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 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”


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What is Developmentally Appropriate Practice?


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The Learning Child Team is starting up a book study within our group of Extension Educators on the topic of Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP).  We are all reading the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAECY) publication, Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs; Serving Children from Birth Through Eight. Thus, it occurred to me that I use the term DAP quite frequently in my blogs and in the company of childcare professionals and parents. I will visit about what DAP means in my blog this month.

When I think of DAP for children from birth to age eight, the phrase “best practice” comes to mind.  According to NAEYC, DAP encourages teachers to make choices about education based on sound knowledge of child development and learning processes while taking in to account individual differences and needs, as well as social and cultural constructs. As stated by the authors of our book, Sue Bredekamp and Carol Copple, teachers who practice DAP meet learners where they are, not necessarily where they should be, and take in to consideration all the developmental areas of the whole child (physical, emotional, social, cognitive).


  • Teachers meet children where they are, they get to know them well, and enable children to reach goals that are both challenging and achievable.
  • Teaching practices are uniquely attuned to the child’s age and developmental abilities, as well as the social and cultural contexts in which they live.
  • DAP does not mean that teachers make things easier for the child, but rather, designs challenging experiences that stretch their interest and abilities.
  • Educators use reliable research as a foundation for best practice in choosing curriculum, teaching practices, and making decisions in early care and education.


Teaching is literally woven into every aspect of the child’s environment including both child guided and teacher guided experiences where play promotes key abilities for children to learn successfully. The curriculum is carefully selected and skilled teachers are able to adapt the curriculum to each individual child.

  • Relationships with responsive care givers
  • Active learning, hands on experiences for children
  • Meaningful experiences
  • Large group time
  • Small group time
  • Learning Centers
  • Daily Routines


Early childhood educators are intentionally supporting the growth and development of multiple domains through carefully planned environments and routines that support these interwoven areas.  Often these areas are supported by the same activity, hitting many of the domains at once. Such as building with blocks can support physical development, creative expression, language development and concepts in math such as size and number.

  • Social Emotional development
  • Language development
  • Literacy
  • Math and numeracy
  • Technology and Scientific inquiry and knowledge
  • Understanding of self
  • Creative expression
  • Physical development and skills

NAEYC’s Position Statement  details more specifics on developmentally appropriate practices and what it looks like in early care and education settings.

Better Kid Care by Penn State Extension also highlights the goals of DAP and strategies and approaches for applying developmentally appropriate practices.

How does your view of Developmentally Appropriate Practice shape the way you care for and teach young children?


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Brain Dance: Encouraging Children’s Natural Explorations through Movement


Research tells us that from birth to age six there is important learning happening. During this early learning period, children show us many ways that they naturally and competently explore their world and approach learning. One important way children explore and learn about their world is through physical movement.

Movement is a way for children to express themselves, particularly if they have not yet fully developed verbal language. As educators, we need to not only support movement as a learning tool, but embrace it. This may mean letting go of some old ideas, such as the idea that sitting still all the time is a good way to learn.

As Janet Eilber, Advisor for Arts Education in the News, states, “Early learning is all experiential … We learn to move through and communicate with the world by using the basic elements of creativity: curiosity, observation, experimentation, translation, communication. No wonder ‘sitting still and being quiet’ is so difficult and discouraging for many young learners. We are being asked to abandon approaches to learning with which we have had great success.”

Children enjoy activities that involve the senses and movement; they are natural explorations and they are fun! As a result, children are more attentive and engaged, which can heighten the learning experience at hand. In addition, physical activity simply makes children feel good. Feeling good helps children with learning, self-confidence, and an overall positive outlook. Support children’s complex developmental skills by rethinking your day’s activities to include more plans for physical movement and dance, such as the following 5 tips:

  1. Use dance and movement for transition times – Dance like a ballerina to the bathroom, dance like slithering snakes to the coat cubby, etc.
  2. Use movements to tell a story –When telling stories, use physical actions and encourage the children to act out the story with you.
  3. Provide meaningful chores for children that include dance-like movements -sweep the floor, take out the garbage, weed the gardens, and of course, clean up the toys.
  4. Sound out the dance – Move with things that make sound, such as Velcro bands of bells attached to wrists and ankles (uses multi-sensory actions) or shaker-type instruments. Try taping flat, metal lids (recycled from juice cans, etc.) to the bottom of shoes for fun tap dance sounds.
  5. Dance and draw – Twirl streamers to make shapes and letters. Show drawings and pictures of shapes for children to look at first and then make with their bodies.

Source: Penn State University Better Kid Care


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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


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Growth Mindset in Early Learners


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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”.


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


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Easing the Goodbye’s at Childcare Drop-off


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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?


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Go Green This Christmas


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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 (


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Connect with Your Children This Holiday Season


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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

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Gifts for Children Other Than Toys


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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

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

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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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