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Let’s Talk . . . Essential Oils

Passion Flower EssenceHURRY… Registration for the EcoHealthy Child Care® series ends this weekend!

A recent news story about sick children and adults from essential oils diffused in a child care center concerned me. In our Eco Healthy Child Care online series we talk about indoor air quality and its impact on children and the workers in the child care setting. One of our recommendations is to reduce the use of air fresheners.They can trigger asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

Essential oils are often used as an alternative to the artificially scented products that cover up the many different smells we encounter in child care.  Essential oils are plant derived concentrates that are often used for well-being and can be beneficial if used correctly.  Essential oils have medicinal properties and users must know which single oil or blend, its dosage and form of administration (inhalation, topical or ingestion) are appropriate for a person. Even good things can be toxic when used inappropriately.

Children’s bodies are much more susceptible to the influence of chemicals in the environment because they are smaller and their organs are still developing. They are exposed to toxins through inhalation, skin absorption and ingestion. Adult bodies are more adept at cleaning out toxins and are larger. Pound for pound an inhaled chemical like essential oil has a greater affect on children and can become toxic quickly.

Ventilation is key to improving indoor air quality. Reduce moisture levels that may encourage mold and mildew by fixing leaks. Minimize dust and debris with a damp cloth. Keep the child care floor clean with long, moisture and dirt-grabbing rugs at entrances and vacuum/sweep all floors at least daily.  Reduce transmission of illness with consistent hand-washing and diapering/toileting procedures. In Iowa, child care settings should be practicing these hand-washing guidelines.

Use essential oils judiciously in cleaning products to reduce germs on surfaces, but limit their use as a classroom inhalant and never use topically on children in your care. Consult a certified aromatherapist if you choose to use essential oils personally or professionally. They have been through extensive training on the medicinal properties of each single or blend of essential oils.

When your olfactory sense is on alert, open the window.

Registry for EcoHealthy Child Care® on the DHS Training Registry.

Kristi Cooper, Human Science Specialist, Grandma and aromatherapy user.

 

Kristi Cooper

Kristi Cooper

Kristi’s expertise in caregiving, mind body skills and nature education inspires her messages about healthy people and environments with parents, professionals, and community leaders.

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Let’s Talk. . . Minimizing Plastics

20151002_172147 Take a moment and think about one of your activity centers.  What are most of the objects in the center made of?  If you said plastic, you are not alone.

According to the Environmental Working  Group, certain plastics are known to contain toxic chemicals which have negative impacts on human health. Children are particularly vulnerable to these toxic chemicals since their body systems and organs are still developing. Their bodies are small, so what may be a small dose for an adult may be a big dose with big effects for a child. Young children are also at greater risk since they often insert plastic objects into their mouths. Baby bottles, sippy cups, teething rings, and toys are often made with phthalates and Bisphenol A (BPA). These two toxic ingredients in plastics are of particular concern, as research increasingly shows that these chemicals mimic or suppress hormones (e.g., estrogen and testosterone) and disrupt normal development and growth. Avoid plastics with recycling codes: #3, #6, and #7.

Safety and learning is enhanced when children experience the physics and properties of different materials by playing with a variety of objects.  We know that open-ended materials – that don’t have a prescribed role or purpose – give kids a brain boost by stimulating creativity and imagination.  (Think Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles vs real turtle shells or puppets.) Do your kids a favor and provide a wide variety of materials.

Child care professionals in a recent Nature Explore workshop brainstormed ideas to minimize plastic in their classrooms.  Here are some examples –

  • plastic broom => wood and natural bristle broom;
  • plastic rolling pin => corn cob;
  • plastic bins =>open natural baskets or wooden bowls
  • plastic math manipulatives =>smooth stones with numbers painted on them, sea shells, pine cones or twigs;
  • plastic shelf => wood shelf;
  • paintbrushes=> prairie grasses or wheat stalks;
  • plastic flowers=>real flowers;
  • plastic scoops => small terracotta flower pots;
  • plastic place-mats => bamboo place-mats;
  • plastic writing tools => wooden pencils;
  • plastic buckets => galvanized metal pails.

At the Science Center of Iowa, the preschool director began replacing furniture in the classrooms. Things that changed included:

  • plastic kitchen set => wood kitchen set;
  • plastic chairs and tables => wood;
  • quiet corner plastic chairs=> fabric hammocks;
  • curtain rods=> tree branches.

She also added softness by giving each teacher lengths of transparent fabric to use in the classroom.  They draped it above the entrance to the room to create a welcoming atmosphere, above an activity center to minimize the bright fluorescent lights and in a corner to define a quiet area.

What will YOU do to minimize plastics and increase learning in YOUR classroom?

Kristi Cooper, a Certified Nature Explore Educator and new grandma!

P.S. Want to learn more about how products like plastics impact your program? Check out EcoHealthy Child Care!  Registration for the upcoming series is going on NOW on the DHS Training Registry.

Kristi Cooper

Kristi Cooper

Kristi’s expertise in caregiving, mind body skills and nature education inspires her messages about healthy people and environments with parents, professionals, and community leaders.

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Let’s Talk…Summer School-Age

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/

Malisa

Malisa Rader

Malisa Rader

Malisa Rader is a human sciences specialist that misses the daily hugs and high-fives from little people.

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Let’s Talk…Autism Awareness

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 – http://www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/el-online

Malisa

P.S. To share your experiences related to red flags of atypical child development and referring families to available resources, please visit http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/autism/

Malisa Rader

Malisa Rader

Malisa Rader is a human sciences specialist that misses the daily hugs and high-fives from little people.

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Let’s Talk…Good Grief

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  http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/grief/

Malisa

Malisa Rader

Malisa Rader

Malisa Rader is a human sciences specialist that misses the daily hugs and high-fives from little people.

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Let’s Talk…Exploration

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.

Malisa

P.S. To respond with your thoughts, visit http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/exploration/

Malisa Rader

Malisa Rader

Malisa Rader is a human sciences specialist that misses the daily hugs and high-fives from little people.

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Let’s Talk…Charlie Bit Me

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!!

Malisa

Malisa Rader

Malisa Rader

Malisa Rader is a human sciences specialist that misses the daily hugs and high-fives from little people.

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Let’s Talk…Infant Massage

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?

Malisa Rader

Malisa Rader

Malisa Rader is a human sciences specialist that misses the daily hugs and high-fives from little people.

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