengers.”  The idea that we cannot care for others without first tending to ourselves makes sense in an emergency, though many parents are challenged by accepting this advice in their day-to-day routines.

For most American parents, our culture seems to insist that parents always care for their child’s needs before the parental well-being is addressed.  Does selfless parenting result in happier children?  Happier families?  Recent studies suggest the opposite.  Though controversial to consider and challenging to discuss, many researchers and social scientists are asserting that the happiest families are being raised by happy parents, and that happy parents are those who prioritize their own self-care over the superfluous wants and desires of their children.

As counselor Joan LeFebvre explains, “Parenting stress is directly related to high workload, low social support, fussy-difficult child(ren), negative life events and child caretaking hassles” (LeFebvre, 2010).  This means that the additional tasks, responsibilities and chores that parents take upon themselves in effort to please their children (sports practices, children’s activities, pressure to buy the newest clothes and toys), may be the very stressors that prevent parents from modeling a happy and satisfied lifestyle for their families.

To be clear, this theory does not recommend that parents should deny their children’s basic needs for food, shelter and emotional support under any circumstances.  Rather that we, as parents, reevaluate the balance between the love and care that we provide unconditionally for our children vs. the love and care that we provide for ourselves and our partners.

What is Self-Care?

According to Dr. Christine Meinecke, “Self-care means choosing behaviors that balance the effects of emotional and physical stressors…Also essential to self-care is learning to self-soothe or calm our physical and emotional distress” (Meinecke, 2010).  Though sometimes confused with self-indulgence, self-care is less about spoiling oneself with luxuries and truly focuses on efforts and actions that support a person’s physical, mental and emotional health.

LeFebvre contends that there are four dimensions of self-care:

  1. 3 friends being together taking a pictureIntellectual needs.  These can be satisfied by going to the library, taking a class or workshop, discussing ideas with other adults or watching a documentary about a topic that is of interest to you.
  2. Spiritual needs.  In addition to involvement in a faith community, these needs can be met through meditation, volunteer work, or even taking a private opportunity to enjoy the environment by watching a sunrise or sunset.
  3. Social/Emotional needs are met by connecting with friends, finding ‘alone time’ to reflect and dream, journaling and planning time to spend with a partner.
  4. Physical needs. When we treat our bodies well, we feel better in almost every way.  Caring for physical needs can be done through eating well, exercising regularly (even for short amounts of time) and getting enough sleep (2010).

How Will Doing More for Myself Have a Positive Impact on My Family?

Self-care is like investing in your own well-being, and as research indicates, happy parents have happier children.  Below are just three ways that happy and health parents promote happier and healthier children:

  1. Parents are a child’s most important teacher.  Sound like a big responsibility?  It is! The good news is that most of your teaching is accomplished through modeling.  From the way that parents communicate to the foods that a mom or dad selects for their own plate; children are learning more about what it means to be human by watching their own parents than kids will learn anywhere else.  This means that if a parent models self-esteem, low stress levels and an appreciation for their own well-being, a child will develop a personal value for those things as well.  Conversely, however, a parent who exclusively seeks to please and accommodate others may very well be teaching their child to neglect their own needs (Hill, 2010).
  2. By giving to themselves, parents will have more to give to their children.  When are you most proud of your parenting efforts?  When you’re too exhausted to read one more story?  When you’re so stressed that you can’t enjoy mealtime with the rest of your family?  Of course not.  Parents put their best foot forward when they feel energetic, satisfied and enthusiastic.  Incredibly enough, these are the results that one can expect when engaged in a consistent self-care routine or lifestyle.  Maybe your self-care includes time to yourself, which at first may feel selfish.  The result of personal time, however, is a re-energized parent whose time with their children is of greater quality.  An hour dedicated just to you is a very small price to pay for hours of engaged family time later (Hill, 2010).
  3. Parental self-care prevents child abuse.  Researchers from Parents Anonymous, a national support group for parents, insist that all parents maintain their social relationships with friends and loved ones in effort to prevent parent burnout and reduce the likeliness that an overstressed parent may hurt or neglect a child).  Studies conducted by Parents Anonymous explain that, “social connections are one of the greatest protective factors for parents in the prevention of child abuse.”  While parents often report feelings of guilt when they spend social time outside of the home, many experts agree that this kind of self-care is more likely to positively impact the parent-child relationship than to damage it (Polinsky, et al, 2010).

How Can I Find Time for Self-Care?

7-17-familyFor many families, there aren’t enough hours in a day to fit in every activity or shared moment that a parent may wish for.  Fortunately, self-care is important enough that finding time is much less important than making time.  Whether it means waking up a little earlier than the children to have a quiet cup of coffee on the porch or staying up a little later to have a much needed chat with your best friend, parents must re-evaluate whatever schedule they currently follow to ensure that their days, weeks and months include protected time that parents can invest in themselves.

Here are a few ideas for parents who struggle to make time for self-care:

  1. Call a friend or family member to ask if they can watch the children for just one or two hours.  This time can be used for relaxation, exercise, reflection or even rest.
  2. Re-connect with a friend or spouse over a lunch break.
  3. Plan a late night dinner date at home.  It’s okay to make the kids their own special dinner once in a while.  Then, after they have gone to bed, parents can enjoy ‘grown-up time’ over a home cooked meal for two where they talk, laugh and enjoy uninterrupted time together.
  4. Establish a mutually beneficial play-date schedule.  Does your child have a favorite friend that lives nearby?  Two families can easily become a support for one another by trading the job of hosting play dates.  Kids will love the extra time with friends, while parents will enjoy looking forward to their turn for a night or afternoon off!

What are your thoughts or practices regarding parental self-care?  Is self-care a necessary strategy for positive parenting or do you think that parents need to focus less on themselves and more on their children?

Hill, Amelia. (2010). Parents will raise happierchildren ‘if they put them second to their marriage.’ The Observer. Retrieved from www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/feb/07/parents-advised-put0children-second/print

LeFebvre, J.E. (2010). Parent Self-Care. University of Washington Extension.

Meinecke, C. (2010). Self-care in a toxic world. Psychology Today. Retrieved from www.psychologytoday.com/blog/everybody-marries-the-wrong-person/201006/self-care-in-toxic-world

Polinsky, M.L., Pion-Berlin, L., Williams, S. (2010). Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect: A National Evaluation of Parents Anonymous Groups. Child Welfare Journal,  89(6), 43-62.

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).

8May/13Off

Continuity of Care

By

Kelsy Petersen-Hardie

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.  Mother explaining to three years old son outdoor in spring garden.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”)? Teacher reading to 4 children at story time in a child care setting.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?

References:

Howes, C. (1998).  Continuity of care:  The importance of infant, toddler, caregiver relationships. Zero to Three, 18(6), 7-11.