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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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Let’s Talk…Give Me Some Space!

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 http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/give-me-space/.

 

 

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.

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… Fall Surfacing

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).

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

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

http://www.ersi.info/PDF/playground_revised_10-3-13.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… S.A.F.E.

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

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… Weather Permitting

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

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…Measles

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

Malisa Rader

Malisa Rader

Malisa Rader is a human sciences specialist that misses the daily hugs and high-fives from little people.

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Let’s Talk… Beating the Winter Blues

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/.

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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