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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

UIS Cox Children's Center FAQ

I recently attended the annual NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) conference that was held in Dallas, Texas. I look forward to this opportunity each year as the conference presents opportunities to network with colleagues from around the world who share in my passion for early care and education. One of my favorite sessions this year related to using social media to strengthen communication with families, staff and the community as a whole. Since returning (and even from the hotel) I have been busy tweeting, pinning and now....blogging about all of the wonderful ideas that I am excited to share with you. That being said, it's time to get our blog up and running again. In this session it became clear that it was important to have a FAQ accessible to parents. I will share with you some of the answers to questions that we are asked most often.

1.  Ratios: While we are required to maintain the ratios set by the state, we aim to meet those recommended by NAEYC. Our infant classroom is licensed for 12 and we have 8 babies with 2 teachers (ratio is 4:1). Our toddler class is licensed for 10 children and we have 8 with 2 teachers (ratio is 5:1). Our two year old class is licensed for 13 and we have up to 13 with 2 teachers (ratio is 8:1). Our 3 year old room is licensed for 8 and we enroll up to 8 with 1 teacher (ratio is 10:1 for 3 year olds). Our Pre-K room is licensed for 20 and we enroll up to 18 with 2 teachers (ratio is 10:1). We believe that you will have stronger and more positive interactions when you have a lower adult:child ratio.

2.  Food Program: We participate in the USDA federal food program and we must follow their guidelines at all times. We comply with regulations related to food selection, health/sanitation, times of meals, charting/serving of meals, etc. We go through periodic audits and are subject to fines and loss of our grant if found to be out of compliance. The rules apply to all children enrolled at the center. The infants eat breakfast at 8:15, lunch at 11:15 and snack at 2:15. The toddlers/two's eat breakfast at 8:30, lunch at 11:30 and snack as they wake up around 2:45/3:00. The 3-5's eat breakfast at 9:00, lunch at 12:00 and snack at 3:00-3:15. We serve a health, well-balanced meal and all children are encouraged to eat all components. Many of them eat better than they may at home because they see their friends doing it.

3.  Outside/Gross Motor Time: We support the believe that children need at least 1 hour of gross motor play per day and we strive for 2 (depending on the weather). We believe that children and adults need fresh air and we go outside daily when at all possible. If the temperature falls between 25-90 we will go outside so please dress your child accordingly. We are blessed to have access to the gym in the student life building for those days when the weather does not cooperate and you can find us there on those occasions. We have our own equipment in the gym and the children love going there.

4.  Naptime:  As children get older, they may start to outgrow their nap. However, as a state licensed center we are still required to have them rest for 1 hour. If they do not sleep they will then be offered quiet activities to do for the remainder of the rest period while their friends sleep. This rule does not apply to infants and toddlers, who do not follow the same rules regarding naptime. Naptime is based on individual need for infants/toddlers. Some may sleep for 2 hours and some may not. Please work with your child's teacher regarding naptime if you are experiencing problems at home. We want to work with you but please realize, this is a group setting and others do need their nap. It is important that those not sleeping remain quiet and respectful of their needs as well.

5.  Is my child doing .......... Often times we are asked about certain behaviors that a parent may be seeing at home. Parents become concerned and are curious if we too are seeing them at school. Sometimes we are, but often times we are not (and that is okay). Many experts will say that children save that special behavior for the ones they love the most. They feel most comfortable at home so it is only natural to let loose at home. I mean, really.....they can only be good for so long!  What is most important is to maintain open communication so that parents and teachers can work together for the best interest of the child. By sharing information, parents can assist teachers and teachers can assist parents in learning the most effective ways of working through situations that are happening.

6.  Celebration of birthdays/holidays: We are proud to have a diverse center with a unique group of families and cultures celebrated. We tailor our celebrations around the families that are enrolled and strive to make our experiences real and relevant. We hope that all families interested will share customs and traditions with us in the classrooms. When celebrating birthdays, please talk with your child's teacher to make arrangements. Anything brought into the center must be store bought and in its original packaging. There are children with allergies and special diets to be taken into consideration.

7.  Transitions:  Our goal when transitioning your child to the next classroom is to make it as smooth as possible for you and your child. Our transition process typically takes place over a 2 week period. The child's visits gradually build up over this period of time while they slowly get more comfortable in their new classroom and with their new teachers and friends. Often times, the change is harder on the adult than it is on the child. Please share your concerns with us so that we can help you adapt.

8.  Open door policy:  We have an open door policy and encourage you to take an active role in your child's education and care. However, please be aware of certain factors that could play a role in how he/she responds to your visit. For example, parents coming/going can be particularly hard on an older infant and a toddler. They can't quite process that you are just visiting and get confused when it's time for you to leave. Also, we ask that you not come/go when your child is first getting adjusted to the center. Allow your child at least a month to get fully acclimated prior to coming in. We want your first visit to be a happy one for both you and child.

9.  Can my child bring toys to school?  We ask that generally speaking, your child not bring toys to school. However, there are some exceptions. For example, it is okay to bring in toys that help your child self soothe at naptime (blanket, stuffed animal, etc.). There may also be an occasion when you are asked to share items related to a special topic that your child's class is studying. Aside from these exceptions, please do not bring in items from home. When children bring items from home they tend to be very territorial of them and that can lead to conflict. Oftentimes, the conflict can lead to a broken toy and that is never good. Please rest assured that we have plenty of challenging and developmentally appropriate toys to keep your little one happy throughout the day.

10.  Curriculum:  Our curriculum is based on the changing interests of the children and the world around them. We also believe that their environment plays a big role in the learning process. Our goal is to design the environment to support the curriculum and to act as a "3rd teacher" in the educational journey. We encourage you to share your ideas with the teachers related to interests that your child has and goals that you have for him/her in the classroom.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Busy During the Holidays


Need some ideas for activities to do during the Thanksgiving and Winter Holiday breaks? I have selected  nine activities that will keep your children busy for hours! Most of these items you will easily find in the house without ever heading to the store. Enjoy and happy holidays! :)

Fabric Garden-
Materials:
Scraps of plain and floral fabric
Colored markers
Plain paper
White glue
Poster board

Directions:
First cut out the flowers, leaves, stems, and buds from floral fabric. Plan fabric can be used to cut out additional petals, leaves, and stems. Use colored markers to outline the shapes. Glue all the shapes onto the paper to make them firmer. Let the glue dry completely. Reassemble the shapes on the poster board to make flowers, plants, and imaginary flora so that the finished effect is like a flower garden or field of flowers designed by your child.
*Taken from the book “365 Days of Creative Play” by Sheila Ellison and Judith Gray

Paper Chain People-

Materials:

Pencil
Paper
Scissors
Crayons

Directions:
Fold paper accordion- fashion so that all sections are equal. On the top section, draw a person whose hands extend the folds of the paper. Carefully cut around your person. Open out the paper and your child will have a chain of several people holding hands. Color them in with crayons and take them to the refrigerator.
*Take from the book “365 Days of Creative Play” by Sheila Ellison and Judith Gray

Bear Hospital-

Materials:

Old Sheeting
Masking Tape
Band-Aids
Scissors

Directions:
Tear narrow strips of old sheeting to make bandages. Cut out triangular shapes too. Show your child how to make an arm sling and how to tape down bandages. Using his or her bears, dolls, and stuffed toys as patients, have your child pretend that he or she is in the hospital or clinic where the toys must be treated and repaired. Be careful to handle the toys gently.
*Taken from the book “365 Days of Creative Play” by Sheila Ellison and Judith Gray

Paper Bag Puppets-

Materials:

Markers
Small brown paper bag
White glue
Yarn
Scissors
Construction paper

Directions:
Draw the puppet’s eyes, nose, and mouth on to the bottom flaps of paper bag. Glue on yarn for the puppet’s hair. Use scissors to cute things out such as bow ties and buttons from the construction paper. Glue them onto the bag for puppet’s costume. Put a hand inside the bag to move the puppet’s mouth.
*Taken from the book “The little Hands Art Book” by Judy Press

Paper Plate Spider-

Materials:

Scissors
Black construction paper
Small white paper plate
Long piece of string
White glue
Black marker

Directions:
Use scissors to cute the black construction paper into eight long strips. Accordion fold the paper strips back and forth onto themselves for spider legs. Poke two holes in the center of the paper plate, then thread string through. Glue spider legs around the edges of the paper plate. Glue two pop-up eyes on top of the plate, if you want. Use black marker to color the paper plate for body of spider. Dangle spider from string.
*Taken from the book “The Little Hands Art Book” by Judy Press

Dancing Fingers-

Materials:

Newspaper
Container of Water
Glossy White Paper
Popsicle Stick or Spoon
Finger Paint
Radio or CD player

Directions:

Cover table with newspaper. Sprinkle a few drops of water to dampen glossy paper. Use Popsicle stick to scoop a glob of paint on paper. Listen to music while using fingers to spread finger paint around paper.
*Taken from the book “The Little Hands Art Book” by Judy Press

Gak-

Recipe:

1 cup liquid starch
1 cup glue
Food coloring

Directions:

Pour glue and food coloring into bowl. Mix thoroughly. Add starch slowly, and mix in. Knead. (Feels like rubber and can be reused if stored in an airtight container)
*Taken from the book “The Cooking Book” by Laura J. Colker

Fabulous Finger Paint I-

Recipe:

½ cup cornstarch
2 cups cold water
2 envelopes of unflavored gelatin
1 cup powdered laundry detergent
Food coloring

Materials:

Medium mixing bowl
Measuring cups
Wooden spoon
Small bowl
Medium Saucepan
Jar with lid

Directions:

Place cornstarch in mixing bowl. Add 1 ½ cups cold water. Mix with spoon. Pour gelatin into small bowl. Add ½ cup cold water, mix, and let sit for 1-2 minutes. Add gelatin to saucepan. Cook on medium heat until thick and glossy. Stir in detergent. Add food coloring and mix. Store in an airtight container.
*Taken from the book “The Cooking Book” by Laura J. Colker 

Wake-Up-and-Smell-the-Coffee Clay-

Recipe:

¼ cup instant coffee
1 ½ cups warm water
4 cups flour
1 cup salt

Materials:

2 mixing boals
Measuring cups
Wooden spoon
Fork

Directions: Place coffee in a bowl. Add water, and stir to dissolve. In second bowl, mix flour and salt. Use spoon to make a hollow in center of flour mixture. Pour coffee into hole. Mix dough. Knead until shiny. (after molding, clay can either be stored in a plastic bag for reuse or be hardened by baking in 300-degree oven for 1hr.)
*Taken from the book “The Cooking Book”







Monday, October 14, 2013

Fun Fall Activities



The fall season is full of fun activities to do as a family. Many visit pumpkin patches, apple orchards, and corn mazes. But there are plenty of interesting things you can do as a family without ever leaving your house. Here is a list of a few things you can do to celebrate fall without having a break the bank:

1.       Raking leaves and then collecting leaves for an art activity- you and your family could spend the morning raking leaves and creating piles to jump in, have contests to see whose is the largest, or pick which pile has the most colorful leaves. Once the majority of your leaves are bagged and ready to be picked up, collect a small pile to create leaf art. You could use them to paint with, glue them onto paper and make your own collage of colors and shapes, or even create pressed leaves to add as decoration to make your own fall place mats or name tags. (cost for supplies: free)
2.       Pumpkin carving- purchase several smaller pumpkins or one/two larger pumpkins and use cookie cutter shapes and a mallet to create designs in your pumpkin. Instead of using a candle, use glow bracelets/sticks or the artificial battery operated candles you can purchase from the dollar store to light up the inside of your masterpiece. If you are looking to make your own design or a pumpkin face, you can purchase a simple carving kit for about $1.00 at the dollar store or your local Walmart. (Cost for supplies: Between $5-15.00)
3.       Homemade edibles out of apples- collect a few baby food jars from the child care center and use them to make homemade apple butter or apple sauce from apples collected at an orchard or your local grocery store. You could also make homemade apple cider or apple juice. (cost for supplies: $5-15) Here are a couple of easy recipes to follow for these activities: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/apple_butter/ and http://www.campbellskitchen.com/recipes/spiced-hot-apple-cider-26711
4.       Fall table centerpiece- have your family go outside and collect various fall items such as pine cones, large acorns, pine needles in bundles, and sticks. Lay the items on paper or wax paper and use glitter spray or regular glitter and paint to decorate your items. Once they dry, place them in a clear bowl to use as d├ęcor for your dining room table or coffee table. (cost for supplies: $2-5)
5.       Pumpkin play dough- Have a fun time pretending making pies and let the kids get into the actual pie pans and pie servers or mold them into small pumpkins and add a stem to make the project complete. Here is an easy recipe that requires items you probably already have in your kitchen! ( Cost for supplies: Free- $5) http://spoonful.com/crafts/pumpkin-pie-play-dough



Thursday, July 25, 2013

Summer Eating



When it comes to being outside in the summer time, no one ever feels like going in to a kitchen and cooking a hot meal. Sometimes, we want to just stay outside and enjoy the nice weather and focus on another hour of sunlight. During the summer months, it’s nice to come up with creative alternatives for meal times such as a picnic in the park, sack lunch dinner, a cookout, or even a snack meal instead of a heavy meal. The most important thing when eating outside is to make sure the food that should be refrigerated is kept cool and that there are plenty of opportunities to rehydrate with water and other healthy beverages.
                Another way to shorten time on meal prepping is to plan ahead. Have your main dish cooked ahead of time or frozen so that all you have to do is throw it in the oven or crock pot and serve when outside time is over. Meal planning saves time and can save money when buying in bulk and freezing.
                I have included a list of websites that offer fast and healthy meals to prepare for outdoor adventures or extended nights outside and a couple of fun ways to drink water that even your kiddos will want to drink.
Sample recipes:

Fruit Infused Water:
Slice 1 orange (leave peel on) (You may also do this with lime and lemon or add all three- a few slices of each)
Slice 1/2 cucumber (leave peel on)
Add mint leaves (optional)
Fill 1 pitcher ¾’s full of cold water and place sliced fruit and cucumber to infuse overnight. Serve beverage over ice.

For those wanting a sweeter taste to their water, simply substitute the fruits above with kiwi, strawberry slices, and grapes sliced in half.

Picnic in the backyard:
Turkey and cheese roll ups
Apple slices
Veggie chips
Fruit and grain trail mix for evening snacking
Infused water

The following Websites offer fun alternatives to the classic tuna salad or PB-J sandwich for outdoor meals.






Thursday, June 13, 2013

Bugs, Bugs, Bugs!


After all of the rain we’ve had, I have noticed we are dealing with a lot of bugs. What do you do to guard yourself from the hungry mosquitoes outside? I have been doing some research on how to protect our bodies from the bugs and debating on what methods work best.

Some people are all about their home remedies for pesky insects while others trust the name brands to keep them from getting bitten. I think it is important to guard yourself from overexposure to bug bites because you never know what insect could be caring a virus that could make you sick. Here is a list of some of the diseases bugs can spread: 

  •    West Nile Virus- Mosquito
  •      Lyme Disease- Ticks
  •     Malaria- Mosquito
  •     Myiasis- Fly Larvae
  •     Typhus- Fleas, Mites, Ticks, Lice
Though most of these illnesses are rare in the United States, we must always be cautious about overexposure to insects during the summer months, especially around bodies of water and wooded areas. 

I have created a list of products you can purchase over-the-counter and a couple of home remedies you may also want to try when venturing outdoors. If you have any remedies you would like to share with us, please leave a comment below. 

Insect Repellants:
  •      OFF! Insect repellant- several varieties to suite your needs
  •       AVON Skin So Soft/Insect repellant
  •       CUTTER Skinsations
  •       Burt’s Bees Insect Repellant
Home Remedies:
  •       Lavender Oil- Mix 30 drops in water and place in spray bottle. Spray and repeat when needed
  •       Citronella Oil- Mix 30 drops in water and place in spray bottle. Spray and repeat when needed
  •      Parsley or Basil leaves- boil into a tea and either rub on skin once cooled or add to spray bottle and  spray as often as needed
  •      ½ teaspoon of vegetable glycerin, distilled water and witch hazel, and eucalyptus oil- mix in a water bottle and spray as often as needed. The stronger the oil the better it works.