Archive for the ‘Guidance’ Category

Let’s Talk…Give Me Some Space!

June 25th, 2015

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

Protecting nonmobilesWe know it’s vital for infants to have open space on the floor to play, but how do we keep them safe from older children?  In the eyes of a toddler or preschooler, infants can be like a shiny new toy.  The urge to touch and play with the new “toy” can be overwhelming.  Children don’t have the intention to hurt an infant, but sometimes their natural curiosity can pose a threat to non-mobile infants. I’ve listed some tips and techniques that I have observed or used below.  Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts – we can all use fresh ideas!

Establish boundaries. Some programs set aside space specifically for non-mobile infants.  Designating a corner of the room for infant play (a rug with rattles, cloth books, and other infant materials) provides older children with a visible difference in play areas.

Don’t have room to designate a specific space?  Use a blanket or mat to indicate a non-mobile infant’s personal space. Blankets and mats are portable, so you can move the child to different areas of the program while still being able to supervise all children.

Keep active play areas separated from infants on the floor.  Designate a safe place for children to dance or use active toys away from non-mobile infants.  This will keep the area around the infant less active and less likely to cause injury.

However you arrange the space used for floor play by non-mobile infants, remember supervision is key.  Arrange all play areas to enable you to both visually supervise and also move quickly to a different area if your help is needed.

Help children learn appropriate ways to interact with babies.  Remember, we encourage children to be curious and explore their world, and with supervision, children can safely satisfy their curiosity about babies, too. Providing interested children with their own baby doll to care for can help them practice what they see and take on some “grown-up” tasks.

Another way children can safely interact with non-mobile infants is to help when appropriate.  Bringing the infant a favorite toy or stuffed animal can make an older child feel important and allow them to safely interact with an infant.  Make polite requests like “Baby Alex is laying here on his blanket.  Can you tell him a story while I get his bottle?”

Use those “teachable moments” to encourage social skills.   Help children understand privacy and personal space.  Use phrases such as “You know, Baby Kate is playing by herself right now.  I don’t think she wants you to touch her.  Can you build a tall tower with blocks instead?  I’ll bring Kate over to see it when you’re done.”

Use infant attempts to communicate to teach older children how to respond to verbal and non-verbal cues from others.  Provide language such as “Baby Leo is crying right now.  Do you think he’s hungry or do you think he needs a diaper change?” and “Wow!  Look at Keisha smile.  She must really like that you’re singing to her.”

Keep older children busy.  Access to plenty of toys and materials keeps children occupied.  If older children are engaged in their own activities, the non-mobile infants in your program may seem less exciting to them.

How do you support both non-mobile infants and older children with floor play?  Let us know at



Additional Resources:
Many children’s books deal with the topic of new babies.  Even if babies aren’t new to your program, these books can help children gain an understanding of infants.  Some examples include:

  • The New Baby at Your House, by Joanna Cole
  • The Berenstein Bears New Baby, by Stan and Jan Berenstein
  • A New Baby is Coming, by Emily Menendez-Aponte

Books about feelings help all children begin to recognize feelings and practice reacting to them.

  • The Feelings Book, by Todd Parr
  • Lots of Feelings, by Shelley Rotner
  • Feelings, by Aliki

The book Personal Space Camp, by Julia Cook, is geared toward older preschool and school-aged children, and provides knowledge and an understanding of personal space that will help children in many situations.

Early Learning, Environment, Guidance, Health & Safety

Let’s Talk… Problem Solving (Part 2)

April 8th, 2015

Again we welcome guest blogger Lori Schonhorst, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Early Childhood Specialist and I-Consult.

Earlier in the week, we discussed the importance of having a consistent problem-solving approach to address challenging situations in your program. One option for problem solving is called DO IT! and includes the four steps below:

D: Define the Problem
O: Open Your Mind to the Possibilities

I:  Identify a Solution
T: Try It!

Simple enough, right?  But what do these steps look like in action?

Define the problem. This is the most important step.  It seems logical but sometimes what we think may be the problem is not actually the problem at all.  Asking questions helps us identify what the actual problem may be.  Examples of questions include:

  • How does it happen?
  • Who is involved?
  • Where does it occur?

Sometimes we have new insights based on the information we uncovered as we are defining the problem.  Maybe we discover that the behavior we are feeling challenged by happens during transitions, or usually happens during outside play, or maybe it tends to happen more often if another child is close by.

Open your mind to the possibilities.  The next step is considering options for solving the problem.  Collaboration can be especially important during this step.  Sharing what things you have already tried and brainstorming new possibilities takes place during this step. It is important to avoid evaluating the ideas at this point…just get the ideas out there and allow for a free-flow sharing of ideas.

Identify the best solution.  After generating ideas, explore the pros and cons of each idea.  If there is an idea that you like but there is something about it that you consider negative or think won’t work, is there a way to modify the idea?

Try it!  It is easy to get stuck and never move to the point of trying an idea out.  If we get too caught up in the sharing of ideas or evaluating the pros and cons of our ideas, action doesn’t happen.  When moving through this last step, it is important to determine:

  • What steps will be taken?
  • Who will do what?
  • What resources are needed and when?
  • How will we determine if it worked?

Problem-solving is often an ongoing effort and sometimes we may try something and then discover the need to start the problem-solving process over; however, having a consistent approach and being creative when exploring options helps create supportive environments for both children and teachers.

How will you use DO IT! in your early childhood work?  Let us know at


Resources: The Art of Creative Thinking, by Robert W. Olson

Guidance, Professionalism

Let’s Talk… Problem Solving (Part 1)

April 6th, 2015

This week we welcome guest blogger Lori Schonhorst, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Early Childhood Specialist and I-Consult.

Problems!  The word itself conjures up images of something to avoid.  But how can a problem be a good thing?  Problems create opportunities….opportunities for collaboration, change and growth…. opportunities to build on the important work you are already doing to support the growth and development of the children in your care.  The challenge can be in how to approach the problem in a way that facilitates positive change.

Partnering with a colleague or seeking support from an outside resource, such as a Child Care Resource & Referral consultant, are helpful strategies for supporting your problem solving efforts. CCR&R Child Care Consultants can provide individualized support to help you with challenges you may be facing in your program.  It is not uncommon to feel the need to problem solve when we are feeling challenged by the behavior of a child….biting, aggressive behavior, or refusal to transition from one activity to another are a few that quickly come to mind. To find out more about consultation services in Iowa, go to  For the national network of Resource and Referral agencies go to Child Care Aware.

Having a consistent approach to problem-solving that is easy to remember can also be a supportive strategy for approaching problem-solving.  One such approach is called DO IT!  Stay tuned for more information on this creative approach to problem solving on Wednesday.

What are your go-to resources for help in solving problems?  Let us know at


Guidance, Professionalism

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


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


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 –


Environment, Guidance

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




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


Early Learning, Guidance

Let’s Talk…Friendship Kit

May 9th, 2014

imagesJ2X5A0IRLove this Friendship Kit idea from the Head Start Center for Inclusion! What a super way to promote pro-social behavior among children in your group. Find this and more teacher tools & classroom visual supports for building social skills at  Be sure to check out the visuals that go along with the Friendship Kit!

Creating a classroom Friendship Kit is a great way to promote the idea of children helping each other. The Friendship Kit is an accessible container that holds all of the necessary items for providing support to a sad or lonely classmate. When children notice a classmate is feeling sad, they can be encouraged to go to the Friendship Kit for ideas to comfort their friend. Teachers may demonstrate how to use the kit at a large or small group time and keep the kit in a visible, easy to access location so children are able to comfort a friend at a moment’s notice! Provide specific examples of when children might use the kit (when a child is sad because he didn’t want his mom to leave, when a child scrapes her knee on the playground, when a child doesn’t have anyone to play with, etc.).

Below are some ideas for items to include in your classroom Friendship Kit:

  • A small package of tissues: to give to a friend to wipe away tears
  • A small stuffed animal: to give to a friend to cuddle
  • A box of Band-Aids: to give to a friend with an owie
  • A couple of sheets of stickers: to put on the shirt of a friend who needs some cheer
  • A pair of silly glasses with moustaches, a funny finger puppet, or other funny prop: to give a sad friend a smile
  • A set of sticky notes and a pencil or crayons: to write a friend in need a happy note for her cubby, table place, etc.
  • Blank, cheerful greeting cards: to write and deliver to a friend
    • A visual reminder for the following actions
    • Ask a friend if he wants a hug
    • Ask a friend if he wants a high five
    • Ask a friend if she is OK
    • Ask a friend if he wants me to get a teacher for help
    • Ask a friend if she wants to play with me

What other resources like this one from Head Start Center for Inclusion do you use to promote pro-social behavior among children? Malisa

Early Learning, Environment, Guidance, Inclusion

Let’s Talk…I’m Waiting

February 14th, 2014

I am excited to introduce a guest blogger this week – Kris Corrigan, ISU Extension & Outreach Environment Rating Scale Assessor. Malisa

WaitingThe time we spend transitioning children between daily routines can be a very busy time for us, but, too often, it is just “unnecessary” wait time for the children in our care.  As an Environment Rating Scale Assessor, I often see these wait times occur when children have to wait in line to go outside, wash hands, or sit idly at a table as they wait for others to sit down for meals. Since young children have not developed the self-control to be able to stand or still for long periods, they will often fidget and “invent” their own activity. Sometimes this is activity that can lead to behavior problems that require intervention from already busy teachers.  For these reasons, the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scales require that there is no long waiting period between transitions during daily routines.  They define a long waiting period as more than three minutes.  There are many strategies that teachers can implement to avoid “unnecessary” wait time, and these require no additional preparation for teachers.  Consider giving children something to do so that transition times can be productive time for them too.

Reducing children’s “wait” time can reduce behavior problems in your program. Check out these resources for transition activity ideas –

What are your favorite transition activities? Share with us at


Environment, Guidance