Category Archives: Families

How Child Care Answers Helps Families

by Cheryl Tyler, Child Care Answers Outreach Coordinator

At Child Care Answers, we wear many hats. Our coaches and training specialists provide top-notch support to help Central Indiana child care providers improve the quality of their programs. As Child Care Answers’ Outreach Coordinator, I lead a team that connects directly with the community – educating and consulting at fairs, committees, and coalition meetings. We also speak to businesses about how to best support their employees with child care options and challenges.

I talk with provider and community members every day, but the stories that stick with me the most have been when I was supporting parents directly. When I first started with Child Care Answers, I served as a Referral Specialist, helping parents with their search for child care. I spent 8-9 hours a day on the phone, talking to parents so I could compile lists to give them that detailed child care providers meeting their needs. Six years later, one of my first calls still sticks out in my mind. It was late in the afternoon of a particularly trying day.

My phone rang, and I took a deep breath and answered. “Thank you for calling Child Care Answers, your child care resource and referral. This is Cheryl. How can I help you?” The voice on the other end took a big deep breath, sighed, and started to tell me his story. He was a single dad who had a four-year-old daughter. She had been staying with Grandma (the caller’s mother) since she was born. He went on tell me that Grandma had just suffered a stroke and he needed someone to “watch” his daughter ASAP. As I listened, I could hear the fear in his voice. I asked him to give me a few minutes and I would try to ease his fears. I explained the different types of care available, what to look for, staff/child ratios, and the Paths to QUALITY program. As I gathered their information, I was able to find a list of licensed centers on Paths to QUALITY (per his request). He thanked me, asked my name again, and started to cry. He told me that, before he called, he felt so alone and scared of what might happen to his daughter. At the end of the call, he thanked me several times for helping and caring.

Several days later, I came into the office and had a voicemail. It was from this dad, and he wanted to tell me he found a Paths to QUALITY Level 4 center that had space and was very understanding of his situation. He thanked me again and said he was going to make sure all of his friends knew about Child Care Answers and how we help people. When people ask me what Child Care Answers does, or why I love what I do, this story always comes to mind.

If you are a family member, please rely on us at Child Care Answers.

We provide the following services to family members:

  • Free individualized referrals to Family Child Care Homes, Centers, Ministries, Pre-schools, Pre-K programs, Before-/After-school care, and Summer programs
  • Enhanced services for families with children who have special needs, infants and needs, and military families
  • Information on Indiana laws and regulations relating to child care
  • Education on how to choose a quality child care and early education program, as well as types of financial assistance that may be available

If you have any additional questions or needs, please give our office a call at (317) 636-5727, or feel free to email me at cherylt@childcareanswers.com.

Cover image by Flickr user SalCreative Commons license.

Going Back to Work: What does that mean for Breastfeeding?

by Lauren George, Infant/Toddler Specialist & Certified Lactation Counselor

Going back to work or school can be challenging for nursing mothers. Mothers are not sure how many ounces of milk to send in each day, getting baby to take a bottle can be difficult, and finding a provider that understands breastfeeding can be a challenge. Here are some tips to make it go more smoothly.

BREASTFED BABIES DRINK BASED ON CALORIES, NOT VOLUME.

It will be rare that a breastfed baby ever takes an 8 ounce bottle. Typically, divide 24-30 ounces by the number of feeding in a day. So if baby nurses 10 times a day, then each bottle will be roughly 2.4-3 ounces. It is best to send less milk than more milk. You don’t want all that hard work to go down the drain!

TRY TO PUMP EVERY 2-3 HOURS

Finding time to pump at work can also be challenging. I always pumped when I knew my baby would be eating, so every 2-3 hours. The more you take out, the more milk you make!

IT IS BEST TO INTRODUCE A BOTTLE AT HOME BEFORE BABY’S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL.

Try having someone other than mom introduce a bottle first (around 4 weeks old). Try daily with a few ounces each day. Don’t stress out…some babies will take it just fine and others will take it eventually.

FIND A CAREGIVER THAT SUPPORTS MOTHER-INFANT RELATIONSHIPS

As you interview prospective child care providers, you want a provider that is open to you coming in and nursing whenever you get a chance, supports feeding on demand and not on a schedule, and won’t push you to send in more milk than you know your baby needs. Trust yourself as the expert on your baby, especially when it comes to breastfeeding!

Additional information, including a milk calculator, can be found on www.kellymom.com.

Cover image by Flickr user U.S. Department of Agriculture’s photostreamCreative Commons license.

When to Change Child Care Providers

by Joy McCall, Paths to QUALITY Coach

Changing child care providers can be challenging for many families. Knowing when it is time to find a new provider may be an even bigger challenge. Change is hard for everyone involved in this process. Children need stability and a warm nurturing environment where they can grow.

So, what things should you look for as signs that it is time for you to find a new provider? Below are some questions you can ask yourself to decide if now is the time to look for a new program.

HAS YOUR CHILD OUTGROWN THEIR CURRENT PROGRAM?

Many programs can get infants and toddlers off to a good start but do not offer children a challenging program that will meet their needs as they get older.

DOES YOUR CHILD’S TEACHER OR CAREGIVER SEEM CONSISTENT?

Many child care programs struggle to keep qualified, educated staff. If you notice a lot of change around your child’s care, you should speak with the teacher and director about your concern before making a big change.

ARE YOU HEARING THE CAREGIVERS TALK NEGATIVELY ABOUT YOUR CHILD OR OTHER CHILDREN IN THE PROGRAM?

This would be a huge red flag for all parents.  If you feel the negative vibes, so does your child. Start varying the time you pick up and drop off your child to observe the environment. Go with your gut. If it doesn’t seem right, it usually isn’t.

IS YOUR CHILD STILL CRYING EVERY DAY AT DROP OFF TIME?

Sure, every child has some adjustment to being away from their parents.  That is just what it is: an adjustment. Trust your child’s own temperament when deciding how long this adjustment period should last. If it continues for more than a four-week period, this could be an indicator that your child is not comfortable in their environment.

DOES YOUR CHILD HAVE UNREPORTED INJURIES?

Many child care providers have a written policy on making parents aware of injuries and through reports sent home with you. If your child is coming home with unreported injuries on a regular basis, this could be a sign there is lack of supervision, and it may be time to change providers for your child’s safety.

Overall, changing child care providers is a tough decision and is hard for all involved. As parents, our number one goal is to ensure our children are safe, healthy, and cared for properly. Through personal and professional experience, I have learned that building a relationship with your child’s teacher/caregiver is important for your piece of mind as a parent. We are leaving the most precious part of us with someone else to care for them.

When making this decision, please take time to explore your options. There are resources to aid you in making the best decision for your family. Check the FSSA website for information about inspection reports and Paths to QUALITY rating. These tools will help you in making a educated decision for you and your family. If you need help finding a quality child care provider, Child Care Answers can help.

Cover image by Flickr user ellynCreative Commons license.

American Academy of Pediatrics updates its position on Screen Time

by Shannon Ford, Professional Development Coordinator

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has updated and revised its position statement on media and technology usage by children. Up until recently, their recommendation to parents was no screen time for children under the age of two. Taking into consideration new research and new habits, the AAP is now shifting their focus from what is on the screen to who else is in the room.

For littles under the age of 18 months, the AAP still says no screens are best, with the exception of live video chat with loved ones. Many families use a live video chat app like Skype to stay in touch with relatives far away. While live social interaction trumps virtual visits with Grandpa, there is some research that says infants as young as six-months old are emotionally-engaged by playing live peekaboo with Grandma on Skype (AAP, 2016).

What about older toddlers? Aren’t they learning new words and increasing their vocabulary with the Peekaboo Barn and other phone apps? While there can be minimal gains in language development through educational apps, this happens only if adults are sitting alongside them and engaging in app dialogue with their toddler; again, it’s not so much what is on the screen, it’s who else is engaging with the toddler.

When it comes to preschoolers, content plays a crucial role. Shows like Sesame Street, which address the evolving health and developmental needs of children have been shown to improve cognitive, literacy, and social outcomes for children ages three to five (AAP, 2016). Nonetheless, many preschool apps which are filed under the category of “educational” have no curricular basis, target only rote academic skills, and offer little opportunity for parent-child interaction.

So, what can parents take away from this progressive revision about screen time?

  • For children under 18 months of age, no screen time is still best.
  • Adult interaction with children during media use is crucial, especially if you are hoping for positive child development outcomes.
  • Just because you’re looking in the “education” category in the Apple Store, doesn’t mean it’s an educational app.
  • One hour of high-quality screen time should be the maximum for children older than age two.
  • Set limits on screen time for older children. Setting limits teaches children how to gain self-control, which in turn allows them to regulate their behavior so that it is socially acceptable.
  • Keep mealtimes, bedrooms, and play times screen free.
  • Turn the screens off at least one hour before bedtime. Exposure to screen media in the evening is associated with shorter sleep duration than those with no evening screen media.

Reference: American Academy of Pediatrics COUNCIL ON COMMUNICATIONS AND MEDIA. Media and Young Minds. Pediatrics. 2016; 138(5):e20162591

Making Meal Times Positive

by Emily Barrow, CACFP Child Nutrition Professional

I know your schedule is jam-packed with work, child care drop-offs, sports, lessons, and play dates. But what about meals as a family? It’s easy to rush through them, but meal times are an important part of child development. Meal times are more than just feeding your child; they are a chance to learn socialization, healthy eating habits, independence, and table manners. As a monitor for the Child and Adult Care Food Program, I often remind providers they are shaping children’s eating habits for the rest of their life, and parents can often benefit from similar advice.

SO WHAT DOES A POSITIVE MEAL TIME LOOK LIKE?

To begin with, serve meals family-style, and try to follow consistent times for each meal. Children need predictable patterns. Knowing when to expect breakfast, lunch, and snack helps set the stage for their day. A routine of washing their hands, setting the table, and knowing what to expect during the mealtime will make the meal run more smoothly. When children use child-sized utensils, cups, plates, and serving dishes, it sets them up for success when serving themselves. I know it can get messy for children to serve themselves, but think of this as a learning experience. Sometimes a mess is going to happen while learning. Just keep a positive attitude about it.

During the mealtime, sit with your children, and interact with them. Talk about the food you are eating. Help the children learn to serve themselves. Take the chance to introduce table manners. All of these actions help children learn how to socialize during the mealtime. You set the tone for the entire meal. If you are rushed and stressed about the meal, the children will feel the same way. Encourage healthy eating habits and manners by modeling them for your children.

HERE ARE SOME QUICK TIPS TO START MAKING MEALTIMES A MORE POSITIVE EXPERIENCE:
  • Have your children help. Assign the children jobs, such as cleaning and setting the table. This allows them to feel more engaged about the mealtime, and it will be less work for you.
  • Serve children appealing foods. Think about the texture, color, and temperature of the foods. Try to offer a variety of colors to make the meal more interesting. Serve familiar foods along with something new.
  • Let children lead. Remember – you set the mealtime scene and offer healthy foods. Children should have the freedom to choose what they eat and how much. Don’t buy into the clean plate club. Children are very good at self-regulating how much food they need. However, you can encourage them to try new foods.
  • Start small. Changing the way your serve your meals can be scary, but start small. Perhaps you begin by starting a routine before the meal, or just have the children serve themselves the fruit or vegetable. You do not have to change everything overnight. Set goals and slowly integrate a positive, family-style dining routine into your day.

Cover image by Flickr user Phalinn OoiCreative Commons license.

“Are we there yet?!?” – Keeping young children busy on long car rides

by Vicki Lehman, Professional Development Specialist

Vicki is our newest staff member and has experience as a preschool teacher. She has some great tips to share for keeping your young children busy on long car rides as the holiday season approaches.

Young children can be very impatient sometimes. Keeping them in a happy and content state on long car rides or trips can be tricky! Make sure you are as prepared as possible – the worst thing would be for you to get an hour into a three-hour car ride and realize you didn’t bring enough “stuff” with you to keep them busy. Hopefully you can use these ideas on those long journeys to visit family and friends.

My first suggestion is to create a “busy box”. You can put all types of things in the box (or bag, or container, or whatever works best for you and your children). Some ideas to get you started:

  • Books – Books they are interested in, books they have never looked at before, books specific to the season/time of year.
  • Paper and Crayons/Markers – You may want to include a clipboard as well. You can take this one step further and ask them to draw what they see outside. For easy clean-up, choose marker and paper sets that ONLY draw on the paper and not on anything else. That could save your car seat from being “decorated.”
  • Your Child’s Favorite Kind of Toy – This will vary on what interests your child – cars, dolls, action figures, Duplos.  Be intentional about what kind of toys you put in the box. Lots of little pieces will of course end up ALL over the car and you will be finding them for months!
  • Whatever else you think you need…then add one more  – Pack according to the amount of time you will be in the car…and then add some!  It never hurts to be over-prepared. Also, don’t forget about the return trip!

Of course you always want to make sure you have snacks! Snacks are a very important part of a young child’s day. I have a fun suggestion; buy a small plastic tackle box and fill it with different snacks.  Of course, make sure it is safe and you clean it before you use it. You can put things like fresh fruits and veggies in the larger sections and then put the more “yummy” treats (marshmallows, chocolate chips…) in the smaller sections. This gives them a lot of variety and kind of changes things up a bit.

Like I said, young preschoolers can be impatient and that can make long trips a bit stressful for all involved, BUT, if you prepare yourself, things can go very well. Spending long amounts of time in the car also leaves you with the opportunity to talk to one another. You can talk about where you are going, what you are going to do when you get there, or just about life in general. There is a lot of time when you are in the car to make some very strong connections and communicate with your child. So, take some time to prepare and enjoy that time you have with them. Young children often have some very funny and insightful things to say if you just listen to them. Their view on the world helps put things into perspective sometimes. So go and enjoy your time together –  they are only young once.

Cover image by Flickr user Larkin Family, Creative Commons license.

What to Look for in an Infant Room

by Dawn Johnson, former Child Care Answers QUALITY Coach

Every parent’s worst fear is leaving their child with an unsafe child care provider. Just looking around the care provider’s room can give you insight into how safe your infant is and the quality of care they will be receiving. A few things to observe and evaluate are your child’s caregivers, the quality of the room, toys and supplies in it, and the importance your child’s center places on parent communication and family engagement.

CAREGIVERS: WHERE ARE THEY AND WHAT ARE THEY DOING?

Excellent infant caregivers will be constantly engaged with the infants both physically and verbally. Infant caregivers should spend the majority of their day sitting or lying on the floor with the infants, talking about the infant’s actions “You have the measuring cup in your mouth. It is metal. How does it feel/taste?” and talking about what is happening around them “Aiden is reaching for your hand.”

You should hear the caregivers announce what is coming next, “I’m going to wash my hands and get your bottle warmed up” or “You’re bottle is ready, and I’m going to pick you up so we can wash your hands”. You might also hear a caregiver respond to an infant’s cry with reassurance when involved in a caregiving moment with another infant, “I can hear you crying, you are safe. I am feeding Sam right now and will feed you next.” The caregivers should be aware of each infant and available to meet each infant’s needs by placing themselves near the infants and engaging with the infants.

SUPPLIES: ARE THEY GOOD QUALITY AND AGE APPROPRIATE?

Here’s a short list of items that compliment an infants’ explorations:

  • Shatterproof mirrors
  • Balls
  • Items to grasp such as rattles
  • Items to chew on such as teethers
  • Blocks
  • Measuring cups
  • Buckets
  • Items to fill buckets that cannot fit in baby’s mouth
  • Sturdy furniture to pull up on and cruise around
  • Books that represent the routines in their world
  • A variety of colors

These items are open ended and allow for infants to begin problem solving. None of the items should be broken or hazardous to infants.

FAMILY: IS IT WELL-REPRESENTED?

Each infant’s family should be represented in the room through photos, favorite books, songs, and culture. Photos might be found on cribs, in photo books, on the floor, on walls or shelves-anywhere that the infant might be able to see the photo. We also hope that when possible, family members will stop by the room or stay for a few minutes at drop off or pick up to show the infant that the infant room is a safe place for exploration.

Although there is an endless list of things a parent should look for, this is a good start to feeling comfortable with your infant’s care provider. If any of these things are missing in your infant’s room, talk to a teacher in the room to express your concerns. If you need help finding high-quality infant care need you, Child Care Answers can help. Their Child Care Referral Specialists can be reached at 1-800-272-2937.

Cover image by Flickr user Anthony DoudtCreative Commons license.

Helping your Child Prepare for Going Back to School

by Jenny Mathis, School Age Specialist 

As a mom of a thirteen year old, I understand the struggle that can ensue after a long summer of staying up late, sleeping in late, and having little to no structure to the day. Like the rest of the parents out there, I recognize the potential stress that comes along with trying to get kids back on a school time schedule. One thing I have learned the hard way? Don’t wait until the weekend before school starts! You can’t expect a smooth transition without some lead time.  My best advice is to start early. By early, I mean at least one to two weeks before school starts.

Start the transition process by having a conversation with your child about the importance of settling back into a “school routine.” Like adults, kids need to understand the “why” behind change in order to embrace it and act on it. Let’s face it – if your kid is anything like mine, he will question it just because that’s his natural response to doing something that he doesn’t really want to do!  Once your child is aware of why the change is necessary, he can more easily accept it and take the steps needed to do so.

Start by gradually decreasing how long your child stays up at night. It can be a little challenging at first, because he might not feel sleepy and you may get the argument my son gives, “It’s still daylight out.” As the days the pass, the argument’s validity will fade along with the summer sun. Remember, research shows that school-age children need at least 10 hours a sleep a night.

Once you have a grasp on the bedtime, begin incorporating a wake-up time that is reasonable for your child when he returns to school. Initially, you may need to allow for more time in the morning until you can tweak the routine for what works best.

As you begin to help your child reestablish a morning routine, keep in mind your child’s habits regarding waking up, getting dressed, eating breakfast, and personal hygiene. If you already know that your child will require a little more time, allow for it from the beginning. If, for example, your child struggles to pick out her outfit in the morning, start planning outfits the night before. Allow time for your child to eat a healthy breakfast and have some “wake up” time if your child isn’t able to get alert easily and quickly.  It can be stressful for a child, and a parent for that matter, to feel like they don’t have time to complete all the tasks that are required of them. The last thing you want for your child is to send them out the door to school already in a tiff from the morning!

So, start the process early, talk with your child about the transition, and be mindful of your child’s individual needs. Before long, you will be right back in the groove of things and have stress-free mornings and an eager learner to send off to school!

For more tips to help with the transition check out:

[1] Center for Disease Control

http://www.cdc.gov/features/sleep/

Cover image by Flickr user Ty HatchCreative Commons license.

Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten

by Marla Segal, Child Care Answers Pre-K Project Manager

The time has come; your child has turned five and soon will be heading off to begin a new journey into kindergarten. This life event can be exciting and scary for both you as the parent and your child. As a Pre-K Program Manager, a common question parents ask me is “What does my child need to know for kindergarten?”

After working in an early childhood setting for more than 11 years, I have watched many children transition into kindergarten. Yes, your child may know how to spell his name, count to a certain number, or know his phone number. However, I think there are two key traits that you can help develop in your child to be ready for the big day.

SOCIAL SKILLS

Involve your child in some type of social environment, whether that’s child care, pre-school, pre-K, or play groups. These types of group settings will help support your child in preparing her for the social environment of kindergarten. This is where your child can learn how to communicate, listen, and take turns. These environments can also help your child come out of her shell and be willing to speak up for help when she may need it.

SELF-CONTROL

This trait can be difficult at age five – goodness; sometimes it’s difficult for adults! Nonetheless, your child should have a good sense on how to transition into different activities, follow rules, and respect property and materials.

SOME TIPS TO MAKE THE TRANSITION EASIER FOR YOU AND YOUR CHILD:

CONNECT WITH YOUR CHILD’S SCHOOL

Call the school and see if there is a day to visit and meet the teacher. Many school corporations offer kindergarten round-ups or jamborees. These events can provide guidance on enrolling your child, but they also provide some great interactions for your child. He may be able to step on a school bus, tour his new classroom, meet his teacher and make new friends.

GET A HEAD START ON YOUR CHILD’S NEW ROUTINE

Begin your child’s morning routine about a month away from the first day of school. Change of routines can be tough for anyone. If you begin early, it will hopefully be less hectic when the important day comes.

READ UP!

Read books about the first day of school to your child as the day approaches. When I was a pre-K teacher, I began reading books at the end of the year to prepare the students for their next journey. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes, and Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate are all books that I had on rotation during this time period. These are great books to start the discussion with your child about how they are feeling with the transition to kindergarten.

Children begin kindergarten from all different backgrounds and experiences. You as a parent know your child the best and need to make sure you’re her strongest advocate. Throughout your child’s education, make sure you are engaged, focused, and a participant in your child’s schooling.

Options to Help You Afford Preschool

by Marla Segal, Pre-K Project Manager

Working in the early childhood field, the most common comment I get from parents is how expensive it is to send their child to preschool. I definitely agree that it can be, but there are a few options that may help.

Several of these funding sources for preschool are geared toward low income families:

  • Head Start is a federally funded program that focuses on the healthy development of low income families. To qualify, families must make less than 100% of the federal poverty guidelines ($24,300 for a family of 4 in 2016). Head Start also provides services for families experiencing emergency situations. Programs may be half-day or full-day, depending on the community.
  • On My Way Pre-K is Indiana’s pre-K pilot program. It is offered in five counties in Indiana: Allen, Lake, Vanderburgh, Marion, and Jackson. Families must be below 127% of the federal poverty guidelines ($30,797 for a family of 4 in 2016). There is an application process for families that occurs once a year, typically beginning in mid-January. Funding is limited, so, depending on the number of applications received, a randomized lottery may occur in your county to select families. Children must be four years old by August 1st of that year to qualify, however, Marion County also accepts three-year olds.
  • The Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) is a federally funded program that helps low-income families who work or go to school. CCDF allows parents to select a child care of their choice that participates in the CCDF program. This means parents can research those high-quality child cares that may also offer preschool programing within their curriculum. Unfortunately, several counties may have a waitlist for families to receive funding.

Title I is another federally funded program that is given to public schools that have high percentages of low-income families. Some school districts support their own preschool programs with Title I. Call your local school district to see if they offer Title I to preschoolers and find out their requirements.

For those families that are not officially considered low-income, a few programs are available to help lower preschool costs.

  • Preschool Co-Ops are preschool programs whose tuition can be a little friendlier on your wallet, but it does come with some hard work. Co-Ops keep their tuition low because they look at parents as the key to running the program. If you begin looking into co-ops, investigate every aspect and make sure it will work for you and your family.
  • Tuition Assistance Programs are offered at some preschool programs. Typically the amount of scholarship you receive is based off on your gross monthly income. These types of programs also may require you to be working or going to school. Child Care Answers can help locate programs in your area that may offer tuition assistance.

No matter the funding source that may work best for you, the most important thing for parents is to research and visit the programs they are interested in to ensure a good fit for the family. Several high-quality programs accept different funding sources – Child Care Answers can help you locate programs in your area to help make the search a little less stressful.

Cover image by Flickr user kynan tait. Creative Commons license.