Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Vocabulary Development In Young Children

Researchers have found that children from low-income families may start Kindergarten with 10,000 fewer words in their vocabularies than their classmates.  Children with low vocabularies have been found to be at-risk of reading difficulties.  Because of the large quantity of words children need to have in their vocabularies to be effective communicators, parents and teachers must work together to give children a good head start.

Here are some vocabulary activities that can be done at home or in a group setting:

  • Wide reading—read a wide variety of books to the child.
  • Deep reading— pre-select no more than 2 or 3 words to discuss with the child while reading the story.  The words should be meaningful to the child.  Try to use the word throughout the day and review in the future. 
  • Play “I Spy”—my sons and I used to do this in the car; a great way to pass the time.
  • Name things for the child--not just nouns, don’t forget verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.  “Wow, that is a really big tree; it is gigantic.”
  • Describe sensory activities—how does it feel?
  • Child explains pictures he/she draws—help the child with the proper vocabulary; don’t let him or her say “that thing”, name it.
  • Sorting and classifying activities—what characteristic did the child use in sorting the items?
  • Cooking activities—talk about what you are using and doing.
  • Nature walks—talk about what you see.
  • Poetry—provides condensed, concise language
  • Describe emotional vocabulary—how do you feel?
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Don’t use baby language; stretch vocabulary with big words when possible and appropriate; explain the words you use.

Working together, parents and teachers can do a lot in improving children’s vocabularies.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Child Care Employee Orientation

How do you bring a new employee into your program; making sure that they feel welcome and understand how to be a successful employee?  A formal orientation process will show the employee that you value them enough to have a plan in place to help them start their new job.  It also ensures that every new employee receives the information that they need to do their job according to your program standards.  

Minimally, your New Employee Orientation should include:

  • A welcome and acknowledgement of the individual’s importance to your program
  • An explanation of where the employee falls within your organization; who they report to, who reports to them, and where they can find support
  • Basic paperwork necessary for employment
  • Most important policies and procedures (child supervision, health and sanitation, emergency and safety procedures, child abuse prevention, etc.)
  • Planning and implementing an appropriate program
  • Program evaluation
  • Professionalism

It’s really easy to get desperate for a new employee and just plug them into your schedule immediately.  However, that doesn’t give the person a chance to get to know your program, understand how they fit into it, and what you expect of them as an employee.  Even a couple of days dedicated to orientation will pay off in spades with a more confident, prepared employee.  If you don’t already have a New Employee Orientation compiled, you can find ours here.
Image courtesy of www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Child Care Wage and Hour Concerns

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division conducted extensive investigations focused on the child care industry in the Denver, Colorado area in 2012 and plans to continue the investigations through 2013.  As a result of the investigations thus far, they have recovered $393,000 in 103 investigations.  

The most commonly cited violations include:

  • Failure to pay employees for hours worked during mandatory training courses
  • Failure to pay employees for work completed before or after their scheduled work shifts
  • Improperly classifying “non-exempt” (hourly) employees as “exempt” (salaried) to avoid paying overtime
  • Paying “straight time” rather than time and a half for overtime hours
  • Failure to maintain proper records of employees’ wages and hours worked

The Wage and Hour Division’s Southwest regional administrator, Cynthia Watson stated that the goal of the investigations is to “…promote sustained compliance throughout the child care industry”.   The Wage and Hour Division is also conducting investigations in Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, Texas, North Dakota and South Dakota.  

Back in 2008, Mindy and I heard that the government was increasing its investigations into child care programs as child care, as an industry, is notoriously bad at Wage and Hour compliance.  At that time, Mindy wrote a tongue-in-cheek article entitled “Top 10 Ways to Encourage a Wage and Hour Audit at Your Daycare”.  Check it out and be sure that your program is in compliance before the government comes knocking. 

To help you ensure that you are staffing your program as efficiently as possible, check out our Hourly Ratio Tracking Sheet

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Beating the Flu

So far, this year’s flu season is looking pretty unpleasant.  It started 5 weeks earlier than anticipated and, as rough as it is so far, has not yet peaked.  News reports are filled with stories of the worst flu season in a decade, including the news that there have been 18 flu-related pediatric deaths so far this season.  

So, with such grim reports, how do we protect our staff and the children in our care?  Although I realize vaccinations are controversial, that is the Centers for Disease Control’s first recommendation.  The one bit of good news from this year’s flu season is that the vaccine developed for this season is so far proving to be effective for the strains of flu reported in the vast majority of cases.  In our program, we cover the cost of flu shots for any of our staff members who want to receive them.  At about $20 per staff member, we find this to be money well-spent.

The next piece of protection is making sure that you have an illness exclusion policy that you implement fully.  Simply stated, sick people cannot be in your program or they will make others sick.  Your policy must clearly explain which symptoms are exclusionary and when individuals can return to the program after being excluded.  When I send a child home, I explain clearly to the parent when the child can return; for example, if a child goes home with a fever at 2:00 in the afternoon on Monday, the child will not be eligible to return until at least Wednesday.  This exclusion policy must apply to program staff as well.  Having sick staff is no different than having sick children in the program.

The final piece is simple implementation of a health policy and a cleaning and sanitation policy.  These policies will remind staff and children how and when to wash their hands, to appropriately cover their coughs and sneezes, to promptly dispose of tissues, and to keep the various surfaces in the program clean and sanitary.  

These simple steps will greatly reduce the risk of spread of illness in your program.