Author Archives: Bridget Jackson

About Bridget Jackson

I am part of the Quality Programs Team at 4C for Children. I have been involved in the Early Childhood field for over 18 years as a teacher and assistant director. I am an aunt to 10 wonderful children whom my husband, Erik, and I love like our own. In my free time I enjoy cooking/baking, shopping, music, and a great cup of coffee.

Conversations With Children

conversations-with-childrenWhen I was working in my center, by the time I got home I was absolutely done talking—at least for a little while. My husband never understood why until one day I explained to him I have conversations all day long. Engaging in conversations with the children was my favorite thing about teaching.  It was tiring some days, but I loved it. To listen to their stories, hopes, concerns, and jokes filled my bucket each day. Conversation is not just talking, but also it is about listening. Extending learning happens by having intentional conversation as well as daily verb exchanges. Children may have limited access with adults engaging in intentional conversations. As early childhood educators, we have the perfect opportunity to engage.

Intentional conversation is key. Positive relationships are created through intentional conversations. These relationships stimulate the building of vocabulary, help with interpersonal skills, help with social-emotional skills because their feelings are validated by your listening and responses, and build the foundation of their perception towards learning (check out my previous blog, Cling to the Positive).

I found a great resource with tips to help create a language-rich environment from UNC’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute’s Blog, More than Baby Talk.

Below is their list of 10 ways to help create the environment to spark those crucial conversations that develop into lifetime learning for the children in your program.

  1. Get Chatty: Engage in meaningful conversations with children. “Hello, Charlie! How was your ride to school today?”
  2. Be a Commentator: Give descriptions of objects, activities or events. “I see that you are using the orange marker to color your picture today.”
  3. Mix It Up: Use different types of words and grammar. “Alice was aggravated that she couldn’t find the white rabbit”
  4. Label It: Provide children with the names of objects or actions. You can label shelves, coat hooks, cubbies, etc.
  5. Tune In: Engage in activities or objects that interest children.
  6. Read Interactively: Use books to engage children’s participation.
  7. Read It Again: Read books multiple times. This creates opportunities for sequencing/ problem-solving.
  8. Props: Introduce objects that spark conversations.
  9. Make Music: Engage in musical activities. Make your own instruments!
  10. Sign It: Use gestures or simple signs with words.

Bringing more of these new (or not so new) crucial conversation activities into the classroom and making it fun can give you more insight about what the children in your program need! Let the conversations start and have your listening ears (and listening heart) on!

Spring Is Here…and So Are Outdoor Allergies!

children-outsideWe love going outdoors and spending quality time getting to know the world outside our indoor classroom space. However, this time of year brings some sniffles when all of the new things are in bloom. As adults, we suffer from allergies and know the pain behind our eyes, runny nose, and the irritation it brings. It is pretty bad. Just take a moment to imagine how a small child feels who is exposed to something out there that doesn’t agree with their bodies…just as terrible!

According to HealthLine.com, “An estimated 50 million Americans have allergies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These allergies usually show up in infancy or childhood. Allergies can get in the way of a child’s ability to sleep well, play, and function in school.”

The reactions we see are just our body’s defense to fight off what is irritating your immune system. We need to be very aware this time of year how our classroom of children is feeling and look for the signs that something may be “different” for them when they play outside.

Children may have allergies if they have runny, itchy, red, or swollen eyes that persist for more than a week or two. The same goes for a runny nose. Are the symptoms chronic? Does the child say that their mouth or throat itches or tingles? Do they scratch their ears? The American Academy of Pediatrics says “these may be allergy symptoms, possibly of hay fever or allergic rhinitis, the most common form of allergy among children.” Note whether the symptoms recur at the same time of year, each year.

A great tip before nature is fully in bloom is to talk to families about any signs/symptoms they have noticed or do know about when it comes to their child. Allergies can also affect the child’s behavior, producing unusually crabby or restless moods. Consider keeping a symptom log to share with families, noting the symptom and what happened right before its onset (e.g., exposure to a pet or eating a certain food). Other signs of allergies in children can include a headache or excessive fatigue. Keeping your own system log can be helpful when communicating with families about information needed when consulting their care physician.

Before heading outside for the day, you may want to have your aide or another staff member survey the play area. Look for anything new that may have been introduced to the space as well as insects or other animals that may have settled into the space. Also washing hands after touching questionable exposure items is a great way to prevent reactions.

This is a great time of year to refresh yourself how to use Epi-Pens, inhalers, etc. if your program permits. Ask your administrator if it is possible to get the health department to send pamphlets to hand out to families. 4C for Children offers great First Aid and CPR training which also can help demonstrate the skills you would need to help a child in a serious allergic reaction situation. This way, everyone is aware and can better handle outdoor experiences, including the teachers. Have a safe and happy Spring!

Cling to the Positive

positive-behavior

With all the rain, cloudy weather, and horrible news reports on TV I know I have been feeling a little negative and down lately. It is a very rare thing for me because I have always been a “glass is half full” kind of person. The children in our programs feel this too. They might exhibit their sentiments by lethargy, defiant behavior, or just lack of interest. Some also might be vocal about it! We set the tone for our children. We model the behaviors and actions that are appropriate and bring success for the child’s development. Even though we aren’t seeing rainbows and sunshine, we still need to be a role model for our children each day to persevere and keep going!

I was reading an article titled, “Helping Young Children Succeed: Strategies to Promote Social and Emotional Development,” from zerotothree.org that talked about the effects of social and emotional development. “Children who are emotionally healthy have a significantly greater chance of achieving success in school compared with those who have emotional difficulties. High-quality programs, which offer children emotional nurturance and positive early learning experiences, enhance development and prepare children for school.”

The interactions between a caregiver and a child are those small moments that make or break attitudes toward learning. It may be hard to change a child’s attitude because of early stressors and traumatic events that have previously occurred. Here are some helpful tips based on an article about Growth Mindset by Jessica Stillman that can give you the words to say in the moments of frustration. “Rather than saying ‘Not everybody is good at solving puzzles. Just do your best,’ a teacher or parent should say ‘When you learn how the small piece goes together with this bigger piece, it grows your brain.’ Or instead of saying ‘Maybe solving puzzles is not one of your strengths,’ a better approach is adding ‘yet’ to the end of the sentence: ‘Maybe solving puzzles is not one of your strengths yet,'” she explains. “The bottom line is that you shouldn’t just praise effort; you should praise effort because it leads somewhere, stressing that simply trying isn’t the point.” Your kids should try hard because putting in that effort will make them smarter and better at whatever they put their minds to.

If we change our attitudes and the words we use to model behaviors and concepts to children, their negative attitudes (and school readiness skills) will eventually change for the positive too.

Screen Time Replacing Playtime?

screentime-classroomWith the colder temperatures looming still over our area, we are spending less time outside playing and more time inside trying to find ways to have fun. I have seen parents (and some teachers) put smartphones and tablets out as an alternative to playing games and bundling up for some outdoor fun. I know that life is busy and parents have limited free time, but are large amounts of time spent on devices really good for the kids in our program?

Here are some numbers from a parent survey sent out by Common Sense Media:

  • 98 percent of homes with children now have a mobile device such as a tablet or smartphone
  • 42 percent of young children now have their very own tablet device — up from 7 percent four years ago and less than 1 percent in 2011.
  • Nearly half, 49 percent, of children 8 or under “often or sometimes” use screens in the hour before bedtime, which experts say is bad for sleep habits.
  • 42 percent of parents say the TV is on “always” or “most of the time” in their home, whether anyone is watching or not. Research has shown this so-called “background TV” reduces parent-child interaction, which in turn can hurt language development.

With all of the exposure to technology, I noticed the above statistics when I was in my program.  Children learn best through play with objects and hands-on activities. Exposure to new things makes learning more fun and causes cognitive development, language skills to blossom, and social-emotional development to occur! Interactions mean so much more with people! We can use this knowledge to change the way we use technology in our programs and at home.

Schofield Clark at the University of Denver who has done studies on media and the effects of disadvantaged youth suggests, “making interactions intentional and meaningful by the way you can spend the time: showing a kid how to use a laptop, how to do Internet research, picking out highly rated educational apps or steering a child toward programs with positive messages.” Set aside a block of time each day to make sure that a child gets interactions with adults and peers.  Check out a great blog post from 4C Quality Programs Specialist Jenn Malicoat for more ideas to do inside!

Make the moments count. Spend more time interacting with one another playing with and using materials to enrich and nurture learning, as it is better for everyone in the long run.

New Year, New Perspective

eceprofessional

2017 coming to a close has inspired me to really think about who I am as a person—and as a professional. Child care providers get overlooked in this category sometimes. We have had specialized training. We have spent countless hours searching thrift stores and garage sales for fun items that we can add to our learning spaces for our children. We know our librarian on a first name basis because finding the right story to set the tone for our lessons makes it so much more real for the children.

Finding your own professional identity can be hard sometimes when you have parents and others labeling you as a “babysitter.” This bothered me to no end! I knew I was more than a babysitter so why were people calling me one? To quote one of our trainers, Becky Howard, here at 4C: “Whether you call yourself a teacher, caregiver, aide, assistant, or anything else, if you are in a classroom or home care setting with young children, you are a teacher. If you get paid to do it, you are a professional in fact, and should also be a professional in attitude.” Attitude is everything! If you do not believe enough in yourself and trust your judgment as a professional in the early childhood field, who else is going to?

There is a lot going on in the world today that can definitely put a damper on someone’s attitude and outlook. “Sadly, in toxically stressful environments filled with poverty, violence and illness, the seeds of optimism are weakened and often die.” -Steve Gross, Founder/Chief Playmaker of the Life is Good Kids Foundation.

Be and bring your best—ramp up your confidence and optimism!

To fill your bucket, make some new goals and resolutions for yourself, personally and professionally. 4C for Children can help you with the goals that you would like to accomplish in your program/classroom this year.  You can take some courses/training that pertain to a topic that you are interested in to further your education. Getting your Child Development Associate (CDA) credential is a great first step to furthering your professional education. Get parents involved to see what it is that makes you a shining professional and why their kids loving going to your program.

Believe in what you do, believe the work that you do is so important, and you will help shape not only young minds but the minds of their parents and others around your program as well. I believe in you, and I hope you can believe in yourself too!

No More Bullies in Your Child Care Program

no-bullying

From a very early age, I can remember the first time in school that someone picked on and excluded me because I was heavier than all the other kids.  It was the first time I realized I was somehow different from the other children and it hurt me a lot. This continued my whole academic career with instances that included profane name calling, public humiliation, and physical harm towards me.

The definition of bullying (from the website www.stopbullying.gov ) is “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems. In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include an imbalance of power; kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others, and repetition; bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.”

It is our job as early educators to start talking early about kindness and respect to the children in our care. One way I encouraged this in my preschool class was by having a time set aside for us to talk about our feelings each day. We had a group-sharing time where I would pass around our pillow/bear and the child holding it got to tell how they felt (happy, sad, mad, scared, etc.) and why they felt that way.  Children weren’t required to share if they didn’t want to. I always gave them an opportunity after to pull me aside and tell me something privately if they preferred. We would talk about how to help our classmates celebrate a happy feeling, or help them feel better about a sad, mad, or scared feeling. It helped some of the children to talk about their emotions and work through feelings together, not by themselves, creating a community. Sometimes I included stories and finger-play songs to help teach.

If a group time setting isn’t something that will work with your program’s schedule, below are some tips from Stopbullying.gov (with some edits for younger children) to help encourage kindness and empathy in your program throughout your day:

Model positive ways for young children to make friends. For example, practice pleasant ways that children can ask to join others in play and take turns in games. We can coach older children in our program to help reinforce these behaviors as well. Encourage children for appropriate behavior. Help young children understand what behaviors are friendly.

Help young children learn the consequences of certain actions in terms they can understand. Encourage young children to tell an adult if they are treated in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable, upset, unhappy, or if they witness other children being harmed. Teach them that it is okay to stand up for others in need if they feel safe to do so.

Set clear rules for behavior and monitor children’s interactions carefully.  Step in quickly to stop aggressive behavior or redirect it before it occurs.

Encourage age-appropriate empathy for aggressive behavior. Young children should be encouraged to apologize in their own way whenever they hurt a peer, even accidentally. Guiding questions from you may include “What can you do/say to help ____ feel better about what happened?” Some younger children are still learning what ‘apology’ and ‘sorry’ mean so be patient and respect their approach to it. Not all apologies and expressions of empathy are the same.

With patience, understanding and a positive approach, we can help children recognize that kindness and empathy can go a long way in the world today.

De-stressing the Stressors of Drop-Off Time

drop-off-timeWhen I first began teaching preschool, I had a little boy who always struggled with drop-off each morning. He was happy to see his friends and always gave me a big hug, but when Mom and Dad would say, “It’s time for us to go!” he would burst into alligator tears. They stayed, played, ate goodbye snacks, hugged, gave 10 kisses, and he still was devastated when they walked out of the classroom door. One instance after a goodbye snack day as I was holding him, he dropped his vanilla wafer as we were waving out the window. I had a hair appointment that evening and went straight from the school. As the stylist was washing my hair, she found the cookie in my hair.

It is very hard when a child is upset about leaving their family for the day. It is also hard on parents and caregivers when they have to leave their child for the day while they go to work. Our job as professionals is to help both parents and children find a place where each feels comfortable and can trust the environment will be a safe space. Below are some helpful tips to encourage families and their children that where they go and who they choose for child care is a safe and comfortable fit.

Get to know the families. Before the child even starts in your program, invite the family to come and meet you several times to check out the space at different times. This way they get to see what happens at different times of the day while the child is allowed to explore the space.

Talk about daily routines. Talking about what happens during your day with the family helps them to know how to talk about what happens at home with the child. Parents will know how to talk about the day before the child comes to child care. Newsletters and emails are great to let parents know what is coming up for the week or month. The more consistent you communicate, the better prepared everyone will be and know what to expect.

Offer several activities to transition. Not every child is ready to come into a group of people first thing when they get to child care. Sometimes over-stimulation can make anxiety even worse for some children. Make sure that you have some welcoming activities that can be offered for a child to play to help them come in at their pace. In my classroom I had a “Me Space.” It was a canopied area filled with pillows, books, sensory bottles, stuffed animals—items that were calming and comforting to the students who needed it.

Talk it through. For some of my students, I had to talk to them one on one as their parent placed them in my arms. Addressing how the child’s feels is the proper way to start giving the support they need in this stressful transition. For example, “I see tears on your face. Can you tell me how you feel when Mommy leaves for work? I miss my mommy when I am at work too.” Then if they wanted to, I would also give them the option of being able to wave. “Let’s go to the window to wave to her!” I or my aide had to hold some of the children for waving goodbye until their families were out of sight, in the car, and down the road. When you talk out feelings and explain processes it helps eliminate stress and gives the child words to express how they feel. They are still learning academically as well as socially and emotionally.

With these few tips, working towards a stress-free drop-off will get easier for all involved!