Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Crime-Fighting Teachers

Many years ago, when I taught Kindergarten, I saw a cartoon that depicted picketers in front of the capitol complaining “No More Money for Schools” and “Build More Prisons”.  As sad as it was, it seemed to so well express legislative priorities. 

Research shows the correlation between high-quality early education and quality of life issues, such as high school graduation and jail time.  The group Fight Crime: Invest in Kids studies crime prevention strategies, works to make the public and policymakers aware of the findings, and urges investment in research-proven programs.  They identify themselves as a group of  “nearly 5,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors, attorneys general and other law enforcement leaders and violence survivors”. 

The United States currently has about 2 million criminals incarcerated at the cost of about $75 billion per year.  A study in Chicago showed that children enrolled in high-quality child care or parent coaching programs were 20 percent less likely to be arrested for a felony or be incarcerated as young adults than their peers.  This doesn’t include the benefits like increased high school graduation rates, better health, or less receipt of welfare.  Recent research demonstrates that society profits, financially, by $25,000 per child served in a high-quality early education program when you deduct the cost of the program from the lifetime savings. 

Of course, those of us who provide care realize that the money is nothing compared to the positive impact on the lives of these children. So...to all of you who provide high-quality child care....well done, thank you, and keep up the good work! It truly does make a difference.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Playground Question

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about the importance of outdoor play.  This week, I’d like to change it up a little and specifically ask for your input. 

We may be opening another Center, this one in southern California.  Since this is new construction, we can design it from the ground up (depending upon our client’s budget, anyway).  I’ve been reading a lot about natural playgrounds and am very intrigued.  They look like they could be endlessly fascinating for children and very aesthetically pleasing. 

I am very concerned about how our local Licensing agency would accept such a playground; there are inherent risks involved with providing logs and stones for children to walk across.  The natural playgrounds representative that I spoke with assured me that Licensing cannot, legally, require any greater safety measures than the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the American Society for Testing and Materials require.  But, realistically, anyone in child care knows that, if a Licensing representative doesn’t like the way I’m doing something, they will find some way to make my life more difficult. 

My questions for you are:
  • What sort of playground do you have?
  • What are the positives and negatives of your playground?
  • What would you change about your playground if you could?
  • Do you or anyone you know have a natural playground?
  • If so, how what are the positives and negatives of that playground?
  • How does the Licensing agency view the playground?
  • From what you know, would you build a natural playground for your program if you could?

Thanks in advance for the help!  (If we get a dialogue started on this blog, pop me an email with a subject you would like to discuss and we can throw that out to the group as well.)


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Partnering with Pediatricians

Getting to know local pediatricians (and/or the pediatrician’s staff) and leaving information about your program in their offices can be a good way of marketing your program.  You can reciprocate by providing a resource area in your program for parents, including materials provided by the local pediatricians and other professionals.  (Remember, make sure it’s just a referral and not a recommendation.)

A recently released policy statement on Literacy Promotion from the American Academy of Pediatrics provides another opportunity for partnership.  The policy statement explains to pediatricians why early literacy development is so important and how to counsel parents on best supporting this development.  Pediatricians are encouraged to :
  • Inform parents about the importance of reading out loud to their children from the time they are born
  • Counsel parents about developmentally appropriate shared-reading activities (like dialogic reading)
  • Provide developmentally appropriate books for high-risk, low-income young children
  • Provide resources for parents about literacy—informative posters and handouts, library information, etc.
  • Partner with other child advocates (like you)

While pediatricians can be a great literacy resource for parents, they are medical professionals, not education professionals.  As an early education professional, you can be a resource to the local pediatricians to expand their knowledge on early literacy and to answer any questions they or their clients may have regarding best practices in early learning.  Perhaps you could provide recommendations on which books they could offer to children of various ages, donate some inexpensive books or bookmarks, or provide parent handouts with early literacy suggestions.  Just make sure your contact information is on everything you provide!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Learning Outdoors

I was fortunate as a child to be able to play outside a lot, especially during the Summer.  By early afternoon, the neighborhood would be full of children running around and we knew that our primary requirement was to go home when the streetlights came on.  Most of the children in our care don’t have this luxury.  They are with us all day rather than running around their respective neighborhoods.  Consequently, it’s up to us to make sure that they can get appropriate outdoor time during the day.

An important aspect of providing outdoor play is to understand why it’s necessary.  Once we (including our staff members) have a solid understanding of what children learn through outside play, scheduling outside play and planning appropriate learning experiences becomes easier.  So, what do children learn through outdoor play and how can we enhance that?
  • Physical Development—Gross motor skills are simply learned best where there is adequate room to move.  This will generally be outside.  Gross motor skills are only learned through practice.  Children who learn to move confidently are more likely to live active lives, which will help to combat the national epidemic of obesity. 
  • Cognitive Development—When outdoors, children have abundant opportunities to use their senses to observe the environment.  There is growing thought that movement helps the brain to optimize its performance.  Additionally, gross motor activities can provide a very effective way of improving vocabulary.  Children are much more likely to remember what the words trot or gracefully mean if they can move their bodies in those ways. 
  • Social/Emotional Development—Physical play requires paying attention to where your body is in space and how it is impacting others around you.  Children learn cooperation by taking turns or agreeing to the rules of the game they are playing.  Just having the opportunity to be outside or to move around freely can be a great stress-reducer for children (and for adults). 
Make sure that your daily schedule allows ample time for outside play both structured play and free play.  The children will be learning in both situations. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Child Care Illness Exclusion Policy

I recently read an interesting article from the National Institutes of Health regarding exclusion of children from child care due to illness.  Researchers found that children who are excluded due to illness frequently end up in an emergency room or urgent care center rather than with their regular pediatrician.  Parents often need a doctor’s note to either get their child accepted back into care or to get approval for time off from work.  When they are trying to get this note quickly, they often feel the need to seek emergency care rather than waiting for a visit with the pediatrician.  Lead researcher Dr. Andrew Hashikawa explains that, while this may not be a medical emergency, it becomes a “socioeconomic emergency".  Because of this perceived emergency, parents who need a note were four times more likely than other parents to seek emergency care for their children.

While child care providers must have illness exclusion policies to protect the health of both children and staff, making sure that the policies are well-informed can provide some relief to parents.  Many child care policies are based on “how we’ve always done it” rather than on actual medical recommendations and are, therefore, more exclusionary than necessary.  Part of the problem is that, although the American Academy of Pediatrics publishes exclusion guidelines, child care providers must meet local child care licensing requirements, which may be in opposition to the guidelines of best practices. 

What we can do to help our families while keeping children and staff healthy is to follow the licensing requirements while understanding what illnesses do not actually require exclusion.  This knowledge will also help us to explain our policies to parents so that they can partner with us to keep everyone healthy.  If you don’t already have an Illness Exclusion Policy, check ours out at www.DayCareTools.com.
P.S.  Congratulations to our friend Vera on the Grand Opening of her new Center.  Best wishes!!  Glad we could help you out a little.