Child care vs. Day care, Raising the bar for Early Childhood Professionals

shutterstock_520107292Image Source: ShutterStock

Over the past few months I have had the opportunity to provide educational programming for childcare providers who are seeking professional development to enhance the quality of care and education they are offering young children. In my interaction with providers, the term day care and child care have been used interchangeably. A colleague of mine brought it to my attention that there has been research on the use of these terms and the level of quality of care associated with their use.

An article published in the Huffington Post examined Day Care Disrespect and how what we call child care does make a difference. According to Katherine Rose, Associate Professor in Early Child Development and Education at Texas Woman’s University, the term day care as opposed to preschool or child care is many times associated with negative views envisioned as unstimulating, uninviting and in general, low quality care. Rose states, “The term day care prioritizes the “day” over the “care” — and days don’t need any care.”

A child care provider’s role is vital in the successful development of children in all domains including physical, cognitive, social, and emotional growth. In high quality environments child care professionals are key in setting the foundations that lead to continued progress in school, increased future incomes, reducing anti-social behaviors and less trouble with the law.

Young children today are spending a good majority of their time with child care providers in family childcare homes and childcare centers, if parents are working full time, it equals more than 40 hours per week in time spend in child care. The child care professionals who are dedicating their time to continuing education to include best practices in early care and education are also building quality relationships with the children and families in their care.

So what’s in a name? Words Matter The title of Child Care Professional should be the new language we use if it is quality care we are giving or are expected to get.

Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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Teaching Kindness and Giving With a Holiday Twist

the-kindness-elves-kindness-is-contagious-pass-it-on-680x505Image Source: The Imagination Tree

The holidays are a perfect time to focus on the social emotional development of young children. We can take this time to focus on the giving, rather than receiving.  It may sound cliché, but as parents and teachers our goal is for children to develop healthy attachments and maintain secure relationships with caring adults.  We also want our children to lean to show awareness of and respond to the feelings of others.

I had the opportunity to work with an amazing professional preschool teacher who was a master at setting up a caring community of learners.  It was very apparent that a lot of intentional planning was done to set up her classroom environment in a way that children trusted the adults and were nurtured and accepted.  Many opportunities were provided for children to develop an awareness of their own feelings as well as the ideas and actions of others.  During the holidays, the class was introduced to the “Kindness Kids” and daily were involved in decisions and planning thoughtful ways they could show kindness to others through-out the school.

Check out this article that explains The Kindness Kids, an Alternative to Elf on the Shelf Tradition.

And for you busy parents and teachers here is a site that provides Free downloadable kindness elves messages.  I hope this idea will help you to model kind words, thoughtfulness and giving.  I think you will be amazed at the ideas the kids come up with on their own to thank and appreciate others in their lives.

What are some of the ways you encourage awareness of others during the holidays?

Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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Holiday Mealtime with Kids, Mayhem or Magical


Fall is in the air and it won’t be long before we are looking forward to gathering with extended family for holiday meals.  Holiday meal time can be a time to revisit family favorites as well as trying new foods.  This busy time of the year can be fun and stressful at the same time.  For parents of young children, meal time may bring thoughts of anxiety when they think about traveling, eating unfamiliar foods, and breaking familiar routines and meal time schedules.

Instead of feeling pressured to fit shopping, and cooking homemade meals into this busy holiday schedule, try to involve your young children in these activities as much as possible. Children (of all ages) who cook with adults also learn valuable developmental skills. Everyday moments can turn into teachable lessons and memories that last long after the holidays are over.

Holiday Meal time tips:

  • Take your children grocery shopping

Depending on their age, children as young as 3 or 4 can enjoy this experience if you model and get them involved.  Give them a few choices such as the type of vegetable or fruit, and allow them to weigh things and put them in the cart, or cross items off of your list

  • Cooking with kids

Children will be more likely to try new foods if they are involved in helping to prepare them. Young children love to stir with a spoon, scoop ingredients into a cup, or tear lettuce for the salad. They can help set the table too. This is a time of exploration and learning, so expect a mess once in a while, just model how to clean it up and help them as needed.  A good technique to use with young preschoolers in hand over hand when pouring, teaming together to hit the target.

  • Talk about the food

To encourage children to try new foods, talk about the foods, where it grows, and what it will taste like. Show your enthusiasm for the food when you describe it with colorful language using words like crispy, juicy, sweet, or tangy.

  •  Stick with normal meal patterns

As adults, we may be tempted to eat lighter if we know we are going to a big holiday meal, saving room for what’s to come. It may be best to keep meal patterns as normal as possible for children, including meals and snacks.  By doing so, they will be satisfied until the big meal, and not so disappointed if they see a few unfamiliar items on the plate.

 Give children the game plan

It is important to talk with children ahead of time about what to expect at the holiday meal including the location, who will be there, what they can do when you arrive, where they will likely sit for the meal, and for how long you expect them to sit at the table before they can go and play.  If you take care of preparing them ahead of time, the meal will likely go much smoother.

 Check out this quick reference guide from eXtension on Cooking with Kids and this resource for ideas on Healthy Fun Holiday Treats from Nebraska Extension.

What are some of your favorite ways to include children in holiday meals?


Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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Image: Rocking Grandma Music

Counting Coins

Young mother teaching her daughter about money managementWant your child to learn the difference between the various coins we use and the value of each? This activity is a great way for children to discover the differences between various coins and learn that different coins have different values.

What You’ll Need:

  • A pile of mixed coins making sure to have at least one of each type
  • Paper
  • Pencils (colored or regular) OR clay
  • Animals crackers or other “store items”

Learning Activity:

  1. Have the children separate coins into like piles by type, all the pennies in one pile, all the nickels in another, etc. Have them count the number of coins in each. If the kids are older, have them total up the amount of all the coins.
  2. Have the kids select one or two coins and do a coin rubbing by taking a sheet of white paper and placing the coin beneath it. Using a colored pencil or regular pencil, lay the lead flat against the paper on top of the coin and have the child rub it until the image of the coin appears. You may also use clay and mold it around each coin. Discuss the difference between the coins asking some of the following questions:
    1. What color is the coin?
    2. Does it have a rough edge?
    3. Which coin is largest or smallest?
    4. What do you see on the coins (presidents, buildings, trees)?
  3. Give the child five pennies and one nickel. Have the child “buy” five animal crackers together with the nickel and then singly with a penny each. Set up other play store opportunities at home where children can buy different items using different coins.

Other Money Teaching Ideas:

  • Visit the store and give the child 50 cents or a dollar and let the child purchase an item.
  • When shopping with your child, have them count items as they are put into the cart to understand how much money is needed for all of them.
  • Save money in clear containers so kids can see it increasing.
  • Conduct a treasure hunt for coins in a room at home. Sort into like piles and count.
  • Read a book!

The Coin Counting Book

The Coin Counting Book by Rozanne Lanczak Williams is a unique book that offers the kids the opportunity to see the coins in detail and to appreciate their value. This book is a good way to introduce simple math to children.

My First Book of Money: Counting Coins



My First Book of Money: Counting Coins from Kumon Publishing is a great book if your child can add numbers up to 100, and is familiar with the concept of money. This workbook will build on that foundation and is a fun and easy introduction to coins and their value, which will help strengthen your child’s mathematical skills.



What are your tips for teaching children about money at school or at home? Let us know what you do by leaving us a comment below or tweeting us at @UNLExtensionTLC!

Leanne Manning, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

(This post has been used with permission and adapted from a previous publication of this article by Leanne Manning from Nebraska Extension IANR)

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Essential Oils, What You Need to Know…


It seems as though everywhere you look today, there is a new display of essential oils products available to consumers.  I have seen these displays in the major discount retailers and pharmacy stores as well as high-end department stores, beauty salons, and dollar thrift stores.  The products all have the same message for the consumer, emphasizing the natural remedy to many ailments. Many people enjoy the natural aroma and have faith in the healing or behavior changing claims of these products.

As a former classroom teacher, I was always careful to not wear perfume or cologne around my students.  I was cautioned of this by my college advisor before student teaching because of the concern for any students with respiratory problems or asthma.  I was also made aware of the dangers of aerosol sprays and air fresheners for the same reasons, so when I became aware of some classroom teachers using essential oil diffusers in their classrooms, I naturally wanted to see if the same was true of these fragrances.

I found out that there are two possible concerns with essential oils, one being toxicity, and the other as mentioned above, respiratory complications.  With any product in the home, it is important to keep essential oils out of reach of children.  Oils are highly concentrated, and according to the Tennessee Poison Center at Vanderbilt, the primary route of poisoning is by ingestion, but it may also occur by excessive or inappropriate application to the skin.  Justin Loden, Pharm. D., certified specialist in Poison Information (CSPI) at TPC states, “Children are at risk for poisoning because they may try to ingest essential oils from the container. Most have a pleasant smell but bitter taste, so children easily choke on them and aspirate the oil to their lungs. Children are also at risk because their thin skin readily absorbs essential oils, and the protective barrier that covers their brain is easily penetrated.” This has also raised concerns about the use of oils by prenatal mothers, as they can cross the placenta to the unborn baby.

Clinical studies are underway in the United States and many other countries on the benefits of essential oils used for their healing properties as well as safe use. Check out this article for more information on the toxicology of essential oils. Rise in Children Ingesting Essential Oils. Another article on the safety of essential oils by a board certified pediatrician cautions on the use of oil diffusers around children. What Does The Research Say, also provides more information on the difficulty in conducting research on essential oils and the concerns for toxicity in use with children and prenatal mothers. I encourage you to explore more on this topic and to seek advice from your trusted pediatrician or OB/GYN to help you make well informed decisions for you and your family.

Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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Let’s Play Ball!

Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 10.49.23 AM.pngThere are many innovative toys for children on the market today, but one that continues to stand the test of time for its ability to encourage the whole child’s development over many years of growth is a ball.

Baby ball

Babies learn about the world through sensory integration, balls are something babies can see, touch, and interact with and better yet, their parents are their favorite teammate. When selecting balls for play with baby, you might choose textured balls or try slightly deflating the ball so it is easier for baby to grip. You might look for an “O ball” that baby can squeeze and grip. These are great for babies because they are soft and safe. According to the NAEYC, caregivers should provide play objects that are “made of materials and scaled to a size that lets infants grasp, chew, and manipulate them (Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs, 3rd edition, C., and S. Bredekamp, eds. 2009).”

Roll the ball with your baby while sitting or when baby is enjoying tummy time. This type of play encourages gross-motor development as baby reaches and grasps the ball with both hands. You will help baby to build finger strength and strengthen the muscles neededwoman playing ball with child for sitting. Rolling the ball also helps to encourage visual tracking and supports hand –eye coordination. The parent / child time will also help the child to learn social skills of communication as the play goes back and forth between you and baby and it’s a wonderful time to bond with baby. Try singing as you roll the ball back and forth; “I roll the ball to you, you roll the ball to me, I roll the ball to you and you roll the ball to me.”

Parents of infants 3- 6 months can try using a large exercise ball to stimulate baby. Try putting the ball against a wall and firmly holding it in place with your feet. Place a towel on the balls surface, then place baby on the ball for tummy time. You can gently bounce the ball and slightly roll it from side to side. This is great for strengthening neck muscles.

Toddler Ball

One to Two-year old’s are ready to work on their eye/hand coordination. Parents can introduce catching and throwing, however this involves a series of complicated movements and muscles to control. Toddlers may attempt to throw objects at around 18 months, but catching will wait till age 3 or 4 and resembles hugging the ball to their chest. With any new skill it takes lots of practice. Parents can offer their throwers different types of objects such as bean bags, foam balls, and beach balls. Use baskets or boxes as the target, moving some close and some farther away. Parents can be more engaging with their toddler by sitting at the child’s level and playing along.

Check out this quick reference guide on typical motor development milestones and this new app from The Learning Child, UR Parent. It is full of information for parents in the first year of your child’s life. This app is geared to the specific age of your baby. Information on child development and parenting from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This app also features a baby book for the busy on-the-go parents. The UR parent app is handy to keep track of your immunization records on your phone, and also allows you to record special events such as the date your baby takes their first step. With UR parent, questions you have about taking care of your child are just a fingertip away.

Ages and Stages

Remember, every child develops at their own pace. The ages and stages mentioned earlier are an approximate range in developmental milestones. Parents can support their child’s growth and development by offering time and opportunity as well as safe balls to explore this gross motor play. NAEYC also tells us that caregivers should “allow toddlers freedom to explore their movements by testing what their bodies are capable of doing (Copple, C., and S. Bredekamp, eds. 2009).” Follow the child’s lead and continue the play as long as they are interested, but do not force this type of play. Your child will indicate to you when they have lost interest and are ready for the “7th inning stretch.”

What creative ways have you tried introducing balls in your routine with children?


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Family Game nights, a Win-Win for everyone!

As back to school is well underway, our schedules can become very hectic with carpools, school events, homework, and the like.  In my back to school blog, I wrote, a well thought out routine can be the secret to a calm, child centered learning environment if planned appropriately.  This time I want to encourage you to make a family night part of that routine.

Young children thrive on quality time spent together with family.  Not only is the interaction good for building self-esteem, reserving a special night is a great way to strengthen communication and bonding within a family and build traditions that are special and unique to each individual family. I also encourage families to get away from screen time as a family activity and instead look for creative games to play with their children.

According to Elizabeth Brunscheen-Cartagena, family life and resource management agent with Kansas State Research and Extension, board games can help family members connect and have fun together, all while helping kids build essential learning skills as they navigate the social component of game playing.  Brunscheen-Cartagena refers to this as “social capital” in her blog, Get Your Game Face On.

There are many benefits to playing games with young children as a family, and research tells us that it is through play that children make discoveries and learning new skills.

  •  Motor Development: Age appropriate games give opportunities to develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills such as rolling dice and turning over cards.
  •  Intellectual Development: Games allow exposure to counting, sorting and identifying numbers, and some introduce shapes and patterns, as well as new vocabulary and letter recognition.
  •  Problem solving abilities: Games that promote memory and puzzles are good choices here. Games are great tools that give opportunities for simple decision making.
  •  Social skills: Playing games introduces and allows practice in turn taking and opportunities for families to model appropriate ways to interact with others.

Check out this article from Scholastic Parents on The Benefits of Board Games.  It gives some great suggestions on age appropriate game selections and advice about winning.

Family Game nights do not have to break your budget.  There are many creative games that you can play without an inventory of board games with a few simple everyday objects or With Just a Paper and Pencil.  And I am all for any activity that gets kids up and moving. Click here for 18 “Get off the Couch” games.

Tips to make your family night a success:

  • Establish a regular day and time that works best for your family
  • Eliminate distractions such as cell phones and television
  • Make sure everyone can play or participate
  • Keep it fun, build a family tradition to be remembered

What are some of your favorite family game night memories and ideas?

Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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Saving for an Emergency

Do you know what you would do if your car suddenly broke down? What about if you or a family member needed immediate surgery?

Having an emergency fund set up in advance can help you get through just such stressful money-crunch times. An emergency fund is one where enough money is kept to cover about six months of expenses. It would be ideal if the money is saved in an account where it could earn some interest. Emergency funds should be in savings accounts, short term certificates of deposit, or money market accounts where it is easily converted to cash.

Celebrations such as Christmas and birthdays does not constitute an emergency. Both come around the same time each year and as such can be planned for and saved for in advance. With an emergency fund you can avoid taking out a loan or paying credit card debt for the emergency expense. Essentially you are borrowing from yourself and will not need to pay back a creditor any interest for a loan. It is not a good idea to have the emergency fund be accessible by ATM or to have it serve as the overdraft on a checking account because the emergency funds will disappear too rapidly if they are that easy to use.

You can learn more about emergency funds by visiting and clicking on Before You Invest.

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Look Who’s Hatching

Look Who's Hatching ProjectWritten by Alice Brown. Brown is a recent graduate from Tennessee State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Child Development and Family Relations and was an intern for Jaci Foged.

Baby chicks for Look Who's HatchingDuring the first month of my internship I worked with three preschool classrooms implementing the “Look Who’s Hatching” embryology project. Working with the children was my favorite. As a future teacher, I love to see the passion and joy in kids eyes when they learn something new or see the outcome of a project.

The classroom had 10 eggs that were placed in incubators until they hatched. Each visit we did activities of different Oviparous Animals (animals that lay eggs) with the classrooms. We kept the fact that we had chicken eggs a secret from the students so they could explore every possibility of what could hatch. Their guesses were adorable and funny!

Frozen Dinosaur Eggs

My favorite activity was the frozen dinosaur egg excavation. Before the activity, we froze toy dinosaurs inside balloons. When we arrived at the center we gave the frozen dinosaur eggs to the kids so they could help the dinosaur hatch. The kids were given a spoon and salt and had to melt the ice to “hatch” the dinosaur. The determination to help free the dinosaur was a sight to see, especially after seeing one of their friends already playing with their dinosaur.

At the end of the project sadly only 10 chickens hatched out of the 30 eggs we delivered to the classrooms, but the excitement from the children was still the same. They were able to name their chicks as they hatched and were excited every time they saw the Egg Lady’s (what the kids called us) come to their classroom.

Are you interested in have the “Look Who’s Hatching” project at your center? Contact Katie Krause at for more information!

Alice Brown | The Learning Child

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Can Allowances Be A Teaching Tool?

Family teaching little girl about money

Why Consider An Allowance?

  • Children learn about receiving a fixed income and they can begin to make decisions about how to use it.
  • Children receiving allowances may learn to set financial goals.
  • Children experience and learn the results of poor money management.

When Is The Best Age To Start Giving An Allowance?

Many parents wonder this! The answer is that is really depends on the child. An allowance can be started as soon as a child grasps how money works (i.e., that we use money to buy the things we want and need.) Some experts say children as young as age 4 or 5 can be ready to learn how to use money and can be started on an allowance. Others say 6 or 7 may be a better age. Children with older siblings usually are ready for an allowance at an earlier age than only or first-born children.

Allowances and Chores

Many financial experts agree that it is important to keep the idea of an allowance separate from being paid for doing chores. Children have responsibilities within their families which they should fulfill without expecting to be paid for completing them. Paying children for chores also encourages the attitude that everything has a price and they should get paid for what they do. Chores are a part of belonging to a family.

To see how paying for chores can get out of hand, let’s suppose Maria makes her bed only four days out of seven. Do you pay her the usual weekly allowance? If her allowance depends upon chores being completed, someone has to keep track of what’s done and decide upon a pay scale. What if Maria decides one week she doesn’t need any money, so she doesn’t do any work? An allowance usually includes money to buy certain items as agreed to by the parent and the child.

Children Should Decide How They Use Their Allowance

Here are some suggestions for what children might be expected to purchase using their allowances at different ages:

  • Under age 6: candy, gum, ice cream, small toys, gifts for others, books, paints, crayons.
  • 6-9 years old: in addition to the above, movies, amusements, lunch at school, magazines, gifts for birthdays and holidays, contributions, club or activity dues, Little girl receiving an allowancehobbies, special sports equipment, school expenses.
  • 9-12 years old: in addition to the above, fees for activities such as swimming or skating, some school supplies or trips, some clothing, and upkeep of items like sports equipment.
  • 13-18 years old: all of those mentioned previously plus money for dates, grooming, cosmetics, jewelry, school activities, travel and savings for college. The needs and wants of teenagers rapidly outgrow the family’s ability to pay for everything. So the opportunity for earning money outside the family becomes essential.

In addition to the needs of the child, the actual amount of an allowance should fit with the family’s financial situation. The lower the family’s income or the more people in the household, the smaller the amount of each child’s allowance compared to families with higher income and/or fewer family members.

How Much Should Be Paid As An Allowance?

Consider family income and financial commitments, the age and ability of the child to manage the money, what the child’s friends receive as an allowance, and the cost of items the allowance will cover. The allowance amount should be enough to cover specified items with a little extra for saving and some for fun spending. Yet it also needs to be small enough that it forces the child to make financial decisions. Develop a trial amount by keeping track of the child’s purchases for a month or two. Then track what happens with the allowance for a couple of months to see how it works. Change the amount of the allowance only when really necessary like when the family’s income drops or a child’s expenses go up. Build-in regular increases such as on birthdays or at the beginning of a school year. Decide the amount of the increase by checking with other parents or look online or in publications at the local library.


Check with the parents of a child’s friends. What amount do the friends get as an allowance? Giving him either much more or much less than what friends receive may create problems for him.

Sit down and discuss expectations with the child before an allowance is started. Establish what allowance is to pay for and any limitations on what can be bought. For example, what limits are there on the amount of candy they can buy? Will you say “no” to certain movies they buy or go see? If her bike tire needs replacing, will you help out or will she be expected to pay for the repair with her allowance?

Pay an allowance on the same day each week. The child should not have to remind or beg for an allowance to be paid. Paying at the beginning or middle of the week may help younger children learn to stretch their money until the next allowance is paid. Do not rescue a child when he runs out of money. He needs to learn there are consequences for not spending wisely. He might not get to go to the movies with friends if he’s spent all his money early in the week. If she asks for more money for what the parent thinks is a worthy cause, consider giving her a chance to earn it by doing one of those special jobs like cleaning out the attic.

Paying the allowance with various kinds of coins or bills may help younger children learn the value of each coin or bill. It also makes it easier to divide the allowance into spending, saving, and sharing amounts according to a previously-set money plan.

An allowance basically is money that would be spent on a child anyway, just given in a different form. Instead of paying for things at the time when he wants them, parents pay him an allowance and let him decide how to spend the money. The goal of an allowance is to teach children to distinguish between wants and needs and to prioritize and save — difficult lessons that will pay off throughout life.


How do you use allowances in your family? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us at @UNLExtensionTLC.

Leanne Manning, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

(This article was originally published as a NebGuide by Manning. It is re-published her with permission).

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