Archive for the ‘Ages & Stages’ Category

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


Ages & Stages, Environment

Let’s Talk…Autism Awareness

April 2nd, 2014

imagesApril is Autism Awareness month. On March 27, 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued the newest autism prevalence statistics.  For children born in 2002, the prevalence of autism was 1 in 68 (1 in 42 for boys). With those kind of statistics, it is likely you have had a child in your care that falls somewhere on the autism spectrum. As early childhood professionals, we play an important role in observing and noting atypical child development, communicating that information with families and then helping connect them with resources when needed. We are not diagnosticians and most of us are not special education experts, but this does not make our role any less important. The Center for Disease Control understands the importance of the child care professional in recognizing signs of atypical child development and has a campaign specifically to support you – Learn the Signs, Act Early. There you will find milestone charts, information on valid & reliable screenings, and FREE materials/resources translated into many languages. Be sure to take a peek at the Go Out and Play! Kit.

Are you monitoring and documenting child development milestones? Are you screening children on a regular basis using a valid & reliable tool? Are you having those sometimes difficult conversations with parents based upon what you are observing? Research shows that early intervention treatment services can greatly improve a child’s development. You are an important link to helping parents make those connections!

If you are a center director in Iowa, we will be offering an online class titled Early Signs of Autism: What Directors Need to Know on April 9. To see all of Iowa State University Extension & Outreach’s online classes, bookmark the site –


P.S. To share your experiences related to red flags of atypical child development and referring families to available resources, please visit

Ages & Stages, Inclusion

Let’s Talk…Good Grief

June 14th, 2013

I learned today that two home child care providers from southwest Iowa passed away. My heart aches for their own families, the children in their care, and the families that cherished them as well. It is likely if you have been in the field for some time that you have experienced helping a child cope with grief in some way.

eXtension offers the following advice in their article Loss and Grief: Talking with Children:

  • Be honest.
  • Use simple language.
  • It is ok to say you don’t know.
  • Watch the words that you use. “I’m sorry your Grandpa died” is more clear to a child than “I’m sorry to hear you lost your Grandpa.”
  • Know that preschool children might believe their thoughts or actions somehow caused the death. Help them process the real reason if needed.

Feel free to share the article with parents in this situation as it gives some suggestions for words to use with different ages.

If you have other resources to share or thoughts related to this topic, please share at


Ages & Stages, Family Relationships ,

Let’s Talk…Exploration

July 18th, 2012

Have you ever had a child start in your program and appear to have no experience with art materials? It seems the first thing they do is squeeze the glue bottle until the page is nearly filled with glue and the bottle is near empty. Give thought to WHY the child did this. If we have never experienced a material, we likely don’t understand its use and purpose – even something as common to us as adults as glue.

So, is the next step to deny future opportunities with glue so that no more is wasted? No teacher (particularly one on a tight budget!) likes to see “wasted” glue, but we have to see this as a teaching opportunity with something like, “Glue can help us attach one thing to another. It works best when we squeeze gently and use small dots like this.” A visual cue card might also be needed as a reminder.

I am always surprised to hear early childhood staff share with me things like, “I could never have a garden. My children would just destroy it” or even “I can’t keep my books out because children will rip the pages.” While I understand the feeling, we must challenge ourselves to see the initial experience as exploration (so not a time to scold a child) and then support the child in learning more appropriate use of materials.


P.S. To respond with your thoughts, visit

Ages & Stages, Environment, Guidance

Let’s Talk…Charlie Bit Me

December 11th, 2011

Have you seen the adorable British siblings in the viral video Charlie Bit Me? Here is my public confession — both of my children went through a biting stage while in child care, and it was anything but adorable!! Even with all of my early childhood knowledge, I felt powerless as a parent in preventing this and a sense of shame and guilt each day during pick-up dreading the thought of another biting incident notification. My head knew that this was a normal (although unacceptable) stage of childhood and that this would eventually pass as my children gained verbal skills and empathy for others. Yet my heart was heavy. Sad for the playmates they had hurt, worry that the other parents in the program saw my child as a threat to their child, and concern for the stress that my toddler was causing for the staff in the classroom.

They are so many great resources on biting! Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has an excellent printable handout for parents (and caregivers) on this topic – Understanding Children – Biting. My colleague, Lesia Oesterreich, has also written an article for the National Network on Child Care geared more for early childhood professionals on the subject – Biting Hurts! What other resources have you found to be helpful when a young child takes to sampling the flesh of friends (and possibly you) in your early childhood program?  What tips and strategies have helped reduce the number of incidents until the stage has passed?  We hope you will share!

Do you have stories, perspectives or data on this topic? Foundations for Families in Virginia is working on a resource book related to biting. They need your front line experiences! An excellent way to contribute to the professional development of our field.

If you are currently struggling with this issue, remind yourself that “this too shall pass” as you work to find the reason for the biting behavior and prevention strategies.  I am happy to report that my children have successfully made it to the tween and teenage years without turning into permanent vampires. :)

Hope you will share what has been successful for you related to young children biting!!


Ages & Stages ,

Let’s Talk…Infant Massage

September 14th, 2011

I am pleased to introduce this week’s guest blogger Laurie Jeffries, head teacher in the infant/toddler classroom at Iowa State University Child Development Laboratory School and a certified infant massage therapist.  Malisa

Touch is the very first sense to appear in utero and is central to the rest of our senses. It is the sense which is most developed at birth and is our very first form of communication. All of our other senses depend upon touch for valuable sensory information. “The infant’s need for body contact is compelling. If that need is not adequately satisfied, even though all other needs are adequately met, he or she will suffer” Dr. Ashley Montagu, Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin

What are the benefits of Infant Massage?

•       Deepens Bonding: The hormone Oxytocin is released in both giver and infant. This hormone is called the feel good hormone. Massage decreases levels of cortisol (stress hormone).

•       Improves Communication: Massage enhances ability to read cues the baby is sending.

•       Contributes to development: Babies who are touched often (massaged) gain weight better, digest food better, absorb nutrients better, and massage helps with elimination

•       Helps Baby to Sleep Better: Massage allows baby to relax, sleep deeper, and for longer periods of time. And let’s be honest most parents could use the rest themselves!

One stroke that I personally like is called Gentle Glide. Always use some type of cold-compressed oil. Lotions have a chilling affect on the baby’s skin. You can do this with arms or legs. With your non-dominant hand clasp the baby’s ankle. With oil on your dominant hand start at the upper thigh and just slide your hand down the babies leg. You can rotate hands if you like or just use one hand.

A very calming stroke that will often aid in a baby falling asleep is clasping the baby’s head with your hands on each side of his or her face. Using your thumbs, gently glide them starting above the bridge of the nose out towards the temples. Then pick up your thumbs and continue until the baby is asleep or is signally that he or she is done with this stroke.

I recommend taking a class to learn more about infant massage. There are books available that will also help you learn some different strokes. Most importantly make this a bonding and enjoyable time with the infant in your care.

Let us hear from you! How are you using the power of touch in your program with young children?

Ages & Stages, Early Learning , ,