December 2017 Newsletter: Creating Inclusive Environments – Environment and Interactions

When creating an inclusive environment, consider the physical and social/emotional environments, as well as the routines and pace of the day. The DEC provides the following recommendations when creating an inclusive environment:

• Utilize daily routines as learning opportunities as a way to promote children’s participation.
• Create accessible environments using Universal Design for Learning.
• Adapt aspects of the environment to meet the needs of children (rearrange furniture, shorten wait times, increase frequency of interactions, decrease visual stimuli, etc.).
• Incorporate assistive technology and adaptive equipment as needed to promote engagement participation and interactions.
• Incorporate ample opportunities for physical activity to promote fitness and engagement.
• Observe and respond to children’s emotions in a supportive manner.
• Encourage interactions between children during all elements of the daily routine as a way of providing models of skills and behaviors.
• Encourage children to express their needs and desires through communication (both verbal and nonverbal).
• Expand children’s communication skills and cognitive thinking through communication and interactions.
• Promote problem solving and the development of independence and self-regulation through supportive interactions.

Adapted from DEC Recommended Practices: 04/14/2014

December 2017 Newsletter: Creating Inclusive Environments – Teaming, Collaboration, and Family

Collaboration between adults and practitioners is vital to the success of every child, and especially children with special needs. A child with a diagnosed disability will likely work with a number of professionals or early intervention specialists to address developmental progress. Parents are also powerful advocates in support of their children. Here are a few DEC recommended practices related to collaboration:

• Create and/or contribute to the team of professionals and family members working to support the unique needs of each child.
• Work to establish strong relationships and build trust with members of the team using strategies that are culturally, linguistically, and socio-economically sensitive – maintain confidentiality.
• Establish systems of communication that are effective for each collaborative team to share observations, address issues, and create plans.
• Provide clear, accurate, objective information to family members and team members.
• Work with family and team members to identify goals, create action plans, set priorities, and implement new practices.
• Build family competence through strengths-based coaching, modeling, resources sharing, and skill instruction.
• Help families understand their rights and the resources available within the community.
• Identify additional community resources that provide services appropriate for the child, family, or team.

Adapted from DEC Recommended Practices: 04/14/2014

Discover the Importance of Early Childhood Oral Health During February’s “National Children’s Dental Health Month”!

In February, National Children’s Dental Health Month, ChildCare Education Institute (CCEI) offers child care professionals the opportunity to discover the importance of oral health in early childhood by completing CCEI116A: Early Childhood Oral Health, at no cost.

This one-clock-hour online course provides early childhood professionals with information on the importance of early and consistent oral health care for young children (birth to age five). Students will learn classroom and home strategies for teaching children good oral health habits and the factors that contribute to tooth decay. Students completing the course will be awarded 0.1 IACET CEU and receive a certificate of completion.

To take advantage of this opportunity, good during the month of February, child care staff can log in to CCEI’s learning management system at and use the promotion code 020110 when prompted. It is easy to set up an account if you don’t already have one. Remember to use the promotion code when requested.

About ChildCare Education Institute
ChildCare Education Institute (CCEI) is dedicated to providing the child care industry with online professional development programs and courses to meet their education requirements. Over 100 online child care training courses are available to meet annual training and licensing requirements, as well as continuing education options including the Child Development Associate (CDA) Programs of Study, Director’s Certificate Program of Study and others. CCEI is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) and is approved by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) to award IACET Continuing Education Units (CEUs). CCEI is authorized under the Nonpublic Postsecondary Educational Institutions Act of 1990, license number 837.

For more information, visit or call 800.499.9907.

Environmental Health Training Course by CCEI is Offered to New Users During National Radon Action Month

ChildCare Education Institute (CCEI), an accredited, child care training online institution, offers the trial course ADM100: The Eco-Friendly Child Care Center: Green Lifestyle and Environmental Health at no cost in January to provide new users the opportunity to try quality, online child care training and in recognition of National Radon Action Month, as designated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Among the numerous environmental hazards within homes and child care facilities, radon exposure is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers in the U.S. It is also a preventable threat. In CCEI’s course on Green Lifestyle and Environmental Health, child care providers receive an overview of what constitutes an eco-friendly child care environment, with a major focus on the hazards of environmental exposure and recommended practices for maintaining a safe, healthy environment for young children. Upon successful completion of the course, students will earn 0.1 IACET CEU and receive a printable Certificate of Completion.

ADM100 is available to new users as a trial course awarded upon CCEI account creation during January. Account holders without an active, annual professional development individual or center-based training subscription may purchase courses through online enrollment.

“Even conscientious child care professionals can overlook testing for harmful exposure to vaporous toxins such as radon,” said Maria C. Taylor, President and CEO of CCEI. “This course helps inform providers of many easy, basic actions they can take in order to ensure the safest, healthiest possible environment.”

How Critical Thinking Promotes Excellence in ECE

If you have ever watched a master teacher at work, you may have wondered how they reached such a high level of excellence in their work with children. You may have reflected on ways to enhance your own practice or compared your experience to theirs. Do master teachers have more years of experience? Higher levels of education? More resources? Natural gifts?

Honestly, the answer may be some, none, or all of the above. One common thread that is evident in the work of master teachers is the use of critical thinking within their practice. Critical thinking encompasses a number of different skills that one uses to gain, evaluate, use, and communicate knowledge.

We can clarify what critical thinking is by examining what it is not; emotional thinking. Have you ever been in a situation where you were experiencing such strong emotions that you were unable to think clearly or make an informed decision? Critical thinking is also not memorization or rote learning.

The illustration shown here, created by Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching, shows Bloom’s Taxonomy. In his work, Bloom organized different kinds of thinking into categories. Notice that thinking skills become more complex as you work your way up the pyramid.

The skills above the Remember level are sometimes referred to as higher order thinking skills. In addition to practicing these skills, critical thinkers remain open-minded, observe, reflect, consider different perspectives, and ask questions in their pursuit of the best possible solutions to everyday scenarios.

Critical thinking skills help teachers analyze all types of classroom situations in order to make appropriate decisions about how to respond to a child, approach a parent, organize the environment, and introduce new materials. Being able to think critically will allow you to use all of the knowledge you have acquired in your career in ways that benefit children, families, and coworkers.

Work to not only use critical thinking skills, but to promote them with children as well. Some teachers find it helpful to have a list of Bloom’s Taxonomy in front of them when they plan lessons. This allows teachers to incorporate higher order thinking skills into lesson objectives.

For example, a lesson that asks children to repeat the numbers from one to five (remember), might be changed to children will use five blocks to build a tower (apply). A lesson that asks a child to identify the main idea of a story (understand), might be changed to relate the story to a moment in their own lives (analyze).

Of course, we must consider what is developmentally appropriate when planning lessons and creating critical thinking objectives for children. Take a look at the Infants & Toddlers, Preschoolers, and School-Agers categories found in the September newsletter here to get some ideas for how to promote critical thinking in meaningful ways for children of different ages.

How Critical Thinking Promotes Excellence in ECE: Director’s Corner

Promoting Critical Thinking Skills with Your Employees

First and foremost, if you want your employees to be critical thinkers, you have to model critical thinking yourself. When faced with decisions or problems to solve, ask for opinions and perspectives. Talk through your thought process and consider the pros and cons with your employees.

Instill the value of lifelong learning. Promote the idea that there is always something new to learn. Remind teachers that they can learn from formal classes and through experiences with children, families, and each other.

Create on-boarding and performance evaluation processes that include employee reflection, goal setting, and action planning. Encourage employees to complete self-assessments throughout the year to establish intentional professional development plans. Require staff to complete action plans after each training they complete and work with them to implement the plans they make.

Engage in periodic discussions about topics related to the field. Share an article with all employees a week before a staff meeting. During the staff meeting, facilitate a discussion about how the topic relates to the program. Work as a group to evaluate the new information, identify relevant strategies, and create a plan for implementation. This process can also be done with teaching teams, or the content can be based on an online training.

When employees come to you with problems of concerns, make them an active part of the solution. It can be tempting to fix the problem for the employee, but resist that temptation. Lay the concern on the table with all involved parties, identify alternative actions, and collaborate on possible solutions. This empowers your employees to solve problems in a similar manner independently in the future.

Do you have an additional experience that illustrates the use of critical thinking skills? Share it with our community on Facebook today!

How Critical Thinking Promotes Excellence in ECE: Infants & Toddlers

Here are a few real world examples of how early care and education providers who work with infants and toddlers can incorporate critical thinking skills:

Using Critical Thinking

• Gather information and get to know each child as an individual. Discover children’s likes and dislikes, preferences, moods, responses to stimuli, and ways that they recover after an upsetting situation.
• Seek to understand parents’ perspectives on childrearing decisions, goals for their children while they are in your care, and approaches to education.
• Collaborate with coworkers and/or parents to create a plan to meet children’s needs at all times.
• Question your beliefs about children’s behaviors.
• Evaluate the use of space and materials as you design an optimal learning environment.
• Conduct research about developmentally appropriate infant and toddler environments (descriptions in books, professional articles, teacher blogs, videos, etc.). Compare and contrast your current environment to those discovered in your research.

Promoting Critical Thinking

• Build upon child’s current level of knowledge and skills by adding new challenges and activities.
• Model for children how to find solutions to problems.
• Present new materials in thought-provoking ways.
• Encourage children to think of new ways they can use familiar materials.
• Point out how things are similar and different. If appropriate, encourage children to compare items.
• Encourage parents to consider their children’s skills and abilities, motivations, and preferences.

How Critical Thinking Promotes Excellence in ECE: School-Agers

Here are a few real world examples of how early care and education providers who work with school age children can incorporate critical thinking skills:

Using Critical Thinking

• Consider the experiences of the children in your group when planning the routine. What did they experience during the day? Is there anything I can do to make the day better? How can I adjust my routine to give them space to transition from one environment to another?
• Remain objective, calm, and open minded as children express themselves, either through words or actions.
• Research topics relevant to the children in the group, i.e., bullying. Compare strategies, weigh the pros and cons, and consider your students. Choose to implement a program that best fits the needs of the students in your care.
• Make it a habit to reflect each day on what happened and how you responded. Evaluate your responses to determine if there are other responses that would lead to improved outcomes in the future.
• Explain the goals of your program to children and families in a way that convinces them to take on an active role.
• Ask children for their opinions when making decisions about the program, curriculum, activities, materials, etc.

Promoting Critical Thinking

• Discuss current events, ask children to share their thoughts on the events. When appropriate, share the perspectives you hold with children about events happening in your community.
• Create a system for collaborative problem solving in the classroom. Use the system when problems arise and encourage children to do the same.
• Talk with children to assess the consequences of actions.
• Play games that include higher order thinking skills.
• Provide many sources of information that children can access to learn more about topics and issues. Talk with children about the perspectives and ideas shared in different sources of information.
• Encourage creativity and ownership, promote leadership roles, and provide a safe space for children to take risks.