Saturday, December 31, 2011

Child Care: What's Hot Now: home alone

Child Care: What's Hot Now
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home alone
Dec 31st 2011, 11:04

Question: When is my child old enough to stay home alone?

Letting an older child stay home while you run a quick errand or even for an hour or two after school until you get home from work is often more cost-effective and practical than trying to find child care. With appropriate rules and maturity level, a home-alone arrangement can work. However, there are numerous safety and inappropriate behavior pitfalls to avoid as well. So, what age is considered safe?

Answer: With a seemingly endless list of safety concerns, many conservative parents and caregivers will strongly argue that kids should never be left home alone. While sound advice, it may not always be practical. Finding ways to reduce child care costs and kids who think they are too old for after-school care are leading reasons many families allow their older elementary-age or middle school kids be home alone after school.

In many cases, the arrangement works well for families who are facing tough economic times or when it is only for a short period of time. But child experts also warn that "latchkey kids" are the ones who are most apt to get into trouble when home alone, as there are opportunities to initiate inappropriate online communications, watch television shows you would never allow, experiment with drugs or alcohol to pass the time, or even to put themselves in harm's way with strangers.

With all that said, if you choose to allow your child to stay home alone, experts recommend that kids entering middle school can most likely handle the responsibility effectively. If you plan to begin allowing your child to stay home alone after school, introduce the arrangement as a phase-in process, where you gradually allow increased opportunities for your child to demonstrate readiness. For example, you might try running a quick errand or going to the grocery store and ask your child to check in with you every 15 minutes by phone. Knowing that your child can safely and accurately call you and talk with you is a first step in the right direction. From there, you can gradually increase the time home alone until you both are comfortable with the situation.

Parents should also establish a check list that your child must follow. For example, you will most likely want your child to call you the minute he is home so you don't worry he got in the house safely. You'll want to have a written set of safety rules (such as doors locked, don't answer the phone unless it is a parent or approved family member, no unsupervised computer use, and to get all homework done). You'll want to set the ground rules, and then make sure your child understands them and agrees to them. Of greatest importance is not allowing your child to answer the door, play outside in the front yard or talk on the phone (which could also tie up the phone line in the event of an emergency), and to never tell anyone that he is home alone.

You'll also want to establish specific rules about food. You will probably feel safest if you don't allow your child to cook any food in the oven or stovetop (microwave is typically okay). You don't want to worry about accidental cooking fires or burners getting left on.

Parents should know that the home-alone trial stage can be misleading. The arrangement typically goes extremely well with both parent and child, often because both parties very much want the situation to be a success. The danger comes when a child has become quite comfortable with being home alone and begins to crave even greater independence. Boredom can also breed the temptation to have a friend over, go outside in the front yard, or take a quick walk. That's when the potential for danger or trouble escalates.

Experts warn that the tween and early teen years are when most parents typically agree to letting a child stay home alone. However, adolescence is also entering the picture and with it the desire to test rules and challenge authority. Because of the increased risks, many schools and city recreation programs have after-school activities (either for a very minimum cost or even free) to avoid tween/teens from going home to an empty house.

If you choose to let your child stay home alone, Keep that in mind that you'll need to keep your guard up and be extra vigilent in looking for clues that important rules have not been broken while the parents are away. Kids often capitalize on the fact that working parents come home stressed and exhausted, and aren't careful in checking for details about whether homework was done and that all rules were followed.

Finally, try and find a neighbor who is aware your child will be home alone. Ask him to keep a discreet eye on your home (and your kid) and to call you if any no-no behaviors or actions are noted.

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Child Care: What's Hot Now: What to Ask a Babysitter

Child Care: What's Hot Now
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What to Ask a Babysitter
Dec 31st 2011, 11:04

Before you choose your child's babysitter, consider first asking any/all of these important and relevant questions. Answers provided should make you feel comfortable and confident in leaving your precious youngster(s) in the care of someone else. This parent-friendly babysitter checklist can be conveniently printed out for quick reference when considering a prospective babysitter for one-time, occasional or ongoing child care needs. And, don't forget about checking references before you seal the deal!

Questions to Ask a Prospective Babysitter

  1. Have you babysat previously? If so, please describe your experience.
  2. Have you received any specialized training for child care (such as first aid/CPR, attended a babysitter course, or taken related school courses)?
  3. Do you regularly work/volunteer with kids? If so, please describe (such as helping out with young dance classes, serving as a sports assistant, etc.).
  4. Are your immunizations current?
  5. Do you have any health restrictions that could affect your ability to babysit? (Yes, it really is okay to ask this question. For example, if you have three cats and the candidate is terribly allergic to cats, then this could be a problem. Or, if you have someone who can't access stairs but the kids' beds are on the 2nd floor, you need to know that before making a hiring decision.
  6. Is there an adult or family member nearby in the event of an emergency whom you could contact? (This question is relevant if you are considering using a teenager or person who does not drive.)
  7. Why do you enjoy working with children?
  8. What activities will you plan with my kid(s) when I am gone? (Ask this question to determine whether the potential babysitter plans any games, crafts or child-friendly activities in your absence.)
  9. What age children do you most enjoy? Least enjoy? Why? Which age group are you most comfortable/experienced with?
  10. What are your overall child care philosophy? (Yes, you can and should even ask this of a teenage babysitter.)
  11. Do you know how to change a diaper...and are you comfortable with changing even the really messy kinds?
  12. Do you know how to administer medicine? (If your child has a cold, for example, and needs some medicine or is on oral antibiotics, you want to make sure the babysitter is comfortable in not only giving the proper dosage, but doing so safely.)
  13. What will you do if the kids aren't getting along (or worse, fighting)? How will you handle separation anxiety (if this is a potential issue.) Ask these questions if the potential babysitter will care for more than one child and if "missing parents" is a likely concern.
  14. What will you do if my child won't mind you or exhibits bad behavior such as biting? (This is an insightful question to determine how the potential babysitter processes the question and provides you with an answer. This also provides insight on disciplinary approaches.)
  15. Under what type of situation would you call me? (Ask this to determine how a potential babysitter would rank a "need" or emergency.)
  16. Are you comfortable being in my home at night or for an extended period? (Some people get nervous about being in someone else's home after dark, for example.)
  17. Do you know how to prepare a simple meal? (Don't assume a person knows how to properly use an oven or microwave.)
  18. Do you know how to feed an infant? A toddler? Do you know what to do if a child chokes? (You want to hear things like the sitter being knowledgeable about never to prop a bottle or heat it up in the microwave, or to feed a youngster uncut grapes, for example.)
  19. What is your hourly rate of pay?
  20. What hours and days of the week are you available to work? (Ask if there are any particular times/dates a potential sitter cannot work.)
  21. What type of commitment will you provide me that you will honor our agreement to babysit and not cancel? (This question is particularly important if you are hiring a sitter for key holidays or busy times such as New Year's Eve.)
  22. What babysitter qualities do you have that should make me want to hire you? (A good babysitter may talk about kid activities or art projects already planned, fun and games, a strong sense of humor, etc.)
  23. What was your worst babysitting experience, and why? (See how the candidate worked through the problem.)
  24. Do you have a list of references? (If you have not already spoken with someone about the babysitter beforehand, be sure you call and talk with references before entrusting a person to care for your child.)
  25. What can I do as a parent to help make your babysitting experience with my kids a success?

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Child Care: What's Hot Now: Pros and Cons to Decisions

Child Care: What's Hot Now
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Pros and Cons to Decisions
Dec 31st 2011, 11:04

Should you or shouldn't you start your youngster in kindergarten in the fall? Parents are increasingly mulling over the decision based a child's birthdate, social skills, or overall readiness. "Redshirting" a kid, as often describes the practice of holding a child back to develop stronger academic readiness, is utilized for kids with late birthdays and social immaturity. Its merits are debated, and parents need to ultimately decide what is best for their kid.

Age Should Be Considered

If your state says a child must be 5 by a certain date and your child just barely makes the cut-off, this could be a reason for waiting a year. Children with birthdays in the latter half of the year, and particularly for boys, are often held a year from starting kindergarten. But experts urge that age should not be the only consideration used. Many young kids are ready to begin school, while older ones may not be.

Consider Kindergarten Readiness Tests or Screenings

If you're unsure, ask your child's preschool teacher to administer a kindergarten readiness screening. There are tests available that parents can do with their own child as well. Some schools even screen kids and offer some thoughts to consider when making the important decision as to whether to start kindergarten or wait a year. Consider attention span, motor skills, socialization, overall behavior, independence, and interest in learning.

Find Out School Expectations

School expectations can help parents make informed decisions. Consider whether the kindergarten program is full-day or half-day, for starters. Are there clearly-defined academic expectations? Some programs have a more strenuous kindergarten curriculum including reading, basic math, and logic, while others focus more on "soft skills" the first year and transitioning from home to school.

Consider a Transition Approach

Some parents see kindergarten as a "one-two" plan. A child's first school year is spent in a private, half-day or even transition kindergarten program. A child then attends a full-day kindergarten program at public/private school, hopefully with the advantage of the transition year and entering school with more academic readiness and self-confidence. Some programs are specifically geared for 5-year-olds who are delaying school one year.

Be Open to Repeating

Some educators urge parents in doubt to go ahead and let the children enter kindergarten, but with an open mind that their child could possibly repeat the year. Why? With a different teacher the next year, the child still receives a full-year of academic instruction and will gain a year of self-esteem and readiness to boot. There is typically little-to-no social stigma with repeating kindergarten; kids are often all too happy to get to do so.

Emphasize Positives of Kindergarten to Child

Children should be told what they can realistically expect to do and know in kindergarten. Parents should not sugar coat the experience as all fun and games. Kindergarten does offer lots of social development, but self-control, academics, phonics, math and even basic science concepts are often included as well. Kids will make new friends and will start their path of academic learning this first year.

Ask How You Can Reinforce Learning at Home

Teachers emphasize how vital parental participation is in their child's learning, and never is there a time more important to be involved than with kindergarteners and early reading. If your child seems to be struggling, ask for specific advice as to how you can help reinforce basic learnings at home. Spend dedicated "homework" time with your child every night to start them on the right path of learning. Keep it positive, and reward strong focus and attention to detail.

Follow Your Gut Instinct

In the end, parents know best for their children. If you think your child is ready, then go for it! If you have nagging doubts or have received feedback from a child's provider or pre-school teacher that your child may be too socially and academic immature to begin kindergarten, carefully consider that advice as well. The key is to make decisions that provide your child with the best chance to succeed throughout school and life, and deciding to hold or go is only one step along the way.

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Children's Books: What's Hot Now: Reluctant Readers

Children's Books: What's Hot Now
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Reluctant Readers
Dec 31st 2011, 11:04

What exactly is a reluctant reader? There are several different types according to the experts. They include: children who are intelligent and interested in reading, but don't read well; children who seem to have no interest and, as a result of not reading regularly, are falling, or at risk of falling, behind; and children who are dealing with specific learning problems that impede their ability, and willingness, to read. Then, there is the most frustrating type of all: the child who reads well but has little interest in doing so. If your child is a reluctant reader, whether a second grader or a sixth grader, what can you do to encourage him, or her, to read? Fortunately, there are a number of resources that are available to assist you.

Encouraging Your Child to Read
Since the only way most children can get to be good readers is to read regularly, it is important to encourage your child to read from the beginning. Joyce Melton Pagés, Ed.D, provides some helpful learning tips, including setting up a home library, reading aloud to your child, and using poetry.

The importance of reading aloud cannot be overemphasized. By reading aloud to your children, you are emphasizing the joy of reading, introducing them to new vocabulary words and ideas, expanding their knowledge, and learning more about their interests. Often, hearing a story can pique a child's interest in learning more by reading independently. At some point, you might pick books at, not above, your child's reading level, and take turns reading portions aloud to one another.

Australian librarian Annette Dumars stresses the importance of reading for enjoyment. Dumars points out that instruction books for computer games, comic books, joke books, newspapers and magazines can all be used to encourage reading. Like several others, she emphasizes the importance of reading nonfiction books for pleasure, sharing poetry, and going to the library regularly.

The most important role a parent or other caring adult can play is as a good role model. It's hard for a children to believe in the importance of reading if there are few books in the home, they never see their parents reading, and they never go to the library. Reading for enjoyment is not enjoyable for children if they are forced to read. It's important to help your children find books at the appropriate reading level on subjects that interest them. Once you find books, you can pique your children's interest by reading the first chapter to them. You might also want to take turns reading. If the book is sufficiently interesting, you may find your children reading ahead on their own.

Selecting Appropriate Books
In order to select books appropriate for your child, it helps to know what to look for in choosing books for your reluctant reader. These include the book's vocabulary, sentence length and complexity, appearance, including the size of the print, and its interest level.

If you need assistance in selecting books, there are many online booklists and other resources for reluctant readers. There are also publishers who specialize in hi-low books. For example, Capstone Press specializes in high interest/low reading level nonfiction books, which are often used in classrooms. The books are written for grades 2-3 and grades 3-4 reading levels, with content of interest to students in the fifth grade and higher. You can buy an entire series or individual books. The books are illustrated with photographs and cover topics that are particularly appealing to kids. Titles include The World's Wildest Roller Coasters, Horseback Riding, In-Line Skating,Sharks, Motorcycle Police, and Ghosts and Poltergeists.

Tea Leaf Press has several high interest, low reading level series for upper elementary to middle school and higher students who read at the grade 3-5 level. The Deer Lake, series for students in grades 4-5 has a grade 3 reading level. The Bayview High, series is for students in grades 7 and up who are reading at the grade 5 level. The humorous Nate's Journal, series is for students in grades 4-6, with a grade 3 reading level.

Orca Book Publishers publishes fiction for the reluctant reader, with an emphasis on fiction that will appeal to boys. Orca Currents is middle school fiction with an interest level of ages 10-14 years and a reading level of grades 2.5-4.0. Orca Currents, teen fiction for the reluctant reader with an interest level of 12 and older and a reading level of grades 2.4-4.0, includes Accelerated Reader selections.

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Children's Books: What's Hot Now: Winter & Snow in Picture Books

Children's Books: What's Hot Now
These articles that had the largest increase in popularity over the last week // via
Winter & Snow in Picture Books
Dec 31st 2011, 11:04

Young children love the story of Katy, a big red crawler tractor who saves the day when a huge snowstorm hits the city. With her big snow plow on, Katy responds to cries of “Help!” from the police chief, the doctor, the superintendent of the Water Department, the fire chief and others with “Follow me,” and plows the streets to their destinations. The repetition in the story and the appealing illustrations make this picture book a favorite with three- to six-year-olds.

The illustrations include detailed borders and a map. For example, a border with illustrations of the City of Geoppolis' trucks, diggers, and other heavy equipment surrounds an illustration of the Highway Department's building where all the vehicles are kept. A map of the City of Geoppolis with lots of red numbers on it includes a border of numbered illustrations of important buildings in the city that match the numbers on the map. Virgina Lee Burton, the award-winning author and illustrator of Katy and the Big Snow, won the Caldecott Medal in 1942 for her picture book The Little House, one of my childhood favorites. Burton's Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel is another family favorite. Compare prices. (Houghton Mifflin, 1943, 1973. ISBN: 0395181550)

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Children's Books: What's Hot Now: Gardening in Picture Books

Children's Books: What's Hot Now
These articles that had the largest increase in popularity over the last week // via
Gardening in Picture Books
Dec 31st 2011, 11:04

These children’s picture books about gardens and gardening celebrate the joys of planting seeds and bulbs, cultivating a garden, and enjoying the flowers and vegetables that result. It's hard for young children to imagine that the little seed they planted will grow into a beautiful flower or a favorite vegetable. It almost seems magical, as is the effect gardens can have on people. These children’s picture books about gardens and gardening includes books for children from two- to ten-years-old.

1. Planting a Rainbow

Cover Art of the children's picture book Planting A Rainbow by Lois EhlertPhoto Courtesy of PriceGrabber

I’ve found that children four and older, as well as adults, want to go out and plant a rainbow of flowers after enjoying this book by Lois Ehlert. A mother and child “plant a rainbow,” beginning with bulbs in the fall and seeds and seedlings in the spring, and ending with a beautiful garden of flowers in a veritable rainbow of colors. The book’s striking design and Ehlert’s gorgeous cut-paper collages of flowers make this a particularly appealing book. (Voyager Books, 1988. ISBN: 0152626107)

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2. The Carrot Seed

Cover Art - The Carrot Seed - Children's Picture Book

Ruth Kraus’s classic little picture book for two- to five-year-olds is a delight. The spare and simple line drawings are by Crockett Johnson, well-known for Harold and the Purple Crayon. A little boy plants a carrot seed. Despite being told by his entire family that the seed won’t grow, the boy perseveres. Every day, he carefully weeds and waters the area where he planted the seed. A plant grows, and one day, the boy is rewarded with a big orange carrot. (HarperCollins, 1945. ISBN: 0064432106)

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3. The Gardener

Cover art of The Gardener children's picture book and Caldecott Honor BookPhoto Courtesy of PriceGrabber

During the Depression, young Lydia is sent to the city to stay with her Uncle Jim, a reserved, somber man, “until things get better.” She brings her love of gardens with her. The text, in the form of Lydia’s letters home, and the double-page artwork by David Small joyously illustrate how Lydia creates gardens that transform both the neighborhood and her relationship with Uncle Jim. I recommend the Caldecott Honor Book for six- to 10-year-olds. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1997. ISBN: 9780374325176)

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4. City Green

Cover Art of the children's picture book City GreenPhoto Courtesy of PriceGrabber

What happens when a diverse group of city neighbors works together to rid their street of a litter-filled vacant lot? How young Mary, Miss Rosa, and their neighbors transform the vacant lot into a community garden of flowers and vegetables makes an interesting and realistic story. Author and illustrator DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan’s artwork in watercolor, pencils, and crayons captures the transformation of the lot. I recommend the book for six- to 10-year-olds. (HarperCollins, 1994. ISBN: 068812786X)

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5. Flower Garden

Cover Art of the children's picture book Flower GardenPhoto courtesy of PriceGrabber

It’s nice to see a book about how a family living in a city apartment creates a garden. A little girl and her father go to the grocery store and buy flowering plants. Then, they take the bus back to their city apartment. There they plant a window box as a birthday present for her mother. Eve Bunting’s charming story is told in rhyme and illustrated with lovely realistic paintings by Kathryn Hewitt. This book has been a hit with three- to six-year-olds. (Voyager Books, 2000. ISBN: 0152023720)

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6. The Surprise Garden

Cover Art of the children's picture book The Surprise GardenPhoto courtesy of PriceGrabber

Three young children plant a “surprise garden,” using seeds of varying shapes, sizes, and colors. Since they don’t know what kinds of seeds they have planted, they have no idea what kinds of plants will grow in their garden. Carefully watering and weeding the seeds, they create a lush vegetable garden and enjoy a bountiful harvest. Shari Halpern’s cut-paper collages of the children cultivating the garden and Zoe Hall’s story will appeal to 3-6 year olds. (Scholastic, 1999. ISBN: 0590100769)

7. The Garden of Happiness

Cover art of the children's picture book The Garden of HappinessPhoto courtesy of PriceGrabber

Barbara Lambase’s oil paintings, alive with the rich color and movement of city life in a diverse neighborhood, add drama to Erika Tamar’s story of a little girl named Marisol and a new community garden. When Marisol plants a seed she’s found, it grows into a giant sunflower, to her neighbor’s delight. Her sadness when the sunflower dies in the fall is forgotten when Marisol sees the beautiful mural of sunflowers that teen artists have created. (Harcourt Brace, 1996. ISBN: 0152305823)

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8. Growing Vegetable Soup

Cover art of children's picture book Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois EhlertPhoto courtesy of PriceGrabber

Author and illustrator Lois Ehlert’s cut-paper collages are bold and colorful. The story of a father and child’s vegetable garden project is told in rhyme. While the text of the story is brief, each of the plants, seeds, and gardening tools illustrated is labeled, making this a book that’s fun to read aloud and then read through again identifying everything. The story begins with the planting of seeds and sprouts and ends with delicious vegetable soup. (Voyager Books, 1990. ISBN: 0152325808)

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9. Sunflower House

Cover art of the children's picture book Sunflower House about gardening and fun in the gardenPhoto courtesy of PriceGrabber

This picture book by Eve Bunting is sure to inspire three- to eight-year-olds to plant their own sunflower houses. Lovely realistic illustrations in watercolor and colored pencil by Kathryn Hewitt complement the rhyming text. A little boy plants a circle of sunflower seeds in the spring. By summer, the boy has a “sunflower house” where he and his friends enjoy many hours of fun. When fall comes, both birds and children collect and scatter seeds. (Voyager Books, 1999. ISBN: 0152019529)

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10. And the Good Brown Earth

Cover art of children's picture book And the Good Brown Earth about gardens and gardeningCover Art Courtesy of PriceGrabber

Author and illustrator Kathy Henderson’s mixed media artwork adds humor and charm to this picture book for three- to six-year-olds. Joe and Gram plant and cultivate a garden. Gram works methodically while Joe explores and learns, each helped by “the good brown earth.” They dig in the fall, plan in the winter, plant in the spring, weed and water in summer, and gather produce and feast in late summer. The repetition in the text adds to the book’s appeal. (Candlewick Press, 2003. ISBN: 9780763638412)

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Friday, December 30, 2011

Childrens Music: Holiday Bieber Fever

Childrens Music
Get the latest headlines from the Children's Music GuideSite. // via
Holiday Bieber Fever
Dec 30th 2011, 18:12

nullEveryone under the sun seems to have released an album of Christmas tunes, and this Canadian YouTube sensation has thrown his yuletide hat in the ring, as well. Justin Bieber's Under the Mistletoe is a fair offering of Christmas-related originals and classics, full of slow jams, fingersnap snare drums, and multitudes of vocal rolls.

Songs like "Only Thing I Ever Get for Christmas" and "Christmas Love" are cute enough, but "Silent Night" is difficult to sit through and "Drummer Boy" is just plain weird. Under the Mistletoe won't win over any new Justin Bieber fans, but his devotees will love it.

Image Courtesy Island Records

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Child Care: What's Hot Now: Be Sure Needs Are Met

Child Care: What's Hot Now
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Be Sure Needs Are Met
Dec 30th 2011, 11:02

You like the location and agree to the established rate for child care. You're comfortable with the hours of operation. And you are informed about the licensing requirements and any accredition preferences. So, are there other things you should ask before deciding to place your child with a certain child care provider? You bet. Here are some key questions to consider before making this important decision.

1. What is your policy regarding sick kids?

Working parents have the additional stress of determining what to do when a child is sick. Different centers have varying policies, and you want to ask how a particular center handles the problem of sick children. Do they send kids home with any sort of sniffle or is fever a requirement? Or, are they extremely lax in letting sick kids remain creating an exposure risk to otherwise healthy kids? Parents should also find out what care options exist when a child care provider becomes ill.

2. Do you have a sick care option?

For some parents, finding a child care provider who has a "sick care" option for mildly ill children is a job-saver. A child with strep throat won't be allowed at many facilities and at school. However, once antibiotics have kicked in, rest and relaxation, combined with isolation from other kids may be all a child really needs. Some facilities have a sick care option at an extra charge to allow parents to still have care for their kid. It may be worth asking about.

3. Do I have to pay for days when my child is absent due to illness or vacation?

If your child is out for three days due to illness or away for a week on a vacation, do parents still have to pay for child care? In many cases, the answer is "yes." After all, a center's or caregiver's overhead costs continue. Some facilities offer a break if a child has an extended illness and others offer a certain number of days as credit to be used toward vacation, illness, or other type of absence. This detail should be stated in writing to parents, so be sure to look for it.

4. What is your discipline policy?

This can be a really sensitive topic for parents, and it is important that you thoroughly understand what discipline approach is utilized and that you are comfortable with it. Most centers and care providers have written guidelines for review. Not only do you want to find out what they do, but you also want to clearly understand what type of practices are prohibited. If you have a particular concern, ask to meet with the center's director or have a one-on-one with a provider.

5. What types of meals and snacks do you serve?

Parents and providers often have different notions about what is a nutritionally balanced and suitable meal or snack. Parents must be sensitive to the fact that child care providers cannot tailor meals to individual children (unless parents bring the food); however, particular requests or items to avoid should be noted. Any food sensitivities must be stated and clearly understood (such as allergies). After that, ask what the stance is on occasional treats, junk food, and food preparation.

6. Do you charge extra if I'm late picking my child up?

Some child care providers charge $1 for every minute a parent is late picking a child up after closing hours. Others are more lax and a few may even offer parents a couple of exceptions due to extenuating circumstances. However, a few minutes is one thing; 30 minutes late is typically never acceptable. After all, your lateness prevents staff from going home and on to their planned activities. Some facilities may even have firm rules for tardy parents in which they can choose to cease care.

7. What is your staff turnover rate?

It should come as no surprise that staff turnover rates at daycare centers are high. While 30 to 40 percent is the average annual turnover, it doesn't mean that is the rate at your preferred day care. It is important, however, to ask. You want to know what the frequency of staff changes because it can affect your child's comfort and sense of security if changes are too frequent. And, high turnover can signal a serious problem in the center's operation.

8. What is your overall child care philosophy?

Does this daycare focus more on nurturing and providing quality care or does it have an academics component as well? How are providers trained and what do they determine is "age appropriate?" What types of enrichment activities are done and how will parents be informed of these? Do kids all do everything or is there a way for youngsters to choose their interests? Does the provider offer stations of choice? Is there a schedule that is adhered to each day?

9. What are your security/safety policies?

Parents should look around at the overall environment and determine their level of comfort in its cleanliness and overall safety protocols. What is the supervision ratio? Is there a security check-in and check-out in place and is it enforced? Is it well-ventilated, well-lit and a comfortable temperature? Are toys sanitized on a regular basis? Are there camera monitors? Is the outdoor play equipment installed correctly?

10. Can I observe/visit my child whenever I like?

Parents should feel welcome and wanted, and know that their assistant can be a valued addition to activities. Does your potential child care provider ask whether you are interested in volunteering or whether you'd like to help out at an upcoming class party? Do you feel welcome to come and go at any time or are there regimented visiting times only? Some prep programs may want to limit access because it can cause a disruption to learning time; others embrace parental interaction at any time.

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Children's Books: What's Hot Now: Kiss Good Night

Children's Books: What's Hot Now
These articles that had the largest increase in popularity over the last week // via
Kiss Good Night
Dec 30th 2011, 11:02

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Good children’s picture books weave artwork and text to create stories that children want to hear again and again. Such is the case with the children’s bedtime picture book Kiss Good Night, by Amy Hest, with illustrations by Anita Jeram. The mood of Kiss Good Night is set quickly in both the text and art.

Kiss Good Night: The Book's Illustrations and Design

"It was a dark and stormy night on Plum Street."

The sky is pitch black, there is only a sliver of a moon, and leaves are swirling through the air. The bare branches of the tree by the bedroom window twist in the wind as the little bear looks out at the storm. Jeram's choice of colors and almost primitive style of painting are particularly effective in contrasting the storm outside with the tranquility inside the bears' little house.

Anita Jeram is really a master at painting night scenes that are dark, yet vibrant with color and life. The illustrations cover every page and incorporate the text. The large size and the style of the font, Contemporary Brush Bold, add to the book's appeal. Candlewick Press is the publisher of Kiss Good Night.

Kiss Good Night: A Gentle Bedtime Story

The story is a simple one. Sam's mother is putting Sam to bed, but when she asks Sam if he is ready, he replies, "Oh, no. I'm waiting." Mrs. Bear quietly and affectionately tries several different activities to prepare Sam for bed. First, she reads him his favorite book; then, with the wind howling outside, she carefully tucks him in. As the rain begins to fall with a "Splat!" on the roof, she arranges all of Sam's stuffed toys around him. Finally, they both drink glasses of warm milk. After each of these activities, Mrs. Bear asks Sam if he is ready for bed, but he continues to reply, "Oh, no. I'm waiting." Mrs. Bear reviews everything they have done and realizes that she has forgotten to kiss Sam good night. After lots of kisses, despite the bad storm outside, Sam goes happily to sleep.

Kiss Good Night: Why Children Love the Book

Both the text and the artwork paint a picture of the home as a center of love and tranquility in the midst of the storm outside. The relationship between Sam and his mother is characterized by patience and affection. The author's use of repetition and a great many "and" connectors is appropriate to the language development of the three- to six-year-old age group. This is the kind of book children enjoy hearing again and again. You will find that your children will begin to fill in some of the words and phrases for you.

I particularly like this book because of the emphasis it places on bedtime as a pleasant time, rather than a time of conflict. Like Sam's mother, many of us have contended with the child who keeps asking for one more thing before going to sleep, but in reality just wants a last burst of affection before settling down for the night.

Kiss Good Night: The Author and the Illustrator

Amy Hest is a former children's librarian who also worked for years in children's publishing. She is the author of more than 30 children's books, including the popular picture book series featuring Baby Duck. Hest received a Boston Globe - Horn Book award for In the Rain with Baby Duck (compare prices). She has also been recognized for her novels, including The Private Notebook of Katie Roberts, Age 11 (compare prices). Amy Hest's son, Sam, was the inspiration for Kiss Good Night. According to the author, "When Sam was small he knew countless ways to keep me in his room at bedtime."

Anita Jeram is a native of Portsmouth, England. In addition to illustrating children's books, Jeram has also written and illustrated several books, including Bunny, My Honey (compare prices). However, she is most well known as the illustrator of the enormously popular Guess How Much I Love You (compare prices) by Sam McBratney. In Kiss Good Night, her artwork reflects her own feelings, as revealed by the following statement: "When the children and I are comfortable and safe, tucked up snug in bed, listening to the rain outside the window, everything around seems to glow with warmth."

Who wouldn't want to go to sleep feeling safe and loved?

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Children's Books: What's Hot Now: The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Children's Books: What's Hot Now
These articles that had the largest increase in popularity over the last week // via
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Dec 30th 2011, 11:02

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What makes a children's book so popular that by 2009, the 40th anniversary of its publication, more than 29 million copies have been sold and it's been translated into more than 47 languages? In the case of Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar, it's the combination of wonderful illustrations, an entertaining story, and a unique book design. Carle's illustrations are created with collage techniques. He uses hand-painted papers, which he cuts, layers, and shapes to create his colorful artwork. The pages of the book vary in size, which is part of the fun.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar: The Story

The story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a simple one that emphasizes numbers and days of the week. The caterpillar is not only very hungry, but he also has unusual tastes in food, ones that delight children. After popping out of an egg on Sunday, the very hungry caterpillar eats holes through the book's pages as he eats his way through a variety of foods, beginning with one apple on Monday and two pears on Tuesday and ending with five oranges on Friday and 10 different foods on Saturday (chocolate cake, ice cream, a pickle, Swiss cheese, salami, a lollipop, cherry pie, sausage, a cupcake, and watermelon).

Not surprisingly, the very hungry caterpillar ends up with a stomach ache. Fortunately, a serving of one green leaf helps. The now very fat caterpillar builds a cocoon. After staying in it for two weeks, he nibbles a hole in the cocoon and emerges a beautiful butterfly. For an entertaining explanation of why his caterpillar comes out of a cocoon rather than a chrysalis, see Eric Carle's Web site.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar: The Artwork and Design

Eric Carle's colorful collage ilustrations and the book's design add immensely to the book's appeal. Every page has a hole in it where the caterpillar eats through the food. The pages for the first five days are different sizes, corresponding with the number of pieces of food the caterpillar eats. The page for the day the caterpillar eats one apple is very small, a little bigger for the day it eats two pears, and full size for the day it eats five oranges.

Why Eric Carle Writes About Small Creatures

As for the reason so many of his books are about small creatures, Eric Carle gives the following explanation:

When I was a small boy, my father would take me on walks across meadows and through woods....He'd tell me about the life cycles of this or that small creature....I think in my books I honor my father by writing about small living things. And in a way, I recapture those happy times.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar: My Recommendation

The Very Hungry Caterpillar was originally published in 1969 and has become a classic. It is a good picture book to own or to take out of the library frequently. Children 2-5-years-old enjoy hearing the story again and again. Babies and toddlers particularly enjoy the board book edition. Happily, you will enjoy reading it to them again and again also. Add to the fun by making a story sack to go along with the book. Guide Sherri Osborn has directions for a variety of story sacks, including a story sack for The Very Hungry Caterpillar on the Family Crafts site. (Philomel Books, 1983, 1969. ISBN: 9780399208539)
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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Childrens Music: Review - Disney's The Muppets: Original Soundtrack

Childrens Music
Get the latest headlines from the Children's Music GuideSite. // via
Review - Disney's The Muppets: Original Soundtrack
Dec 29th 2011, 08:10

nullSpeaking of The Muppets and their soundtracks (see below), Disney's The Muppets: Original Soundtrack falls slightly flat when compared to Disney's The Muppets film and to 1979's The Muppet Movie soundtrack. Flight of the Conchords' Bret McKenzie's tunes are cute enough, but they just don't measure up to Paul Williams and Kenny Asher's classic compositions for The Muppet Movie.

Check out this review of Disney's The Muppets: Original Soundtrack and see what you think.

Image Courtesy Walt Disney Records

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Child Care: What's Hot Now: Fire Safety and Fun CAN Occur

Child Care: What's Hot Now
These articles that had the largest increase in popularity over the last week // via
Fire Safety and Fun CAN Occur
Dec 29th 2011, 11:02

Fire safety does not necessarily need to be a serious or scary topic for kids. The key is for the kids to learn how to escape from a fire safety; not to become scared of being in a fire. By tailoring activities and lessons to the age of the child, lessons can still be taught...while kids have fun in the process. Here are 10 fun activity ideas that child care providers, parents and teachers alike can utilize to get the safety message across while still having fun in the process.

1. Field Trip Time

Since kids are sometimes frightened by fire fighters and may even hide from them (as some do to any individual in uniform), adults can plan a special trip to take them to a fire station and introduce them to uniformed fire fighters. Call the station and schedule an appointment in advance, so that staff can be on hand to spend special time with the children. Of course, plans could change if a fire call takes them away from the station.

2. Create Your Own Fire Safety Poster Contest

Establish a fire safety poster contest at daycare, school, or at home. Ask children to create a safety picture of kids doing the right thing in escaping from a fire. Display the posters and talk about them.

3. Book It! Fire Safety Books Teach Lessons Well

Read children books on fire safety or, for the youngest kids, about fire trucks and their purpose, and fire stations. There are many on the market, such as “No Dragons for Tea: Fire Safety for Kids (And Dragons),” “Stop Drop and Roll (A Book About Fire Safety),” “Fire! Fire!” and “Home Safety” (Adventures in the Roo World â€" Young Roo Series No. 4).

4. R-E-D, Red: Fire Trucks Are Red

Choose the color RED as a theme and build on fire safety through the use of red fire trucks. Have them draw a red fire truck, a red fire extinguisher, and any other red elements and have kids wear red clothing. Consider providing a treat of red hots, red suckers or red apples and drink red punch or juice as a reward for a day well-done.

5. Exit, Exit: Where Are You?

Take a walk around the daycare or school, or if at home plan a simple outing, and hunt for EXIT signs. Keep tally marks of all the signs found. Turn it into a game. If possible, turn the lights off in a building and let kids see the EXIT signs remain lit and then discuss why. As a follow up, have kids create their own special EXIT signs as a project.

6. Role Play Games of Stay Low & Go, and Stop, Drop & Roll

Play a game of “Stop, Drop and Roll.” This is a fun game for kids and the lesson taught can be invaluable. Also, create a game with “Stay Low and Go.” A teacher can press an alarm (use anything with sound) and then kids practice these skills as fast as they can. Be sure to explain when they should “stay low and go” and when it would be appropriate to “stop, drop and roll.” Children should be encouraged to cover their faces when rolling.

7. Alarm! It's Drill Time

Plan a fire safety evacuation drill. In-home providers should practice this as well. Assign one child each day to hold a bell or other “alarm” and let them choose the time anytime throughout the day to ring it and shout “Fire! Fire!” and for the other kids to evacuate. Providers/teachers of older kids can create some unexpected roadblocks/obstacles from time to time such as taping up an imaginary fire that means kids cannot leave the building through that route.

8. Hats Off To Fire Fighters

Create fire fighter hats for kids and have them pretend to be firefighters. Discuss equipment that a fire fighter needs and why. Let kids see and learn how to use a fire extinguisher. Older kids should know where a fire extinguisher is located.

9. Find the Meeting Spot

Have kids brainstorm where they should go once they leave a burning house or building. Have parents provide this information so that teachers can reinforce it. A fun game is to have kids sit in a circle and the first whispers to the the first kid, who then passes it to the next one, and so on, as to the meeting place. Sound the alarm, have kids meet at the place, and then the provider or teacher must find them.

10. Detect the Smoke Detectors

Let children look, touch, and experience a smoke detector alarm. Make a counting game of having them count the number of detectors in a building or at a home. Have them ask their parents if the batteries have been changed recently. For older kids, turn the hunt into a scavenger hunt, complete with fire-safety related clues.

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Child Care: What's Hot Now: Caregiver Answers to Questions

Child Care: What's Hot Now
These articles that had the largest increase in popularity over the last week // via
Caregiver Answers to Questions
Dec 29th 2011, 11:02

You've made the decision that you need a care provider for your child. That's sometimes the hardest part. Now, it's a matter of finding a qualified provider that meets the needs of you and your family. So, what initial questions should a parent ask a potential child care provider? Here are 12 quick questions that can help screen whether a more comprehensive visit or tour is desired before making this important decision.

1. Do you have any openings? This should always be your first question, because if the answer is no and you need care in the near future, this provider probably isn't going to meet your needs. However, if you really want this particular provider, be sure to ask about a waiting list or other contingency plans...just in case.

2. Where are you located and what is traffic like during typical morning and evening pick-up times? It's one thing to drive by a potential facility on a Sunday afternoon; it's another to try and turn left into the center across a sea of cars during rush hour. If keeping an on-time schedule is important to you, you need to know what you're facing.

3. What are your operating hours? Typical hours with most institutional day care facilities are 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. or 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Others partnering with corporations or educational institutions may have hours more like 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Know your operating needs, and how long you'll need from the time you leave work (and assuming you leave on time every day) to arrive at the center. You might also ask about what happens if you are late, and how is care provided for your child.

4. Are there key holidays or dates that the facility closes? Is this schedule firm or might there be adjustments as needed from time to time? Some facilities close for all key holidays; others offer care arrangements, but often at an additional charge. A few centers may close during summer months, or for longer periods during winter break periods. Make sure they'll be open when you need care, unless you have other options during those times.

5. What do you charge and are there additional fees or supplies I will be required to pay? The key is to have no surprises, and know exactly what you'll be paying for up front. Some centers offer discounted rates for certain employers. It never hurts to ask!

6. How are children organized? Find out the ages of the other children, ratio of adults to children, and any special room arrangements.

7. Do you offer part-time or flexible care? Part-time jobs may only need part-time care. Some families may only need occasional care. Some centers offer transportation to and from school, and especially kindergarten.

8. What is your turnover rate? While a new provider shouldn't necessarily deter you from picking a provider, excessive turnover of staff might.

9. What backup care is provided in case of provider illness? Larger facilities often have backup plans in case, but if it is a home provider, a backup plan may be more difficult.

10. Are you certified and/or accredited? Why or why not? What training do you have? Parents should know whether a provider has basic First Aid and CPR or behavior management training, for example.

11. Are background checks conducted on all staff members? It's not enough to just know they are. Ask whether they are state or national checks and how often they are run on employees. Make sure you are comfortable with the response.

12. What is the daily schedule? Most caregivers should be able to provide parents with details about planned activities, thematic units, or a schedule by hour.

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