June 2020 Newsletter – Preparing Children and Families for the Return to Care: Preparing for New Routines and Separation Anxiety

Many children have been home with their families for several weeks, or even months. They have adjusted to a different routine and possibly become accustomed to spending lots of time with their parents who will soon be returning to work. Returning to care is going to be yet another adjustment children need to make in a short period of time. Even children who have been in your program for multiple years may show signs of separation anxiety during the first few weeks after reopening.

Some of the normal recommendations to help with separation anxiety, such as comfort items from home or parents spending time in the classroom before departing do not align with new CDC guidelines. It will take some creativity and collaboration with families to support children who experience separation anxiety.  Perhaps parents could drop off a comfort item (that is able to be cleaned and sanitized) prior to the child’s first day.  Teachers could sanitize the item and have it ready for the child on their first day.

Communicate with families about separation anxiety and provide ideas for how they can begin to talk about the back-to-school transition in a positive way with their children.  However, at drop off, everyone should be prepared for anxiety. Comfort children as best you can, walk them through the new drop-off procedures, and allow them to engage in an activity of their choice upon entering the classroom.

It is best that programs prepare for children to experience stress upon returning to care. That means deliberately making adjustments to the morning transition to keep it as stress-free as possible. Don’t expect children to be able to follow the drop off routine independently, even if they were doing so prior to the shut-down. Provide prompts and visual cues to remind children of tasks, such as hanging up their bag and washing their hands. Posters that illustrate the steps of the transition can be placed by the classroom door, especially if you are introducing new safety steps into your routine.

Teachers will also need to adjust other elements of the routine, such as circle time.  It is recommended that teachers refrain from gathering children in groups where they have to sit close to one another. This is a time to adapt your typical teaching methods to incorporate small group work and individual exploration that allow children to spread out.

For the main article Preparing Children and Families for the Return to Care, CLICK HERE

For the article Talking to Children about COVID-19, CLICK HERE

For the article Managing Adult Emotions, CLICK HERE

For the article Establishing and Communicating Policies, CLICK HERE

June 2020 Newsletter – Preparing Children and Families for the Return to Care

As many communities begin to re-open after COVID-19 related stay-at-home orders are lifted, child care programs are going to be crucial to the success of the economic recovery. Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have developed guidance for programs that have remained open to care for the children of essential employees. The CDC has also created decision trees for child care programs and youth programs/camps to help administrators decide whether they are prepared to open their doors to children and families.

While the recommended strategies are necessary at this time, some go against many of the practices that one would see in high quality programs.  Examples include adaptations to drop-off/pick-up routines, family style dining, and teacher/child interactions due to social distancing.

It is important that program leaders and employees meet prior to reopening to discuss the new recommendations and determine the best way to put them in place while maintaining as many high quality practices as possible. For example, what language will teachers use to remind children to keep their masks in place or give their peers extra personal space?  How will these concepts be introduced and reinforced in a positive manner, rather than in a punitive one?  What are the social distancing measures that your program will put in place that still allow children ample time to play and learn together?

It is clear that there will be enhancements to cleaning routines to maintain a safe physical learning environment, but programs must also spend time planning for ways to maintain a safe and nurturing emotional environment for young children.

For the article Preparing for New Routines and Separation Anxiety, CLICK HERE

For the article Talking to Children about COVID-19, CLICK HERE

For the article Managing Adult Emotions, CLICK HERE

For the article Establishing and Communicating Policies, CLICK HERE

May 2020 Student Spotlight – Tahsin Laskar

I’m eldest of three siblings and I am a mother of two children.  I grew up in a big joint family and have spent a lot of time caring for very young children in our family. The field of early childhood education has always been a part of my life. As a high school student, I helped with lessons for my pre-school aged nephews and nieces. I always led them to arts and crafts at home and loved to see their development. We currently live in Avon, Connecticut in one of most sought after public school districts and I’m proud to say that I am the teacher at home to my 12-year-old son, Suhayl, and 8-year-old daughter, Alysha. The education system in the United States is very different from India and I continue to learn a lot in my constant interactions with their teachers (and of course my children).

Since we relocated to the United States some 12 years back, I’ve made many new friends here and I am proud to be part of the lovely community.  Actively supporting my own highly engaged kids and whenever I find some free time, I volunteer in their classrooms.  I also volunteer with multiple local food shares run by our local religious organizations, local boy scouts camps, community clean-up, town flag displays, and other conservation efforts.

The day my daughter started as a 1st grader, I walked in to apply at Educational Playcare that offers high quality early childhood care and education across Connecticut. In a week’s time, I started my early childhood educator journey!  Each morning, the Community Meeting (Circle/Group Time) is when we set-up the agenda for the day.  One of my favorite times of the day is used to promote children to develop language and communication skills.  I use storytelling as part of the start to each day.  The outdoor play area is so much fun for toddlers and preschoolers!  The toddlers love motor skill development activities like ‘Tunnels’ or ‘Water Play’.  As a childcare professional, I believe play is an important role model in children’s lives, and my interactions with children and their families leave lasting impressions.  This sense of responsibility motivates me every day I start for work.

Beyond their families, I might be the person children spend the most time with during the very critical first years of learning and development. I choose to become an early childhood professional because I love interacting with children on development that focuses on hands-on learning through experiences.  Due to my interest in obtaining a formal Early Childhood Education, my center director asked me to complete a set of 50+ online courses as part of pre-CDA coursework. Once I completed those, I was formally signed-up with CCEI’s CDA Certificate Program.  As I continue to learn more as a professional well-versed in the understanding of children’s minds, I would definitely love to take positions of higher responsibility and authority – taking on more responsibility not only for my students, but also for staff and parents.

To be very frank, I wasn’t so sure of completing my CDA until my CDA verification visit.  My PD Specialist (who also happens to be one of our CT Regional Directors) was very impressed by my classwork and professional portfolio.  She encouraged me that the CDA Credential will help with multiple course credits to take the next step working towards a Connecticut State Early Childhood Teaching Credential (ECTC).  I have been awarded my CDA Credential by the Council of Professional Recognition.  I appeared for my final exam on 12/16 evening and I noticed the confirmation email when I woke-up the next day.

I have learned so much from the CCEI course materials.  I’ve had a tremendous learning experience with high quality programs and guidance from CCEI and I plan to receive further coursework or credentials.  A special thanks to my Education Coach at CCEI for the duration of my coursework starting from May 2019.  She constantly encouraged me to stay on track to complete 4-5 courses per week as a habit to work consistently. I sincerely appreciate her dedication, the time she invested in me, and the fact that she tracked the timeline on student progress (more so for full-time working professional mothers like us).   I would absolutely recommend CCEI!  I’ve already started to advocate CCEI to fellow assistant teachers and a few have asked me to share my CDA professional portfolio for reference.

May 2020 Newsletter – The Arts and Stress Reduction: Which Activities are Included in the Arts?

When we use the phrase the arts, we are referring to a wide variety of activities ranging from music and dance to painting and sculpting. One of the most important features of the arts is the opportunity for freedom and self-expression.  The following list contains just a few of the possible art activities you can explore, either alone, with family members, or with the children in your care.  Be sure, though, that freedom and self-expression are at the heart of the activities you choose.

  • Drawing and coloring – While we advocate for children to draw and color their own pictures, adult coloring books are a great place for adults to start expressing themselves, especially adults who are apprehensive about their artistic abilities.
  • Painting – There are so many styles of painting to explore, including abstract painting, where one can simply experience how the paint moves and mixes on the canvas. The Product is not important; this is all about the Process!
  • Sculpture – You may choose to use clay, modeling compound or even recycled or found objects. Items from nature provide unique shapes and textures for creating works of art.
  • Fiber arts – This area of the arts includes things such as knitting, cross stitching, sewing, quilting, etc. If those activities are not something you are interested in, you can still explore the materials by creating illustrations out of yarn, mosaics out of fabric, or friendship bracelets out of embroidery floss.
  • Writing – Again, you do not have to be a literary scholar to engage in meaningful, creative writing. You can begin by journaling or writing simple poems. You might also try free-association writing, where you begin with your favorite song lyric and just right whatever comes into your mind for the next five minutes.
  • Music – Some people have more skill when it comes to playing an instrument or holding a note. But that does not mean that we can’t all participate in musical activities. Sing along with the radio, change the words to your favorite songs, or create drums and bongos that you can play freely, without worrying about knowing how to read music.
  • Dance – Move your body.  Move it slowly and smoothly. Move it quickly and angrily. It doesn’t have to look good; it just needs to feel good.

For the main article The Arts and Stress Reduction, CLICK HERE

For the article What Happens When We Experience Stress?, CLICK HERE

For the article Benefits of Engaging in the Arts, CLICK HERE

For the article Creating Realistic Expectations, CLICK HERE

May 2020 Newsletter – The Arts and Stress Reduction: Creating Realistic Expectations

It is very important to use the strategies suggested in this newsletter in the manner in which they are intended. In other words, in a stress-free manner!

For example, you are not expected to learn to play a new instrument during this crisis. You are not expected to create a painting that looks like a masterpiece.  You are not expected to produce a signature line of fine porcelain.

You are expected to explore activities and materials that make you feel comfortable and authentic.  Pick materials that are of interest to you. If you are not a writer, don’t write. That will only cause stress.

You are expected to experiment and play. If you are drawn to clay, but are not confident in your sculpting skills, that’s okay. Just squeeze the clay in your fist, pinch it between your fingers, and smash it with your palm. Find objects with interesting textures and press them into the clay to create interesting surface effects.

Be sure to create the same expectations for children. Give them freedom to experience the stress relieving benefits of sensory materials. Use more finger paint, doughs, and personal sand boxes (to cut down on the spread of germs).

Don’t put pressure on children to create something that looks like an adult model. Just introduce the materials and let the children express themselves freely.  Put the teacher directed art projects away and see what the children come up with as they explore.

Everyone deserves stress-free moments throughout the day – and exploring the arts can provide that!

For the main article The Arts and Stress Reduction, CLICK HERE

For the article What Happens When We Experience Stress?, CLICK HERE

For the article Which Activities are Included in the Arts?, CLICK HERE

For the article Benefits of Engaging in the Arts, CLICK HERE

May 2020 Newsletter – The Arts and Stress Reduction: Benefits of Engaging in the Arts

Whether you are dancing aggressively to your favorite song or smashing black paint onto a canvas with a sponge, activities in the arts provide an opportunity for self-expression and an emotional release.  Art activities can help people reduce stress by promoting:

  • Relaxation of mind and body – Artistic movements are often repetitive and fluid, which can help some people feel more relaxed. Many people enjoy the tactile sensations that are experienced during art activities.
  • Distraction from daily stressors – When engaged in artistic activities, your mind can become absorbed in the present moment, rather than worrying about the future.
  • Feelings of accomplishment – Completing a project can make people feel proud of themselves and the work they have produced.
  • Self-confidence – As a person engages in activities, their level of comfort and skills can improve, which may also lead to feelings of self-confidence. A person can also feel more confident in their ability to manage emotions and stress, even if their artistic skills never improve.
  • The recognition and release of pent up emotions – When overcome with emotions, sometimes there are no words to express how we are feeling. Sometimes, putting emotions on paper or releasing your feeling through physical activities such as drumming, can provide a way to express yourself without using words.
  • Creativity – Creativity is an important life skill that children and adults use to come up with solutions to problems at home and in the workplace.

For the main article The Arts and Stress Reduction, CLICK HERE

For the article What Happens When We Experience Stress?, CLICK HERE

For the article Which Activities are Included in the Arts?, CLICK HERE

For the article Creating Realistic Expectations, CLICK HERE

May 2020 Newsletter – The Arts and Stress Reduction: What Happens When We Experience Stress?

Any time we find ourselves in a position where we feel the demands being put on us are greater than our ability to handle them, we experience stress. This includes demands at work, demands from our children and families, and demands that threaten our health and well-being.

These experiences trigger a stress response that occurs on a chemical level within your body.  The body floods with stress hormones that cause the heart to beat faster, breathing to quicken, and muscles to become tight. These physical responses are very useful if you need to swerve to miss a dog in the street, move away from a snake while walking in the woods, or make a stand against an injustice. They are our fight or flight responses that help us respond to challenging situations.

Unfortunately, if our bodies are constantly flooded with these hormones, physical and mental health problems can arise.  You see, your body is designed to use the hormones to manage the stressful situation. Once the stressful situation has passed, hormone levels are supposed to return to normal.

In times such as this, we are likely living with a near-constant feeling that the demands being put on us are greater than our ability to handle them. If your body is constantly flooded with stress hormones, you may be experiencing chronic stress, which is harmful and requires remediation.

For the main article The Arts and Stress Reduction, CLICK HERE

For the article Which Activities are Included in the Arts?, CLICK HERE

For the article Benefits of Engaging in the Arts, CLICK HERE

For the article Creating Realistic Expectations, CLICK HERE

May 2020 Newsletter – The Arts and Stress Reduction

A recent study, published in Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, determined that engaging in artistic activities can reduce the level of stress hormone present in the body.  This is great news during the COVID-19 crisis, when stress levels are so high.

Even better news – You don’t have to be an artist, or even good at art, to benefit from the stress reducing qualities of art experiences.  And while children were not included in the study, findings showed that younger people experienced even greater stress reduction than older study participants. The author of the study believes that this is because younger people have less experience managing stress and have not yet developed an arsenal of coping mechanisms. Do you know who has even less experience managing stress than young adults? Children!  Engaging children in the arts could provide them with invaluable coping tools they will use throughout their lives.

Whether you are still working with children, staying at home with your family, or surrounded by other adults during this crisis, we hope this newsletter about the arts and stress reduction provides you with some ideas you can use in your daily life.

For the article What Happens When We Experience Stress?, CLICK HERE

For the article Which Activities are Included in the Arts?, CLICK HERE

For the article Benefits of Engaging in the Arts, CLICK HERE

For the article Creating Realistic Expectations, CLICK HERE

April 2020 Student Spotlight – Renée LaBossiere

My name is Renée LaBossiere.  I live in Pinellas County, FL and I have been in the Early Childhood field for 20 years.  I didn’t choose this career path, but I feel like it chose me. I feel like this is where I’m meant to be.  It is a passion of mine to watch our children flourish and be who they are meant to become through nature, discovery, wonder, and fun.  I’ve always believed that children learn best through play.  It is also a passion to help educate others about the benefits of learning these ways.

I’m always learning, growing and evolving with the children and within myself, as a teacher and personally.  Continuing my education is also a passion.  After six years through Penn Foster online, I received my AS in Early Childhood back in 2016.  I have been taking courses through CCEI for ten years now and I really like all of the information I obtain.  As a CCEI course reviewer for the past four years, I enjoy seeing and reviewing the new information being presented.  My three top recommendations are SOC106: The Value of Mindfulness in Early Childhood Settings,  CHD109: Supporting Spiritual Development in Early Learning Environments, and the most recent one I reviewed is CUR125: Loose Parts: Incorporating Found Objects and Open-Ended Materials into the Classroom.

I was already doing many things that came naturally to me, throughout my years of learning and discovery, and I realized that I’m a mixture of philosophies – Reggio Emelia, Magda Gerber’s RIE, Waldorf, and Montessori all inspire me, among a few others.  One of my pastimes has also been running my Facebook and Instagram page, Calming Me, Calming You – The Owl’s Nest for going on three years as well. I also enjoy being outside in nature, at parks or the beach, spending time with my family, dancing, yoga, crafts, art, reading, and writing from poetry to quotes. I have a started a blog and I would really like to write some children’s books.

April 2020 Newsletter – Special Edition: Coronavirus Resources

 

When you have peace in yourself and accept, then you are calm enough to do something, but if you are carried by despair, there is no hope.

– Thich Nhat Hanh

 

We are in uncertain times right now.  The Coronavirus has caused leaders to make difficult decisions that impact each of us in some way.  Schools and business are closed in many parts of the country and there are daily reports of growing numbers of people diagnosed with COVID-19.  You probably have many questions weighing on your mind.  When will this end?  Will I have the resources I need to take care of my family?  When will I be able to return to work?  What happens if I get sick?  What if I run out of things to watch on Netflix?

Not having the answers to questions can cause some people to feel more anxious than normal.  In addition to feeling apprehension, symptoms of anxiety also include restlessness, frustration, inability to concentrate, body aches, and trouble sleeping.  Sometimes, gaining more information can help ease these feelings and promote a sense of peace. As they say, knowledge is power!

Unfortunately, we are also in an era of misinformation and it can be difficult to know where to turn to receive trustworthy information.  We have compiled a list of resources that you may find helpful in your search for information about this pandemic.

About the virus and the response:

About economic and community resources:z

For mental health resources:

For helping children and families:

For activity ideas:

 

We at CCEI are wishing you all the best during this difficult time.  Be well.