Let’s Talk… Banned Book Week

September 22nd, 2014

Banned Book 1September 21 – 27 marks Banned Book Week 2014. It is one of my favorite “special weeks” because it draws attention to the importance of books and the place they hold in our lives as well as celebrates our freedom to read.  I’ve read many “banned books” and most are ones that challenge the way I have previously thought of something in a way that changes me forever.

In early childhood, it is our responsibility to meet the needs of all the children in our care, which means we need to be selective of books we have in our collection. Some challenged children’s books that a family might deem appropriate in their home might not be appropriate in group care.  For example, books with images of characters hurting one another.  Other frequently challenged books are ones that present families in many different ways, and these might be very appropriate for early childhood.  As a matter of fact, the September 2014 issue of NAEYC’s Young Children explores the issues surrounding engaging many different types of families.

When I visit with early childhood professionals, they almost always tell me they have a “wide selection” of books, but most often they mean LOTS of books, not necessarily a WIDE selection. To have a wide selection it’s important to have books from the following types of categories for all the ages of children in your care:

  • Race/Culture
  • Ages
  • Abilities
  • Animals
  • Familiar Experiences & Objects
  • Fiction
  • Factual
  • Nature/Science

Books are our windows to many different types of people, places, objects and experiences, and this holds true for children as well. This week, take a critical look at your book collections.  Are there frightening images that might be best removed?  Are there any of the categories above missing?  Let us know what you discover at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/banned-book-week/.


Early Learning, Environment ,

Let’s Talk… DAP What…???

September 17th, 2014

difficult 2Many years ago, when I first started hearing about developmentally appropriate practices (A.K.A. DAP), it sounded like a scary and complicated classroom strategy that only after several college courses would I be able to fully understand. Over the years, however, I have come to understand that developmentally appropriate practice simply means meeting children where they are at in this moment in time.  Recently I ran across a NAEYC resource that does a great job of illustrating this idea.  10 Effective DAP Teaching Strategies suggests the following simple approaches to meeting children in this moment and time in support of their overall development:

  1. Acknowledge
  2. Encourage
  3. Give Specific Feedback
  4. Model
  5. Demonstrate
  6. Create or add challenge
  7. Ask Questions
  8. Give Assistance
  9. Provide Information
  10. Give Direction

An infographic of these ten strategies is available to help keep DAP reminders close at hand. In addition to these strategies, you can explore more about DAP via a previous Let’s Talk post as well.

DAP is the best way to ensure the needs of each unique and individual child are met. How do you make development appropriate practice less scary and more meaningful in your work with children?  Let us know at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/dap-what/.


Early Learning, Professionalism ,

Let’s Talk…Sanitize or Disinfect?

September 11th, 2014

As a child care provider and administrator I had a tendency to “go nuclear” when it came to sanitizing and disinfecting. My philosophy was “If a little is good, then a lot must be even better.”  The smell of bleach made me feel that things must be clean. What I know now is that I was putting additional toxins in the environment unnecessarily (not to mention ruining the backs of a few precious outfits that came in contact with heavy bleach solutions on the diaper changing table). Clean, sanitize and disinfect have different purposes and we need to make choices based upon the situation.

What I have found from my recent work with early childhood professionals is that many are confused by when to sanitize, when to disinfect and exactly what the difference is. Here is an excellent Cleaning and Sanitation chart from NAEYC that includes definitions and when to use what solution. Appendix J of Caring for Our Children also shares excellent information on mixing your bleach solutions or using an alternative to bleach.

Be sure to check out this video from ISU Extension and Outreach on the proper table sanitation procedure -

  • Are you mixing the correct solution concentration for the task at hand?
  • Are you following all the steps to properly sanitize your table?
  • Are you keeping children at a safe distance when using bleach and other chemical?

To share your thoughts on this discussion, go to http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/sanitizedisinfect/


Health & Safety

Let’s Talk…Diaper Changes

September 5th, 2014

Group care is different than caring for your own children or grandchildren. So, it makes sense that a diaper change in child care would be different than one we might do on our own kids. In a situation where we are professional caregivers working to reduce contamination and sanitation issues, then it stands to reason we need certain procedures to follow on a consistent basis. The highest standard comes from Caring for Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards; Guidelines for Early Care and Education Programs. Check out Iowa State University Extension & Outreach walking you through the steps -

You will want to print and post the steps from Healthy Child Care Iowa near your changing table.

  • Do you prepare supplies in advance?
  • Do you complete the hand wipe step?
  • Do you properly disinfect the area?

To share with us your thoughts, visit http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/diaperchange/


Health & Safety

Let’s Talk…Handwashing 101

August 20th, 2014

We are all SUPER excited to share with you one of our latest videos so that you can have a visual for all of the steps in a best practice hand wash.  Washing your hands properly is the single most important line of defense in preventing the transmission of disease-causing organisms. Start your school year off right by washing your hands thoroughly and supporting your children in following all the steps!

If you have not done so already, be sure to download the Healthy Child Care Iowa’s flyer for posting near your hand washing sinks.

  • Do you wet your hands before getting soap?
  • Are you and your children scrubbing for 20 seconds outside the stream of water?
  • What about turning off the faucet with a paper towel and not touching the garbage to avoid recontamination?

To share with us your thoughts, visit http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/handwashing101/



Health & Safety

Let’s Talk…Summer/Fall Transitions

August 15th, 2014

Hesitant childAugust brings with it lots of talk about the back-to-school transition: clothes, supplies, bus and carpool arrangements, and child care arrangements.  There is a lot of information and many resources available online for parents on helping a child transition to a new child care environment or preschool, but not a lot of information available for the early care professional on how to help children with the transition from your side of the equation.  School agers going back to school, regulars returning after a summer at home, and/or welcoming new children, along with many new routines, is worth some thoughtful planning to ensure everyone, including you, the professional, has a smooth transition to fall.

So… what are your ideas for transitioning from summer break to fall schedules?  Let us know at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/summerfalltransitions/.


Early Learning, Guidance

Let’s Talk…Courageous Educators

August 6th, 2014

lionThe school year is beginning and even for year-round child care programs the new school year marks a time of welcoming. It offers an opportunity for family child caregivers to reflect on the mission and philosophy of their program — giving thought to where they are strong and where they have room for improvement. For center-based staff, hopefully there is a chance to come together as a team for reflection, discussion and goal-setting. So, what do you want to see different about your program or classroom?

Remember to make your goals tangible and write the steps of how you are going to get there. Review those steps and goals on a regular basis.

Stagnant is never a good thing. Propose something that makes a meaningful difference, and you’ll often hear “But we’ve always…”, “But the parents will never…”, “But we can’t be the only program in the area to…”  What, then, do truly courageous early educators do?  They dig deeper, they take responsibility, and they take that leap!

“Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” John Wayne

We would love to hear your courageous goals for the upcoming school year! http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/courageous-educators/



Let’s Talk… Family Vacations

July 29th, 2014

rock photo for Lets talkIn June my colleagues with Science of Parenting blogged about the benefits researchers have found related to family vacations. For example, did you know that research suggests children who travel with their families tend to score higher on measures of academic achievement?

On a recent trip to Upper Michigan, it occurred to me that there are also lots of potential benefits for child care programs, as well, when families travel. For example, one evening on my trip I collected many flat, stackable rocks from a beach on Lake Superior. When I returned home I arranged the rocks on my mantle to represent my family, but children could have lots of fun building with the rocks in a variety of ways, or sorting the rocks according to color, size, or texture. And the best part… children’s play is how they learn!!

One mark of high quality programs is nature and science materials accessible to children throughout the day. As families in your program head out on their summer adventures, visit with them about items they might be able to bring back to your program.  Rocks, pine cones, shells, or leaves that have fallen would all be great nature collections.  Photos of different landscapes could also be great additions to a nature/science area.  Post cards sent via the mail or collected and donated upon return could reflect nature, wildlife, architecture, or historic places and are great literacy examples.

Family engagement is another indicator of high quality programs. How have your program and the families you serve collaborated to increase learning opportunities around family vacations?  Let us know at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/family-vacations/.


Early Learning, Environment, Family Relationships , ,

Let’s Talk…Severe Weather

July 9th, 2014

New Picture (15)April 23, 2001, is a day I will always remember.   It was a beautiful Monday morning and literally out of what we thought was a clear blue sky a small tornado made its way through the little town where I had my family child care business.  Fortunately no one in my home was injured and there were only a handful of minor injuries sustained by others.  There was some property damage, but nothing significant.  I remember feeling very sad about a little tree about a block from my home that had been lifted up from the ground, roots and all, and tossed in the grass.  The recent severe weather across Iowa has been a keen reminder of why that day stands out so vividly in my mind… I gained a true appreciation for why practicing emergency drills is so important in child care.

For example, the children in my care knew where to go for tornado drills, but getting curious preschoolers to a safe place in the basement with my arms full of small children while a real siren was going off was a major challenge.  I learned that practicing drills is as much for how you, the provider, will manage in an emergency situation as it is for the children. Practice, practice, practice, for your sake as much as for the children’s!

Parents will be frantic!  The minute word got out in my small community that there was damage (remember, it was minor) near my part of town, parents were not only calling but they also arrived at my home to make sure the children and I were ok.  In addition to ensuring you have emergency contact information, have you communicated with your families how you will get word to them in a weather related emergency?  Discuss this often so that parents know and understand what they can expect.

There are lots of check lists and how to manuals for being prepared in an emergency.  One example is from the Administration for Children and Families: Office of Child Care.  It includes lots of links to other resources, including some state specific links.  Also, remember to follow the specific guidelines set in your registration or licensing expectations.

Emotions and adrenaline run high when bad weather strikes… are you ready?  Share your stories about weather related lessons at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/severe-weather/


Health & Safety

Let’s Talk…I Spy Some More

July 1st, 2014

Lab 1 and 2 034Last week we gave thought to display for children. Let’s explore a bit further on the other side of the pendulum – when we potentially overdo our wall space with so many visuals that it is overwhelming for young children. Rethinking the Colorful Kindergarten Classroom shares about a study that concluded when kindergarteners are taught in a highly decorated classroom they are more distracted and their test scores are lower than a room more spartan. This is not to mean that an early childhood classroom should be bare or austere, but that we need to set guidelines in limiting what is displayed as well as be intentional and purposeful in what we do display. For example, we want to recognize and honor children’s individual artwork, but when we display it among all kinds of other visual images then it loses its focus. My favorite suggestion in the article is from a teacher – “Let wall displays grow from children’s experiences.” Yes!!  A fabulous journal article on this subject comes from NAEYC’s Beyond the Journal titled Consider the Walls.

How do you find the balance in your wall displays between scant and too much? Share with us at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/display2/