Image: ShutterStock

According to the New America study child care for a child age 4 or younger now costs on average $9,589 a year. This is greater than the average annual cost of college tuition which is $9,410. The cost for an in-home caregiver averaged $28,353 annually. One-fifth of families use a “patchwork” approach to providing care for their children such as relying on family or friends to provide care, looking for unlicensed care, or cutting back on the number of hours worked. Some parents have delayed purchasing a home or saving for college for their children. According to the report, quality as measured by accreditation and user reviews, and availability as measured by the ratio of childcare providers to young children, is also inconsistent across the country; no State scores well across the board for cost, quality and availability.

The figures show that child care is expensive even though caregivers make poverty wages; that care can be difficult to find; and only a handful of centers and family homes are nationally accredited for quality. What are parents of young children to do when they can’t afford or find suitable care for their children? The answer can be leaving the workforce completely which doesn’t bode well for labor force participation. The authors of the study list four policy recommendations: universal family leave, better cash assistance programs, high-quality pre-kindergarten, and more programs aimed at dual-language learners.

Source: Financial Advisor


Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Twitter Logo Pinterest Logo iconmonstr-facebook-4-icon-64

Image: ShutterStock

Growth Mindset in Early Learners


Image Source: Image

Do you have children in your care that easily give up when learning a new skill?  Have you noticed children who get overly frustrated if they don’t see success come easy to them?  What we are really asking here is if the children have a growth or a fixed mindset. A mind set is a self-belief or a self-thought that may either be positive or negative. Our mindsets are what guide our actions, reactions and behaviors, in particular to gaining knowledge and learning new skills. A fixed mindset equals fixed intelligence.  People in this mindset perceive they have no way to improve themselves. A Growth mindset equals intelligence that can be developed.  People with this mindset tend to work harder because they know they can improve.

Young children naturally lean toward the growth mindset as they are curious about their environment and explore and learn through all of their senses. They learn through trial and error, and incidentally as well as through modeling and teaching.  I wonder at what point do people make the shift from growth to fixed mindsets?

Carol Dweck, Lewis and Virginia Eaton professor of psychology at Stanford University and the author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success states, “If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning.”

Here, Imagination Soup outlines Five Parenting Strategies to Develop Growth Mindset and Carol Dweck’s Study on Praise and Mindsets is outlined in this short video.

At a Childcare Providers workshop I attended recently, the presenter had studied some of Dweck’s work and shared a few “trigger words” that parents and teachers can use with children.

Trigger words that stimulate mindset:                                                          

  • Praising Effort 
  • Accepting Failures
  • Ask for Explanations
  • Express the Amount of work put in
  • “Your Brain is Growing”
  • Praise the PROCESS!

 Words that discourage:

  • Praising outcome
  • Criticizing Failures
  • Telling kids the answers
  • Labeling or Judging student/work
  • Telling them they “tried their best”
  • Praising the PERSON

At the same workshop, I was introduced to the “Power of Yet”…

I can’t do this….yet

This doesn’t work…yet

I’m not good at the…yet

I don’t know how to….yet

 Parents and teachers can support young learners in the struggle with this encouraging little word and guided questions that can lead students beyond “I can’t.”

By developing a “growth mindset”-an attitude that allows for possibilities and promotes progress and problem solving, children improve their skills for effectively solving problems every day and in more challenging scenarios (Dweck 2006).

Key Rationale and Strategies Supporting Growth Mindset


  1. Everyone makes mistakes.
  2. Making mistakes give us an opportunity to do things differently and to learn.
  3. Practice make better.


  1. Model resilience and problem solving strategies
  2. Give children opportunities to solve problems on their own when appropriate
  3. Encourage children to ask a friend to help before seeking an adult’s assistance

Check out Preschoolers Grow Their Brains from NAEYC for examples of growth mindset in action and how to set the stage for best practices in early childhood education.

Pinterest has an endless supply of ideas and resources for teachers on creating a growth mindset classroom. And there are numerous children’s books to encourage young learners to open their minds to the power of “yet”.


Image Source: Pinterest

What are your strategies for establishing a Growth Mindset Environment in the child care setting?


Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Twitter Logo Pinterest Logo iconmonstr-facebook-4-icon-64

Easing the Goodbye’s at Childcare Drop-off


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?


Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Twitter Logo Pinterest Logo iconmonstr-facebook-4-icon-64

Go Green This Christmas


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:

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 (


Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Twitter Logo Pinterest Logo iconmonstr-facebook-4-icon-64


Connect with Your Children This Holiday Season


Image Source: ShutterStock

Many of us are looking for new ways to connect with our children during the holidays. If you would like to create some holiday rituals, especially for kids, here are some suggestions:

Help kids put on a holiday play, talent show, or puppet show.

Pick a well-known play or movie and assign roles in unconventional ways.

Take them caroling.

This community-building activity is particularly enjoyable when friends and relatives are visiting so that the group of children is large. Make multiple copies of song sheets!

Make kolaches, chocolates, a gingerbread house, or other treats.

Help your children prepare gift boxes for the homeless or local shelter (filled with items like food, treats, and personal care items). This can be done jointly with a few families and is a gentle way to teach kids to appreciate their own good fortune and instill the values of community service and kindness to others.

Bake easy dough ornaments, either freeform or using cookie cutters.

Basic recipe: 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup salt, 1 cup water. Visit a local farm, artisan bakery, or craft shop to teach kids how food and handicrafts are made. Stamp recycled paper with a cut potato dipped in paint. This can be used as gift wrap.

Get out in nature.

Plant a tree, pick up trash by a stream, or go on a hike, go sledding, bring a nature book to identify plants and birds.

Give a present to the birds.

Make a birdfeeder out of a plastic bottle, milk carton, jug, or coffee can. Together you can look up the bird species that visit and learn to recognize them. Source: Center for a New American Dream (

Leanne Manning, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Twitter Logo Pinterest Logo iconmonstr-facebook-4-icon-64

Gifts for Children Other Than Toys


Image Source: ShutterStock

Have you ever noticed that sometimes very young kids are happier with the wrapping paper than the present? Often, the less complicated a gift is, the more it engages a child’s imagination. So, consider stuffing a stocking with these timeless toys:

  • Bag of marbles, polished rocks, sea shells, or foreign coins
  • Magnifying glass
  • Telescope
  • Stamp and stamp pad
  • Building blocks
  • Modeling clay or homemade play dough
  • Drawing pad and crayons or other art supplies
  • Empty food boxes, play money, and a cash box for running an imaginary store
  • Old business forms, rubber stamps, and file folders to play office Scrap wood, cardboard, shingles, a hammer, non-toxic paint, etc. for building a clubhouse, and a map showing where it can be built
  • A cookbook with simple, healthy recipes
  • Gardening tools, seeds, and pots of soil for indoor gardening
  • A treasure hunt with a series of mysterious clues for children to follow
  • A subscription to a magazine that explores the larger world Silk nightgowns, wild shoes, silly ties, and hats for playing dress-up
  • Offer to throw a party in any month a child wishes, with a choice of party themes
  • Books—with skits, plays, or story of interest
  • Membership to local children’s museum or zoo
  • Adopt an animal in the child’s name

What are some suggestions you have for Christmas gifts?

Leanne Manning, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Twitter Logo Pinterest Logo iconmonstr-facebook-4-icon-64


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

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Twitter Logo Pinterest Logo iconmonstr-facebook-4-icon-64

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

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Twitter Logo Pinterest Logo iconmonstr-facebook-4-icon-64

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

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Twitter Logo Pinterest Logo iconmonstr-facebook-4-icon-64

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)

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Twitter Logo Pinterest Logo iconmonstr-facebook-4-icon-64