June 2018 Student Spotlight – Cheyenne Harwell

I’ve always loved kids since the age of 12-years-old.  I had worked and helped my husband with his dream of owning a restaurant for 5 years and decided it was time for me. I worked at the airport but I wasn’t happy there so the position became available at the child care facility where I work at now.   My favorite activity with the children would have to be art. My kids get so excited when they hear that we have an art activity to do. Just to see the excitement on their little faces makes my heart melt.  To be able to see a child’s excitement when they learn something new and to know that I am making difference in their life is what motivates me.

I enjoy the most being around the kids in my care. I come in the morning to a group of 3-year-olds running up to me giving tons of love as if they hadn’t seen me in weeks or years. They need to know that they are loved, wanted, and safe.  In the future, I would love to be able to teach the same age group maybe a little older special needs children. They’ve always had a special place in my heart.  In my free time, I love to facetime with my 4-year-old and 2-year-old granddaughters, spend time with my husband, and my friends. I also like to read and go the beach.  I currently live in Mary Esther, Florida.

I just finished my FCCPC and I plan on pursuing my education further with additional coursework or certifications from CCEI.  I would definitely recommend CCEI to everyone. The best thing that could of happened to me!

June 2018 Newsletter – Sensory Experiences

If you take a moment to think about the experiences that the children in your care enjoy the most, you would probably notice activities such as sand and water play or playdough at the top of the list.  These open-ended, tactile experiences are quite rewarding and engaging for young children.

Not only are these types of activities a creative outlet, they also benefit children in several other ways.  Here is a list of some of the benefits of sensory play:

  • Strengthens and refines fine motor skills
  • Builds language skills and vocabulary
  • Promotes problem solving and cooperation
  • Strengthens concentration and perseverance
  • Provides an outlet for self-calming
  • Helps children discover attributes of materials
  • Promotes classification, sorting, and organization
  • Provides an opportunity for both social interactions and quiet, solitary play
  • Builds neural connections in the brain
  • Encourages curiosity, observation, and exploration

For these reasons, and many others, it is important that sensory exploration be incorporated into early learning environments in multiple ways. This is a great opportunity to go beyond playdough and the sand table – to introduce novel materials that continue to pique children’s interests.

Keep in mind, children explore the world around them with all of their senses, not just through touch.  Look for ways to incorporate sensory experiences that utilize the senses of taste, hearing, smell, sight, in addition to touch.

Sensory play need not be expensive; many recipes are available for sensory materials online.  Be mindful of any allergies children may have when making your own sensory materials.

Also, be sure to share the importance of sensory exploration with families. Share photos of children engaged in sensory play and be sure to include descriptions of all of the skills children are practicing during their play.  See our June blog for more ideas for communicating learning to families.

Check out the lists below for ideas that may be appropriate for the children in your group.  Many of the ideas shared are appropriate for multiple age groups – so be sure to read through each list for ideas you can use in your environment.


For Infant & Toddler Sensory Ideas, CLICK HERE

For Preschool Sensory Ideas, CLICK HERE

For School-Age Sensory Ideas, CLICK HERE

For Director’s Corner Sensory Ideas, CLICK HERE

May 2018 Newsletter – Service-Learning & Family Involvement Project Ideas: Director’s Corner

Program-wide service-learning can bring together all of the children and families in the accomplishment of one collective goal.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Hold a food drive for a food bank
  • Organize a clothing or toy drive
  • Donate pet supplies
  • Donate toys and games to shelters
  • Collect sports equipment for community centers
  • Donate used books or magazines to a community health clinic

It is important to be aware of the needs of the families enrolled in your program.  Some may not have the financial ability to purchase items to donate. Service-learning projects organized around winter holidays may add financial stress to some families in your program.

It may be more realistic for families to donate gently used clothing or toys, advertise the project on social media, or volunteer to help organize and drop off the collected items.  When planning your service-learning project, compose a letter to families listing several different options for participation.

The introduction letter can also describe the purpose of the service-learning  project as well as some of the learning outcomes that will be highlighted during the project.   Invite parent feedback about the types of service-learning opportunities the program provides, including the frequency.

Throughout the project, provide families with images of children participating in elements of the project.  Suggest open ended questions that families can use to start conversations with children about what they are learning during the project.

Many additional ideas for involving families in service-learning are available here.


CLICK HERE to read the main article about Service-Learning

CLICK HERE for service-learning project ideas for Infant-Toddler

CLICK HERE for service-learning project ideas for Preschool

CLICK HERE for service-learning project ideas for School-Age


May 2018 Newsletter – Service-Learning Project Ideas: School-Age

  • Hold a fundraiser to benefit a community or family who has experienced disaster – children can create art, make jewelry, or bake treats and sell them to raise money for a community or family in need.
  • Carwash to raise money for a cause – encourage the children to plan and market a carwash to raise money for a worthy cause of their choice.
  • Create a recycling program – children can create a recycling program and market it to the other families in the program or within the larger community.
  • Plant trees – collaborate with local parks or recreation centers to plant trees in these locations or on the grounds of the program.
  • Pen pal with schools from other countries – create a pen pal program where children can write letters or communicate through the internet; if possible, organize a clothing or school supplies donation drive and send the items to the pen pals.
  • Put on a show – encourage children to plan and perform in a talent show or play to entertain the other children in the program, residents of a retirement community, or other community audience.


CLICK HERE to read the main article about Service-Learning

CLICK HERE for service-learning project ideas for Infant-Toddler

CLICK HERE for service-learning project ideas for Preschool

CLICK HERE for service-learning project ideas for Director’s Corner

May 2018 Newsletter – Service-Learning Project Ideas: Preschool

  • Partner with a local retirement community – together children and residents can read, garden, play games, sing, and laugh.
  • Clean up a local park – with adult supervision and precautions such as gloves, children can participate in a park clean-up event.
  • Support the Troops – send letters and care packages to members of the armed forces, especially if a family member from the program has been deployed.
  • Create care packages for children in local hospitals – create encouragement messages and get-well cards for children or adults in a local hospital.
  • Grow a garden and donate harvest to food bank – children can plant a vegetable garden in the spring and share the harvest with a local food bank or homeless shelter.


CLICK HERE to read the main article about Service-Learning

CLICK HERE for service-learning project ideas for Infant-Toddler

CLICK HERE for service-learning project ideas for School-Age

CLICK HERE for service-learning project ideas for Director’s Corner


May 2018 Newsletter – Service-Learning Project Ideas: Infant-Toddler

It may be challenging to think of ways to connect infants and toddlers with the larger community in developmentally appropriate ways.

  • Community Art Drop – paint rocks and leave them in community spaces to brighten another’s day. You could also have children decorate small canvases and pass them out to people you encounter on walks in the community.
  • Art for hospitals – allow the children to create a mural or paintings that can be donated to a local children’s hospital.
  • Recognize community helpers – create thank you cards or treats for local police, fire fighters, mail carriers, etc.

Be sure to read the Director’s Corner to see a list of program-wide service-learning projects that can include the youngest learners and their families.


CLICK HERE to read the main article about Service-Learning

CLICK HERE for service-learning project ideas for Preschool

CLICK HERE for service-learning project ideas for School-Age

CLICK HERE for service-learning project ideas for Director’s Corner


May 2018 Newsletter – Service-Learning

Connecting children to the larger community is a beneficial practice for the children as well as for the community.  Service-learning is an excellent way to build empathy, build relationships with families, and reinforce many cognitive, language, social/emotional, and physical skills.

According to Vanderbilt University’s Janet S. Eyler and Dwight E. Giles, Jr., service-learning is:

“a form of experiential education where learning occurs through a cycle of action and reflection as students. . . seek to achieve real objectives for the community and deeper understanding and skills for themselves. In the process, students link personal and social development with academic and cognitive development. . . experience enhances understanding; understanding leads to more effective action.”

The National Youth Leadership Counsel has developed learning standards related to service-learning that help guide the development of meaningful and appropriate service-learning projects.  The standards are geared for K-12, however there are many parallels that apply to early learning environments as well.  Keep these ideas in mind as you plan projects for children in your care:

Meaningful Service
Service-learning actively engages participants in meaningful and personally relevant service activities.

Link to Curriculum
Service-learning is intentionally used as an instructional strategy to meet learning goals and/or content standards.

Service-learning incorporates multiple challenging reflection activities that are ongoing and that prompt deep thinking and analysis about oneself and one’s relationship to society.

Service-learning promotes understanding of diversity and mutual respect among all participants.

Youth Voice
Service-learning provides youth with a strong voice in planning, implementing, and evaluating service-learning experiences with guidance from adults.

Service-learning partnerships are collaborative, mutually beneficial, and address community needs.

Progress Monitoring
Service-learning engages participants in an ongoing process to assess the quality of implementation and progress toward meeting specified goals, and uses results for improvement and sustainability.

Duration and Intensity
Service-learning has sufficient duration and intensity to address community needs and meet specified outcomes.

From K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice https://nylc.org/standards/ 


CLICK HERE for service-learning project ideas for Infant-Toddler

CLICK HERE for service -learning project ideas for Preschool

CLICK HERE for service-learning project ideas for School-Age

CLICK HERE for service-learning project ideas for Director’s Corner

May 2018 Student Spotlight – Mari Rudge

As a young girl I always dreamed of becoming a teacher.  The greatest influence in this decision was my fourth grade teacher Mrs. Susan Jones.  She made learning fun and exciting.  My career in education started after my service in the United States Marines Corp.  Even though I had a passion for education, I did try my hand in the corporate world.  Never feeling fulfilled in those roles, I left the corporate world and began my career as an early childhood teacher.  Within the first year, I knew that I had found my calling.

My favorite time of day with my students was when I could see the “aha” moment in their eyes as they connected what they were being taught to their everyday life experiences.   Knowing the impact early childhood educators have on children at such a young age, I wanted to share what I had experienced with other teachers.  I went from teaching in a classroom to becoming a Director of Early Childhood.  I received my Director’s Certification through CCEI.  The courses were very instrumental in giving me the foundation needed to become a successful Director.  My career as a Director has allowed me to spread my experience and knowledge to teachers who also have the drive and commitment to early childhood.  I encourage my teachers to take courses from CCEI to further their education.  The courses can be taken at their own pace and gives them the CEU credits they need yearly.

I am currently working as a Director at a The Goddard School where going to work every day is less like work and more like a fun place to hang out with teachers who have the same passion as I do. My future plans are to continue working as a Director while I take on more educational courses. I plan on using CCEI to further my education and would recommend them to anyone who wants to learn the most up-to-date information in early childhood.   An unknown author once wrote “A teacher’s purpose is not to create students in his own image, but to develop students who can create their own image.”  Knowing that we, as educators, have that responsibility is a great honor.  I can’t imagine having a job more gratifying than this one.

March 2018 Student Spotlight – Christina Soliman

I began my career in early childhood by babysitting for the kids in my neighborhood and I really enjoyed watching kids.  After I graduated, I got my first job in a child care center and haven’t looked back!  My favorite time of day to spend with the children is story time.  Their favorite time of day is outside time chasing bubbles and riding bikes.  I love watching the children learn new things.  I enjoy seeing their smiling faces when they come in, getting hugs from them, and seeing them learn something new.

I obtained my CDA through ChildCare Education Institute and it was a great program! I would recommend anyone to go through the CDA program with CCEI. I would love to continue to work with children by opening up my own child care center.

I currently live in Ft Myers, FL.  In my free time, I watch my boys play baseball and soccer and I enjoy crafts.  In the future, I definitely see my career continuing to work with children.

March 2018 Newsletter – Director WOYC Activity Ideas

The Week of the Young Child can be as big or as low key as you want.  Each program celebrates in their own way, based on the resources available to them.  Here are a few tips to help you plan your special event:

  • If you are interested in learning what others have done for WOYC, you can check out the #woyc site for ideas.
  • Set aside time during upcoming staff meetings to brainstorm ideas and plan activities for WOYC. Share some of the #woyc17 ideas to spark the creativity of your staff.
  • It may be necessary to create a budget for WOYC. Make sure staff are aware of the budget for activities and events.  Collect supply lists as early as possible to ensure that teachers have everything they need for the event.
  • Recognize that some activities may require more than one day to complete. These activities can either be kicked off during the WOYC or they can wrap up during this week.  Help teachers make decisions about the timing that is most appropriate for their individual projects.
  • Use this time to connect parents with community resources. Set up times for hearing and vision screenings during this week.  Invite representatives from early intervention agencies to come talk with families about general child development and what to do if they have concerns.  Host a resource fair for parents at your location.
  • Market WOYC events in your parent communication tools. You can also use the WOYC logos that are available here.  Spread the word to your early learning connections and the community at large.
  • Tie into the larger celebration by tagging social media posts with #woyc18. You are also encourages to share stories and images of your event at the NAEYC’s Facebook page.  Your local or state NAEYC affiliate may also have a Facebook page.
  • Be sure you have parent permission to share any images of children on social media. Do not share any images of children for whom you do not have written permission.
  • Get invitations out to community and government officials as soon as possible. Brainstorm a list of possible invitees. Ask family members if they have any connections that could be leveraged.  Include messages from children in your invitations as well as facts about the importance of early childhood education.
  • If a dignitary or official is able to attend, be prepared to document the event.  Perhaps there is a connection to a photographer among the children or staff.  Invite parents to visit while the official visits to share their support of early learning.  Prepare a press release, if possible.