Let’s Talk… Inclusive Celebrations

December 12th, 2014

This time of year social media is a buzz with how we should greet others during the December holidays. The mindset behind these posts are usually to either maintain the religiosity behind the individual’s beliefs or an attempt to be inclusive of all beliefs.  When working with children and families, however, we need to be respectful of all, regardless of how, or even if, they celebrate December holidays.  The NAEYC Code of Ethical Conduct and Statement of Commitment, in helping to guide our practices, has set several core values that specifically related to this topic.  One core value is “respect the dignity, worth, and uniqueness of each individual (child, family member, and colleague).”  Another is “respect diversity in children, families, and colleagues.”  How, then, are we to even begin to approach holiday celebrations when working with young children, families, and our colleagues?  Below are some resources that can help:

How Can I Plan for Inclusive Holiday Celebrations? (A resource for early childhood)

  • Be Accurate and Sensitive
  • Avoid Stereotyping
  • Look for Themes
  • Be Constitutionally Appropriate

Appreciating Diversity During the Holidays (Includes notes for employers and a link to cultural celebrations)

  • Learn About Other Celebrations
  • Make No Expectations
  • Mark Your Calendar with Holidays People Celebrate

In addition to the NAEYC Code of Ethics, you can also search the NAEYC website for articles and resources around celebrating holidays in an inclusive and respectful manner.

What tips do you have for inclusive holiday celebrations?  Share your ideas at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/inclusive-celebrations/.


Family Relationships, Inclusion ,

Let’s Talk…Bed Bugs

December 1st, 2014

bedbugBad news. A question came to us recently about BED BUGS and early childhood programs.  Not a “fun” topic! The good news is that there are resources available to support you. Have you thought about your policies related to bed bugs? Do your current practices help to prevent the spread of these critters? HINT: They are known to hitchhike on backpacks!! Be sure to check out these links including a sample parent letter to send home.

Does your center have a PMP (Pest Management Plan)? Does it include an action plan for bed bugs? To share your thoughts, visit us at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/bed-bugs/


Health & Safety

Let’s Talk…Pretzels vs. Rubber Bands

November 24th, 2014

rubberbandWe have talked about temperament and “goodness of fit.” The ECMHC’s Infant Toddler Temperament Tool (IT3) shares with you (or a parent!) an array of simple strategies that can be used to best support the unique temperament of each child within your care when completed. And I love this article by Karen Stephens on Strategies for Parenting Children with Difficult Temperament as well as The Temperament Trap: Recognizing and Accommodating Children’s Personalities by Susan Culpepper.

So what about pretzels vs. rubber bands? As early childhood professionals and parents, we have heard that we as the adults need to be the one to adjust once we have the understanding of temperament. Right? But, this has led many of us to twist and contort ourselves to the breaking point – hard & brittle like a pretzel. We need to think about this with a more balanced approach – more like a rubber band. Allowing ourselves time to stretch and grow to meet the child’s needs. If we adjust too much too quickly, then the rubber band will snap. But if we move at a steady pace to meet the child’s unique “shape” we will find our rubber band encircling that child with the support he or she needs and more easily adaptable in different situations.

So, are you like a pretzel or a rubber band when it comes to adjusting to children’s unique temperament? Share with us your thoughts at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/temperament3/


For further reading on the subject of temperament, check out the following books (perhaps add them to your parent library!):

Environment, Guidance

Let’s Talk…GOF

November 17th, 2014

Toddler clinging to an adult's legWhat?! Another acronym to add to our early childhood alphabet soup language? Deep breaths….Perhaps you have already heard the expression “goodness of fit.”   Last week we shared about giving thought to a child’s temperament and the function behind their behavior when using support structures to help a child find social success in your program. Now think about your own temperament. Are your temperaments different? Are they similar? When the two temperaments come together is a there a “goodness of fit”?

Check out this handout from the University of Wisconsin Extension on Goodness of Fit to reflect more on GOF. I really like the seven quick scenarios to test your knowledge.

I know of two tools to help you think about “goodness of fit” between you and a child in your program (can also be shared with parents!) :

What are your thoughts? Does GOF matter?

What about not just in terms of caregiver, but in terms of “goodness of fit” of the program? Some programs are louder than others. Some programs are more structured than others. Some programs have more continuity of care than others. Is there a way to help parents think about their child’s temperament related to the program’s temperament BEFORE enrollment?

To share your thoughts on this subject, please visit us at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/temperament2/


Environment, Guidance

Let’s Talk…Dr. Detective

November 10th, 2014

imagesTTGNR52UWhen a child has a fever of 102 degrees, a medical professional considers that a symptom of something. The doctor has to figure out if this fever is due to influenza or bacterial meningitis or maybe urinary tract infection in order to know how best to treat the fever. The same is true with behavior.  When  children come into our classroom with challenging behaviors, we MUST take the same individual approach. A medical professional will ask the child and caregiver questions, perhaps run some tests and, of course, complete an exam of the child in order to determine the cause of the fever to best treat it.  We have to think the same way with inappropriate behaviors in our program - a behavior detective of sorts. Once we understand the function of the behavior, then we can appropriately “treat” it – giving that child the supports  he or she needs to find success. If we “treat” each child and challenging behavior the same, then there are going to be times where the behavior continues because we haven’t fully considered what is causing the behavior. Just like acetaminophen might give some relief to the child (& caregiver) with a fever, it is possibly only a temporary fix if the root of the fever has not been addressed.

Children come to our program – each with his or her own unique temperament.  The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL) has great information on temperament and why it is our job to adjust with strategies that make for a positive experience for each child in our program.

Share with us how you individualize based upon what you know about a child’s temperament – http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/temperament1/


Environment, Guidance

Let’s Talk… Screen Sense

November 7th, 2014

Baby with computerWhen it comes to technology in early childhood, the pendulum often swings between a belief that very young children should experience no screen time to a belief that as early as possible children should be exposed to technology. As early educators it is our role to help support children’s overall development and wellbeing, but figuring out what is truly best for our youngest charges can be a daunting task.  This time of year can be especially difficult for both early childhood educators and parents in terms of technology as marketing campaigns try to convince consumers to buy the latest and greatest devices designed for all ages.

Fortunately, one of the great heroes in early childhood – Zero to Three – recently released their research report Screen Sense:  Setting the Record Straight—Research-based Guidelines for Screen Use for Children Under 3 Years Old. The work is a collaborative effort between researchers in BOTH media and early childhood, providing a balance of both perspectives.  Research is clear that young children learn best through close relationships with adults and hands-on experiences, but technology is here to stay so it is important to find meaningful ways to incorporate it into the contexts that young children best develop and thrive.  It is possible to find a balance between all and nothing, and the balance lies with meaningful engagement with technology that enhances hands-on learning and interactions with others.  The full Screen Sense report is available at Zero to Three, as well as user-friendly documents that summarize key points:  Screen Sense:  Setting the Record Straight; Using Screen Media with Young Children; and 5 Myths about Young Children and Screen Time.

Future Let’s Talk… Child Care posts will explore meaningful ways to engage children with technology. What are some specific ways you have found to enhance early learning for children through technology?  Share your ideas at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/screen-sense/.


Early Learning ,

Let’s Talk…Sportscasting

October 29th, 2014

microphoneWe love sports at my house and often listen to our local high school team over the radio when they are on the road. A good sportscaster relays the events play-by-play to us so we can visualize exactly what is happening.  So, what does sportscasting have to do with early childhood?

Sportscasting is a term used by Magda Gerber to describe a situation play-by-play to young children.  In its ideal state, sportscasting should be even toned, lacking in accusation or judgement and simply describe the facts. Sounds easy, right? But it is hard to silence the “teacher” in us – the one that wants to instruct and direct learning, the one that wants to “fix” situations in a timely manner.  Take a peek at Janet Lansbury’s blog post The Five Benefits of Sportscasting Your Child’s Struggles.

Give thought to how you can apply this to a group care situation -

  • “Your mom left for work. I can see how sad this makes you.”
  • “Your diaper needs changing. I am going to carry you to the diaper changing table and put a dry diaper on you so you will be comfortable.”
  • “You were working hard at building that tower. It is frustrating when a friend knocks it down.”

Can you TRUST young children and empower them to work through their feelings, rather than make them dependent on adults to redirect, distract or resolve issues?  To share your thoughts, go to http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/sportscasting/




Let’s Talk… Soft Comforts

October 22nd, 2014

Soft itemHow many soft toys do you have in your environment? Tools that measure quality in early childhood often outline specifically how many soft toys  should be available, but why are soft toys even important?

New research in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that holding a soft item reduces feelings of uncertainty, even items as simple as a soft cloth or a pen that has a soft grip. Think of all of the times children experience uncertainty throughout the day:  greetings, departures, staff shift changes, different children arriving and departing, the uncertainty of whether or not I’ll be able to play with the red truck versus the blue truck or will it stop raining so we can play outside.  Soft toys and other soft items help us use one of our most basic senses – touch – to help manage and cope with feelings of uncertainty.

In my family child care a little boy who came part-time had “Bruce”, which was a beloved (unused) cloth diaper that helped him transition on the days he came to my program. How have soft items helped the children (or adults) in your program deal with feelings of uncertainty?  Share your stories at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/soft-comforts/.


P.S.  While soft toys are crucial in the play environment for all ages, always remember safe sleep practices by removing blankets and other soft items from infant sleep environments.

Environment, Health & Safety, Social Emotional ,

Let’s Talk…Changing Demographics

October 16th, 2014

Diversity“Iowa of 2010 looked considerably different than Iowa of 2000. Despite modest overall growth, a variety of significant population shifts occurred within the state, especially among the state’s youngest residents and communities of color” (Iowa Kids Count Special Report, 2011).

If you have not noticed a change in the demographics of your community or the children you care for, chances are you will.  The report shares  that “all parts of Iowa are becoming more diverse and children are leading the way.  Iowa has fewer white residents than it did in 2000 and significantly fewer white children. Iowa’s communities of color – in particular African-American and Latino – grew fast during the decade, and their child population grew fastest of all.”

Be sure to look at the data for your specific city on the KIDS COUNT data center website.

How welcoming is your program to children and families that might be from a different background than you? Do you have posters, books, materials and props that represent children and families from a variety of backgrounds in typical everyday activities?  Check out this Head Start resource titled Same, Different and Diverse: Understanding Children Who Are Dual Language Learners.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this resource that shares actual video clips Embracing Diversity: Songs and Rhymes in 15 Languages.

As we approach the holiday time of year, I want to give you some food for thought as you think about your program’s approach with children and families -

“Child care professionals must make conscious decisions on how to celebrate holidays, just as they make conscious decisions on what snacks to serve or what physical activities to offer,” notes the National Network for Child Care (NNCC).

If you are an early childhood program administrator and want to think more on this topic, consider joining our DHS- & NAC-approved online class in May -  Diversity in Early Care and Education: How Directors Can Support Staff in Honoring Differences

Share with us your strategies for being welcoming in a time of changing demographics –   http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/demographics/

Further reading on this topic:

Bisson, J.  (1997).  Celebrate:  An Anti-Bias Guide to Enjoying Holidays in Early Childhood Programs.  St. Paul MN.  Redleaf Press.

Derman-Sparks, L. & Edwards, J. O. (2010). Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves.  Washington, D.C. NAEYC.

Derman-Sparks, L. & Ramsey, P. G. (2011). What If All the Kids Are White: Ant-Bias Multicultural Education with Young Children and Families.  New York, N. Y. Teachers College Press.

Gonzalez-Mena, J. (2008). Diversity in Early Care and Education: Honoring Differences.  Washington, D.C. NAEYC.

Shareef, I. & Gonzalez-Mena, J. (2008). Practice in Building Bridges: A Companion Resource to Diversity in Early Care and Education.  Washington, D.C. NAEYC.


Environment, Family Relationships

Let’s Talk…Flu, Enterovirus & Ebola

October 8th, 2014

handwashFrom the American Academy of Pediatrics

Strategies for Child Care, Schools related to Ebola, Enterovirus D68 & Flu:

There are numerous news reports about the epidemic of Enterovirus D68 affecting many children, and now Ebola virus.

To ensure the health of all children in child care and school settings, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends caregivers and teachers continue the current procedures already in place to manage infectious diseases (e.g. immunizations, infection control, and proper exclusion practices).

Children with Enterovirus D68, for example, may have symptoms that look similar to children with the common cold, the flu, or other respiratory viruses. Remember, it is not the job of caregivers and schools to diagnose children.
There are steps that Child Care Providers, Facilities, and Schools can take to prevent the spread of infection and illness, including having policies that encourage:

By following these recommendations, you will be doing your part to maintain a healthy environment for all the children in your care, regardless of illness.
Additional resources for Child Care Providers & Schools:

Health & Safety