Tips and Info to Help You Distinguish a High-Quality Child Care Program From One That is Not

“Quality” and “high-quality” are words you often hear when discussing education. These are terms used to describe early child learning and care programs as well as elementary and secondary educations. What’s not usually apparent during these interactions is what criteria people are using to qualify one program as “quality” and another as not.

In early childhood education, there are generally recognized characteristics that indicate levels of quality. We are here to help you better understand what they are and why they matter.

Here’s What to Look for When Visiting a Child Care Program:

  • Staff should greet children and adults, making them feel welcome, and engaging them in conversation and activities.

  • The program’s philosophy and curriculum should support all aspects of child development.

  • Children are given opportunities to learn through play, small groups, and one-on-one teacher interactions through the use of interesting materials, equipment and spaces.

  • Children have the opportunity for outdoor learning/play every day in a safe, engaging environment.

  • Learning materials, books, music, and pictures reflect diversity, including children with special needs.

  • Teachers conduct ongoing assessments of each child and share observations and findings with the child’s families.

  • The teachers and staff should be practicing healthy habits: Look for frequent hand-washing after assisting with bathroom breaks, changing diapers, playing with toys, and before snacks and meals. Babies should be sleeping on their backs. The facility should look and smell clean.

  • Children enjoy a supervised meal program that incorporates healthy, fresh produce.

  • Families are encouraged to visit, ask questions, and take part in activities.

  • The program is licensed and highly accredited such as with Georgia’s Quality Rated designation or through the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

  • Well-trained and knowledgeable teachers who have specialized training in the curriculum, or have earned associates and higher education degrees, or Child Development Associate credentials.

  • Classes should have low child to teacher ratios.

Ask These Questions:

  • Is your child care program licensed and accredited with any other organizations?

  • How many educators are on staff and what are their credentials and responsibilities?

  • Does the child care program have a high or low rate of teacher turnover?

  • What is the average class size? How many teachers are in the class?

  • How much play time and outdoor time does each age group receive daily?

  • How do teachers help children solve conflicts?

  • Do the children have access to music, art, books and field trips?

  • What is the sickness policy for children and staff?

  • How often and what method does the program use to communicate to parents?

  • Has the program ever been involved in any emergency situations or lost its license for any reason?

Quality Matters:

There is a large body of research that indicates children who receive a high-quality early learning experience (before age five) fare better in many aspects of their lives. For instance, research suggests that children perform better academically, have better social-emotional development, are more likely to graduate high school and attend college, have less instances of drug use and teen pregnancy, and are higher wage earners as adults.

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Reduce the Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

One of the best ways to reduce the risk of infant deaths is by educating parents and caregivers about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). October is SIDS Awareness Month, which makes it a good time to brush up on expert recommendations to help keep our babies safe when sleeping.

What is SIDS?
SIDS is the sudden death of an infant less than one-year-old that cannot be explained after a thorough investigation that includes a complete autopsy, examination of the death scene, and a review of the medical history. 

Who Should Be Concerned?
Parents, grandparents, friends, child care providers including babysitters all should be concerned. Basically, anyone who takes care of infants for any amount of time should be aware of SIDS and best practices for safe sleeping.

What is the Cause of SIDS?
Research suggest that the exact cause is not known at this time.

Best Practices to Reduce SIDS:

  • Always place infants on their backs when putting them to sleep for naps and at night.

  • Ensure that cribs and bassinets are safety-approved. Crib railings should be too narrow for a baby’s head to fit in between rails.

  • Use a firm sleep surface or mattress. Only use fitted mattress covers and sheets over the mattress.

  • Keep loose bedding, pillows, crib bumpers, stuffed animals and other soft materials out of your baby’s sleep area.

  • Babies should not sleep in adult beds, couches or chairs alone or with a person.

  • Co-sleeping with your baby is not recommended, per the Safe to Sleep campaign.

  • Research suggest that exclusive breastfeeding can reduce the risk of SIDS by as much as 70 percent.

  • Avoid smoking, alcohol, and drugs during pregnancy and after birth. Do not let others smoke around your baby.

  • Swaddling does not reduce the risk of SIDS and in some cases may increase the risk for overheating and SIDS.

  • Share your room with your baby, but not your bed. Keep your baby in close proximity in a crib or bassinet in your room.

Questions to Ask Caregivers:

  • Do you have experience caring for infants? If so, how long have you cared for infants?

  • Has an infant ever been taken to the hospital or died during your care?

  • Are you familiar with SIDS?

  • How do you get babies to sleep and what are your thoughts on crib sleeping?

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From Crawling to Running, Your Child Never Stops!

Remember when your little one was just rolling, scooting, or crawling around the floor and you were eagerly awaiting the day when they would take their first step? Then the day arrived and it seemed like overnight your baby went from crawling to running and now they are into everything within reach. You thought your home was childproofed but now you are not so sure.

Toddlers move fast in their explorations, so you either need to be faster or smarter than they are. We vote for outsmarting them by removing dangerous items in the home and making extra precautions to keep them safe.

Toddler Safety-Proofing:

  • Keep all medicines and vitamins out of the reach of children. If you keep medicines in your purse or other travel bag, make sure they are always away from your child as well.

  • If you store your cleaning products in a cabinet or area close to the ground, install a cabinet lock or place them in an area your toddler can’t reach.

  • Do a safety-check in the kitchen paying close attention to the knobs on your stove. Can little hands reach them and easily turn them on.

  • When cooking, make sure that the handles of your pots and pans are turned inward on the stove.

  • Check to see if the outside door of your oven gets hot when in use.

  • Be careful of climbing toddlers! They are already a little unsteady on their feet, and now they love to climb. Make sure stairways have safety gates at the top and bottom.

  • Double check doors and windows to ensure that the locks work so your toddler doesn’t tumble out on accident.

  • It only takes 30 seconds for a child to drown. Make sure that bathroom doors are closed, and your child is never left alone near a toilet or while in the bath.

  • Keep laundry room doors closed. Children are fascinated with climbing in dryers and washers but can get stuck so better to keep them closed too.

Numbers to Keep Handy:

Poison Control Help Line --  1-800-222-1222

Pediatrician ­­­­­­__________________________

Emergency -- 911

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Children are Full of Questions and That’s a Good Thing

Raising a curious child is the spark that drives a lifetime of learning. Not only does it lead to exploration and discovery but it leads to the mastery of learning as the cycle repeats itself every time when something new is discovered. These wonders and experiences help your child’s social and emotional development as well as intellectually.

Thankfully, and unlike forty years ago, when a child now asks “why is the sky blue?” we can easily search online for an answer that we can easily explain. However, part of satisfying your child’s curiosity should be supporting their quest for the answer instead of just answering the question. For instance, you can honestly say “I don’t know. Let’s research it together.” Then, see if you can also find an age-appropriate experiment that will allow you and your child to find the answer. Children who are curious not only ask questions, they seek answers.

Children, at every age, enjoy sharing what they know and it is no different when they are curious and discover something new. Show your appreciation and enthusiasm when responding to your child as you do not want to tamper their excitement. This learning experience helps children build confidence and self-esteem, and research has shown that children with less curiosity are harder to teach and less likely to join social groups and activities.

Tips for Supporting Your Child’s Curiosity

  • Keep interesting objects and items in your house that your child can touch and move around.

  • When your child notices something new, ask them questions about it and find out what caught their attention.

  • Encourage natural interests. If your child loves cars, take them to car shows, show them what the engine looks like and read books with them about cars.

  • Encourage unstructured play so that your children have the freedom to use their imagination and creativity.

  • Travel is a fantastic way to support your child’s curious nature. Even if it is visiting the grandparents a few minutes away, set some time to explore something new while there.

  • It’s easy to get a bit tired of question after question after question but try to remember that this is how your child learns.

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Your Baby Has a Lot to Say

Maybe your baby has passed the cooing stage where you were on the receiving end of lots of “oohs” and “aahs.” Now, they are starting to put consonants like “p,” “b,” and “m’ in from of the oohs and aahs so you are now hearing buh-buh and muh-muh. So, when will your baby really start to talk?

 Actually, your baby is (and has been) talking to you since the first coos came out of their mouth. Babies are born ready to learn, and that includes learning to talk since their brains are hardwired for language. Their noises may sound like gibberish to you, but they have meaning. Go ahead and talk back to your baby – agree with them, tell them how special they are, and just let them know that you are paying attention.

 Babbling is a stepping-stone to language and should be encouraged. See below for some ideas to keep your baby talking and learning!

 How Can You Support Their Language Development?

  •  Talk with your baby beginning at birth, just like you would with a friend.

  • Ask your baby open-ended questions.

  • After your baby “talks” to you, pause before you answer them to show how a conversation is held.

  • When your baby makes a lot of noises, imitate the sounds back to them.

  • Sing to your baby.

  • When you talk with your baby, make eye contact and respond lovingly.

  • Read aloud to your child every day. Don’t rush through the book but take your time. You can use different voices, accents and tones for the characters.

  • As they get older, pay attention to what they are interested in. If they point at an object, say the correct name and provide extra details, such as what color it is, if it is big or small, and etc.

  • When your baby begins stringing words together such as “dog eat,” don’t correct them but respond as in a conversation with something like “the dog does like her food.”

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Taking Care of Your Physical and Mental Health Is Good for Your Family!

“Mom! I’m hungry!” “Daddy, I’m sick!”

We’ve all been there and heard those words yelled by our little ones. Then, we quickly worked to make sure that their needs were met: fed them when they were hungry, comforted them when they were sick or scared, and soothed them when they were sad or angry. Often times, we were hungry, sick and tired too, but our children’s needs took priority.

Let’s be clear: your child’s needs are important and should not be ignored. But, it’s important that you make your physical and mental health a priority too. Since August is National Wellness Month, we thought it would be a great time to help our Georgia Parent Power caregivers find ways to stop making self-care an afterthought. Try some of these tips to increase your well-being:

  • Breathe. Sounds simple, right? After all, you do it every day all day without even thinking about it. Today, we want you to think about it and release a little stress with every breath out. Try the 4-4-8 technique: Breathe in through your nose for a count of four, taking it deep into your abdomen. Hold your breath for a count of four. Breathe out through your mouth with a whooshing sound for a count of eight.

  • Go outside. Take a walk, lay on the lawn or in a hammock, read a book under a tree, meditate, or just sit quietly.

  • Make a weekly appointment for something you love. Maybe it is a spa treatment, time with friends, a movie, or simply shopping by yourself.

  • Trade child care with a friend on a regular basis. Take turns hosting play dates which will allow the other parent a few hours to take care of chores or do something that benefits their physical and mental health.

  • Schedule dates with your spouse. It’s important for you two to take time to reconnect and do activities that aren’t centered around your children.

  • Hydrate. Water keeps your brain working, helps your joints, keeps you looking young and your body needs it. Buy some tea that you enjoy and is for you, and you alone. Or, maybe it is flavor drops that only you know about and use.

  • Keep a gratitude journal. It can be one sentence, short and sweet, or map out 20 minutes each day where you are free to write whatever your heart needs.

  • Join a gym. Take a yoga class. Subscribe to a YouTube fitness program that makes you feel good.

  • Go to the doctor for your annual fitness exams. You make your kids do it, so it is only fair.

  • See a therapist if you are having anxiety, can’t let go of worries, or feel depressed.

  • Take a mental moment to decompress after work and before picking up your child from child care or walking into the house.

  • Make sleep a priority.

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