Playgrounds in early childhood are always a hot topic of conversation. Whether you are working on a nature friendly environment or trying to meet safety standards with equipment, there are a lot of things to take into consideration. So MANY considerations, in fact, that often providers feel like a truly safe playground area is unattainable.
This week, April 21-25, is National Playground Safety Week. It is a time to focus on children’s outdoor play environments and to pledge to use good judgment when playing. But where does one even begin when thinking about safety? The National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS) uses the following S.A.F.E Factors:
- Provide proper supervision of children on playgrounds
- Design age-appropriate playgrounds
- Provide proper fall surfacing under and around playgrounds
- Properly maintain playground equipment.
Whether you have a large play structure, an entirely nature focused play space, or many different outdoor play spaces for children to experience, the S.A.F.E Factors provide a great framework for ensuing all the children in your program can have meaningful and safe experiences.
The National Program for Playground Safety offers training, research, resources and guidance around playgrounds. Check out their website for ideas on things you can do during this special week and throughout the year to ensure safe outdoor play experiences for children.
NPPS also encourages everyone this week to take time to thank all those who work to maintain playgrounds. Have you thanked your playground crew lately?!? Let us know how you incorporate S.A.F.E into you work at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/playground-safety-week/.
Environment, Health & Safety
Stress in childhood?!?!? What do children have to be stressed about? No bills, no job, no toilets to clean or diapers to change… how can children be stressed? Childhood can actually be a very stressful time, especially for young children trying to make sense of what can often be a very confusing world. Children’s emotional and thinking skills are still developing, so changes in their environment or routine can sometimes be overwhelming. Expectations that don’t match the child’s abilities or respects their interests can also be stressful for a child. Early care and education environments provide a perfect backdrop for helping all children experience less stress as they play and learn. Here are just a few suggestions to help reduce stress for the children in your care:
- Accept messiness. As children learn to use silverware or experiment with art supplies, there are bound to be spills and accidents. Taking messes in stride will help build confidence in the children.
- Teach children that mistakes are ok. Knowing that mistakes are ok helps children be more open to new experiences.
- Create a cozy area. The lights, sounds, smells and textures in an early childhood environment can be overwhelming, but a soft quiet place that children can access most of the day can provide a needed break from all the stimulation.
- Provide one on one time. Be sure that each child in your care gets some undivided attention throughout the day. This can be during routines such as diapering and feeding, or during play, like when a child requests a favorite story. Even a little one on one time can go a long way in making children feel special.
- Get children outside. More and more research is supporting the positive benefits of children getting daily exposure to nature.
What ways have you found helpful in reducing stress for the children in your care? Share your ideas at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/children-stress/.
Early Learning, Environment, Health & Safety
“Time to wake up, sweetheart.”
“Ugh… my stomach hurts, Mom… ugh…”
“Do you feel like you might get sick?”
Of course, this is one of many working parents’ ever-present fears… waking up to an ill child. This was the scenario at my house a few weeks ago, and the start of three days of bad stomach pains for my son. During day two he started to complain of dizziness, so on day three I took him to our family doctor. My son never had “official” stomach flu symptons (if you know what I mean), just pain, so my fears turned to appendicitis and other ill begotten stomach issues. Our family doctor said my son probably did have a little touch of some sort of stomach bug, but his biggest issue was that he needed to drink more water. What?!?!? After three days at home it hadn’t even occurred to me that might be the issue. We’ve all probably heard about the importance of water during the warm summer months, during periods of increased activity, and when we aren’t feeling well, but we can forget how important water is for overall good health, even during the winter months.
Water is a very important element to children’s health, helping with digestion support, constipation prevention, and proper blood circulation. There is no specific recommended amount for children, but it should be offered throughout the day. Offering water to children throughout the day is even a criterion on some tools that measure quality in early care and education environments.
For more information about water in our diets, check out this handout from the ChooseMyPlate.gov. How have you helped children in your care develop a habit for drinking water? Share your ideas at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/water-water-everywhere/
Health & Safety
I am excited to introduce a guest blogger this week – Jamie Smith, ISU Extension & Outreach Environmental Rating Scale Assessor. Malisa
Pretty much everyone involved in child care knows about fall zones, but do you know about the “Scoop Zone”?
Snow and ice are a part of life here in Iowa and watching children’s faces light up when those first flakes fall is one of the joys of caring for children. Children love heading out into the white wonderland to play. Snow itself, despite the headaches it can give adults, provides children with great excitement. It also leads the way for many science and sensory opportunities and discussions. Snow can also pose safety risks on the playground. Playground safety is a big issue any time of year, but you need to take extra precautions in winter and not just because of the temperature and wind chill.
Fall zone surfacing, whether it is poured in place or loose-fill, cannot protect children if it is covered in snow or ice. We all know how solid packed snow and ice can be — most of us have had a winter weather trip or fall at one time or another. Imagine falling on to hard, packed snow from a height of 4-5 feet — OUCH! The “Scoop Zone” is the area under slides and other equipment that needs to be scooped in order to provide safe playgrounds for children. No one wants to do more scooping or spreading of ice melt, but it is vital to children’s safety. In order for fall zone cushioning to protect children, it has to be exposed. Children can help with the process — many children love to help scoop snow with child-sized shovels and they can always find ways to be creative with the snow that has been removed from the fall zone-snowmen, snow forts, etc.
For more information on safe playgrounds, visit the Public Playground Safety Handbook at www.cpsc.gov
For some really “cool” sensory ideas, search “snow sensory” on www.pinterest.com
Environment, Health & Safety
Did you know that pound-per-pound children drink more, eat more, breathe more and absorb more through their skin than adults? This means that what may have little effect on us as adults might put children’s health at risk. Emerging science is telling us a great deal about the links between environmental exposures and children’s health as well as ability to learn. Where do kids spend a significant portion of their day? In YOUR environment! That is why it is so important that early childhood professionals become aware of possible toxins in child care environments and consider steps to reducing those — even small steps can make a big difference!
In January, ISU Extension & Outreach will be offering an online series for early childhood professionals titled Eco-Healthy Child Care®.
- Jan. 14 Indoor environment
- Jan. 21 Outdoor environment
- Jan. 28 Materials
Each online class in the series is from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. CST. Consider joining us to learn about making your environment healthier for children (and yourself!) as well as how to become an endorsed Eco-Healthy Child Care®. If you live in Iowa, register for the Eco-Healthy Child Care® online series on the DHS Training Registry. If you live outside of Iowa but are interested in participating in this online series, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can find a listing of all of ISU Extension & Outreach’s online classes for early childhood professionals at http://www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/el-online
We look forward to sharing and learning with you!
Health & Safety
It is approaching the winter season here in Iowa. For many of you it will mean dry chapped hands due to the frequent handwashing required for those in the child care field. Whenever we talk handwashing at Environmental Rating Scale classes, we frequently hear complaints about the effects of frequent handwashing on skin. I read an article last week in the Des Moines Register that shared tips from the University of Iowa on how to help with some dry skin issues related to winter weather -
- Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize – particularly after washing
- Shorten showers and baths; pat dry
- Use a humidifier to help put moisture in the air
What do you do to help combat the affects of winter dryness? Share with us at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/winterwoes/
Health & Safety
Did you know that stressful events as a child can increase your odds of all sorts of negative physical and mental health outcomes as an adult?? As early childhood professionals this may seem like a no-brainer, but research is showing over and over again that this is indeed the case, and this research is drawing a lot of attention. In the mid-1990′s Kaiser Permanente, a health maintenance organization, did a study of over 17,000 of their patients linking experiences in childhood to adult health and wellness conditions. The results were astonishing!! The more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) a person has, the greater that person’s likelihood for everything from depression and alchohol use to heart and liver disease. The findings of the study have been so powerful that individual states have started to collect data on ACEs, including Iowa.
Last month 600+ people gathered in Des Moines to hear the first report of ACEs finding in Iowa. Over half of the population in Iowa has at least one ACE, and over 30% have at least two or more. In Iowa, 3+ ACEs increases your odds of heart disease by 250% and a heart attack by 287%. Four or more ACEs increases your odds of diabetes by 201% and vision problems by 354%… WOW!! You can read the full report of these and other Iowa findings at ACEs 360 Iowa, or for information from other states at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So what can we do as early care and education professionals? Acknowledging that both the children in our care and the adults in their lives experience stress is an essential first step. Next, finding ways to help reduce that stress and not add to it is important. How do you help reduce the stress in families’ lives? Share your ideas at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/aces/.
Early Learning, Family Relationships, Health & Safety
Perhaps you are fortunate enough to have health care coverage through your employer or spouse’s employment. We also know that many child care providers either fund their own health insurance or fall into the same category as over 41 million Americans of being uninsured. So, what are your upcoming options under the Affordable Care Act? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has created a page specific to child care providers titled The Affordable Care Act: What It Means for Children, Families, and Early Childhood Programs.
Open enrollment begins October 1 on the Marketplace, and coverage could begin as soon as January 1, 2014. Visit the site to learn more about your upcoming health care options as either an early childhood professional or employer.
Business Management, Health & Safety, Professionalism
I ran across a recipe today on ISU Extension & Outreach’s Spend Smart Eat Smart page. It sounded to yummy not to share! What fun it would be to tell children (and parents!) that tomorrow for breakfast or snack they would be having banana splits. OK, so the actual name of the recipe is Breakfast Splits, but it does use bananas along with yogurt, cereal, and fruit of your choosing.
The recipe steps are simple enough that even young children can help put the serving together. And we know that when children are involved in meal preparation, they are much more likely to eat the nutritious food – which means less food and money wasted. A win win!
You can find the recipe, including cost, nutritional information, and even a short video with tips on selecting the best cereal and yogurt here - https://www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings/recipes/breakfast-splits
P.S. To share your favorite nutritious recipe or comment on this one, visit http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/breakfast-splits/
Health & Safety
We all know how important handwashing can be, and many of us have come to recognize that we can’t just leave it to chance that children are washing hands well enough or at all the appropriate times. Spend some time observing children’s handwashing practices and you’ll see the child that gets the soap and then rinses it down the sink without lathering or the one that uses water only and no soap. As early childhood caregivers and teachers, we have to give children the support they need to follow the steps. Allowing for some occasional lapses, it can be done – I’ve seen it!
North Carolina Child Care and Health and Safety has some excellent posters that you can download and print showing steps for children to wash their hands, infant handwashing, adult handwashing, proper diapering procedure, and even medication administration. They can be found here – http://www.healthychildcarenc.org/training_materials.htm
How do you support and encourage children to lather for 20 seconds? I’ve seen many providers use a song like ABC’s to help children realize the length of time needed to “make bubbles.” I recently visited a home child care program that uses a touchless timer. Super idea! Remember if you aren’t teaching it, supporting it, and reminding children, it likely isn’t happening!
P.S. Share with us how you support handwashing or ask questions at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/handwashing/
Health & Safety