Category Archives: Family Engagement

Building a relationship with my child’s teacher

by Kristin Kahl, Knowledge Manager

I’m one of the few staff here at Child Care Answers who doesn’t have Early Childhood Education experience. So why am I writing this blog? What I do have is this – experience in being a parent who is inexperienced. I needed every bit of help I could get. I learned some things the hard way. Hopefully, sharing some of my stories can help families who are also in the same boat.

When my first son Miles was born, I didn’t have a clue about what was supposed to happen in a child care setting.  Sure, I knew the basics. Caregivers shouldn’t lay babies down to sleep in cribs with blankets or pillows. I should not find a teacher in a room alone with 20 two-year olds. I shouldn’t walk away to hear adults screaming at the children (although my own kid screaming “Moooooooooooommmmmmmeeeeeeeeeee!!!” was going to happen sometimes).

Thankfully, none of the above happened the first day I dropped him off when he was three-months old. Nevertheless, I was uneasy to hand him over to Ms. Sandra (name changed to protect the innocent). In my previous visits, she had been quiet, making as little small talk as possible. Although she had a grandmotherly vibe, she didn’t give off the goo-goo ga-ga baby talk that Miles had seen from his relatives and gray-haired church ladies. How was his day going to go without the over-the-top songs and silliness he was used to? I was nervous about my about my day away from him, my first day back to work, and about my first day pumping as a nursing mom.

I was, however, fortunate to be able to go in to nurse Miles twice a week. The first time I came in, Ms. Sandra was just finishing up feeding another baby. Instead of the hustle and bustle of the morning drop-off, I caught a glimpse of her in a lovely quiet one-on-one moment, with just a hint of goo-goo and ga-ga. She looked up and offered me the rocker. At first, I froze, wanting to whisk Miles away to keep him to myself in a private room. I accepted, though, and I’m so glad I did.

That was the beginning of a long series of talks with Ms. Sandra – me at the rocker with Miles, her tending to the other babies, and us chatting about our days. I discovered she had quite the understated sense of humor with an amazing twinkle in her eye when she joked. I got to see firsthand as she changed a diaper on a wiggly worm like a champ or soothed a colicky baby after drop-off. She got to hear (whether or not she wanted to) about Miles’ crazy gas last night or his hilarious new trick. Eventually, the time came for me to wean Miles and for him to move to another room. Even so, I continued to visit at the same time to play and connect with him and his new teacher.

TIPS FOR CONNECTING WITH YOUR CHILD’S TEACHER

How can you make the best of the time that you have to learn what in going on in your child’s classroom? Keep the following in mind.

  • Connect with the teacher in her “natural habitat.” If a teacher is covering for another teacher in a different classroom or is at a shift change, she won’t be giving you her best self. Set her up for that opportunity!
  • Try different options until you find what fits. Not everyone will have my same fortune to be able to visit twice per week during the day. Look at your own schedule and see what would work best to find time to regularly connect with your child’s teacher. If you can’t connect face-to-face, make sure that each of you have a way to ask questions and get answers. That could mean paper, text, app, phone, or some other way to communicate.
  • Keep the teacher’s needs in mind too. Remember that your teacher is caring for other children and cannot focus her attention solely on you and your child. If you notice you are being a distraction to her or the other children, wrap up your visit or conversation.
  • Don’t forget to keep your child at the center. As your child ages, what works one month may not work the next. For example, when my youngest son was going through separation anxiety, I couldn’t come in the middle of the day anymore. So,I built in extra time and stayed a little longer when I picked him up.
  • Be flexible! This is the most important! There are a lot of people and parts to this equation, but remember that you’re doing this for the best interest of your child. If you’re making things difficult for the teacher, child, or yourself, then find a better way to do it!

Childhood has moved indoors – get them outside!

by Ann Aull, Early Childhood Adult Educator

Childhood has moved indoors.  The average American child spends only 30 minutes in unstructured outdoor playtime[i] as opposed to nearly seven hours of screen time.[ii]  As child care providers, we know that parents often enroll children in organized sports early and spend time outside watching children play.  Guess what? All those summer soccer and baseball games do not count as the type of outdoor play that children need.  It is up to us to make sure the children in our care are getting the play time they need to nurture their body, mind, and spirit.

Here are a few of the benefits outside time can provide our children:

BODY

  • Children run, jump, skip, and climb outside, which naturally increases fitness levels and prevents childhood obesity.
  • Outside time raises levels of Vitamin D, which helps children prevent future health problems.

MIND

  • Exposure to natural settings may be widely effective in reducing ADHD symptoms.
  • Children learn to assess risk and solve problems on their own.

SPIRIT

  • Children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces.
  • Play protects children’s emotional development.
  • Nature makes children nicer, enhancing social relationships.

Even the simplest experiences can enhance children’s experiences outside.  I had the opportunity to visit the town of Reggio Emilia in Italy when I worked as a teacher at St. Mary’s Child Center.  Giving children the opportunity to experience nature was a priority for these schools.  At a center for infants and toddlers, the teachers put a large mirror down on a grassy area for the mobile infants to explore.  While observing the play, I realized that for infants who just learned to crawl, this could have been their first experience with the sky!  The teachers took pictures so the parents could also share in their child’s joyous discovery of the world around them.  As child care providers, we can make a difference so let’s get them outside!

Here are some resources for you to get the children in your life out in nature!

Indiana Children & Nature Network: Places to play outdoors in Indiana

Nature Net: Things kids can do outside

Visit Indy: Top 10 outdoor spaces

 

[i] Children under 13 spend only 30 minutes per week in unstructured play time outdoors – Sandra Hofferth and J. Sandberg (1999)

[ii] Children between the ages of 8 and 18 years spend an average of nearly 6.5 hours a day with electronic media – Rideout, V. and Hamel, E. (2006). The Media Family: Electronic Media in the Lives of Infants, Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Their Parent. Kaiser Family Foundation. (Note: Remember this was published in 2006. Think of how much bigger Facebook, iPhones and iPads have become since then.)

Cover image by Flickr user Jeff BoydCreative Commons license.

Including All Children and Families during the Holidays

by Vicki Lehman, Professional Development Specialist

The holiday season is often a very exciting time of the year. This goes for both children AND adults! For children, they are experiencing all of their family’s traditions. For parents and caregivers, they also have the opportunity to share traditions with their children. As an early childhood professional, it is easy to get caught up in celebrating a certain holiday within your classroom or center. It is very important that you are intentional with your planning and you ensure that all children and their families are represented appropriately. The most important thing for the children will be that they see themselves and their families reflected in the activities and celebrations that you plan.

You want to be sure that the activities you are planning accurately represent the different ways families may choose to celebrate different holidays. Here are a few ideas to help you get family members involved. (Julie Bisson, Celebrate!: An Anti-Bias Guide to Enjoying Holidays)

  • Encourage families to share information about their holidays and how they celebrate.You will find that most of the families will share information with you. They will be grateful that they were included and that you took the time to ask them for specific information.
  • Ask for activity ideas! Most families will be more than happy to help you incorporate their holiday into your lesson plans. Ask them if there are any fun activities or games they think would be appropriate for the age group you work with.
  • Invite family members in to share a story or activity with your class. It’s always great for kids to get a different perspective straight from the source, and little ones will have a sense of pride when their own family members can participate.

It is also important to remember that December isn’t the only month in which holidays take place. If you have children in your care that celebrate holidays in other months, recognize and include those holidays in your plans. Give equal emphasis to all holidays celebrated within your group of children to help them feel respected and included.

Remember, the “Holiday Season” is not the only time you should celebrate diversity. Your classroom should represent many different cultures year round. Post pictures of the children and their families on the wall, place books on the shelf that are culturally diverse, and talk about the different kinds of family units present in your classroom.  Do your homework so you know the information you give the children is accurate.

Holidays are incredibly important and personal for the families that celebrate them. Taking that extra step and incorporating ALL of the holidays the children in your care celebrate will really go a long way. Enjoy the fun and excitement that will come with the children getting the opportunity to share their traditions with you and the class. Happy Holidays!

Cover image by Flickr user melCreative Commons license.