Saturday, November 29, 2008

Parents Fight for Recess

There is a recent article out of New Jersey that details how a group of parents are fighting to pass a law that requires schools to provide a 20-minute recess daily for their students. In their research, these parents found out that only 8 states require a recess period.

As an early childhood professional and a mother of two, I am saddened that schools would need a law to require them to provide recess time for children. I have 3 major reasons for believing that recess is desperately needed in schools: 1) physical fitness, 2) social development, and 3) for lack of a better word--sanity.

1) Physical fitness. We are all bombarded with news of how obesity is taking over our nation and how our children's lives will be shortened by a lack of physical fitness; news on how children spend their time on video games rather than running around outside. Why then would we want to take one more step to remove their opportunities for physical play? (They can't opt for video games at school recess.) Granted, not every child will be physically active during every recess, but a quick perusal of any playground will show a lot of physical activity.

2) Social development. There is a book that describes how the author learned everything he really needed to know in Kindergarten. A similar book could be written about how everything you need to know about living in a society can be learned on the playground. Children don't learn a lot about how to deal with each other when they are sitting at their desks doing school work. On a playground, children learn to share, compromise and deal with disappointment.

3) Sanity. How many of us, as adults, could spend 7 hours of each day with only a quick lunch break? That is what we are sometimes now asking our children to do. We ask them to sit at a desk and pay attention to their teacher for a little over 3 hours, give them 30-40 minutes for lunch (which sometimes barely gives them time to eat their food and, p.s., some schools do not allow talking during this time) and then sit them back at their desk for another 3 hours plus. I couldn't do that, nor would I want my children to do it.

Think back to your recess times--the chance to run off a little energy, breathe some fresh air, interact with your friends. Personally, I looked forward to every recess. Let's make sure our future generations can do the same.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cutting Daycare Staffing Costs

Since staffing costs comprise the largest part of most daycare programs' expenses, the most obvious place to look to cut costs would be in your staffing. Of course, we're not recommending cutting staff wages or benefits as many teachers are already underpaid. 

However, a little extra attention to detail on staff-child ratios could show areas in which you are paying for more staff members than you need. In our program, we use an hourly staff-child ratio tracking sheet to ensure that we are neither over ratio nor under ratio. Each classroom is required to make an hourly note of the number of children in attendance and the number of staff members in the classroom. 

By studying these sheets each day, you can see very clearly if you are staffing each room properly. If you are consistently overstaffed in one classroom at a particular time of the day, you can see that you need to change your staff schedule and either move staff members to another room or cut some hours. Along with this "after the fact" checking, you also need to have a policy in place for your late-day staff so that they understand which employee(s) should clock out and go home early if children have gone home early and they find themselves overstaffed.