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Playground Safety

Sat, 06/01/2019 - 07:00

Photo source: Jaci Foged

Time to put the winter coats, sleds and ice skates away for next winter. The weather is starting to warm up, which means we get to spend MORE time outside with our children. Zoos, parks and playgrounds — here we come!

I was born in the ’80s; we had big hair, loud clothes and playground equipment that has since been removed for safety reasons. Did a fond memory just pop into your head? Anyone remember a 12–15 foot tall metal slide with a bump in the center? Not only did the bump send you flying, but the sun warmed up the surface of the slide so it was sometimes too hot to touch! What about a merry-go-round?

These were popular back in my day; you could get going so fast the motion could throw you right off ! And what about being the kid who spun the merry-go-round? How many of you ended up being dragged when you lost your footing? Yes, there is a reason playgrounds look differently today than they did over 20 years ago.

Safety

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that emergency departments still see more than 20,000 children, ages 14 and younger, for play-ground-related traumatic brain injuries each year. The National Safety Council (NSC) states that nearly 80 percent of playground injuries are caused by falls.

The top equipment associated with injuries includes: climbers, swings, slides and overhead ladders. Some unnecessary risks can mitigate using the SAFE guidelines later discussed in this article. But, there is a healthy degree of risk necessary for learning and development.

Worth the Risk?

The opportunity for “risky play” is not without benefit. In the early years, children should have numerous and varied opportunities to assess risk and manage situations. Very young children assess and take risks daily, which ultimately leads to new learning.

Think about a child learning to walk. At first they need substantial support, from us and the furniture around them. But gradually, they make small changes to their posture and the speed at which they move. Sure, they fall down a lot before they master it fully, but with practice comes skill.

The same goes for risky play on playground equipment, or just playing outside in general. Children are not only learning how to move their bodies to be successful, which develops skills and coordination, they are also learning about success and failure.

Risky play also ignites motivation. We want our children to be motivated — to strive for success, make adjustments and try repeatedly. Giving it their all, and finding success or failure, will also teach them their limits. Research shows us children who do not engage in risky play may have poor balance, appear to be clumsy and even feel uncomfortable in their own bodies.

The Adults Role

Adults do play a part. Our children need us to be there to cheer them on, give them a thumbs up and offer support as needed. We need to take them to parks and playgrounds that offer play movements which are often associated with risk. These include swinging, hanging, sliding and rolling. We also need to educate ourselves on which equipment is developmentally appropriate for your child’s age and personal development.

The National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS) provides us with the acronym S.A.F.E. as a way to remember the four contributing factors to properly maintain a safe play-ground atmosphere.

S – Provide proper SUPERVISION of children on playgrounds.

A – Design AGE- APPROPRIATE playgrounds.

F – Provide proper FALL SURFACING under and around playgrounds .

E – Properly maintain playground EQUIPMENT.

National Playground Safety Week was celebrated, April 23–27. Parents, childcare providers, schools and communities planned to take time to focus on their outdoor environments. For childcare providers, you might take some time to see if there is a certified playground inspector in your area. You can find out if there is one near you at http://www.playgroundsafety.org/certified. You can also find a public playground safety checklist on the Consumer Product Safety Commission website at http://bit.ly/playgroundsafetylist.

 Lincoln Journal Star reports Lincoln has 125 parks and 128 miles of trails. Go play!

JACI FOGED, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Katie KRause, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, and Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

  

 

 

Families Weathering the Storms

Wed, 05/29/2019 - 09:10

Image source

In lieu of the recent natural disasters that have impacted Nebraska and neighboring states, I felt compelled to write about my personal experience. Fifteen years ago on May 24, 2004, I saw firsthand how one’s world as you know it can crumble in minutes, without warning.  My family survived the tornado that destroyed our house in rural Clay Center, Nebraska and then went on to destroy the town of Hallam, NE.  I hope to share my experience as a parent, and some advice to our readers.

May 24, 2004 was a lovely summer day, the first day of summer vacation for my children. We were sitting down together at the kitchen table finishing our evening meal, when out of the blue, our power went out for no apparent reason. I got up to clear the table and stack the dishes at the sink. I remember looking out the window to the west, thinking how strange for the power to be out. I told the boys, Trevor age 9, Calvin, age 8, and Chase age 3 to go downstairs to play while I checked the radio. My husband, Terry went outside to look. As soon as I turned on the radio, the warning alerted us that a Tornado was heading our way and to take shelter.

Terry came running into the house and yelled to get to the basement.  We all huddled under a table and I placed nearby sofa cushions around the kids. As we rode out the storm, it sounded like an army with baseball bats were ransacking our house. I looked at Terry and said I think this is going to be really bad. The noise of wind, hail and our house ripping apart lasted for about 15 to 20 min. When the storm was over, water began to pour from the basement ceiling, as the house had been lifted off the foundation and all the water pipes had broken. As we made our way with the boys up the stairs, we were greeted by daylight, the roof of our home had been peeled away. There was debris and insulation everywhere. The bedrooms on the main floor on the southwest side of the house were hit the worse.  If we had been in bed, we may not have survived. To give you an idea of the magnitude of the tornado, there were two old concrete grain silos that stood on the acreage that were totally disintegrated into pieces no larger than a football.

They say, after you have been through a traumatic event, there are things that will trigger emotions perhaps for the rest of your life. I myself do not like that term, however I can attest that each spring and summer season as severe weather threatens, my emotions do resurface all over again. We were blessed to be safe and unharmed, but most of our belongings were destroyed. Thankful that we had each other and a community of family and friends that helped us to weather this storm and come out more resilient than ever.

Looking back, we as parents, did the best we knew how to do to help our boys  feel safe. One of the first questions they had was where we would live now, and if they would have to change schools. I didn’t know the answer, but confidently told them we would make sure we would not have to leave their school and friends. We ended up staying at Terry’s parent’s house 25 miles away, for about a month while trying to sort out what insurance was going to cover, and learning about depreciation of the value of your possessions, even though we had full coverage insurance.

Lessons Learned

This tornado taught me a few things.

After a disaster, it is important to help children to feel safe and to maintain as much consistency as possible.  Our boys had been involved in T-ball at the time and we maintained getting them to practices and games so they could be among their friends. Trevor was a 1st year 4-Her and he had already worked on many projects to take to the fair. Tornadoes can do strange things, but one of the first things I carried out of our house that day in May, was his prize insect collection he had spent most of the spring putting together. The house was destroyed all around it, but miraculously it came out unscathed.  It went to the county fair, and on to State Fair earning top honors.

The second lesson I learned is to take time to find joy in each day.  One of the best days after the storm, while still living at my in-laws came when my sister made a visit.  She brought the boys a box full of water toys, squirt guns and water balloons.  We had the best family water fight ever, I remember  laughing so much that my sides hurt. Don’t lose sight of the joy, even in the middle of chaos.

I also learned that it is important to give children a sense of closure for things that would be no more. We ended up finding a house to rent about 5 miles away from our old house.  As we began to put our new home together, we would take the boys back to the old place to tend to the potatoes and pumpkins that they had planted before the storm. They could see the destruction, but also that not everything was destroyed.

I believe my kids all came out of this storm pretty well adjusted, but I wish I had known about access to resources as a parent to help them through this disaster. I am now an Extension Educator with Nebraska Extension on the Learning Child team. I am very proud of all the wonderful and helpful resources that Extension has made available for families, farmers, and ranchers focused on natural disasters and recovery.  I encourage you to visit our websites, flood.unl.edu and https://child.unl.edu/. Here, you will find many tools to help you prepare for or weather the storm and to help with recovery efforts.  Additionally, if you have preschool age children, you can download this free NebGuide: How to Help Preschoolers Manage Their Emotions after a Disaster.  http://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/pdf/g2261.pdf

Be prepared I suggest involving your children in creating a disaster preparation kit for your home. Check out this resource for tips on involving your kids in this activity, Lets Pack an Emergency Kit. Having an emergency kit ready will help your child feel safe.  Work together to determine what you need in your kit.

I also recommend having a detailed inventory of your possessions and personal property.  Our insurance agent told us to make a list of everything we lost.  Where do you start?  It would have been helpful if we had an inventory or at least a photo inventory or video of our possessions.  I suggest taking video of your property, opening closets and drawers, room by room, and making a time stamp on the video.  Store this in a safe deposit box and update it annually.

If you are a childcare provider, look for the new course, Emergency Preparedness for Childcare Providers.  I taught this course twice in 2019, and other educators across the state also offer this 6 hour course. You can check with your local Extension office in Nebraska for more information, or search the Early Childhood training calendar https://ecrecords.education.ne.gov/HomePage.aspx.

I hope that this advice is helpful and that you will feel comfortable to seek the resources you need to feel both safe and prepared to face life’s storms.

LYNN DEVRIES, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Jaci Foged, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, and Leanne Manning, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

  

 

 

The Power of Being Present

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 13:31

Photo Source

Have you ever tried having a conversation with someone who continues to scroll through their news feed on their phone? Frustrating, isn’t it? Personally, I feel ignored, and I know they are not fully listening to what I have to say. Truthfully, you may deal with this with your own child. However, imagine how they feel when they are trying to tell you something, but you’re stuck staring at the screen on your smartphone. Now, we all do it so don’t feel that bad, but it is something to improve at because important opportunities could be missed.

Humans are social beings and need face-to-face interaction to thrive. Relationships are one of the most important aspects of life, and good ones are built with skills that are formed through face-to-face interactions. Your child learns empathy, communication skills, behavior and emotion control, and how to read nonverbal communication through those encounters. Interpreting body language, facial expressions, and gestures make up the huge portion of our communication that is nonverbal. It takes years for children to understand nonverbal communication and they master it when practicing with you, siblings, or friends. They can’t get that experience of reading people if one, or both of you are consumed by a device.

Now, I’m not saying we need to ditch our digital devices completely. However, it is important to consider how much of our time they are taking up in our life, and when and how we should use them. Being present and off your phone makes for more fulfilling relationships with your child, partner, and friends, and great relationships make for a great life. Besides, you don’t want to possibly miss out on a first step, first word, or any other monumental step in your child’s life. So, put your phone down, be present, and be happy.

Source: Zero to Five by Tracy Cutchlow

LaDonna Werth, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Leanne Manning, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, and Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

  

Chatting With Babies

Fri, 03/08/2019 - 14:36

Image Source: The Learning Child

Do you feel uneasy about talking with a baby because you fear they can’t understand what you’re saying?  Fear not, as brain research shows us that talking with infants is important in helping their brains develop, and in learning about language and communication, all before they can really understand the meaning of the words being said.  The more adults speak with infants the more neural connections, or synapses, are formed.  These connections need to be strengthened by repeated exposure to listening to language or else the brain will prune away the unused connections.  Use it or lose it is the phrase to remember.  Here are some ideas for making the most of time spent chatting with an infant:

  • Talk about the baby’s actions as they move. “Oh, I see you are crawling right along.  Soon you will reach me!”
  • Verbalize feelings. Put their feelings into words to help them learn to label what they are feeling and later when they begin to speak to use words to describe their emotions.  “Something has made you angry because you are all red in the face and crying.”  “You look so happy with that big smile on your face.  You really like your stuffed toy don’t you?”
  • Provide guidance to help babies achieve something. “I can see you want that toy by your blanket.  You can reach out your arm and grab it.”
  • Build positive relationships with the baby. The best way to do this is to use “serve and return” interactions with the child.  When an infant cries, babbles, or coos you can respond with an action or words that let them know they have been heard.  For example when a baby says, “Baa!” You can repeat that sound “Baa!”  This simple “serve and return” interaction helps build the child’s brain and puts in place a strong base for future learning.  Some other tips for building on serve-and-return interactions are to:  notice what the child is looking at; notice facial expressions; offer comfort and hugs when needed; take turns talking being sure to wait for the child to respond; and practice noticing when the child is ready to move on or end the activity.

When you take the time to converse with infants, speaking to them, then stopping to listen to them, and then speaking again, this is demonstrating how communication works.  It also helps parents and providers build strong attachments with infants, something which is crucial for all infants to survive and thrive.  Infants who have at least one strong, secure attachment with a caring adult, will be more successful at building and learning skills that will help them throughout their lives such as self-regulation and academic achievement.

By taking small moments of time throughout the day to chat with your baby you are building your child’s brain and setting them up for a lifetime of learning and acquiring skills that will help them deal with life’s trials and triumphs.

Sources: extension.org and developingchild.harvard.edu

LEANNE MANNING, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by LaDonna Werth, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, and Jackie Guzman, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!