Archive for the ‘Health & Safety’ Category

Let’s Talk… Safe Sleep

November 19th, 2015

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

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.

Environment, Family Relationships, Health & Safety

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… Fall Surfacing

May 5th, 2015

This week we again welcome guest blogger Kris Corrigan, Iowa State University Environmental Rating Scale Assessor, to discuss playground safety.

Fall Surfacing compressedWe are all on the same page when it comes to playground safety.  We want children to have fun, take appropriate risks so they can develop new skills, and gain confidence in themselves.  At the same time, we do not want them to get hurt while doing so.

As an Environment Rating Scale Assessor, I often find that playgrounds do not have enough cushioning to help prevent injuries in the event of a fall.  In fact, the Consumer Product and Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that 70 percent of the injuries that occur on playgrounds involve falls and the majority of those falls are on improper surfacing.  They recommend protective surfacing under and around any piece of equipment over 18 inches in height.

There are two types of surfacing recommended in The Consumer Product and Safety Commission’s Playground for Safety Handbook:

  1. Loose-fill surfacing includes organic materials such as wood chips, wood mulch, and engineered wood fibers, shredded, recycled rubber; or, inorganic materials such as sand and pea gravel.
  2. Unitary surfacing materials such as rubber tiles or mats or poured in place surfaces.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each.  Factors such as the cost, maintenance, age of the children and climate should be considered if you are in the process of selecting materials.  For example, pea gravel would not be a good choice for a playground with children under the age of three because it can be a choking hazard.  Likewise, sand and pea gravel have limited fall height protection and would not be a good choice if your equipment is more than 4-5 feet tall.  Whatever protective surface you choose or is chosen for you, the most important factor is to make sure you have enough surfacing to protect children in the event of a fall. You can find a chart outlining the depth requirements for loose-fill surface and the fall height protection it provides in the Playground for Safety Handbook.

Here’s a quick way to check the depth of your surfacing:

You just need a hand shovel and ruler. Dig down as far as you can with the hand shovel until you either hit hard-packed dirt or get to an appropriate depth.  Measure the surfacing material with a ruler.  If the depth is not correct, here are some options:

  • If the surfacing is insufficient only under certain equipment, it can be raked to fill in the gaps.
  • If the material is down in several areas, the site needs to buy more surfacing material to ensure the correct depth.

The depth of loose-fill material be it sand, pea gravel, or wood chips must be a minimum of 9 inches. Rubber mats, tiles, or poured in place surfaces should have documentation of the critical height rating of the surface provided by American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM).


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

Playground Information to Use with the Environment Rating Scales (revised 10-3-13)

Environment, Health & Safety

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

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

How do you incorporate the elements of S.A.F.E into your playground environment? Let us know at


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…/Sports-and-Recreation/Playground-Safety/325

National Program for Playground Safety: America’s Playgrounds – Safety Report Card –

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


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


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.

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

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. 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?


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


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


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 ,