How many soft toys do you have in your environment? Tools that measure quality in early childhood often outline specifically how many soft toys should be available, but why are soft toys even important?
New research in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that holding a soft item reduces feelings of uncertainty, even items as simple as a soft cloth or a pen that has a soft grip. Think of all of the times children experience uncertainty throughout the day: greetings, departures, staff shift changes, different children arriving and departing, the uncertainty of whether or not I’ll be able to play with the red truck versus the blue truck or will it stop raining so we can play outside. Soft toys and other soft items help us use one of our most basic senses – touch – to help manage and cope with feelings of uncertainty.
In my family child care a little boy who came part-time had “Bruce”, which was a beloved (unused) cloth diaper that helped him transition on the days he came to my program. How have soft items helped the children (or adults) in your program deal with feelings of uncertainty? Share your stories at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/soft-comforts/.
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
From the American Academy of Pediatrics
Strategies for Child Care, Schools related to Ebola, Enterovirus D68 & Flu:
There are numerous news reports about the epidemic of Enterovirus D68 affecting many children, and now Ebola virus.
To ensure the health of all children in child care and school settings, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends caregivers and teachers continue the current procedures already in place to manage infectious diseases (e.g. immunizations, infection control, and proper exclusion practices).
Children with Enterovirus D68, for example, may have symptoms that look similar to children with the common cold, the flu, or other respiratory viruses. Remember, it is not the job of caregivers and schools to diagnose children.
There are steps that Child Care Providers, Facilities, and Schools can take to prevent the spread of infection and illness, including having policies that encourage:
By following these recommendations, you will be doing your part to maintain a healthy environment for all the children in your care, regardless of illness.
Additional resources for Child Care Providers & Schools:
Health & Safety
Welcome again guest blogger Jamie Smith, ISU Environmental Rating Scale Assessor.
My friend’s daughter came home from the first day of school overjoyed because her seat is right next to the classroom guinea pig’s cage. Now, as adults, we may not think that that particular arrangement would always be pleasant, but in the eyes of a child, it can be the best seat in the house!
If you are an animal lover, you know the great joy and friendship pets provide. Even if you’re not an animal fan, you know or can imagine the curiosity sparked in children at the sight of animals. Many programs may shy away from pets because along with all the joy and fun they provide, they come with a long list of liabilities. It is important to be very aware of and follow all recommended rules and precautions when animals and children are together. Caring for Our Children has two very informative sections about pets and children:
Prohibited Pets: http://cfoc.nrckids.org/StandardView/188.8.131.52
Animals that Might Have Contact with Children and Adults: http://cfoc.nrckids.org/StandardView/3.4.2
While there are many responsibilities that go along with having pets in your program, there are also benefits. Animals can lift our mood and spirits. They can teach children responsibility and kindness to other creatures. Pets serve as an excellent learning tool and can turn the program in to a community.
What are some of your experiences with pets in your program-good or bad? Please share at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/pets-in-the-classroom/.
Early Learning, Environment, Health & Safety
As a child care provider and administrator I had a tendency to “go nuclear” when it came to sanitizing and disinfecting. My philosophy was “If a little is good, then a lot must be even better.” The smell of bleach made me feel that things must be clean. What I know now is that I was putting additional toxins in the environment unnecessarily (not to mention ruining the backs of a few precious outfits that came in contact with heavy bleach solutions on the diaper changing table). Clean, sanitize and disinfect have different purposes and we need to make choices based upon the situation.
What I have found from my recent work with early childhood professionals is that many are confused by when to sanitize, when to disinfect and exactly what the difference is. Here is an excellent Cleaning and Sanitation chart from NAEYC that includes definitions and when to use what solution. Appendix J of Caring for Our Children also shares excellent information on mixing your bleach solutions or using an alternative to bleach.
Be sure to check out this video from ISU Extension and Outreach on the proper table sanitation procedure -
- Are you mixing the correct solution concentration for the task at hand?
- Are you following all the steps to properly sanitize your table?
- Are you keeping children at a safe distance when using bleach and other chemical?
To share your thoughts on this discussion, go to http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/sanitizedisinfect/
Health & Safety
Group care is different than caring for your own children or grandchildren. So, it makes sense that a diaper change in child care would be different than one we might do on our own kids. In a situation where we are professional caregivers working to reduce contamination and sanitation issues, then it stands to reason we need certain procedures to follow on a consistent basis. The highest standard comes from Caring for Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards; Guidelines for Early Care and Education Programs. Check out Iowa State University Extension & Outreach walking you through the steps -
You will want to print and post the steps from Healthy Child Care Iowa near your changing table.
- Do you prepare supplies in advance?
- Do you complete the hand wipe step?
- Do you properly disinfect the area?
To share with us your thoughts, visit http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/diaperchange/
Health & Safety
We are all SUPER excited to share with you one of our latest videos so that you can have a visual for all of the steps in a best practice hand wash. Washing your hands properly is the single most important line of defense in preventing the transmission of disease-causing organisms. Start your school year off right by washing your hands thoroughly and supporting your children in following all the steps!
If you have not done so already, be sure to download the Healthy Child Care Iowa’s flyer for posting near your hand washing sinks.
- Do you wet your hands before getting soap?
- Are you and your children scrubbing for 20 seconds outside the stream of water?
- What about turning off the faucet with a paper towel and not touching the garbage to avoid recontamination?
To share with us your thoughts, visit http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/handwashing101/
Health & Safety
April 23, 2001, is a day I will always remember. It was a beautiful Monday morning and literally out of what we thought was a clear blue sky a small tornado made its way through the little town where I had my family child care business. Fortunately no one in my home was injured and there were only a handful of minor injuries sustained by others. There was some property damage, but nothing significant. I remember feeling very sad about a little tree about a block from my home that had been lifted up from the ground, roots and all, and tossed in the grass. The recent severe weather across Iowa has been a keen reminder of why that day stands out so vividly in my mind… I gained a true appreciation for why practicing emergency drills is so important in child care.
For example, the children in my care knew where to go for tornado drills, but getting curious preschoolers to a safe place in the basement with my arms full of small children while a real siren was going off was a major challenge. I learned that practicing drills is as much for how you, the provider, will manage in an emergency situation as it is for the children. Practice, practice, practice, for your sake as much as for the children’s!
Parents will be frantic! The minute word got out in my small community that there was damage (remember, it was minor) near my part of town, parents were not only calling but they also arrived at my home to make sure the children and I were ok. In addition to ensuring you have emergency contact information, have you communicated with your families how you will get word to them in a weather related emergency? Discuss this often so that parents know and understand what they can expect.
There are lots of check lists and how to manuals for being prepared in an emergency. One example is from the Administration for Children and Families: Office of Child Care. It includes lots of links to other resources, including some state specific links. Also, remember to follow the specific guidelines set in your registration or licensing expectations.
Emotions and adrenaline run high when bad weather strikes… are you ready? Share your stories about weather related lessons at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/severe-weather/
Health & Safety
As early childhood professionals, you know how difficult it is to keep track of current health and nutrition information. For example, “My Pyramid” is now “My Plate”, and it seems like each year the Child and Adult Care Food Programs changes its requirements just a little to meet the ever changing new health recommendations. Well, my colleagues with the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative introduced me to a simple and catchy phrase to keep straight several different health and fitness recommendations for children. The phrase is “5210”. (Anyone remember Beverly Hills 90210? Maybe that’s why I find 5210 so catchy!) Here is what 5210 stands for:
- 5 or more fruits and vegetables
- 2 hours or less of recreational screen time
- 1 hour or more of physical activity
- 0 sugary drinks (more water and low-fat milk)
The 5210 Let’s Go! website has tool kits designed for various ages and audiences, including child care programs. The 5210 Goes to Child Care tool kit includes posters, resources, and activities around each of the four 5210 categories, as well as information for parents on each topic. Check it out and share what you find with us at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/lets-talk-5210-2.
Health & Safety
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