Safe Sleep

Safe sleep.

Yes, “Safe Sleep.” It’s a topic that can easily be ignored, but definitely should not be pushed aside. It could mean the difference between life and death for an infant—just ask any parent who has lost a child as a confirmed result as “SIDS.”

Many parents don’t really consider this somewhat “under the radar” element when designing a newborn’s nursery—one this new baby will “grow up” in over at least the next year.

But, did you know that just a few changes could possibly mean the difference between life and death? Yes, life and death. It could be that serious.

Safe sleep environments have been linked to a decreased risk for SIDS. While these practices might agree with a parent’s anticipated early parenting goals, they should be considered.

Many mothers, much like myself, start dreaming of the “perfect” nursery room once a pregnancy test reveals a “Positive” reading. It’s exciting! We are ready to plan—we LOVE to decorate. However, it is important to know that just because a product is for sale at the biggest “Baby Store” doesn’t mean it is necessary or entirely safe for babies.

One of the biggest crib concerns are bumpers. Yes, they are cute. They add a great photographic element to our pictures, but are they crucial? Researchers say no. The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees.

Why take the risk of SIDS when evidence supports not using them? Are a few “cute” pictures worth risking a child’s life?

The same research-based recommendations holds true for the use of sheets and blankets in a crib, and for parental smoking practices. Blankets, stuffed animals, pillows, smoke can all lead to difficulty breathing for an infant especially when it has not developed the ability to roll over or remove itself from something that is suffocating it.

So, what do you think? Did research-based practice guide your decisions? Were you even aware of them? Are you making changes now?

October is SIDS awareness month. What do you think about this? Do you have a supported opinion?

Weigh in. Leave us a comment. Join the discussion!

For more information on prevention programs in Alabama, as well as how to support their work, visit The Children’s Trust Fund of Alabama.

Education: The Key to Unlock a Child’s Potential

Written by Joan Wright, Childcare Resources’ Executive Director

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We all know what time of year it is. It’s HOT. Football has returned. Labor Day has passed. Traffic has increased. The wheels on the bus are going ‘round again. School bells are ringing. All this means one thing: school’s back in session!

What a wonderful time of year. Time to get school clothes, maybe a haircut, school supplies, make new friends, continue other friendships. Time to get some knowledge!

Many of us take this time of year for granted. It’s just part of the normal routine of life. But truly this is a magical time for developing minds and bodies, especially the young, who may not even be attending the proverbial red brick school house yet but are indeed in need of gaining knowledge.

“Education is indispensible” Dr. Tommy Bice, State Superintendent of Education, stated at a meeting recently. This means that education is not subject to being set aside nor neglected; it’s absolutely necessary.

Why? Education is the key to unlocking potential in terms of academic success, influential relationships, rewarding opportunities, better jobs, and economic vitality for individuals, families and the community.

At that same meeting, Dr. Bice shared that after numerous conversations with educators, employers, business leaders, and administrators at institutions of higher learning one issue became abundantly clear: Alabama’s high school graduates and young adults lack “intellectual curiosity.” This means they lack the quest for knowledge and critical thinking skills needed to solve today’s real world challenges.

What can be done to address this? While there is much to do that can be tackled on many fronts, we must make more serious investments of time, energy and resources in education, especially for our youngest children. Research shows over and over that children are indeed born learning and their optimal time for growth and development, especially brain development, occurs long before entering school. Children are naturally curious. They learn about and discover their world by crawling, tasting, touching, seeing, and experiencing all the sights and sounds around them. Have you ever had a conversation with a three-year-old whose response to your every statement is “But why?” If children develop a love for learning using their natural curiosity fostered by positive, nurturing relationships with caring adults, they can soar! They enter school better equipped to succeed, they tend to remain in school and graduate which opens many more possibilities for them and those around them.

In Alabama there are considerable challenges facing children and families.

The 2013 Alabama Kids Count Data Book published by VOICES for Alabama’s Children reveals that the median household income in Alabama is only $41,427. The percent of persons living below poverty is 19.1 percent with 11.4 percent of children living in extreme poverty. What effect does poverty have on children? On our community? Poverty for children means fewer opportunities for access to quality education, health, influential relationships, social services and jobs. It’s no wonder that we have such high rates of child abuse and neglect in Alabama, juvenile violent crime, addiction, overcrowded prisons, high school dropout and unemployment/underemployment. You can help change these negative outcomes. Find time today, in fact, MAKE time today to explore how you can be involved in children’s early learning and unlock a child’s potential.

In the words of Forest E. Witcraft, “A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove…but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.”

Field trip day! The children are excited! You, the child care provider? A bit nervous.

If you’ve ever chaperoned a field trip, I’m sure you can relate to this feeling. What if someone wonders off? What if a child gets hurt? How do you handle the inevitable “meltdowns” that will happen?

Many child care providers enjoy the wonder and amazement they watch their children experience during field trips, but these can also be very stressful times. Children can be quite unpredictable, and, let’s face it: there never seems to be enough adult chaperones to handle the chaos that can occur!

During the summer, these concerns are heightened by yet another uncontrollable force: the sun. Yes, the sun and its incredible heat! Here in the South, our days can easily reach over 90 degrees. In a parked vehicle, that temperature can quickly escalate, leading to potential hazardous situations.

After the recent tragedy in Georgia that made national headlines, perhaps many of you also saw the article circulating via social media sites about heatstroke and car deaths in children. Here’s an excerpt:

“What kind of person forgets a baby? The wealthy do, it turns out. And the poor, and the middle class. Parents of all ages and ethnicities do it. Mothers are just as likely to do it as fathers. It happens to the chronically absent-minded and to the fanatically organized, to the college-educated and to the marginally literate. In the last 10 years, it has happened to a dentist. A postal clerk. A social worker. A police officer. An accountant. A soldier. A paralegal. An electrician. A Protestant clergyman. A rabbinical student. A nurse. A construction worker. An assistant principal. It happened to a mental health counselor, a college professor and a pizza chef. It happened to a pediatrician. It happened to a rocket scientist.”

While none of us want to admit it, the truth is, something like this could happen to us. However, being aware of the hazards and conscious of our actions can prevent a potentially fatal error.

All licensed child care providers are required to follow Alabama’s Minimum Standard’s for Day Care Centers, which include regulations for transporting children. These regulations require checklists for loading and unloading children. As a parent, you have the right to ask about and view these checklists too!

Here are some great tips for child care providers from The Administration for Children and Families and The Office of Child Care:

* Always make a habit of looking in the vehicle—front and back—before locking the door and walking away.

* Get in touch with designated family members if a child who is regularly in your care does not arrive as expected.

* Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately if you see a child alone in a hot vehicle. If he or she is in distress due to heat, get the child out as soon as possible and cool him or her down rapidly.

* Take Ray Ray’s voluntary pledge for providers and parents to make a commitment to working together to keep children safe.

In addition, visit the Safercars.gov website, which provides great prevention information that you can share with others. Together, we can all diligently prevent unnecessary vehicle deaths. Spread the word and educate others!

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Powerful Words

“To believe in a child is to believe in the future.” Henry James

Words today have a powerful influence on tomorrow

Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” Theodore Roosevelt

As adults, we have the opportunity to influence children in many ways. We help them learn to walk, to talk, to read and write. We teach them how to tie their shoes and dress themselves. Mostly, when we think of “helping” a child, we think of physical actions and deeds.

But, sometimes it is the positive attitude and encouragement we give to young children that affects them the most. Supporting a young child’s self-esteem can greatly affect his or her life for years to come.

Lisa Nunn, Childcare Resources’s Technical Assistance Leader, was reminded of the power of positive words this past summer:

“Last July, I did an on-site training  (Training To Go)  at a child care center in Jefferson county.   As I was packing  to leave after completing the training, a teacher who attended the training came up to me and told me that I was her 5th grade teacher 15 years ago.   As soon as she said those words, I remembered exactly who she was.  15 years ago we formed a connection that stayed with both of us.  I stayed and talked with her for a while and caught up with all that she has accomplished since she was in my class.  

Courtney finished her Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Montevallo, and is currently a lead teacher with Odyssey Early Schools.  Courtney told me that she kept a letter that I gave to her when she was in my 5th grade class and she held onto it and read it for inspiration over the years.   I do remember writing Courtney a letter telling her that I believed in her and that she could do anything she set her mind to do.  I told her that I still believe in her and that I was so proud of all that she has accomplished.   Courtney is planning to further her education and I am planning to offer her career assistance through Childcare Resources to help her continue to reach her goals.”

Want to make a difference in the life of a child? Encourage him. You may never know just how much it helps!

 Looking for more inspiration? Watch the Make a Difference Movie.

Teaching With Candy!

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Nearly every store is decked out in pink and red and hearts: yes, Valentine’s Day is tomorrow. And, if you are like me, you drawn to the bags of conversation hearts. Why? I’m not really sure. Is it the allure of the cute messages on them? Or maybe the fact that we can only buy them for approximately 6 weeks every year? Perhaps it’s the chalky residue they leave on our fingers? No? Yes?

Whatever the reason, I know I’m not the only one who buys them year after year (they keep reappearing, right?). So, here’s an effort to make them useful. . . I present to you

Teaching Your Child With Conversation Hearts!
(because we all need a reason to indulge once in a while, right?)
 

Yes, dear parents, it CAN be done! Here are some suggestions for your:

Conversation Hearts and Math

Sorting

Go ahead, stick your hand into that bag of yummy conversation hearts and pull them out! Then, show your child how to separate them based on their color: put all the green ones together, all the pink ones together, all the white ones together…etc. Tell your child that “You are sorting the hearts by putting all of the same colors together.” Recognizing this first similar trait is the basis of more complex mathematical concepts.

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Patterns

Yay! Conversation hearts come in a fixed number of colors! Let’s capitalize on this and use them to teach patterns.

Start simple: use two colors, any colors—better yet, let your child choose the colors available to use: pink and yellow; green and white; colors don’t matter—enthusiasm does!

    Set the pattern up

For the youngest (3-year olds and those not previously exposed to the concept of patterns): start simple! An easy ABAB pattern is the basic to learn, and can offer the most enthusiasm for understanding!

(ABAB=color one, color two, color one, color two, repeat) green, yellow, green, yellow…

For the older child who understands the pattern concept, consider these harder patterns:

ABBABBA: blue, orange, orange, blue, orange, orange, blue…

ABCABCA: yellow, blue, green, yellow, blue, green, yellow…

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You will know when your child has mastered one skill and is ready to move on to the next—the key is changing up the colors but remaining with the same pattern. Try it: you will be amazed at how quickly your preschooler (ages 3-5) will catch on! Children at this age are tiny sponges—eager and ready to learn through “play!”

More or less than?

Learning the difference between quantities in groups (such as more than or less than) is a more sophisticated concept for young children. Once your child has mastered the concept of rote counting (verbally counting each object one at a time), line the hearts up in two lines—one with more than the other. Help your child count the hearts in each line.

Compare the number in each, and use the appropriate words: “This line has 6 hearts. This line has 3 hearts. This line with 6 hearts has more than this line with 3 hearts.”

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**Setting the lines of hearts up one by one beside each other will help your child to visually understand this concept, and will enforce the words “more” and “less.”**

Teachable Moment:
Any time you give your child “two” of something and “one” of another is a great opportunity to reinforce “more than/less than” with your child. For example, you might give your son two pretzels and one block of cheese: separate them and count them in front of him: Tell him “two is more than one.” Starting this regularly at an early age exposes your child to basic math concepts, and can easily set a great foundation to more complex mathematical concepts.

Conversation Hearts and Literacy

T-Chart Activities

T-Charts can best be explained as a very simple “Yes or No Chart:” the item either “has” or “doesn’t have” what you are looking for.

Pick a letter, any letter—if you want it to be relevant to your child’s name as you seek to teach it to him/her, pick a letter that is in his/her name.

Make a “Yes/No Chart” to distinguish between two letter concepts.  (The first few times you do this, a “Happy face” beside Yes and the letter chosen, and a “Sad face” beside No can help your child remember which word).

Then, place a letter at the top:

  1. Pick up a conversation heart. Point to the letter at the top of the chart. Look at the conversation heart.
  2. Determine this: Is the letter at the top of the chart on that heart? If yes, place it under Yes. If no, place it under No.
  3. Repeat for as many hearts as you want to use.

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Other variations (for older preschoolers who are familiar with identifying the letters of the alphabet–i.e. they can name and identify letters):

1. Write his/her name on paper and place it at the top of the chart. Pick up a heart. Determine whether ANY of the letters on each heart is in the name. Place under Yes or NO, as needed.

2. Ask your child to tell you something he/she “loves,” and write it on paper and place it at the top of the chart. Pick up a heart. Determine whether ANY of the letters on each heart is in the name. Place under Yes or NO, as needed.

See, you can teach with conversation hearts!

So, on this wintery day or weekend, snuggle up to your little ones, play and learn! (Okay, and eat a few sweets too!) Have fun!

XOXO,
Childcare Resources 🙂

Help Quality Child Care Go Viral

Truth: you spend more time than you will admit to “playing” on Facebook. (I admit it too–though part of it is my job...)

It’s okay; here at Childcare Resources we want you to be active on Facebook (sometimes). Why? Research shows that more and more people are using Facebook as a search engine and as a reference for local services.

This means our visibility is increased every time you engage with us via social media–either by liking a post, commenting on a picture, sharing a status, or retweeting a Tweet (just to name a few).

Why is this important, you ask? Easy: we are a nonprofit organization. Our sustainability depends on how well we serve the public.

The more people who NEED access to our services, the more likely we are to receive funding to provide our services! (In case you didn’t know, nonprofit proposals are an extensive process that requires us to establish need, provide results, and compile client data.)

So, again, why are we posting this? WE NEED YOUR HELP!

Childcare Resources wants to increase our Facebook visibility so more people know about us, use our services, and increase the likelihood of enhancing our services to the Central Alabama population!

Your mission: Help us reach 500 (or more!!) Facebook “Likes”!

Your incentive: this fabulous prize–a one night’s stay at the new Hyatt Regency Birmingham – The Wynfrey Hotel in Riverchase Galleria and a free carousel birthday party for up to 10 guests.

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Follow the steps in the link below to enter to WIN this awesome prize! (Please note: according to our Terms and Conditions, prize is only eligible to residents of the state of Alabama. Furthermore, prize is only available for onsite pick up. Please read our Terms and Conditions for additional information.)

Thanks in advance for helping us to better serve Central Alabama’s early childhood community! Enter here: a Rafflecopter giveaway!