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Let’s Talk . . .Purposeful Movement

2013-07-20 07.41.57Movement is essential to brain development for young children and child care programs are expected to include gross motor movement daily either outdoors or indoors. We want children to run, jump, skip and dance!

Climbing structures, swings, and wheeled toys are common outdoor options to encourage gross motor play. However the outdoor playground equipment has limited seasonal use – too dangerous to use in the winter due to ice and frozen surfacing and too hot to play on in the summer.

Many programs are removing their climbing structures and swings because of the limited seasonal use and the ongoing cost of maintaining a fall surface. They are designing an outdoor learning space that incorporates purposeful movement so kids can be active year around.

Look at the Certified Nature Explore Outdoor Classrooms and see how purposeful movement is built into the outdoor activity centers. These spaces provide safe, interesting, easily maintained and supervised environments that help children grow in all developmental areas.

An open space with gentle slopes give kids a chance to run, roll or slide in any season. The gentle slopes help children develop core strength, visual spatial skills, and balance.

Full body and core strength activity can be achieved with balance beams, jumping stumps and bulky building materials such as “tree cookies”, stones, and long branches. Children lift, push, pull, carry, and reach with these open ended materials that also stimulate imagination and cooperation.  Large items may take 2 or more children to move from one place to another.

A designated dirt digging area lets children use complex muscle groups without disturbing other active play.  It can become a snow shoveling area in the winter.

An outdoor music and movement area can inspire children to dance, leap, squat, roll and wiggle. This purposeful movement also serves to regulate emotions.

Durable fabric hammocks can provide a safe swinging experience. They also provide an inclusive experience for all children without special equipment.

Pathways through plantings such as native grasses and edible shrubs like hazelnuts or aronia berries can become places for children to stoop, twist, reach, pull, jump and crawl through – purposeful movement by design. Flowering plants attract beneficial insects like butterflies enhancing the children’s science learning. Deep rooted plantings absorb and redirect spring flood water.

One program planted strawberries on the roof of the playhouse where children were inspired to reach and stretch. Children learned nurturing skills by taking care of the plants, developed social skills and gained a sense of mastery by growing their own tasty snacks!

Each of these design elements provide multiple functions and require little maintenance or expense once they are established. Children are experiencing gross motor movement, learning and fun at the same time!

Get training hours at a Nature Explore workshop! Contact your Human Science Specialist to schedule one in your area!

What purposeful movement can you incorporate into your outdoor play space?

Kristi Cooper, Certified Nature Explore Educator and Design consultant, and Human Science Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

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… The BUZZ about Bug Spray

Guest blogger Jamie Smith, ISU Environmental Rating Scale Assessor, continues to help us prepare for summer with the second of two timely posts this week!

We’re getting close!  Those sunny summer days are just around the corner!  With more outside time, it’s important to take a moment to review the use of insect repellent and ways to decrease mosquito presence in your play areas.

Prevent Mosquito Bites

The DARE Method for using insect repellent spray

  • DEET: concentration should not exceed 30% when being used with children. 
  • Avoid: products that are both sun screen and bug repellent.  The insect repellent can decrease the effectiveness of the sunscreen. 
  • Range of Age: all repellent must be approved for use in the child’s age range.  If a parent provides an insect repellent for their two year old that is labeled for use with children 3 yrs. and older, request a physician’s permission prior to use.
  • Essential oils: be sure to get information on how to correctly apply, how often to apply, and look for any side effects.  Citrus oils can increase sun sensitivity. 

Also, wear light-weight long sleeved shirts and long pants to help prevent mosquito bites.  The less skin that is exposed, the lower the chances of mosquito bites.

Avoid attracting mosquitoes

  • Mow the yard and clear brush and leaves frequently. 
  • Check the sand toys (buckets, shovels), slide exits, low-lying areas of the yard, flower pots, garden, driveway, etc. to ensure that no standing water is present.  

Treat Bug Spray as a Medication

  • Obtain written parent (but not physician) consent for each child
  • Keep all insect repellents out of the reach of children
  • Document each time repellent is used

Kara Wall, Community Health Nurse with Visiting Nurse Services, recommends  Caring for Our Children for information on insect repellent as well as dealing with ticks.

Valuable insect repellent information can be found in Healthy Children, sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Do you have tried-and-true method for applying insect repellent?  If you live in a heavily-wooded area, what do you do to prevent ticks and bug bites?

Cindy Thompson

Cindy Thompson

Cindy is a human sciences specialist in family life with many years of experience in early childhood, both in family child care and parent support. Her experience combined with her psychology background fuels her ongoing passion for supporting the child care community!

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Let’s Talk… The BUZZ about Zika

Guest blogger Jamie Smith, ISU Environmental Rating Scale Assessor, helps us prepare for summer with the first of two timely posts this week!

By now, almost everyone has heard of the Zika virus.  The pictures and news stories can be frightening, and our hearts go out to all those effected by the virus.   As with any outbreak or health scare, the most important thing is to remain calm and not panic.  While there is not a need to panic, there is a need to be aware of the virus, and how to prevent mosquito bites, especially those that may cause illness.

Stay informed!

Zika is not a new disease-the first case was documented in 1947.  More and more information and research is available, so be sure to stay updated on the latest information. Both the Iowa Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control have valuable Zika-related information on their websites

Keep In Mind

  • Zika virus is only spread by one specific type of mosquito
  • Roughly 20% of people infected will become ill, meaning not everyone who is infected will become sick or display symptoms
  • Only the Aedes species of mosquito spreads the virus, and typically lays eggs around standing water
  • As of May 13, only 5 Iowans have been infected with the Zika virus
  • Illness usually does not lead to a hospital stay, and very rarely leads to death

Be aware of symptoms

  • Fever, rash, joint paint, conjunctivitis (red eyes)

Inform Parents

Policies and Procedures

  • Remind parents about your policies and procedures regarding insect repellent.
  • Let parents know what types of environments their children will be using for outdoor play-heavily wooded, suburban with few trees and shrubs, etc.
  • If a child is bit while in your care, be sure to inform parents.

Stay tuned!  The “buzz” on bug spray is our next blog article, and will provide reminders on the correct use of bug repellents in your program.

What concerns do you or the families you serve have regarding Zika?

Cindy Thompson

Cindy Thompson

Cindy is a human sciences specialist in family life with many years of experience in early childhood, both in family child care and parent support. Her experience combined with her psychology background fuels her ongoing passion for supporting the child care community!

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Let’s Talk… Creating Relaxing Days

 May can be a crazy time of year… are the children in your care feeling the stress? Here, guest blogger Kris Corrigan, Early Childhood Specialist and ERS Assessor, shares some ideas for helping children have relaxing days.

We all love being around preschoolers because they smile, laugh and know how to have fun.  Things that we find commonplace are fascinating new discoveries for them, and as we deal with the stresses in our everyday lives; we find joy in their seemingly carefree life.  With those images in mind, we don’t often associate stress with preschool children.  But it is very real for some children.  Just being in a group care setting can cause stress for some children.  The activity and noise can be overwhelming, some may not have the social skills needed to share and take turns, and routines can be confusing causing long periods of waiting without anything to do.  Some may have a hard time transitioning from home to school.  As early childhood professionals, we have the responsibility to create environments that allows children to have a relaxed, comfortable and interesting day.  Here are a few strategies:

  • Set up activities in the classroom where one or two children can play. A table with two chairs and puzzles or crayons and paper.
  • Limit the time children have to wait during routines. Sing songs, do finger plays or play games.
  • Create small cozy places in the classroom away from noisy activities. A wading pool filled with pillows where one or two children can look at books or relax.
  • Reduce noise by arranging the classroom so noisy activities are concentrated in one area of the room and separated from quiet activities.
  • Encourage families to visit frequently – eat lunch or read books to children, for example.
  • Spend one-to-one time with each child. Give them your undivided attention even if for just a brief time.

What are some strategies you use in your program to create a relaxed, stress-free day for children?

Resources:

Harm, T., Cryer, D., & Clifford, R. (2005) Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (Revised), New York:  Teacher’s College Press.

Cindy Thompson

Cindy Thompson

Cindy is a human sciences specialist in family life with many years of experience in early childhood, both in family child care and parent support. Her experience combined with her psychology background fuels her ongoing passion for supporting the child care community!

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Let’s Talk… Pack-n-Plays and Play Yards for Nap

Welcome guest blogger, Melissa Wagner, Early Childhood Coordinator for Environmental Rating Scales at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Recently we’ve had questions about the use of pack-n-plays and play yards for napping. Melissa provides this important clarification. You might be surprised with what you learn… we were!

We often hear about all the standards involving on crib safety, but what if you use a pack-n-play or play yard for infant naps? Are there safety requirements to consider?

Child Development Home providers see several benefits to using pack-n-plays for naps. They are light, smaller than a regular size crib, they fold up and you can tuck them away.

Caring For Our Children states all cribs should meet American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards. For non-full size cribs/play yards this standard is F406-10b. In 2013, Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) ruled for more strict and thorough testing of play yards. Play yards made after February 28, 2013 are held to a much stronger standard. A safety approved crib/ play yard is one that has been certified by ASTM, CPSC, and/or Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association (JPMA). If looking for a crib, JPMA is a common certification you will see. JPMA is based on ASTM standards but also includes federal and state requirements as well as requirements from retailers; thus adhering to the highest level of product testing. It is important for providers to keep the manufacturers information (make, model, and certifications) for each crib in their early childhood program.

Also remember, even if the product meets ASTM guidelines, collapsible cribs or pack-n-plays are a safety hazard if the sides no long lock securely, if the model does not meet ASTM standards, or if the crib is no longer in good condition (holes in the mesh sides, missing parts, etc.). It is also important to note, these cribs/ play yards should only be used for their intended purpose and with the original fitted mattress.

Check out these great one page CPSC handouts describing the updated requirements of play yards and crib safety as well as Safe Sleep for Babies.

 

Cindy Thompson

Cindy Thompson

Cindy is a human sciences specialist in family life with many years of experience in early childhood, both in family child care and parent support. Her experience combined with her psychology background fuels her ongoing passion for supporting the child care community!

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Let’s Talk… ACEs and Resilience

Adverse Childhood Experiences… have you been hearing about these? If not, put the topic on your “need to know” radar. Adverse Childhood Experiences – or ACEs – are categories of childhood experiences that produce toxic levels of stress for children. Physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse, a parent or caregiver with substance abuse, and neglect are some examples of the ACEs. The explosion of brain research over the last few decades, coupled with research by Dr. Robert Anda and Dr. Vincent Felitti on ACEs, now provides convincing evidence that what happens to us as children is stored not just in our memory, but also in our biological make-up, and this has long term implications for our health and wellbeing as adults.

You might be thinking, “Ok, that makes sense. In early childhood we know how important the early years are for providing a solid and strong foundation. Why should I pay so much attention to this new perspective?”

Here’s why!!!

  1. It’s not new – the research started in 1991 with results so powerful that the Center for Disease Control took notice and started funding ongoing research. Many states now track ACEs and have ongoing outreach and education on the subject.
  2. It’s not just an early childhood issue – linking adverse experiences in childhood to long term health concerns like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even life satisfaction and productivity has implications for everyone.

YOU have a powerful opportunity to impact the children AND families you serve!

What do we know about individuals who have thrived despite experiencing early and toxic stress? They had caring and competent individuals in their lives and strong, supportive communities!!

Want to learn more? We’d love to have you join us in exploring ACE research and resilience – the ability to bounce back!! Workshops in Iowa are being offered across the state through Child Care Resource and Referral, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, and other partners. Register on Iowa’s DHS Training Registry [search title An Introduction to ACE Research and Resilience (ACE Interface Foundation)]. Not from Iowa? Talk to your colleagues and explore what is happening in your state and how you can be involved!

Cindy Thompson

Cindy Thompson

Cindy is a human sciences specialist in family life with many years of experience in early childhood, both in family child care and parent support. Her experience combined with her psychology background fuels her ongoing passion for supporting the child care community!

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Let’s Talk… Winter Reminders

Do you have new snow today? Here, guest blogger Kris Corrigan, Early Childhood Specialist and ERS Assessor, shares some reminders about winter weather considerations.

We all enjoy going outside when the weather is nice, but no one would argue that it’s more challenging in the winter. We must allow extra time for children to get dressed properly for outdoor play, and there are always children who don’t have the proper attire for comfortable outdoor play. Many times playgrounds are covered in ice and snow and the time and energy it takes to prepare the area for safe, outdoor play does not seem worth it. Faced with these challenges, some providers opt for indoor gross motor time.  But it is worth the time and energy to get children outside.  Children need outdoor time in the winter months (weather permitting) just like in the summer. In fact, research shows that children who have outdoor time in the winter are actually healthier. Here are some reminders that will make outdoor play time safe for the children in your care:

  1. Many providers in Iowa use loose-filled surfacing under and around playground equipment to provide cushioning in the event of a fall. The U.S. Consumer and Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) Public Playground Safety Handbook reminds us that freezing temperatures result in the protective surfacing in and around playground equipment to also freeze. Even if the first few layers are loose, the base layer may be frozen and will not provide adequate impact absorption if a child falls from the equipment. If these conditions exist, the CPSC recommends that children not use equipment requiring fall zone protection.
  2. Those howling winter winds can also cause loose-filled like mulch or wood chips to be blown around which can result in inadequate protection.   It is important that providers rake the material and check the surface to make sure there is adequate protection when conditions are safe for using playground equipment that requires protective surfacing.
  3. Ice can make a play structure including the stairs, slides and platforms to be slippery increasing the risk of falls. In the event of these conditions, ice should be removed from the equipment prior to children being allowed to use it. Snow and ice can also build up on trip limbs creating potential hazards if children play under trees.
  4. Snow on a playground is fun for play, but can also conceal hidden hazards such as, glass or other unsafe items that can harm children. Even if the snow surface looks pristine, it is important to t still do those routine maintenance checks to make sure the playground surface is hazard-free.

What are some of your favorite activities to do with children outside in the winter?

Resources:

U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission, April, 2008. Handbook for Public Playground Safety, page 18, www.cpsc.gov/…/325.pdf

 Playground Magazine, Volume 9 – No. 5 winter, 2009-2010, The Chill Effect: Winter Tips for Playground Surfaces, www.playgroundmag.org

Child Care Weather Watch Chart, www.isbe.net/pdf/school_health/wind-heat-chart.pdf

Cindy Thompson

Cindy Thompson

Cindy is a human sciences specialist in family life with many years of experience in early childhood, both in family child care and parent support. Her experience combined with her psychology background fuels her ongoing passion for supporting the child care community!

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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… Safe Sleep

Let’s face it… talking about infant safe sleep best practices in a marketing world full of soft plush blankets and generations of parenting practices can a challenge. Some of my most difficult conversations with child care professionals have been around safe sleep recommendations and why infant care practices of the past are no longer appropriate. New and ongoing research is clear and consistent – there are infant sleep practices that significantly reduce the risk that a child will die from a sudden and unexplained cause.

To make the conversation easier and simpler, our partners at Iowa Child Care Resource and Referral have recently released an approach that makes safe sleep best practices as simple as A, B, C.

  • AAlonethe infant should be alone in the crib with no blankets, pillows, animals or loose bedding
  • BBackthe infant should be place on his or her back
  • CCriba crib is best for a sleeping infant

Steps you can take:

Our actions do matter!  What steps will do take to ensure safe sleep best practices?  Let us know at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/safe-sleep/.

P.S. I would like to personally acknowledge the efforts of Mary Janssen for her hard work and efforts towards the creation of these documents.

Cindy Thompson is family life specialist with fond memories of her years caring for children in her home.

Cindy Thompson

Cindy Thompson

Cindy is a human sciences specialist in family life with many years of experience in early childhood, both in family child care and parent support. Her experience combined with her psychology background fuels her ongoing passion for supporting the child care community!

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