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Let’s Talk… S.A.F.E.

April 16th, 2015

This week we again welcome guest blogger Kris Corrigan, Iowa State University Environmental Rating Scale Assessor

FriendonPlaygroundPlaygrounds evoke good and bad memories for many of us.  For me, it was testing my limits as I pumped to make the swing go higher and higher or the time my play partner decided to leave the teeter totter and left me in mid-air only to come crashing down landing on a hard surface.  Playgrounds and playground equipment can provide fresh air, fun and great exercise; but, they must be safe.

The statistics are staggering.  Each year over 200,000 children are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries sustained on playgrounds.  In 1995, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) gave the University of Northern Iowa a grant to raise awareness about playground safety.  The National Program for Playground Safety was created.  They researched all the factors that contribute to a safe playground and developed the acronym S.A.F.E. which has become a widely used model for playground safety.

S = Supervision  Effective supervision is an important part of keeping children safe.

A=Age-appropriate design  The equipment should be appropriately challenging and the right size for the ages and abilities of the children.

F=Fall surfacing  The surface under and around any equipment over 18 inches in height should be cushioned with appropriate materials.

E=Equipment maintenance  Routine maintenance is essential in keeping children safe from hazards that can exist.

All four of these elements work hand-in-hand to create a safe playground.  If you are interested in this important topic, you can register for one of several courses offered by the National Program for Playground Safety at http://www.uni.edu/playground

To view short video clips presented by Heather Olsen on each of the S.A.F.E. elements, please go to www.monkeysee.com/playground

How do you incorporate the elements of S.A.F.E into your playground environment? Let us know at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/s-a-f-e/.

Kris

For more information:

Hudson, S., Thompson, D., & Olsen, H. (2007) S.A.F.E. Play Areas – Creation, Maintenance, and Renovation, Cedar Falls, IA: National Program for Playground Safety

Hudson, S., Thompson, D., & Olsen, H. (3rd edition, 2013) Early Childhood Assessment Manual for Outdoor Play Environments, Cedar Falls, IA: National Program for Playground Safety

Consumer Product and Safety Commission (2010, publication #325), Public Playground Safety Handbook www.cpsc.gov/…/Sports-and-Recreation/Playground-Safety/325

National Program for Playground Safety: America’s Playgrounds – Safety Report Card – www.playgroundsafety.org/resources/safety-checklist

National Recreation and Park Association, The Dirty Dozen:  12 Playground Hazards

www.nrpa.org/…/CPSI/DirtyDozenPlaygroundHazards.pdf

Health & Safety

Let’s Talk… Weather Permitting

February 16th, 2015

This week we welcome guest blogger Kris Corrigan, Environmental Rating Scale Assessor.

Snow2Looking back on my childhood, the most fond memories I have are those times I spent playing outdoors, particularly after the first snow.  Whether it was wading through feet of newly fallen snow, falling to the ground to make snow angels or sliding down the hill on my flying saucer; the sense of well-being I felt was unmatched to any other experience I had as a child.  Outdoor play time even in cold weather is essential to the health and well-being of all children and besides… its FUN!

As an ERS (Environment Rating Scale) assessor, I have found that many programs keep children inside when it is safe to go outside.  The Environment Rating Scale uses the term “weather permitting”, which means that children need to have an outdoor experience almost every day unless there is active precipitation or it in extremely cold or hot conditions.  To help child care providers and preschool teachers determine whether it is safe to take children outside for play and gross motor exercise, the Child Care Weather Watch Chart was developed by the Iowa Department of Public Health.

To determine when the temperature is appropriate for outdoor play, the air temp, heat index or wind chill factor must be considered.  They have color coded the chart to give providers a visual of when it is safe to play outside. Green means it is safe to play outside, yellow means proceed with caution, and red indicates the temperature is unsafe for outdoor play. It goes without saying that children need to be dressed appropriately for the weather in order to enjoy their time outside, but taking the time to bundle up and get outside this time of year can provide children with much needed physical activity, fresh air and fond memories they’ll enjoy for a lifetime!

Kris

Environment, Health & Safety

Let’s Talk…Measles

February 6th, 2015

Those of us in the early childhood field have been watching the reports of the measles outbreak in the news. We knew it wouldn’t be long until it reached a child care program with infants too young to be immunized. Caring for Our Children shares specific standards and practices for early childhood programs that should be followed related to measles. Make sure you are aware of the symptoms and prevention information around this highly contagious disease. The Iowa Department of Public Health has easy-to-read information fact sheets that can be printed in several languages that can be shared with parents. If you have a question about your center’s policy, a child’s vaccination record or other health-related questions, be sure to reach out to your Healthy Child Care Iowa nurse consultant.

To share on this topic, visit http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/measles/

Malisa

Health & Safety ,

Let’s Talk… Beating the Winter Blues

January 23rd, 2015

DepressedWoman1Welcome again guest blogger Jamie Smith, ISU Environmental Rating Scale Assessor.

No Sunshine? No Problem!

After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, January is sometimes met with relief.  No more presents to buy and wrap, no more holiday parties to plan, clean, and cook for.  January can also bring a sense of let-down, or blues.  As early childhood caregivers, we choose to work with children daily because their smiles, laughter, and accomplishments bring us great joy.  While it may be easy to “put on a happy face” for the children in your care, it is important to remember to take good care of yourself during these long winter months.

It’s very easy to get bogged down with the cold weather and loss of sunshine during winter.  The holidays give us something to look forward to.  After they’re over, it’s important to find something that motivates us.  Set small goals and reward yourself when you’ve achieved them.  Scooped the elderly neighbor’s driveway for them? Treat yourself to a special dessert and your favorite movie.  Exercise three times a week all month? Get a manicure with your best friend.

Prevention Magazine’s article “How to Prevent Winter Blues” provides some great tips for adults.  You may spend many days cooped up inside.  While it may come as second nature to you to create activities and experiences for the children to avoid cabin fever, it is important to do the same for yourself.

http://www.prevention.com/prevent/how-prevent-winter-blues

While it may not be possible to follow every tip on the list, you can certainly pick 2-3 to focus on.  As someone who is often intimidated about trying different exercise routines, I really related to the tip “Lend a Helping Hand.”  What tips do you want to try?  Do they work?  Let us know at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/winter-blues/.

Health & Safety, Professionalism ,

Let’s Talk… Smart Choice: Health Insurance

January 13th, 2015

Smart Choice LogoWhen I was operating my family child care business, the start of the new year brought with it the excitement of using a new Redleaf Calendar Keeper (one that was clean and crisp with no bent pages – this was before any electronic record-keeping options existed) while I assembled my tax information from the previous year and renewed my commitment to keeping my finances in order in the year to come.  It also meant reviewing medical expenses, deductibles, and making a plan for meeting my family’s medical needs in the new year.  Whether you are in a family or center based care environment, is meeting medical needs on your radar for 2015??  Early childhood professionals don’t make a lot of money – so it’s extra important to make smart choices with what you do have!

The Affordable Care Act has brought with it many questions for consumer.  One very positive result of this important legislation has come a renewed focus on helping consumers understand what health care is, what their options are, and how to select a plan that is designed to meet their family’s needs. This would seem simple enough, but when you factor in family size, current health considerations, and available financial resources (often not much when working in early childhood) it can be a daunting task!  The time is drawing near when open enrollment for 2015 health insurance coverage will end, so now is a critical time to be discussing the topic.  The Affordable Care Act:  What it Means for Children, Families, and Early Childhood Programs, is a great overview of why this topic is so important to early childhood and provides some great additional links.  Healthcare.gov is the “go-to” website for getting answers to all sorts of health insurance coverage questions for both individuals and small businesses like many early childhood programs.

Looking for more help understanding health insurance coverage?  Next week there will be a FREE online workshop for all consumers, but the extra bonus for early childhood professionals is that the workshop has been approved for professional development credit through Iowa DHS.  Smart Choice: Health Insurance is a non-biased, educational focused workshop and will be held Monday, January 19 from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m..  Check out this registration flier for more details, or go to the Iowa DHS Training Registry.

Staying healthy is critical for our ability to stay calm and focused when working with children and families, and children can’t thrive without a healthy foundation.  How are you meeting your family’s medical needs and supporting the medical needs of the families you serve?

Cindy

Business Management, Health & Safety, Personal Finance ,

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/

Malisa

Health & Safety

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/.

Cindy

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…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

Let’s Talk… Pets in the Classroom

October 6th, 2014

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

PetsMy friend’s daughter came home from the first day of school overjoyed because her seat is right next to the classroom guinea pig’s cage. Now, as adults, we may not think that that particular arrangement would always be pleasant, but in the eyes of a child, it can be the best seat in the house!

If you are an animal lover, you know the great joy and friendship pets provide. Even if you’re not an animal fan, you know or can imagine the curiosity sparked in children at the sight of animals. Many programs may shy away from pets because along with all the joy and fun they provide, they come with a long list of liabilities.   It is important to be very aware of and follow all recommended rules and precautions when animals and children are together.  Caring for Our Children has two very informative sections about pets and children:

Prohibited Pets: http://cfoc.nrckids.org/StandardView/3.4.2.2

Animals that Might Have Contact with Children and Adults: http://cfoc.nrckids.org/StandardView/3.4.2

While there are many responsibilities that go along with having pets in your program, there are also benefits. Animals can lift our mood and spirits.  They can teach children responsibility and kindness to other creatures.    Pets serve as an excellent learning tool and can turn the program in to a community.

What are some of your experiences with pets in your program-good or bad?  Please share at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/pets-in-the-classroom/.

Jamie

Early Learning, Environment, Health & Safety ,

Let’s Talk…Sanitize or Disinfect?

September 11th, 2014

As a child care provider and administrator I had a tendency to “go nuclear” when it came to sanitizing and disinfecting. My philosophy was “If a little is good, then a lot must be even better.”  The smell of bleach made me feel that things must be clean. What I know now is that I was putting additional toxins in the environment unnecessarily (not to mention ruining the backs of a few precious outfits that came in contact with heavy bleach solutions on the diaper changing table). Clean, sanitize and disinfect have different purposes and we need to make choices based upon the situation.

What I have found from my recent work with early childhood professionals is that many are confused by when to sanitize, when to disinfect and exactly what the difference is. Here is an excellent Cleaning and Sanitation chart from NAEYC that includes definitions and when to use what solution. Appendix J of Caring for Our Children also shares excellent information on mixing your bleach solutions or using an alternative to bleach.

Be sure to check out this video from ISU Extension and Outreach on the proper table sanitation procedure

  • Are you mixing the correct solution concentration for the task at hand?
  • Are you following all the steps to properly sanitize your table?
  • Are you keeping children at a safe distance when using bleach and other chemical?

To share your thoughts on this discussion, go to http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/sanitizedisinfect/

Malisa

Health & Safety