Author Archives: Josh Craig

Ban classroom conformity–allow children to learn in their own way!

I recently came across a couple articles that reminded me of how important it is to allow children to be free to express themselves and really discover their own take on the world around them. The first article was authored by a parent who was approached by her child’s school and recommended occupational therapy for their child as a way to deal with what her teacher saw as behavioral issues (she wouldn’t sit still during circle time). I am often shocked at how many of these types of articles get printed. I guess I shouldn’t be. We are in an age in our education system where we are looking for answers to every “problem” that comes along. The author of this article discussed the culture of conformity that has become commonplace in our schools. Adults expect children to behave a certain way in an educational setting, and too often when they don’t, it is assumed that there is something wrong with the child and they need corrective action.

Play IS learning. Allow children the space to explore, make mistakes and get messy!

The second article considered the importance of play in a young child’s life. The author wrote about the relationship between the removal of play from children’s school days and home life and the increase in children diagnosed mental illness. He uses historical and biological contexts to make his argument that play is an important, if not vital, part of a young person’s upbringing and we need more of it, not less as we move through a technology-infused future.

We want our children to grow up to be curious and productive citizens. We want children to be able to function on their own and with others in a manner that improves everyone’s lives. Sure, we need rules for safety, but we also need children to help create their own rules as they learn how the world works. Perhaps we can let go of our own feelings and goals and let children determine their own because the more we push them to conform and be “normal,” the more restless they become.

So what can you do to ensure that children remain curious and develop into productive citizens? Give children plenty of sensory activities that go beyond play dough. Include materials that allow them to relate their play to the real world including vehicles, costumes and other props. Share in a child’s delight as they pretend to make soup from water, dirt, sticks and leaves. Make time to engage with children in dramatic play, and allow the children to lead the created environment and conversations. Above all, talk to children about what they are experiencing. How does it feel? How did they do that? Where is it going? What happens if…?

Remember that children learn best through active play but they can’t do it alone. They need you for guidance, support and confirmation of their trials. Removing children from opportunities to play and interact with their peers and adults removes them from the opportunity to be successful in life.

Play on!

4C drives the distance for child care providers

When I was little I used to believe that machines didn’t wear out and didn’t break down. I knew that cars needed things like gas and oil to make them go but it was hard to make the connection that they needed so many other things as well. When I grew up and purchased my own car, I discovered the necessity of wiper blades, tires, light bulbs and fuses. Over time came hoses, fans, condensers, coils, ball-joints, tie-rods and linkages. It seemed for every part that needed repairs another was waiting its turn, biding time until the most inconvenient moment to simply give out. Break down. Rumble, tumble, clinkety-clank.

Vote for 4C for Children in Toyota 100 Cars for Good on Oct. 15!

Vote for 4C for Children in Toyota 100 Cars for Good on Oct. 15!

My most recent experience at the auto shop resulted in my regular mechanic giving me a confounded look and saying, “I don’t do that. You’ll have to take it to a specialty shop.” As my jaw dropped and the dollar signs began pinging, then banging, in my ears I had to hope that my poor Lucy would make it through this, too (she’s 14 years old and, well, all cars need a name). Several thousand dollars later her rebuilt transmission is working fine and I am able to trust her for a few more miles before the next item on the list goes out.

My colleagues and I accumulate quite a few miles on our personal cars working with child care providers throughout the 40 counties we serve. We spend so much time on the road visiting administrators and teachers to coach them on leadership and classroom quality, helping family child care providers plan healthy meals and connecting them with resources for school readiness, and offering on-site workshops that we might be out of the office for days at a time. If you added up the average mileage we travel in a month, you might be shocked!

There is something you can do to help – today you can vote for us to win a new Toyota Prius! 4C for Children is proud to be a finalist in the 100 Cars for Good campaign and we need your support. Winning this car would mean all the difference for our staff. Imagine an end to the suffering that Lucy might no longer endure. It may be one car, but the symbol of this car allows us to continue to deliver our mission to improve the quality, effectiveness and accessibility of early childhood care and education in the region so every child can have a positive experience and a strong foundation for success in school and life! Vote for 4C and help us “drive quality” in early childhood care in Ohio and Kentucky!

Ohio invests in children

There is a lot of talk about all of the changes coming  to early childhood education in Ohio and the professionals in the field, especially family child care. These changes, which will roll out over the next 11 months, are happening because the State of Ohio was the proud winner of a not-so-small chunk of change ($69,993,362 to be exact) as part of the federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant. This is some serious money and it shows how invested Ohio is in improving the quality of care and education of Ohio’s young children.

Changes are coming to child care in Ohio.  Are you ready?

Ohio has revamped its tiered quality rating improvement system (TQRIS), redeveloped learning and development standards, and made changes to licensing requirements. The state has also begun a process of creating a single definition of quality, inclusive of all program types be they Ohio Department of Education (ODE) or Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) licensed. All of this change generates a lot of questions, and 4C is here to help answer them.

Type B family child care providers (in-home child care providers who care for up to 6 children, and are certified by the county in which they reside) probably have the biggest changes of all coming their way. Beginning January 1, 2014 all certified Type B providers will become licensed and they’ll also be eligible to participate in Step Up To Quality. An estimated 25 percent of children in Greater Cincinnati are in their care, so this is great news!

Though these changes may be big, and at times seem overwhelming, I encourage you to be patient, relax and take it one day at a time. Together we will all get through this and our children will be that much better off. Be patient for the children. Be patient for the families. We’re all in this together!

For more information about changes to family child care or to register for an information session in the Southwest Ohio region, please visit our Web site.

What’s wrong with saying ‘I Don’t Know’? Nothing!

I’m afraid of what I don’t know.

Sometimes what I don’t know makes me feel anxious, insecure, even nauseated. My fear of what I don’t know makes me feel like I can’t ask questions because they sound silly, or they make me seem small. And it really eats me up when deep down I know I should ask but remain silent in an effort to keep from looking like “that” person.

What's wrong with saying 'I don't know'? Nothing!

Maybe you’ve had this same thought once before. Well, I’m here to say, “Enough!” There comes a time when we as professionals in the world of early care and education need to stand up for ourselves. There is A LOT of information to soak up. It doesn’t help that research is really booming in our chosen field. Every day there’s something new to challenge the way we do our work.

So, why can’t we ‘not know’? What’s wrong with admitting that we don’t know something? Every one of us is in a different spot on the continuum of knowledge. Those that have experience can help those that don’t. Likewise, those with less experience might actually have fresh eyes through which to see. We can all learn from one another and we should all support one another in gaining as many tools and resources as we can. Because let’s be honest, our work is challenging.

Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. So long as you’re committed to learning, it’s okay to not have an answer to everything. Knowing how to find that answer is more important. Professional growth happens when you put yourself out there, struggle and learn how to turn that challenging moment into something positive and remarkable. You never know, you may just help someone else along the way.

Children get overwhelmed, too!

Have you ever sat down at the end of the day and thought, “Wow, I need a break!” I am sure that young children feel the same way, and maybe for many of the same reasons. Our classrooms are a nonstop assembly of activities. Dynamics change as we move throughout the day with children arriving and departing and teachers rotating in and out. Even during nap times there are papers to fill out, planning to do and other preparations.

Tips for child care providers on strengthening children through relationships with their parents.

There is so much going on that sometimes I feel we forget what’s on the other side of door for the children; we forget to ask how what is going on at home. Reminding ourselves that children can feel overwhelmed with all of the events filling their days, both in child care and at home, can help us better understand their emotions and behavior.

The most important thing you can do to better understand  the children in your care is to talk with parents about what is going on in their lives. Go further than the usual, “Hello, how are you?” It will help you to build stronger, trusting relationships with parents. It shows that you care about them as a family and for their well-being.

When you notice a child saying a particular phrase or acting a certain way, don’t feel afraid to ask the parents or family members about it. Phrases such as, “I noticed Fara talking a lot about concrete this week,” or “Tom has been watching the infants with a lot of curiosity lately” can be great icebreakers in starting a conversation with parents.

When a child’s emotions and behaviors change dramatically it could be a clue that something is happening in their lives. Children respond to stress and feelings of being overwhelmed the same as adults. Checking in with the other adults in their lives can help alleviate stress on you.

So at the end of the day when you just need to take a load off, consider reflecting on those young people in your care. How might you be able to understand them better?

Random Acts of Experimentation

Recently when we were sitting at the table finishing lunch, my wife and I were relishing an extended conversation while our son, Eli, switched between spreading peanut butter on crackers and licking his fingers.

With lunch I had a glass of water and Eli had an apple juice box. As my wife and I continued talking, I saw something out of the corner of my eye: Eli’s hand reaching for my glass of water. I looked over and he smiled and said, “Can I have this?” “Sure,” I replied. Boy, was he excited. But why? Did he finish his juice box? Was he still thirsty?

Turns out he needed to experiment. He spread out a cloth napkin on the table, dunked his juice box upside down into my half-full glass of water, gave it a squeeze, set the box on the table and squeezed again. Much to his delight, watery apple juice squirted out! Over and over he did this until he was out of water.

Not wanting to miss this awesome moment I said, “Wow! How did you do that?”

He replied, “Like this,” dunking his juice box in the water glass again and squeezing it.

“Oh, you squeeze it and air bubbles come out. Where does the water go?” I asked.

“Yah, it goes here,” he said, giving the box a good squeeze, making the water spray onto the napkin.

“I like how you spread the napkin out. It seems to catch the water,” I said.

“We don’t want too messy. It would be a big mess!” he said. “This is just a little bit.”

Why didn’t my wife and I stop this? Water could go everywhere; he’s playing with a glass and making a mess! But we didn’t stop him. We never stepped in and re-directed him. Why not? What were we thinking?

We were thinking , “Why NOT let him experiment?” He was gaining so much from this harmless activity that to stop him would keep him from learning and making connections with other activities. It only lasted about eight minutes and he was thoroughly satisfied when finished.

Allowing young children the freedom to experiment with materials in their own way encourages them to be scientists, hypothesize about problems and discover for themselves how and why things work. They also are developing fine motor and persistence skills needed to navigate a complex world. When we take this window of opportunity to ask probing questions, add new vocabulary and allow for time to process we turn this impromptu moment into an intentional one.

After Eli had exhausted his supply of water he let out a very satisfying sigh looking at the now empty glass, the juice box and the soaked napkin. Then he looked at us, smiling, and said, “Want to go play trucks? You can have the concrete mixer, daddy, and mommy can use the water.”

Shouldn’t every month be National Reading Month?

There is so much energy and time invested in promoting reading as the single most important activity one can do (and it is!), and yet so little time is actually spent reading! Many states and organizations promote a single month or day for reading, but these months and days are random and do not correlate to anything specific.

Reading shouldn’t happen in planned out Hallmark-holiday style. Reading is something that happens all day every day. Reading month, like many other randomized celebrations (Black History Month, Valentine’s day, Father’s Day or Movember, for example) is not something that you should be made aware of for just one day or one month. Reading, like heritage and disease, is something that should be done, discussed and acted upon every day of every month!

Shouldn't every month be National Reading Month?

There is a ton of research into how and why. Not only is reading good fun, the language and literacy skills needed to do it well are important skills to acquire for future success in school and life. Reading also helps soothe the mind, takes you to faraway places or back in time to witness great moments, and ordinary ones, too.

I wonder why we think that giving reading such short thrift will provide us with the results we desire. If we want to see a higher percentage of early language comprehension and a higher percentage of reading at level in third grade, we should read every day (these and more outcomes are in the Strive Report Card). Reading also contributes to higher scores on the SAT, ACT and the NAEP, and with children in the United States trailing our global neighbors, it’s never been more important.

With the onslaught of technology and how rapidly our youth have taken to it we might be at a crossroads. But somewhere between winning texting awards and writing fluent essays we must hold on to what we know leads one to a life of success. So read to your children and provide them opportunities to talk about their world.

– Josh