The Flu: Tips and Resources

Coughs, sneezes, and runny noses- these are all common this time of year, especially in childcare programs.  I have friends and family who have been affected this year by the flu, and in each program I’ve visited the last month or two, there is generally at least one or two children out with the flu.

We know that cleaning, sanitizing, disinfecting, and hand washing help prevent the spread of germs and illness.  The flu, or Influenza, is more severe than a common cold.  Fevers are higher, the body aches, coughs are stronger and more frequent, and vomiting or diarrhea are sometimes involved.  It is important to know the difference between the cold and flu, and to make sure children see a physician when needed. 

You may be caring for children that are at higher risk of flu complications or for whom the flu can exacerbate existing conditions such as asthma.  Children with chronic illnesses are at greater risk of flu complications.  Some examples of these chronic illnesses are asthma, diabetes, chronic lung disorders like cystic fibrosis, morbid obesity, liver and kidney disorders, and blood disorders like sickle cell disease.  Some examples of complications include bronchitis, pneumonia, sinus infections and ear infections.  Keep an extra close eye on children with chronic illnesses during cold and flu season.  They may struggle more than other children to fight off illnesses, and early detection can help.

Be proactive by talking to parents about their child’s health issues, and formulating a plan in case they are exposed to influenza.  It may be helpful to prepare a list of possible people other than the parents who can care for the child should they become ill.  This can help parents be prepared if their child is sick and they have trouble taking time off work.

For your protection and for the protection of the children in your care, make sure you have an illness policy in place.  Make parents aware of your rules (temperatures and symptoms that require the parent to come get their child, and when their child can return to care) and stick to them!  It is hard not being able to provide care for the children and families who are so close to us, but it really is best for everyone when ill children are not involved in the program.

Below are several links to information about the flu, as well as a sample parent letter. Stay healthy!!

Flu: A Guide for Parents of Children or Adolescents with Chronic Health Conditions: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/chronic/Pages/Flu-A-Guide-for-Parents-of-Children-or-Adolescents-With-Chronic-Health-Conditions.aspx

Preventing the Flu: Resources for Parents and Child Care Providers: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/immunizations/Pages/Preventing-the-Flu-Resources-for-Parents-Child-Care-Providers.aspx

Video, Treating your Child’s Cold and Flu: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/medication-safety/Pages/Treating-Your-Childs-Cold-or-Flu-Video.aspx

Flu Letter to Parents: https://www.aap.org/en-us/Documents/Parent_Flu_Letter_2017-2018.pdf

Jamie

Jamie

Jamie has worked with young children and their families for over 15 years. She is dedicated to ensuring that all young children receive high quality care and education.

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Let’s Talk… Coaching

Growing up, I was one of those kids who folks said couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time, so I can’t say I had a lot of experience with sports. But somehow I brought into the world four athletically inclined offspring, so I took my turn coaching my youngest son’s under 8 soccer team. I learned a lot during that experience, but nothing that prepared me to coach my professional colleagues. Apparently yelling enthusiastic words to guide adults towards a goal, while potentially entertaining, is not how adults learn best.

As early childhood professionals, we often think all of our energy should focus on the children. And while this is critically important, equally important is the time and energy we spend helping develop adults in early childhood. Whether in a family child care setting or center, we often have opportunities to engage and support others – new staff, assistant teachers, part-time support, even parent volunteers. When I’ve been in these situations, I have often deferred to imparting knowledge and wisdom on my charges, but I’m learning that to truly help develop the interest and skills of others in coaching relationships, open ended questions are a much for effective approach. In his book The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead, Michael Bungay Stanier discusses two different types of coaching – coaching for performance and coaching for development. We spend lots of time enhancing our skills to help children develop. I suggest it is equally important to help the adults we coach develop as well.

Where does one begin to develop coaching skills? Start by checking out the wealth of resource available at NAEYC. Books, blogs and articles abound from our professional organization. Talk with others – people who have helped support and guide you. Reach out – Child Care Resource and Referral staff, for example, often have significant training related to leadership development and can be a sounding board for ideas.

What avenues have you pursued to help develop your coaching skills?

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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If it’s too good to be true….

I was recently shown a new type of infant crib bumper that was made of “breathable mesh” and on the packaging stated that it had been “approved by pediatricians.”  The packaging also said that the bumper was created with new technology that allowed for the material to be breathable.

We know we must avoid putting blankets, bumpers, stuffed animals, and all other items in an infant crib because these items may obstruct an infant’s breathing.  Knowing that, the idea of “breathable bumpers” sounds genius, right?  Well, remember the old saying “If it’s too good to be true…….?”

As I looked over the packaging for the breathable bumper, I noticed the bumper was marketed with phrases indicating it as a new, safe, smart product for children.  But, when looking at the fine print, it stated “for use with children 0-3 months.”  Safe Sleep practices recommend, NO bumper, blanket, toy, or any other item inside a crib with an infant under the age of 12 months.

I spoke with a registered nurse at Visiting Nurses, and she stated that they do not recommend the new “breathable” products.  VNS follows the Caring for Our Children Standards.  The new technology and materials used to create the “breathable” products has not been tested to determine if it is safe, so it is not recommended at this time.  Again, if it sounds too good to be true….

Caring for Our Children (CFOC) is the “gold standard” of health and safety, used by the ERS scales, Visiting Nurse Services, and many other early childhood organizations because CFOC uses scientific research to make their recommendations.  Caring for Our Children uses the latest research to establish procedures such as hand washing and practices like safe sleep.  One of the best things about CFOC is that it is free and easily accessible online.  Just go to the following link: http://cfoc.nrckids.org/, and type a topic into the “search CFOC3” box.  You’ll instantly have access to the most up to date safety and health standards. If you scroll down to the bottom of any topic, you will see References, and listed below are the studies used to determine practices and protocols.

Safe sleep standards can be found at http://cfoc.nrckids.org/StandardView/SpcCol/Safe_sleep.

Are there any other products out there that sound really great, but may be need more investigation?  We’d love to hear from you-sharing with each other is how we learn!

 

Jamie

Jamie

Jamie has worked with young children and their families for over 15 years. She is dedicated to ensuring that all young children receive high quality care and education.

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Let’s Talk… Remember the School Agers

‘Tis the season!! For colder weather, gift giving, busier than normal schedules, and school breaks (both scheduled and weather imposed) that find many of our programs infiltrated with “big kids”… otherwise known as school age children.

I have to admit that during my years of family child care, school age children made me cringe! They took up lots of space, ate more than my toddlers and preschoolers combined, had lots of energy and made significant noise. I often wondered what I could accomplish with that much energy! Looking back, though, I also have to admit I could have done a better job of meeting the needs of school age children. Toddlers and preschoolers – no problem. I had books, dramatic play, blocks, and routines that all meet the needs of those little learners. But school age children have very different and unique needs, needs that when meet not only provide children with enriching learning opportunities but also make our jobs much easier.

As we prepare for “big kids” being in our programs for longer periods of time later this month, as well as those miscellaneous snow days, let’s take a look at a few of the considerations the Environment Rating Scales suggests school age children need in a high quality environment:

  • Books – beginner reader, more advanced chapter books, and options in between
  • Art Supplies – 3-D art materials and safe places to store projects while glue or clay dries
  • Dramatic Play – fantasy items like pirate ships and castles, action figures, theater props
  • Soft furnishing big enough for children to escape the often “hardness” of child care
  • Space for active physical play
  • Math and Reasoning games

Some of the materials that provided the most engaging experiences in my family child care program were a box of popsicle sticks and craft glue! Oh, the creations!!!

As with all children, school age children do best with free play, a variety of options, and time indoors and out, in all types of weather. Are you ready for the “big kids”?

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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Pinterest Fail

Most of you have probably heard the phrase “Pinterest Fail” in the last few years, and some of you have probably experienced some yourself.  It’s easy to find something on Pinterest or another website that you want to make.  Following the instructions and achieving the same result pictured online is not so easy.  Most recently, I tried a new candy recipe- chocolate coffee truffles.  I wanted to give them to some friends over the holidays.  Instead of neat little balls of chocolate, I ended up with a large, gooey blob of chocolate. It tasted delicious, but I didn’t think it looked good enough to give to anyone.

We get ideas in our head about what’s “good enough” to gift or share.  We have an ideal, or a picture perfect version of what we’re trying to accomplish, and we’re disappointed when we can’t make our project look or taste as good as that ideal.

Generally, children don’t have this ideal in their minds.  They want to create freely and openly, and share with others.  Having their work displayed or shared gives them great pride and a sense of accomplishment.  Once that ideal gets into their head, they lose some of their creative energy.  They become a bit stifled and easily disappointed when their work doesn’t look how they were told it should.  Children can experience “Pinterest fails” too.

There will be plenty of times in later life that children will have to give a “right” answer- naming important dates on a history quiz, correctly coding a computer program, entering accurate data, etc.  When they’re young, it’s less important to be “right” and more important to experience things.  It’s our job as early educators to give them a platform for creativity and exploration.  Children need to feel empowered and encouraged to dig in with both hands and create something, without being concerned that it won’t look “right”.  They don’t need examples of how or what to do, they need support and materials that inspire them.

Especially during this time of year, when children are often making presents to give their parents and families, focus on the process of creation, not what the final product looks like.  One of my colleagues shared that in Kindergarten, she painted a rock for her dad’s Father’s Day present.  It didn’t have eyes and a cute face, it was messy and she didn’t think it was anything fancy.  When her dad retired 35 years later, that rock was still used as a paper weight on his desk.  It was never replaced with something “better” or “nicer” because he looked at it and thought of her. What she would have deemed a “Pinterest fail,” her dad deemed a valuable memory of his little girl.

As I consider my truffle Pinterest fail, I can name at least 4 of my friends who would gladly sit around the table with me, laughing, chatting and nibbling on that gooey blob of chocolate. And, actually, that sounds like success to me!  I encourage you to think about and share how you inspire children and spark their creative process.  Was there something you made and gave to your parents that they really treasured? Please comment with your thoughts- we love hearing from you!

Jamie

Jamie

Jamie has worked with young children and their families for over 15 years. She is dedicated to ensuring that all young children receive high quality care and education.

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Let’s Talk… Sense of Wonder

Take a look at the photograph for this post… what do you see? Probably the first thing you notice is a warm, sunny beach, especially as we here in Iowa head into the long, cold, dreary months of winter. But look a little closer…. Now what do you see?

I have to admit this picture makes me smile for many reasons. First, it is of my 22 year old daughter, Mackenzie, and her beloved 2 year old friend, Petsi. The picture was taken on the remote island of Vieques, Puerto Rico, where Petsi’s Papa grew up and where his family still lives. So it makes me smile because the picture is of people I love and a place that has special memories.

But it also makes me smile because this photograph captures simply and beautifully a life philosophy I hold dearly – maintaining a sense of wonder! Mackenzie and Petsi are both completely lost in exploring the object in Mackenzie’s hand. For them, the world has stopped, and the only thing that matters is exploring that item, even if for just a few moments.

Children have an innate sense of wonder – each and every day new and interesting things cross their paths to explore and ponder. The day-to-day busyness of caring for children, however, can get in our way of slowing down to appreciate and encourage children to observe and wonder. Maintaining a sense of wonder is important for children’s development, though, because is helps build children’s curiosity, which leads to success in literacy, math, science… all sorts of areas! There is also simply great joy in getting lost in wonder, for both children and for us as adults.

As we enter this especially busy time of year of holidays, runny noses, mixed up schedules, and bulky winter clothes, remember to pause, catch your breath, and get lost in the sense of wonder children have about twinkly lights, snowflakes, tassels on stocking caps and all the other wonderful things that capture children’s sense of wonder!

P.S. What do you think has Mackenzie and Petsi so intrigued? We’d love to hear your thoughts at Let’s Talk… Child Care!

(Photo used with permission by Pettee Guerrero and Mackenzie Thompson)

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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Smart 911

I was fortunate to be able to attend the Iowa Children and Youth in Disasters Summit on Friday, September 22nd.   The summit was sponsored by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Iowa Emergency Management Association.  I was really impressed with the variety of community member’s present-law enforcement, fire fighters, emergency management personnel, Child Care Resource and Referral, the FBI, and other concerned partners.

The summit allowed different agencies to share what they do, their experiences in emergencies and disasters, as well as how they assist children and families in Iowa.  Melissa Juhl, from Child Care Resource and Referral shared information about the new Emergency Preparedness trainings and requirements for child care programs.  It is reassuring to know that providers across the state are now more prepared than ever for emergencies, and you should all be very proud of your efforts!

Tracey Bearden, from the Polk County Emergency Management Agency, gave a short presentation on Smart911.com.  This program is nationwide and free.  It allows you to create a profile about your home, detailing how to enter the home, who lives/works/attends, medical conditions, medications, emergency contacts, etc.  The Safety Profile is secure and confidential.  If you call 911, only the dispatcher can see your profile and use the information to help first responder’s best access your home/building and assist you.

I have shared the information about Smart911 with family, friends, and co-workers, as I think it is a great new resource.  As child care providers, I encourage you to look into creating a Safety Profile.  The profile will indicate how to enter the building (access code, etc.), who in the building or home has mobility issues, hearing impairments, speaks different languages, takes medications, etc.

Knowing that there are so many infants who will need evacuated, what medical conditions and medications are taken by children and staff, and the hours children are present can greatly assist fire fighters, EMTs and other emergency response teams.

It only took me about 15 minutes to complete my Safety Profile for my home, and I could even include information about my pets!

www.Smart911.com

https://www.polkcountyiowa.gov/emergency-management/emergency-preparedness/

Jamie

Jamie

Jamie has worked with young children and their families for over 15 years. She is dedicated to ensuring that all young children receive high quality care and education.

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Last Minute Trick or Treat Reminders

 

Your favorite super hero, princess, monster, or witch is anxiously awaiting trick or treat night, and you’re just as anxious to see them show off their costume!  Each community has different traditions and times for this special evening, so please check with your local newspaper, city website, or other resource for information.  It may be last minute, but here are a few health and safety tips for trick-or-treat night.

Dress appropriately:   Beggars Night in Iowa can be frigid or warm, depending on the year. I remember a trick-or-treat experience that was disappointing to me as a child, but kept me safe.  It was freezing cold that night, so my mom told me to put on my snowsuit, handed me an old pair of ski polls, and said, “You’re a snow skier this year.”  My previously planned costume was not going to be warm enough, so I had to go as something else. I was upset that I couldn’t wear my intended outfit.   Now, I don’t even remember what that first costume was, I just remember being warm and cozy (and trying to manage adult-sized ski poles and my plastic treat pumpkin).   Be prepared for cool, windy, Iowa weather-dress children in layers that can be added or removed as needed.

Avoid unknown places:  Traditionally, we know that if the front exterior lights of the home are on, the family inside is open for trick-or-treaters.  Remind children to only trick-or-treat at homes of people they know and to wait until an adult has looked over their loot before eating any candy.  It is best to trick-or-treat in groups and with an adult.

Crush the sugar rush:  Too much candy can be a problem.  It’s easy to overload on all those goodies, but it’s important to remind children of healthy habits.  Some dentist offices will exchange prizes for candy.  If kids have too much candy, have them take it to a nursing home or assisted living facility to share with elderly members of the community.  Even if the residents there cannot enjoy the sweets, they will definitely enjoy a visit from some local children.

Talk about culture:  Some families do not participate in Halloween or trick-or-treat. This is a great time to discuss different cultures and how they celebrate throughout the year.  Others may not be able to eat candy due to allergies, illness, or dietary restrictions.    You can encourage children to think about being inclusive-offering stickers, pencils, and other non-food items to trick-or-treaters.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has a great acronym for “SAFE HALLOWEEN” on their website at https://www.cdc.gov/family/halloween/index.htm.  The information is helpful and provides safety tips that you may not have thought of.

 

Enjoy your night!!

Jamie

Jamie

Jamie has worked with young children and their families for over 15 years. She is dedicated to ensuring that all young children receive high quality care and education.

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Let’s Talk…Water Play & Summer Safety

Water play is a way to keep cool and have fun during late summer’s heat and humidity. Guest blogger Jamie Smith, ISU Environmental Rating Scale Assessor, shares important considerations when staying safe while keeping cool!

Summer is here!  Summer time is synonymous with water-pools, wading pools, water play.  The pool is the most likely destination for most of us looking to enjoy some sunshine and a favorite place for children.   The chance to be outside, socialize, and get some exercise is very important for children and adults.  Do you have concerns about children and pools?  Are you going to be responsible for a group of children at the pool?  Even if your program does not take children to an actual swimming pool or use wading pools, it is still very important to form a safety plan for water play.

Let’s take a look at some recommendations for safe pool use and water play.  Remember, it is important to evaluate your comfort level and address safety concerns before you agree to be in charge of children near water.  Don’t put yourself at risk by being in charge of water play without knowing some basic safety rules.

RatiosRatios may need adjusted when children are in or near water.  1 teacher to every 12 preschoolers may work in the classroom, but will not meet safety standards during water play or swimming.  Extra adult supervision can prevent accidents and drownings.  Even if lifeguards are present, it is vital that all providers are carefully supervising the children.  Caring for Our Children provides important recommendations for water play ratios.

Access –  Closely monitor who can access water play and when.  As always, fencing is important to any outdoor play area, but especially pools.  A fence will help keep children out of and away from pools and water play when they are not supervised, as well as prevent them from leaving a designated area in which adults are present to monitor them.  Also, if you are at a pool, you will want to control which children access which parts of the pool.  I worked at a program that required parents to complete a swim-ability form, detailing their child’s level of competence and exposure to water.  Based on that form, children were assigned different colored bracelets.  A red bracelet meant that child had to stay in the shallow end of the pool, blue allowed up to 5 ft. of water, etc.  Most pools have a “diving board test,” requiring children to prove to the lifeguards that they are able to swim a certain length, tread water, etc., in order to be allowed to use the diving board or use the deep end.  Use these opportunities to help ensure children in your care are safe.

Supervision – Adults supervising children involved in swimming or water play must be actively supervising.  It is a good idea to assign each adult to a specific area to remain in and watch closely.  Keep in mind that another adult may be needed for additional duties-taking children to the restroom, applying sunscreen, monitoring the children sitting on their towels taking a break, etc.  Caring for Our Children provides more specifics about water safety supervision.

Again, it is important that each person required to monitor children in or near water is comfortable and confident doing so.  Take time to develop safety plans and communicate with other providers-a brainstorming session may really be helpful.  Forming a group of providers that engage in water play at the same time may also lead to more adults being present and available to supervise.

What are some safety rules you adhere to when children engage in water play?  Do you have any tips for supervising children near water?

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…Diversity Discussion (Infants & Toddlers)

Guest blogger Jamie Smith, ISU Environmental Rating Scale Assessor, continues her discussion on diversity.

I often hear providers and teachers say that they struggle to discuss diversity with infants and toddlers. It’s true, a lot of activities that are out there don’t work for that age group. I like to encourage people to incorporate diversity into their language with children.

We want providers/teachers to use many different descriptive words throughout the day to build children’s vocabulary and language skills, so why not dedicate some of that language to diversity?

  • “Molly you have such big, brown eyes! And Kevin, you have bright, blue eyes! Our eyes help us see.  Where are your eyes? Can you blink?”
  • “Shawn’s mommy brought him to school today. Claire, your daddy brought you. Isn’t it nice to spend time with mommies and daddies?  Let’s look at our family pictures. Shawn, your mom has brown hair. Claire, your dad has no hair. Where is your hair?”

Music is another great way to introduce children to different cultures. We want to avoid having music as background noise, so be sure to limit use to times that children can hear and are interested. It doesn’t do much good to have music on if a child is crying or walking away to find another toy!

Many libraries offer diverse music CDs, and there are many musical apps or programs, such as Pandora, that also provide a variety of music that is free or low-cost. Talk with children about where the music originates – African drums, Celtic lullabies, etc., as well as the sounds, rhythms and beats. This helps children begin to appreciate diversity and music.

  • “Oh, Marcus, did you hear that? Thump, thump, thump. Can you try that on your drum?”
  • “Sara, did you know this music is from Ireland. That’s a long way away from here, but it’s very pretty. Do you hear that sound? That’s a flute.”

Using sign language with infants and toddlers provides them with another route of communication and also helps them gain a basic understanding of differing abilities. Baby sign can be helpful to you and children – a child may not be able to verbally express that they are thirsty, but if they can sign “milk,” you may be able to quickly identify why they are upset or what their needs are.

The American Sign Language for Kids website has many resources, including videos and an app to help you learn and use sign language with young ones.

As the new year unfolds, how will you introduce infants and toddlers to diversity words and experiences?

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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