Thursday, August 14, 2014

KAEYC Annual Conference

Registration for the KAEYC Annual Conference is now open!  Jeff Johnson is the keynote speaker.  We had him come to Manhattan when I was working with Raising Riley.  He is really entertaining, and very interesting.  He has a wonderful perspective on Early Childhood Care and Education!  I would recommend the conference just to see him!

This is a great way to get 6 hours of KDHE approved professional development in one event (more if you attend the PreConference Event).  The conference itself is on Saturday, October 18 from 8:00 to 4:30, and the PreConference is the night before on Friday, October 17 from 7:00 to 8:30.  I am not positive, but I believe that Jeff will be doing the PreConference event, as well.  I have only been to one PreConference event, but it was really cool.  It was a very good atmosphere, and we were able to be a little more interactive than during the other sessions.  And it gives you a chance to get to know the keynote a little better.

Check out their site! 

Monday, July 21, 2014

10 Phrases We Use That Don't Actually Convey What We Mean (Part 1):

"Take a seat"

Example:  A child just washed his hands and is standing by the table watching the teacher get set up.  She says, "Johnny, please take a seat."

To us it is obvious..."Take a seat" means that you are supposed to sit in your seat.   But when you are three or four (and have only been speaking English for 2 years), this phrase isn't very meaningful.  "Taking" is often an active verb meaning to grab (often referred to as a bad thing in early childhood, like "taking someone's toy"), and a "seat" is used more often to refer to a car seat than a regular chair, at least in my Midwestern dialect.  Often when kids hear things that don't have an obvious visual image, they just dismiss it as noise.  So if you are telling a child to "Take a seat", and they don't change their behavior, don't be surprised.  Rephrase to something more literal, "Sit in your chair" (Sit=active, visual verb and chair=common noun) or "Put your bottom in/on the chair"

"Use your words"

Example:  A child screams when another child scoots too close to him.  The teacher sees this and says to the first child, "Johnny, use your words."

This is a phrase started by well-intentioned teachers and parents, usually trying to get a child to use verbal language rather than physical aggression or whining.  Using words as a means of getting what you want or need is a wonderful skill to teach.  The problem is that just saying "Use your words" to kids does not teach them effective or appropriate words to use.  The issue here is twofold.  First, this is an abstract command.  One does not often "use" words.  We more often "say" words.  If a child starts whining and reaching for something you have, and you say "Use your words," what you often mean is "Say some words that tell me exactly what you want."  The second issue is, what "words" is the child supposed to "have" that they now need to recall in this emotionally charged state?  Remember, these children have been English speakers for only a few years, and will still need a lot of help coming up with appropriate and meaningful sentences to communicate their wants and needs.  Rather than using this phrase (catchy as it is) consider saying something like, "Tell him what you want with words" or "say something to him." Regardless of the phrase you use, the important thing is that you follow it with an example of what the child could say.  In this way, we are building the child's functional vocabulary, in addition to helping them handle social situations appropriately.

In the above example, the teacher could say, "Johnny, tell Max what are upset about.  You could tell him, 'Could you please move, you are too close'."  If the child is younger, you may want to shorten this too something like, "Max, say, 'please move back'."

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Have American Parents Got It All Backwards?

"Have American Parents Got It All Backwards?"  was posted on the Huffington Post on 5/7/2014.  It highlights 6 concepts that she has seen work in other countries.

-We need to let 3-year-olds climb trees and 5-year-olds use knives.
-Children can go hungry from time-to-time.
-Instead of keeping children satisfied, we need to fuel their feelings of frustration.
-Children should spend less time in school.
-Thou shalt spoil thy baby.
-Children need to feel obligated.    

I love articles like this that get people to think about what they are doing in parenting and early childhood education.  She provides some great points, and while I don't agree with all of her conclusions, it was a fun read and a good conversation starter!

One idea in the article that really interested me is the idea of "American" parenting concepts.  In each section when she presents the above concepts, she challenges the 6 counter "American" parenting concepts.

The idea that the counter concepts are "American" is interesting to me in light of my studies in early childhood education and child development.  Most of these issues have either been acceptable or have been debated hotly in the USA for decades (or centuries).  And many of these practices, for example, letting children use knives and climb trees, were acceptable and normal as recently as my young childhood.  Consider the following two examples:

I hung upside-down and flipped around the bars on my playground equipment at my elementary school for years, then around 4th grade (early 90s), suddenly we couldn't anymore.  Not only was it not ok, it was suddenly and dramatically not ok.  I seem to remember the ONLY time I had to "sit by the wall" outside was for flipping upside-down on the bars.  Not only was I completely unaware of the change in rules, but when I tried to explain that I didn't know, I was greeted with an attitude of "Of course you can't hang upside-down.  You'll land on your head and kill yourself!  That was never ok!"  As if every recess ever before that I had just "gotten away" with this behavior....

From the time my dad was a little kid up until about 2000, my Grandma who lives in Lakewood, CO had a rectangle gymnastics-style trampoline.  Then her home-owners insurance told her they wouldn't insure her with a trampoline on her property.  So away went the trampoline.  40 years of daily use with no, or nearly no injuries, and this fear of reasonable, calculated risks took it away.

Before reading this article, I would have said the American attitude towards this trend, is a frustration with poorly thought out regulations, rules for the sake of convenience and at the expense of real learning, and knee-jerk reactions to cases that are exceptions to the norm.  I would have said that the institutional or governmental attitude was that of eliminating all possible potential risk factors, regardless of the potential benefit.

In considering this discrepancy between what the author, Christine Gross-Loh, and my own general idea of "American," I started wondering about "American" child rearing in general.  I think the diversity of America rendered the idea of a homogenous "American" parenting style impossible.  But more on this later...

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Largest Recall of Infant Car Seats

Graco has issued a recall of several of its toddler and infant car seats and booster seats with harnesses.  They say, "harness buckles used on our infant and toddler car seats...are difficult to open."  There have been no reported injuries related to this issue.  The main issue of concern for safety was regarding getting a child out of a seat quickly in an emergency.   Even if your seat isn't part of the recall, you can request a new buckle for free.  Graco also posted instructions to clean the buckle to temporarily fix the issue while waiting for a replacement.

An article from the AP posted on the Chicago Sun-Times website gives a little of the history and the progression of this recall.  The article seems a bit antagonistic to me, especially in light of the original recall notice on the Graco site that was posted before the infant seats were included in the recall.  Seems like everyone is just trying to be safe and reasonable.

Check out your Graco child safety restraining devices for infants or toddlers and see if they are part of the recall. 

To look up any previously recalled item (not just Graco products) including car seats, toys, cribs, etc., you can search for your item on the Consumer Product Safety Commission's website.  This is good practice especially if you have purchased second-hand items.  If you purchase new items and register the item with the company, you will be informed in the event of a recall.

Speaking of recalls, check out this recalled toy called the Gilbert U-283 Atomic Energy Lab from the 50's that contained actual Uranium!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Hello everyone!

Today I attended the Raising Riley Community meeting. It was very interesting, particularly some information I learned about the 3 main factors that Contribute to SIDS: Environmental factors, an infants' (particularly under 6 months of age) not yet reliable autonomic system (temperature regulation, heart beats, etc.), and, there is now a little research that says that infants who die form SIDS all seem to have a small defect in their brain stem that affects a babies natural instincts in an emergency-for example, the reflex to scream when they are in danger (now as I understand it, this was only one keep that in mind).

Which means that when normal babies would start suffocating, get too hot, or get stuck and scream, these babies might not be able to.

This is the first time that I have every heard evidence that SIDS is actually a syndrome and not just a term to label unexplained infant deaths. But since you can't tell if the baby has the defect until after it has died (at the moment anyway), everyone still just has to follow all the recommendations for reducing the risk of SIDS because that is all we can do for now.

The main things to remember are:

-ALWAYS lay babies on their backs to sleep (when they can turn over on their own, that is fine to let them, but still lay them on their backs, then they can roll if the want). (Also remember that when they are awake and supervised, it is important to give babies time on their tummies to work those muscles to lift their head and torso. In the field of Early Childhood Education and Development this is aptly named "tummy time").
-The MAIN things are, don't put ANYTHING in the crib with the baby (no pillows, no blankets or quilts, no devices to stop them form rolling around, no "bumpers", no stuffed animals, NOTHING) except one thin sheet tucked in on three sides and only up to the baby's chest level (or better yet, they say, just put them in warm jamies or a sleeper if it is cold and have nothign in the crib at all).
-Have a firm mattress that fits tightly into the crib and a tight fitting sheet on it.
-Don't over dress the baby for the weather (they can get too hot fast and can't do anything about it. Keep the baby's room between 68 and 72 degrees and having circulating air in the room is good (a ceiling fan or an area fan not blowing directly on the baby)
-Don't swaddle the baby past 3 months and only swaddle to mid chest and loosely enough that their temperature can be regulated. No hats inside, babies do a lot of their temperature regulating through their head and when it is covered, they can't regulate.
-Don't smoke in the house where the baby is, and wear outer clothes if you go smoke outside so you can "take off" the smoke smell when you come in and hold the baby.
-Now they are saying, also, sleep with the baby in your room but NOT in your bed.

If you want to know more you can check out this site.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

KDHE Guidelines

The Kansas Department of Education recently released early childhood guidleines which Kansas voulenteered to comply with to go along with other childhood standards wich are now required. My professor, Bronwyn Fees, was on the committe for drafting them. We got a glimps of a draft last Spring, and now they are officially out. What is odd is that some esctions are still missing.

Check them out at the KSDE website.

Toy recalls

Heard about the massive toy recall by Mattel? I first heard about it on NPR, and then was e-mailed by my major professor, Ann Murray, about it. THe problem, as I see it, is that everything is made in China (I'm not just saying that, all of the toys that were recalled were made in China...and almost all the toys that are recalled in the US form ANY company are made in china. China doesn't have the standards that we have, but the companies that they sell them to in America do have standards. So if they aren't careful about checking the products they are having made for them, then dangerous toys get sold in the US market.

So Mattel is in BIG trouble. They appologized, but, from what I heard Mattel's president on NPR say, he is confident no one will loose faith in them because they are a house hold name. (He didn't sound that appologetic...much more defensive than appologetic).

In the e-mail Ann Murray sent (a forward from ExchangeEveryDay, a listserve for subscribers to Exchange Magazine, a child care magazine) there was a link to a list of considerations before buying a toy. Take a look. On the web page on the top right corner is a PDF version in a much better checklist format. Good for printing out to take with you whne you shop for toys for your classroom or home.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Baby Einstein Hype

So, you may have recently seen something in the news about the new research that came out saying videos like Baby Einstein and such are harmful to children. One of my professors sent me and my colleagues a link to a summary of the article. Then my professor's husband (another professor in Human Ecology, sent us a PDF of that article. (Pardon the lack of APA citation formatting).

Frederick J. Zimmerman, PhD; Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPH; Andrew N. Meltzoff, PhD. Television and DVD/Video Viewing in Children Younger Than 2 Years.

He also commented that, "Of course, Ann and I already wrote about this :)," and gave us a word document of their article on the topic. Below is the citation (no link unfortunately) to their article.

John P. Murray and Ann D. Murray. M. Haith & J. Benson (Eds.). Encyclopedia of Infant and Early Childhood Development. Oxford: Elsevier Publishers, 2008

If the media would have gotten a hold of their article before the other, my professor and her husband might have become famous!!!

Just a side not in case you read the first article, I'll tell you a little about my professors article, too, since you can't read it: Dr. Murray and Dr. Murray's paper is a bit more positive. It says that shows like Sesame Street and Mister Rodgers Neighborhood have positive effects for preschool-aged and older children, and that while things like baby Einstein can have negative effects, with strong parent intervention, they may not (but the general idea remains that TV under the age of 2 is unnecessary and may be harmful).

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Play Therapy

I just spent 3 days at a Play Therapy training here in Manhattan (KS). It was put on by Denise Filley of the KC Play Therapy Institute. Although a lot of seems very psychoanalytical (which is NOT my theoretical basis), I think it is a very good area to study if you work with kids at all. Unfortunately, becoming a registered play therapist is only an option if you have a licence and a graduate degree in a mental health profession right now. Denise discussed the possibility of some day adding some sort of credential for Educators, but that may be way off (I would be happy to colaborate on that project!). Anyone is welcome to go to the trainings and even to complete the certificate program. However, the most you can ever do with that is to say that you have done it, but did not receive the certificate.

Look into it!