Clayton Early Learning
29Oct/13Off

Why is Handwashing Important?

Brenda Hoge

Posted by Brenda Hoge

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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

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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

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.

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).

19Jun/13Off

How do Men Impact Early Childhood Education?

SorenG

Posted by SorenG

By

SorenG

Member of MEC, male teacher reading to small childAs staff members of the Clayton organization, we often have one particular issue within the early childhood field that we are particular passionate about.  In my case it is providing support to males who work in Early Childhood Education. In working with this topic, I began to look into what resources were available for males who work in the ECE field. I found that within the Colorado area the resources that a male working in the ECE field could access were limited or non-existent. In 2011, I began the creation of an organization with three other male ECE professionals that would have an active presence for males working in the ECE field called Men in Early Childhood-Colorado (MEC) www.mec-colorado.org.  The organization is committed to developing a network that provides support, advocacy, and education to in order to retain and to recruit additional males to work in the field.

Member of MEC, male teacher reading to small boyRecently, on June 1st, MEC held the 2013 Summer Conference at Clayton Early Learning. The conference began with a keynote address by Doug Gertner, The Grateful Dad, www.thegratefuldad.org. The keynote address was entitled, Understanding Men’s Lives: Theories of Masculinities, and the included the following discussions:What is it exactly that defines a man and makes masculinity distinct from the feminine? Why are men the way they are? These questions can inform the work of early childhood educators, both men and women, and help to encourage more men to enter this work, and more fathers to be involved in schools and classrooms. We’ll begin by examining several theories about male gender role development, review the major men’s movements, and seek a better understanding of male behavior, in order to deepen our ability to attract and support male teachers and serve fathers in our schools and centers.

Member of MEC, male teacher helping small girlDoug’s keynote provided some valuable insight into how we as an ECE community can continue to improve our ability to support males who work in ECE and of course, the fathers of the children in our programs. The remainder of the conference topics was ones that we are passionate individually as ECE professionals. We had a panel of three individuals (Andrew Goff, Ben Wilkins, and I).  Andrew spoke about Boys in the Classroom and provided some quick and easy tips and strategies to help with those energetic and active boys in the classroom. Andrew specifically spoke about utilizing the different learning styles of boys and how we can equate them with the different child development theories. Ben spoke about Technology in the classroom and provided the participants some hands-on examples about activities that they could do in their classrooms. He share with the group about items that he has in his classroom and appropriate applications for early childhood setting I spoke on how logical strategies to support men who work in the ECE field. We ended our time at the conference with a guided discussion about, “What does School Readiness Mean.” Being that the participants were primarily all from ECE backgrounds, we had many of the same ideas and thoughts behind this question.  The discussion revolved around how there is different aspects to school readiness. These aspects include cultural, academic, school setting, and home setting.  . With the conclusion of this discussion, our conference was over. It was a good time for all and we look forward to seeing you at our next conference or possibly assisting us with our fall music event for fathers. How would having a male ECE educator benefit your child or school?

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.

1May/13Off

Pinwheels for Prevention

Jennifer Smith

Posted by Jennifer Smith

By

Jennifer Smith

Child Well-being Month - Entry wall decor at Clayton Early LearningIf you were to walk to the Clayton Early Learning building today you would walk along a path of blue and silver pinwheels (given that the children haven't already "plucked" up all the enticing spinning sparkles)! Walk inside and you see a rather large Pinwheel on the wall. Why all the pinwheels you may wonder? Well, April was National Child Abuse Prevention month and the pinwheel is symbolic of the bright futures that ALL children deserve. To learn more about the Pinwheels for Prevention campaign visit their website: http://www.preventchildabusecolorado.org/ Child Abuse is a topic that hits the pit of your stomach. It’s tragic, horrifying, and unthinkable. But it's important that we do talk about its presence in our community, because ignoring the issue isn't going to make it go away. Pinwheels grace the pathway by Clayton Ediucare main entrance.Support for child abuse prevention efforts have expanded due in part to the growing body of evidence that suggests home visitation programs for families with young children can reduce the incidence of maltreatment and improve child and family outcomes. Additional research has shown the impact Six Protective Factors have on strengthening families and as a result reducing the likelihood of child abuse within those families. Programmatically we are working within home visitation programs and these ‘protective factors’ every day. Therefore, it is easy to see how Clayton Early Learning is poised at the front lines to be making giant impacts with this work. We don't need a specific "month" to work within these concepts (because it is what our program is fundamentally about) but it's a great opportunity to align with community efforts to help spread the word. So let me tell you a little bit more about what those ‘protective factors’ are.

6 Protective Factors

  • Jenny with small girl putting pinwheels in the lawn at Clayton Early Learning.Nurturing and Attachment - It is the basis of all development. Babies are born social creatures and need attachments to survive. This protective factor emphasizes the importance for caregivers to understand and meet their child’s need for love, affection and stimulation.
  • Social Connections - Much like the Nurturing and Attachment factor. The social connections protective factor addresses the importance of caregivers to build a network of emotionally supportive friends, family and neighbors.
  • Parental Resiliency - All families have inner strengths and skills. This protective factor focuses on the ability of families to tap into these resources, which can help serve as a foundation for building their internal resiliency.
  • Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development - Knowing what is the usual course of child development helps provide families with the ability to set realistic and consistent expectations for their children.
  • Social Emotional Competency of Children - The more children are able to identify, regulate and communicate their feelings, the more responsive families can be to meet their children’s needs, which leads to decreased stress and frustration.
  • Concrete Supports for Parents - This is the tangible supports we can offer to families such as parenting support groups, resources, and educational classes.

4-30_pinwheel-cTo learn more about these Protective Factors and how you can be active in strengthening families visit the websites of The Center for the Study of Social Policy and the Child Welfare Information Gateway [http://www.cssp.org].

Please take a few extra minutes this month to educate yourself on ways Colorado is addressing Child Abuse.

Whatever your role, you can find ways to encourage providers and parents in building these protective factors within their families and communities.

References:

History of Child Abuse Prevention Month. Retrieved from https://www.childwelfare.gov/preventing/preventionmonth/history.cfm

Preventing Child Maltreatment and Promoting Well-Being: A Network for Action 2013. Retrieved from http://www.preventchildabusecolorado.org/

Supporting Evidence-Based Home Visiting to Prevent Child Maltreatment.  Retrieved from http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/earlychildhood/evidencebasedhomevisiting.asp

Other ideas for setting a positive environment.

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22Apr/13Off

Listening to our Echoes and Cultivating a Culture of Courage

By

claytonearlylearning

Kids say the darnedest Picture of a small girl with a teddy bear sitting on a chair.things. I am still caught off guard when I hear our preschool students use one of my phrases. Sometimes I hear a student say, “Okey Dokey Artichokey” or “Silly Willy,” two of my common goofy phrases. Other times I hear my students say, “How can I help you?” or “What are we going to do about this?” When I stop and listen, I hear myself in my students. Considering how much my students absorb from their environment, I realize my approach is deeply influential in our classroom culture.  After hearing my echo across our classroom, I decided to more intentionally examine how to shape our culture to foster vulnerability, courage, resilience, and security.

The Office of Head Start describes ideal classroom environments as:

…places where children feel well cared for and safe. They are places where children are valued as individuals and where their needs for attention, approval, and affection are supported. They are also places where children can be helped to acquire a strong foundation in the knowledge and skills needed for school success. (“Creating a Learning Environment,” 2002)

In my efforts to move closer to this ideal environment, I began reading books and listening to TED talks http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html  by Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Brown researches shame and vulnerability and identifies practices that lead to “wholehearted living.” In her recent book, Daring Greatly: How Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brown discusses how vulnerability is both the core of difficult emotions like fear, grief, and disappointment and the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, empathy, innovation, and creativity. While reading Brown’s book, I discovered that vulnerability is a vital part of any culture that inspires innovation and learning.

Picture of book cover, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. New York: Gottham Books.Brown describes culture as “the way we do things around here” (Brown, 2012, p. 174). She writes about how culture describes who we are and what we believe. When thinking about cultures of organizations, schools, faith communities, and teams, Brown asks these ten questions:

  1. What behaviors are rewarded? Punished?
  2. Where and how are people actually spending their resources (time, money, attention)?
  3. What rules and expectations are followed, enforced, and ignored?
  4. Do people feel safe and supported talking about how they feel and asking for what they need?
  5. What are the sacred cows? Who is most likely to tip them? Who stands the cows back up?
  6. What stories are legend and what values do they convey?
  7. What happens when someone fails, disappoints, or makes a mistake?
  8. How is vulnerability (uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure) perceived?
  9. How prevalent are shame and blame and how are they showing up?
  10. What’s the collective tolerance for discomfort? Is the discomfort of learning, trying new things, and giving and receiving feedback normalized, or is there a high premium put on comfort (and how does that look)?

These questions stirred me to consider the culture in my classroom, my workplace, and my family. While all questions provoked my thinking, questions seven and ten most inspired me to think the cultures in my life.

Question #7: What happens when someone fails, disappoints, or makes a mistake?

Failing, disappointing, and making mistakes are part of the learning process. Everyone makes mistakes, but we need to fix our errors, clean up our messes, and reconcile injured relationships.  When resolving issues in our classroom, we collaboratively problem-solve and identify a solution. We acknowledge the mistake, but we spend most of our time and energy working toward a resolution.

Question #10: What’s the collective tolerance for discomfort? Is the discomfort of learning, trying new things, and giving and receiving feedback normalized, or is there a high premium put on comfort (and how does that look)?

This question caused me to consider how I give feedback and challenge my students. I often tell my students, “I am still learning how to do this.” All of us are still learning something, but we also recognize our strengths so that we can help each other improve. Comfort in our classroom has more to do with our relationships with each other and less to do with the content of our curriculum. When we work on challenging projects that push us out of our comfort zones, each of us is stretched to try new things and do our best.

After reflecting on Brown’s questions, I pay more attention to my echoes. What are my students saying? How are do they respond to each other? Can I see evidence of their sense of security, their willingness to try new things, and their tolerance for the discomfort of learning?

Where do you hear your echo? In your family? In your co-workers? In your students? What do your echoes tell you about your culture? Which question(s) provoke you to try something different in your communities?

 Blog by Megan Bock

References:

Brown, B (2012). Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. New York: Gottham Books.

Creating a Learning Environment for Young Children. (2012). Teaching our Youngest. Early Childhood-Head Start Task Force. ED/HHS. Retrieved from http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/tta-system/teaching/eecd/learning%20environments/planning%20and%20arranging%20spaces/edudev_art_00400_060906.html

6Mar/13Off

I Love to Read Month at Educare Denver

By

claytonearlylearning

February marked Educare Denver at Clayton Early Learning’s third annual participation in “I Love to Read” month.  During the month, a committee of Child and Family Educators and teachers partner together to carefully plan for the event by creating several eye appealing and comfortable areas throughout the Educare building.  These reading nooks encourage and entice young children and their families to sit together and read from Clayton’s tremendous selection of developmentally appropriate and interesting books.  At our school, we find value in creating a special time for families and children to sit together and share the excitement a good book can bring, but more than that, we know that the bonding and connection between parent and child during those special moments is equally important.

I Love to Read bookEach year this dedicated committee plans a month-long calendar of events to provide several rich opportunities for families and children around reading books.  This year, we offered two days of dialogic reading training for families in both English and Spanish.  According to Grover J. (Russ) Whitehurst, Ph.D, “Dialogic reading is just children and adults having a conversation about a book” .  In our school, teachers have been trained to use this technique with children in the classroom.  They document children’s comments and questions as well as make note of unusual words that they then incorporate into their daily conversations with children.  Whitehurst also asserts, “Dialogic reading works. Children who have been read to dialogically are substantially ahead of children who have been read to traditionally on tests of language development.  Children can jump ahead by several months in just a few weeks of dialogic reading.”

I love to read Apple next to kids reading table at Clayton EducareShauna Scott, Mentor Coach Child and Family Educator is one of the “I love to Read” committee members.  She is passionate about reading and the benefits of children and families doing this activity together.  “I love to Read month for me is a great way to instill a love of reading.  We might look at dialogic reading and think it is so complex, but it’s not.  [Families] are already doing it.  It’s such a great way for parents and children to feel valued.  Parents can take a trip down memory lane and recall what they loved about reading and remember the books they loved as a child.”

I love to read Apple at Clayton EducareAs families read or use dialogic reading, they are encouraged to document the books they have explored with children to be displayed in the Atrium of our Educare building.  This year the theme used for the display is a giant apple, which is home to a big green book worm.  Little apples documenting the book read and the child’s name are attached to the giant apple display.  Last year by the end of February, more than 1000 books had been read!  Staff and families were encouraged to guess the total number of books read, and the closest to the actual number received a gift card.  This year, we will accept documentation of the books read through the end of the day Thursday, February 28, 2013. Another drawing will be announced for those who guess the total amount of books read.

I love to read Apple at end of February!February and “I Love to Read” month is a fantastic opportunity for us to highlight the work we do with children all year long.  Every day teachers spend time reading to children during classroom time.  Full-day Head Start Teacher, Vivian Sandoval believes reading is an excellent way to make a “real” connection with children.  “Reading is great for children because regardless of what situation they may be in they can escape with a book to go anywhere they want to go.”  Part-day Head Start classroom Teacher, Megan Bock appreciates the value of “I Love to Read” month as well.  “I like I Love to Read month because it accentuates the importance of families and children reading together.”

Please take a few minutes to sit with a child and help them to explore the wonderful world of books.  This simple act has long-lasting and profound benefits to the children in our lives.  Together, we can make the love of reading last throughout the year!