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/



Let’s Talk…I Spy

June 23rd, 2014

Welcome again guest blogger Jamie Smith, ISU Environmental Rating Scale Assessor.


I Spy with my Little Eye…

Display is one item assessed in all of the ERS Scales and is an important factor in your child care program.  Displays not only give the children something to look at, but, as they are able, something to talk about.  Careful selection of your display can lead to valuable learning experiences.    Ask yourself some questions about your display to determine if it is having a valuable impact on the children.

What is displayed?

While cartoon-like pictures and posters can be cute to adults and some children, realistic pictures give children accurate representations of people and objects found in their world.

Developmentally appropriate displays provide children items to look at, explore, touch, and discuss.  Posters of the alphabet, shapes, and numbers may be appropriate for preschool-aged children, but are not always for appropriate infants and toddlers.  Remember to keep display relevant to the children who will be experiencing it.

Quality displays should contain pictures and posters depicting a variety of people.  Not only do these displays provide children with stimulating pictures and conversations, they also provide exposure to the different types of people in our world.  The people represented in displays should reflect different races, cultures, ages, abilities, and genders.

Who can see it?

Consider where your display is located and who can see it.  Is it at eye level?  Mobile infants, toddlers, and preschool aged children are generally capable of moving around the classroom and able to view the displays as they choose.  Keep in mind that children can’t fully experience display if it is covered  or partially covered.  Are there some pieces of display that are hidden behind a shelf or partially covered by the easel?

Special care needs to be taken when creating displays for non-mobile infants.  Consider whether or not they are able to see display while they are laying on the floor or during tummy time.  Display should be throughout the room, not just in main play areas.  Placing pictures or posters in the diaper changing area, on cribs, and within view of feeding areas ensures that young infants will have access to display.

How often is it changed?

With so many things to consider and do each day, display can often be forgotten.  Remember to change it frequently so that it will continue to have an impact on children.  Fresh display sparks exploration, new conversations and new ideas.

Are the children included in the display?

When children see their art work displayed, it not only gives them a sense of pride in their work, but also a sense of belonging.  When their art work or pictures of themselves and/or their families are displayed, children understand that they are an accepted and valued part of the classroom community.

To share your thoughts on this post, visit http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/display/

Jamie Smith


Let’s Talk…Retirement

June 14th, 2014

RetirementWhen I was a family child care provider, retirement was the farthest thing from my mind. Runny noses, crayon drawings, diaper changes, meal preparation, and time on the floor playing with the children were where most of my energy was spent. Sure, there are those days in child care where we all joke about retiring to a beach someday, but research shows very few early childhood professionals are taking the steps they need to be able to retire comfortably. An Iowa child care workforce study showed that less than 50% of center teachers or assistant teachers (46% and 33% respectively) have retirement accounts, and only 14% of registered child care providers have retirement accounts! Early childhood professionals spend so much time taking care of others that planning for their own needs is often overlooked.

So where does one begin when thinking about retirement? Ask yourself, “What do you want your later years to look like?” Do you want to travel, volunteer, take up a new hobby or rediscover an old one? Do you want to stay in the community you currently live, or is a warmer climate or maybe a community closer to family calling your name? The answers to these questions can help you begin to pull together a plan for your retirement, including how much you will need to save. The earlier you start, the better, but it is never too late!! There are lots of resources to help you begin, such as a new publication series called Retirement: Secure Your Future. Planning Your Financial Future, an Iowa DHS credit approved class for child care professionals, can also help you begin to see why retirement planning is important and where you can begin. Search for face-to-face and online classes on the DHS Training Registry.

When I retire I hope to garden and travel to see family.  What do you see yourself doing? Let us know at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/retirement/.


Personal Finance

Let’s Talk…Summer School-Age

June 3rd, 2014

bookIt is officially summer for most of us in early care and education and that frequently means an influx of school-agers to our program. Because this age group is typically not a focus of our work, we need to make sure we give some special thought and attention to our activities and environment to make sure they meet this age group’s needs.

  • Books – Summer is the perfect time for children to read for enjoyment. Do you have reading material appropriate for school-agers? Check out this list of recommended summer reading for children ages 8-13 put together by Newbery award winning author Kate DiCamillo.
  • Dramatic Play – Have you made materials accessible that are more appealing to elementary students like fantasy toys such as pirates and fashion dolls?
  • Manipulatives – While there are some universal toys that span a large age group like unit blocks, school-agers can spend many hours building with smaller or more complicated building materials. If you have mixed age groups, be sure to have a plan for children safely playing with those materials.
  • Art – What thought have you given to add to your art center that will meet an older children’s needs? Keep in mind that the attention span of school-agers is longer than toddlers and preschoolers. Allow them the opportunity to extend their projects over several days if needed.

Of course, this is just a starting point for thinking about how to keep school-agers engaged and satisfied over the summer. Be sure to make them feel special and give independence where possible so they don’t feel like they have been placed back in preschool.  What are your best tips for integrating school-agers into your full-day program? Join the conversation at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/summer-school-age/


Ages & Stages, Environment

Let’s Talk…5210

May 28th, 2014

5210 imageAs early childhood professionals, you know how difficult it is to keep track of current health and nutrition information. For example, “My Pyramid” is now “My Plate”, and it seems like each year the Child and Adult Care Food Programs changes its requirements just a little to meet the ever changing new health recommendations. Well, my colleagues with the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative introduced me to a simple and catchy phrase to keep straight several different health and fitness recommendations for children. The phrase is “5210”. (Anyone remember Beverly Hills 90210? Maybe that’s why I find 5210 so catchy!) Here is what 5210 stands for:

  • 5 or more fruits and vegetables
  • 2 hours or less of recreational screen time
  • 1 hour or more of physical activity
  • 0 sugary drinks (more water and low-fat milk)

The 5210 Let’s Go! website has tool kits designed for various ages and audiences, including child care programs. The 5210 Goes to Child Care tool kit includes posters, resources, and activities around each of the four 5210 categories, as well as information for parents on each topic. Check it out and share what you find with us at  http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/lets-talk-5210-2.


Health & Safety