To Be A Grandparent

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I am fairly new at this grandparenting thing.   And it has completely taken me by surprise!  I am delighted, thrilled, and absolutely love being a grandparent to my 6 grandchildren.  I love watching them grow, learn, and develop!  I also love observing that my adult children – the moms and dads- have grown and matured into the loving, capable, and understanding parents that they are.

In becoming a grandparent, it’s important to understand that grandparenting isn’t the same thing as parenting.  It is true that, as grandparents, we get to interact with grandchildren on a level that doesn’t require the daily routine and discipline that the parenting roles requires.  This results in a close, loving, and playful bond with the ‘grands’ that can lead to continuity and stability in a child’s life, opportunities to learn and play, and provide a feeling of connectedness.   Grandparents are important in strengthening the family bonds that are so important to children, parents, and grandparents alike.

So, I have learned that, in order to be a ‘good grandparent’, I support the parent’s role; be helpful when possible, totally enjoy being with my grandchildren, and revel in the pure love and joy that they bring to my life!  It’s a great time to be a grandparent!   What do you enjoy most about being a grandparent?

LESLIE CRANDALL EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Tasha Wulf, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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My Potty Party, Personalized Books that Teach

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Vera is 3 years old and recently started toilet training.  She spends the early mornings at her grandmother’s home before going to preschool.  Her grandma is teaching her to go “tinkle” in the adult sized toilet, puts her in a pull-up, and takes her every 3o minutes to ensure success.  When Vera gets to school her teachers help her change into underwear and go to “the bathroom” in a child-sized toilet open to several other stalls.  By the time she gets home in the evening, her mother rewards her with a star sticker for initiating use of the “potty chair” but still asks Vera to wear a diaper to avoid messes.  Vera is learning one skill in three different settings in three different ways.

Personalized Books That Teach

Toilet training is arguably the most stressful milestone of early childhood.  Complicating this is the fact that in Nebraska, according to the 2016 Kids Count in Nebraska Report, nearly 72% of children aged 0-5 have both parents in the workforce, and the national average is not far behind.  The stress of toilet training can also be extended to child care providers who, due to licensing ratios, may have multiple children in their care toilet training at the same time with little assistance.  The investment of time and stress involved in toilet training is exacerbated when the home and school environments do not have consistent toileting practices.  Using self-modeling in the form of a personalized story book is one approach to teaching the skill of toilet training in a fun and educational way that children and parents will both enjoy.

Toddlerhood is a time of rapid growth and milestones.  These milestones often involve learning new and complex tasks such as sleeping in a bed and toilet training.  While these are exciting new developments, they can also be stressful for young children, families, and teachers.  Even in the best situations, children have multiple adults teaching them the new skill, often in multiple settings, and with varying materials.  Making a personalized book to teach a skill can ease transitions for young children and support families.

Personalized books can be used to teach a skill by uniquely creating a story that teaches a sequence of skills with the child as the main character.  In a personalized book, the child serves as his own model and can see himself be successful from the very start.  Creating a personalized book to teach a new skill accomplishes three main goals important for transitions: using familiar language and terminology, providing a visual image of what success looks like, and maintaining consistency between the home and school environments.

Language and Terminology

When writing the text for the personalized book it may be helpful to keep a children’s book nearby as a guide or imagine yourself talking with the child.  Be sure to write the text in clear, plain language using the family’s preferred terminology.  Gathering input from the family or child care provider will help to identify how the child communicates about the topic at home and school.  This could be the difference in using “potty” or “toilet” or incorporating the correct word used in a child’s native language.  Using specific sequencing words such as “first”, “next”, “then”, and “last” can cue children to the order of the steps and help them remember the sequence.  In the case that a specific reinforcement is used to celebrate a child’s success (such as a high-five, reading an extra book at bedtime, a sticker, or fruit snack) the reward can be written right into the book.  Although it is temping to try to use rhyme, a popular feature of many children’s books, it is best if the message is simple and factual.

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Visual Image of Success

The old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” has never been more true.  A personalized book provides visual images depicting the child completing each step of the new skill successfully.  Research indicates that children find personalized books more engaging than even their favorite picture books (Kucirkova, 2012).  When a child sees her or himself as the main character of the book it draws their attention to the necessary steps, can increase motivation to achieve, and prompts conversation about the topic.  All three of these benefits can be incredibly helpful for parents beginning toilet training with their child.

Consistency Across Settings

The goal of learning a new skill is to be able to generalize that skill across materials and environments.  However when the skill is being acquired, it can be challenging to learn in multiple environments and with different materials.  For the toilet training child this may mean success at home on a potty chair but difficulties at school with a child-size toilet.  In addition, well-meaning adults often use a variety of terms to communicate about expectations, but this can lead to confusion on the part of the child.  Overall, it can be a challenge for all adults to be on the same page.  A personalized book can quite literally keep everyone on the same page.  For this reason, it is helpful to print multiple copies of the personalized book, one for each home the child resides in and one for school.  This allows one uniform message to be shared in multiple places and serves as a reminder to busy adults about the agreed upon process, how to talk about it with the child, and how to reinforce it.

Online Resources

Of course, the busy lifestyle of today’s parents doesn’t always allow for time to create and write your own personalized book.  Luckily, several online resources are available that streamline the process or do it for you.  Advances in technology have improved and led to innovative ways to integrate children into stories that teach a skill or lesson.  Below are online resources that personalize books to support children not only in potty training but through other early transitions as well.

potty resources

References

Kucirkova, N., Messer, D., & Whitelock, D. (2012). Parents reading with their toddlers : The role of personalization in book engagement.  Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 13(3), 445-470. https://doi.org/10.1177/1468798412438068

Voices for Children. (2016) Kids Count in Nebraska Report. Ralston, NE: Chrissy Tonkinson.

Erin Hamel, MEd, Guest Blogger | THE LEARNING CHILD

Erin holds a masters degree in Special Education and is currently a doctoral student in Child Development at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. She has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and is a licensed teacher in the state of Nebraska. Erin began her career teaching internationally and has worked with children of all ability ranges from eighteen months to sixth grade. She is passionate about teacher development, connecting young children to nature, and supporting parents and children.

Peer Reviewed by Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Sarah Roberts, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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Keeping Children Active

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According to the State of Obesity, Nebraska ranks 5th in the nation for childhood overweight and obesity in children ages 2-4.  Yikes!  Nebraska also has the 13th highest adult obesity rate in the nation.

I recently read the book What If Everybody Understood Child Development?  By Rae Pica.  The book is broken down into 3 parts with a total of 29 easy to read essays which reference real-life stories shared by teachers and parents.  At the end of each essay, Rae provides the reader with ideas for what teachers can do as well as where teachers (and other adults) can go to for more information on the topic.

Part two of the book is all about understanding the mind/body connection.  Rae discusses what the research says about active learning, how important physical fitness is to children’s health and development and why we should push our schools to review the research on recess and active play breaks for children.

Benefits of physical activity:

  • reduces the risk of dying prematurely
  • reduces the risk of developing diabetes
  • reduces feelings of depression and anxiety
  • helps control weight
  • increases the body’s infection-fighting white blood cells and germ fighting antibodies
  • helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints.

Based on research, it is clear that we need to keep our children and youth (and the adults too) more active.  Fit Activity For Kids, What’s Your Name? is a developmentally appropriate active activity for adults to play with the children.  To play, the player picks out the letters of their name, and then do the physical activity that goes with each letter.  You might be wondering what would your child be learning during this activity.  Literacy (Letter recognition), turn taking (social emotional), physical activity (healthy bodies, balance, core strength), and more!

Are you looking for new, creative ways to keep your children active and happy?   Visit The Learning Child on Pinterest at  https://www.pinterest.com/unlextensiontlc/.

JACI FOGED, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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A New Perspective

Introductions are always a good place to start!

Hi, I’m Katie!

I wanted to use my first blog on the TLC page as a place to introduce myself. I live in Ralston, Nebraska with my husband Kent, our son Weston (7 months old) and our dog, Tilly.  I have been in the field of Early Childhood Education, working as a teacher with infants, toddlers, preschoolers and children with special needs, as a director and for the state licensing office.  I now work for Nebraska Extension with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, as an Extension Educator.  My job is to utilize research based information to develop programs and help connect people to the resources they need relating to caring for children ages 0 – 8.  My extensive background in working with young children gives me a unique perspective on the experiences I now have as a mother.  In addition to my roles as mom, wife, and Extension Educator, I also am working on a PhD in early childhood at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and try to get out to a local stable to ride horses in my ‘spare’ time!  Oh, and Kent and I are remodeling our 1922 home in Ralston!  So we have a LOT going on, and it’s a blast J.

Weston, Katies blog

I am really looking forward to sharing stories about Weston as he learns and grows that are both from a child development perspective, and from the ‘mom’ perspective!  For now, I will leave you with his most recent picture, his ‘7 month’ photo!  Yes, he’s got lots of healthy baby rolls.

Image source: Katherine Krause

KATHERINE KRAUSE, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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Get Back to Nature!

After 70 degree temps earlier this month, I was snowed in at home due to ice and white out conditions.  That’s nature in Nebraska.  We could think of all kinds of reasons to be negative about the weather, but I say, “Let it Snow!”  I remember as a child the many fond memories of playing in the snow with my family, and it was something to look forward to each winter season.  Sledding, making snowmen and snow forts and exploring the different types of snow (such as the kind that easily packs together for building versus the light and dryer type of snow) allows children to connect with nature and the outdoors, while at the same time building their sense of creativity, problem solving, motor skills, and social emotional development.

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Last month I delivered a program to childcare center directors where we focused on spaces to learn and grow and the importance of designing outdoor spaces for children in our care to experience nature.  No matter what season it is, research indicates that children who have opportunities to experience their natural environments have the ability sustain concentration, delay gratification, and cope with stressors in their lives.  Research done in the Netherlands demonstrated the distance one lives from the nearest green space and the prevalence of many major illnesses including Anxiety disorder and depression in children under age 12. According to Louise Chawla, Professor of Planning and Urban Design from the University of Colorado, “Adults in many studies report that memories of a special place in nature experience in their childhood gives them a pool of calm on which they can draw in difficult times.”

When designing spaces for children, I advise childcare providers to include a balance of natural spaces and play equipment. Include areas with small trees, and perhaps a water feature and patches of soil to explore as well as to garden in. Play equipment that is safe for children can be interspersed within the outdoor space and the natural additions of plants and pathways can create natural barriers to define the purpose of these areas.  Check out Benefits of Connecting Children with Nature for some great before and after outdoor spaces designs in childcare settings as well as a detailed explanation to the many benefits of natural environments.

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Bringing the outdoors in to the classroom or center is also essential in early childhood curriculum. Consider the many classroom centers and the possible items from nature that could inspire and challenge children’s exploration.  Classrooms can add sticks and rocks or tree cookies to the building area, or introduce seeds and leaves to the science center.  Could these items be used in the art area? If you have small group experiences, you might explore the seeds inside of a pomegranate or pumpkin.   NAEYC shows how early childhood settings can introduce nature in the classrooms and allow children to take the lead in exploring these materials by Connecting Young Children With Nature .

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Children spend a good majority of their time in childcare, and therefore it is essential that we include natural outdoor learning environments and experiences to enhance their overall growth in development in all domains.

What are you doing in your childcare home or center to Get Back to Nature?

LYNN DEVRIES, EXTENSION EDUCATION | THE LEARNING CHILD

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It Can Take A Village to Support Breastfeeding Moms

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I knew the many benefits of breastfeeding many years before having my own child. I taught education classes to soon-to-be parents about these benefits. I shared how breastfeeding is an important practice for both the baby and the mother. During these classes we talked about how breastmilk has nutritional, immunological, and psychological benefits and provides all the nutrition and sustenance a baby needs for the first six months. We talked about how the nutritional benefits continue into the second year of life and how the nutritional components of breastmilk change over time to meet the nutritional needs of the child. I shared how breastfeeding may help reduce the chance that a child becomes overweight or develops certain diseases in the future. We also discussed the benefits of breastfeeding for women. Women who exclusively breastfeed typically lose more weight after giving birth (who doesn’t want that!) than women who use formula, breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer, protects against osteoporosis, and reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Finally, breastfeeding can benefit both mother and infant by helping to create a close emotional bond.

Knowing these benefits, I was completely committed to the idea of breastfeeding when I learned that I was pregnant with my daughter. I was so excited to be able to finally have this experience with my baby. After a somewhat traumatic childbirth I was finally able to hold my newborn baby daughter and excitedly prepared to breastfeed her. Despite her “great latch” as described by the nurses, I was challenged to produce milk. I became anxious and worried. Nurses would come in and “rate” the quality of my continued attempts to breastfeed which only made me feel more anxious. A lactation consultant met with me and I cried. I felt like a failure as a new mom as I was told that I would need to supplement with formula. My husband was a great support and said, “you can keep trying and we can supplement too. You are the best mom.” Then my mom and sister visited and provided some emotional support as well.

I continued to breastfeed with my limited milk supply and extremely sore bleeding nipples. I remember crying with my toes curled under with the first latch. I would nurse for what felt like hours hoping that my daughter was getting the nutrition she needed. Soon I received in home support from a certified lactation consultant who showed me different positions to use to breastfeed. She weighed my daughter and assured me she was healthy and growing. Eventually I was able to exclusively breastfeed and my anxiety dissipated. When I returned to work after 6 months, my in home child care provider provided a quiet relaxing place for me to breastfeed my daughter which allowed me to continue breastfeeding. I was not able to pump enough milk so having the opportunity to come at breaks and for lunch was immensely helpful. I share this experience in hopes that others see the value of serving as support system to moms. I share so that others do not pass judgement on moms as we never know the possible struggles they are experiencing.

I share so that moms know breastfeeding is beneficial and may be easy for some but not for all. I share because support for breastfeeding is important and can come from many different sources, including health professionals, mothers, grandmothers, trusted friends and community members. Think of how you can serve as a support to a mom if she decides to breastfeed. You never know what that support can do for a mom and her baby.

For additional information and resources, look at:

Kelly Mom Parenting and Breastfeeding http://kellymom.com/category/bf/


HOLLY HATTON-BOWERS, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

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February is Children’s Dental Health Month

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Image Source: Pediatrics of Florence

February may be the designated dental health month for children, but it important to address your child’s dental health each and every day.  Dental care begins at birth and lasts throughout a person’s life.  It is our role as caregivers and parents to insure healthy habits are formed early on to keep one’s teeth as long as possible.

Baby Teeth

According to the American Dental Association, Children need strong, healthy teeth to chew their food, speak and have a good-looking smile. Their first teeth also help make sure their adult teeth come in correctly. It’s important to start infants off with good oral care to help protect their teeth for decades to come.

Children will get a set of 20 primary teeth or “baby teeth” and they are already present in their jaws at birth.  That’s why it is important to start dental care before teeth appear.  As a former preschool teacher, I am familiar with a classroom full of children with silver smiles resulting from dental surgery because of Baby Bottle Tooth decay.  This decay is caused by exposing baby’s gums to sugary drinks over a prolonged time, such as putting the baby to bed with a bottle, or using the bottle as a pacifier.  This can be prevented by not offering a bottle in bed, and when the child is finished with a bottle feeding, you can wipe the gums with a clean washcloth.  When the first teeth do appear, parents can brush them with a child size toothbrush and a tiny ‘grain of rice” amount of tooth paste.  It is also recommended that caregivers do not share and eat from the same spoons as infants and toddlers as the bacteria from the adult’s mouth can be passed on to the child.

Many people wander why baby teeth matter if they are just going to fall out eventually anyway.

This public service announcement highlights the reasons why.

Teething

Babies begin teething around 6-12 months.  Parents may notice baby is fussy, irritable, has trouble sleeping and drools more than usual. Parents can offer a soft teething toy or rub gums with a clean cloth.

According to the American Dental Association

The Food and Drug Administration recommends that parents and caregivers not use benzocaine products for children younger than 2, except under the advice and supervision of a health care professional. Benzocaine is an over-the-counter anesthetic, which the FDA notes are usually under the product names Anbesol, Hurricaine, Orajel, Baby Orajel and Orabase. Benzocaine has been associated with a rare but serious—and sometimes fatal—condition called methemoglobinemia, a disorder in which the amount of oxygen carried through the blood stream is greatly reduced.

In September 2016, the FDA recommended that parents stop using homeopathic teething tablets and gels. “Homeopathic teething tablets and gels have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA for safety or efficacy,” the FDA says. “The agency is also not aware of any proven health benefit of the products, which are labeled to relieve teething symptoms in children.”

The FDA states these products are distributed by CVS, Hyland’s and possibly others, and are sold in retail stores and online.

“Consumers should seek medical care immediately if their child experiences seizures, difficulty breathing, lethargy, excessive sleepiness, muscle weakness, skin flushing, constipation, difficulty urinating, or agitation after using homeopathic teething tablets or gels,” the FDA states.

If you have any questions about how to relieve your child’s teething symptoms, talk to your dentist or pediatrician.

Nutrition for Dental Health

Kids need healthy teeth to chew food properly, to form the shape of the mouth to enable the sounds of speech, and for a healthy smile.  Children’s nutrition is important for their growth and development from head to toe including their teeth. Most of the foods we eat have sugar in them, be it natural or added sugars.  We want to encourage you to choose foods low in sugar and avoid sugary drinks.  Look at the Nutrition labels of foods before making your decision, your child’s teeth will thank you.

Parents Role in Dental Care

 For children under six, parents should do the brushing.  At age 3-4 children will want to do the brushing themselves, but parents should do the final inspection.  Make sure to reach the back of the mouth where molars will emerge. Children often miss places on their own.

Check out  Mouth Healthy, for more information on Children’s Dental Health and  The American Dental Association for information on Children’s Dental Health Month.

Keep Smiling!


LYNN DEVRIES, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

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Screen Time: Create Your Family Plan

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“Mom, in the old days did you have T.V?” The “old days” often come up in conversations with my 7 and 11-year-old daughters. Of course I had television growing up, but it was more difficult to access in my childhood! When I was growing up we had two televisions. One in our living room, a 19-inch dial activated television and another 27-inch (that was big back then you know) in our family room which could be operated using a remote. We lived in the country near a small town in western Nebraska where you could get 2.5 channels, (one was always fuzzy so that one only counts for half). We didn’t have access to the internet or a computer with a modem until I was 10 years old and the internet was quite a bit slower and less reliable back then.

Screen time wasn’t something that needed to be discussed. We looked up information in Encyclopedias. We called people on a telephone, which was attached to the wall by a cord. We wrote letters using paper and pen. We played games with the whole family on boards and with cards. We watch T.V. on Friday nights (TGIF) and woke up early Saturday morning for 6:30 am cartoons which ended by noon. Children played outdoors in all types of weather and didn’t come home until dark.

Its 2017 and my daughter doesn’t even have a “real” science book that she can bring home to study with. Instead, we have a sheet of paper with a log-in for a website. This means she spends time looking at a computer screen when she could be reading a book. She spends time asking Siri what an igneous rock is rather than looking it up in a dictionary. What does all of this mean for us in 2017? This past October, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released new recommendations and resources for families regarding screen time. Screen time includes activities done in front of a screen, such as using an app on your phone or watching music videos on a tablet.

Infant and toddler’s brains are growing at an exceptional rate during the first two years of life. It is important for these children to have positive social interactions with the people caring for them. Therefore, the AAP recommends children younger than 18 months participate with screens only for video chatting. For children 18 months to 24 months only high quality programming (such as PBS or Sesame Street) is suggested. It is vitally important for an adult to be with the infant during the video chat and while watching the program to help them better understand what they are seeing and hearing. Research shows that unstructured playtime is more valuable for a young child’s developing brain than electronic media. Young children are more likely to remember doing an activity than watching an activity be done. Children ages 2 to 5 years should be limited to 1 hour of screen time per day. Again, the programs watched should be of high-quality, and be viewed with parents. For children 6 years and older, screen time should not interfere with time spent doing other activities. Sleep, physical activities, and mealtimes should be of top priority. Studies show a relationship between television viewing and young children being overweight. Caring For Our Children states that children 3-5 years who watch 2 or more hours of television per day have an increased risk of being overweight.

What does this mean for adults? It means that we need to be good role models for our children. Put the phone down and play with your child when they are at the park. Make it a rule to turn off the T.V. during meal times. Silence phones and charge them outside of your child’s bedroom at night.

To help families navigate the evolving digital world, the AAP has developed a guide for creating a family plan for screen time and media use. The plan is broken up into 9 areas: screen free zones, screen free times, device curfews, choose & diversify your media, balancing on-line and off-line time, manners matter, digital citizenship, safety first and sleep & exercise. There are examples and suggestions pre-populated and areas to write in personal guidelines. Create your own family plan by going to http://www.healthychildren.org. Delight in the company of your family, and treasure every moment.

Additional Resources:

Nebraska Extension NebGuide “Brain Development and Learning in the Primary Years” (G2198)

“The Importance of Outdoor Experiences in the Primary Years” (G2202) 

Nebraska Extension NebGuide “Enjoyable Time Together: A Journey of Happy Memories” (G1882)

Nebraska Extension’s The Learning Child Blog “Family Game Nights, a Win-Win for Everyone”

JACI FOGED, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

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Easing the Goodbye’s at Childcare Drop-off

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Image Source: Bright Horizons

Perhaps one of the hardest tasks of parenthood for working parents is separating from their child upon arrival at the childcare home or center.  This can be a time of heightened anxiety for both parent and child.  I remember well when my children were in the infant toddler stages, the sadness I felt as a parent saying good bye at our childcare home. I had formed a strong attachment to my baby and my baby was forming just as strong an attachment to me.  It was through the skilled, compassionate, and trusting relationship with my childcare provider that we all adjusted smoothly through this new separation routine.

How childcare providers can ease the separation:

Nancy Balaban offers five tips for creating a curriculum of trust in the NAEYC publication, Spotlight on Infants and Toddlers:

  1. Use a primary caregiving system by assigning each care giver a small group of three to 4 children in which they would be the consistent person to provide feeding, changing, napping and play time activities and interaction. Of course other caregivers on the team will help if more than one child needs attention at a time. This primary caregiver is also the one to greet the family and child and ease them into the transition by reassuring parent and child.
  2. Institute a gradual easing into the program for the family and child together. This is done by implementing a slow entry process, where new parents come to the center with their child and stay there together for a short time on the first day, the time is increased each day for 2-3 days, then the adult says good bye. According to Balaban (2011), “An easing –in process isn’t simple when parent must go to work, but trying to facilitate it is worth the effort. The payback is a happy child and trusting parent.”
  3. Be there to support the everyday goodbyes. Teachers can support the feelings of the child by emphasizing that mom or dad will be back as young children are not always sure this is true.
  4. Anticipate and be prepared for regressions or shifts in behavior. Beyond the developmental periods where separation anxiety peaks, there are also times when a child’s behavior may regress and they are clingy to the parent again, go back to thumb sucking, or resist going to sleep for example. Teachers can facilitate trust by being accepting and offering help.
  5. Offer children tangible reminders of their parents. Teachers can read books about hello’s and goodbyes, offer the child’s favorite comfort toy or blanket, and display photos of the child’s family in the center.

Check out the entire article on Everyday Goodbyes for more ideas on easing separation times.

High quality infant and toddler programs serve to foster the development of the whole child including social emotional development.  According to the Early Learning Guidelines established by the Nebraska Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services,

Strong positive, secure relationships are the key to social and emotional development. Infants and toddlers need consistent, nurturing adults who are supportive and responsive. Caring adults provide safe, stable and predictable environments that support young children’s growing independence. Such environments promote a healthy sense of self and connections with others.”

You can access the Early learning guidelines for children Birth to Three and Three to Five year olds for more helpful ways to promote healthy social and emotional growth.

How do you handle separation time at your childcare home or center?

LYNN DEVRIES, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

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Go Green This Christmas

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Image Source: ShutterStock

Americans generate an average of 25 percent more waste, or 1 million extra tons per week, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, with the trash almost doubling right after the holidays. Isn’t it possible to celebrate without leaving a trail of trash that will stay in the landfills long after the season has passed?

Picture the bags of garbage you put on the curb last year and visualize what was inside. Then identify areas where you can prevent waste before it starts.

Holiday Waste Audit

What are all the waste-generating activities?

  • Food waste (serving too much at parties)
  • Energy waste (incandescent lights)
  • Tree and other decorations
  • Paper waste (cards, wrapping paper, and boxes)
  • Plastic waste (drink containers, packaging)

Now consider durable items that turned out to be anything but—the new stuff that ended up in the trash or forgotten in a closet over the year. What broke, wore out prematurely, or was never really used?

  • Kids toys
  • Clothes
  • Appliances
  • Other

If you receive gifts that you will never use consider re-gifting them, or donating to your favorite appropriate charity. Communicate your gift-giving preferences ahead of time to your family to avoid ending up with gifts that end up in the waste stream or need to be re-gifted. According to a national survey, more than 3 in 4 Americans wish that the holidays were less materialistic. Nearly 9 in 10 believe that holidays should be more about family and caring for others, not giving and receiving gifts [New Dream]. Yet the average U.S. consumer plans to spend more this year—$805.65—on holiday shopping. Think about these facts and decide what type of gifts you want to give and receive this year.

Recycle your old holiday lights. The annual recycle holiday light drive sponsored by Eastridge Elementary School in Lincoln is being held again this year. To find all recycling locations, visit the Eastridge website at: http://wp.lps.org/eastridge/pto/.

Low-Waste Gift Wrapping

Tearing open a gift always brings a thrill, but wrapping with virgin paper and plastic ribbons spends a lot of resources on those few seconds’ thrill. Consider that 38,000 miles of ribbon alone is thrown out annually—enough to tie a bow around the Earth. Don’t send any wrapping materials to the landfill this year. Consider the following alternatives to store-bought gift wrap:

  • Wrap with comics or paper bags decorated with markers, potato stamps, or drawings
  • Use maps, fabric pieces, thrift store cloth, old calendars, or other repurposed materials
  • Reuse gift boxes from last year or repurpose other boxes around the house (cereal, etc.)
  • Give the gift of reusable gift bags: sew simple bags that can prevent waste year after year
  • Decorate with old ribbons, ties, scarves, beads, and paper snowflakes
  • Skip the wrapping altogether and opt for a scavenger hunt with clues

Source: Center for a New American Dream (www.newdream.org)

LEANNE MANNING, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

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