Monday, August 29, 2011

Back to School: So Close, Yet So Far for Some

Just as school was about to begin, some states were delayed due to Hurricane Irene

After the earthquake, the east coast was hit hard with Hurricane Irene. The hurricane caused a lot of power outages, delaying the first day of school for some areas in MD, RI, CT,

DE, VT and many other states along the east coast. Other schools that had already opened for the school year were also delayed and/or closed.

Once the school year does begin, and days are unexpectedly canceled due to weather or other conditions, it can be difficult for working parents to find the appropriate childcare. Here’s some tips for parents on how to handle the kids when school is cancelled:

Anticipate Bad Weather
Plan for a weather emergency by first discussing options with your employer. If you’re able to telecommute during weather emergencies, then bring work home whenever there’s a potentially threatening forecast.

If you are able to telecommute, make sure you have time-consuming activities that your kids can do independently, such as watching a movie, or a simple art project.

Ask for Help
If a close relative lives nearby and is able to watch your children occasionally, it’s ideal, but if weather is terrible, transportation can be a problem.

Swap Kids
Get a group of neighbors together who have children within your child’s age range and create a “kid swap” group. Whenever school is cancelled, take turns hosting the children, that way, each parent will only have to take off work on occasion, rather than each time.

Take a Vacation Day
While some employers would not take kindly to this option, most will be understanding of your situation. Enjoy a day off with your children… after all, shouldn’t family come first?

How have you dealt with last-minute school cancellations in the past? Let us know by commenting below, or on our Facebook or twitter pages.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Back to School Season is Upon Us

With school almost here, learn tips and tricks for parents and teacher to get the year off to a good start!

As the final days before kids go back to school approach, we’ve put together some tips for parents and teachers to make the 2011/2012 school year a success.

Tips for Parents

Create a Routine
After having the summer off, going back to school can be a big transition for children of any age, especially younger children who are transitioning from pre-school to kindergarten, or kindergarten to first grade. Before school starts, talk to your child about their new routine—meal times, after school activities, pickup times and bed time are all important daily markers for young children to anticipate.

Communicate with the School
Ensure that the school, and any after-school activities associated with it, have contact information for both parents in case of emergency or last-minute schedule changes. If you’re a single or separated parent, make sure teachers are aware and that both parties would like to be involved and informed.

Offer Help and Support when Needed
If your child is having difficulty with their homework, offer help and support, but do not do their work for them. Children need to learn to grow, so simply doing their work will not help them. Rather, sit with them and help them work through the question.

Follow the Dress Code
Make sure your child knows and understands the school’s dress code—regardless of whether or not they wear a uniform. To save time, help your child pick out an outfit for the next day every night before he/she goes to bed as a part of their routine.

Pack Healthy Lunches
Don’t let childhood obesity happen to your kid. Take the time to pack a nutritious and delicious lunch each and every day!

Get more tips here.

Tips for Teachers

View the Year as a Fresh Start
If you had some problem students last year, don’t take it out on this year’s students! For a successful year, each group of children is unique and different and should be viewed with an open mind.

Make a Good First Impression
On the first day of school, most teachers want to be liked by their students, but it’s also important to set the standard for the year. Be sure to go over all classroom rules, procedures and expectations. When calling role, do your best to get nicknames and pronounce names correctly, writing down phonetic spellings of any names you were corrected on. Of course, tell students about yourself and get them excited for an exciting year ahead!

Have Supply Lists Ready
Make sure you have your supply list ready to hand out on the first day of school, or, if you really want to impress parents, mail the list a few weeks before! Keep lists down to necessities, especially if you teach in a low-income area.

Look the Part
Regardless of age, always make it a point to look professional, not sloppy and avoid any provocative clothing.

Stay Positive
Even if you’re having a horrible day—it’s raining, you just got dumped, your car has a flat tire, etc. —try to remain as positive as possible. Your mood will affect the moods of your students.

Be Organized
With ever increasing class sizes, it’s hard for teachers to stay organized. So, why not use technology to your advantage to help track attendance, reports, allergy information and parent contacts?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

East Coast Earthquake – “We’re OK!”

Some parents on the east coast were worried about their children during yesterday’s rare earthquake

Yesterday, an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.8 hit Virginia at 1:51 p.m., but it was felt as far south as Georgia and as far north as Canada. Many workers were dismissed shortly after the earthquake, but with phone lines tied up, how could worried parents know their kids were safe?

Elisha Buividas, Academy Director in Vorhees, N.J., was able to alert parents instantly with just a few clicks. If you’re a teacher or daycare provider, you may be wondering how Buividas was able to do this so quickly—how could she have instantly found contact information for each and every parent, drafted a message and send it amidst a crisis? The answer: technology.

While phone lines may have been tied up, data is still able to be transferred. Buividas said, “Hope you survived the earthquake! We actually used Tadpoles to send out an ‘okay’ message to our parents, who liked it very much.” The “Tadpoles that she’s referring to is our Tadpoles Pro app, an iPhone/iPad app that allows schools and childcare providers to instantly access parent contact information and send out messages and alerts, in addition other features.

So, while some parents on the east coast were worried about their children, those of the academy had instant peace of mind via the Tadpoles app for parents.

No one can predict when a crisis such as yesterday’s earthquake will occur, but it’s better to be prepared than not— Elisha Buividas, and countless parents, can vouch for that!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Food Industry Concerned on Ad Regulations to End Childhood Obesity

Child obesity is a growing epidemic, so why is the food industry fighting back?

It’s evident that the national concern against childhood obesity continues to grow as the health and future of our children becomes more and more questionable. Now, the food industry is getting concerned because of proposed government guidelines.

Despite the mounting evidence that junk foods and fast foods are contributing factors toward the childhood obesity epidemic in America, the food industry is trying to fight the proposed national nutritional guidelines for food advertisements directed toward kids.

Several studies have been conducted with not so surprising results—kids prefer known brands, such as McDonalds, and are also more inclined to crave food endorsed by their favorite television characters. Typically, this food is almost always junk food, the very substance that is changing the face—and waistline—of America’s youth.

While the government is trying to regulate the kind of advertising toward children, the food industry does not plan on going down without a fight and are already looking for loopholes.

In our recent post on childhood obesity, we offered some tips for parents and daycares to easily enforce healthy eating habits and physical activity, but what else can we do to help?

Let us know how we can contribute to ending childhood obesity by commenting below, or on our Facebook or twitter pages.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The First Trip to Daycare Could be Harder for Parents than Children

Learn tips for parents and daycares on coping with the first day

While you may think that going to daycare for the first time may be scary for a young child, it can be just as traumatic, if not more so, for parents.When maternity and paternity leave is over with and it’s time to return to the workplace, parents are faced with some tough options, one of which is daycare. After spending so much time with their newborn, it can be difficult to return to work, but sometimes not going back just isn’t an option. Here’s some tips to ensuring the daycare experience is a successful one:

Tips for Parents
Pick a good daycare center by visiting several different centers. Talk with teachers, ask questions, and try to speak with parents who take their children there.

Review and know the daycare center’s policies. Some daycares charge very high fees if you are late picking up your children, which can definitely add up.

Prepare your child and yourself by having friends or family take care of your child before he/she starts daycare.

Stay busy at work to ensure you aren’t constantly worrying about your child.

Check in during the day to stay involved by choosing a daycare that is willing to openly communicate throughout the day and send photos, videos and updates of your child.

Tips for Daycares
Reassure parents
that their child is safe in your hands by answering questions thoroughly and carefully.

Be precise on daycare policies and procedures to avoid any future confusion.

Guarantee student teacher ratios

Stay organized by using a childcare management application, ensuring that children get picked up from daycare by the right party.

Discuss playtime and snacks. Be specific on how much playtime children receive and stress the importance of healthy snacks since childhood obesity is a growing concern among parents.

Connect with parents
by sending them photos, videos and reports of their child throughout the day.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Santorum's Controversial Speech on Early Childhood Education

Rick Santorum, GOP presidential candidate hopeful and former senator, disagrees with early childhood education programs.

While we, and most others, believe that parent involvement in early childhood education is quintessential to the development of a child’s brain, it’s also important to understand the value that early childhood educators and early childhood education programs are providing.

In contrast to the majority’s school of thought, GOP presidential candidate hopeful Rick Santorum is actually opposed to early childhood education. Santorum believes that early childhood education programs are the government’s attempt to indoctrinate children. At a recent campaign appearance, he stated, “It is a parent’s responsibility to educate their children. It is not the government’s job…. They want your children from the womb so they can indoctrinate your children as to what they want them to be. I am against that.” Santorum even practices what he preaches—he and his wife Karen are home-schooling their seven children until the ninth grade.

While most people do not question early childhood education, preschool programs have been proven to provide long-term benefits throughout a child’s life.

Do you agree with Santorum in that early childhood education is the sole responsibility of a parent and the government should not be involved? Share your thoughts by commenting below, or on our Facebook or twitter pages.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Size Matters: How Student Teacher Ratios Can Change Lives

With school districts and childcare providers considering budget cuts, classroom size is a major issue for teachers, students and parents

Potentially Huge Classroom Sizes
As the date of going back to school quickly approaches, there’s still a lot of concern about classroom size.

In Cleveland, the school district and teachers are still debating wages and staffing, with the teachers’ union concerned that class sizes could get to 50 or 60 students unless more teachers are hired. Last year, class sizes averaged approximately 35, and with approximately 300 positions still open, it’s no wonder that the union is concerned about upcoming student teacher ratios. Teachers are also worried about overly large classes that would not fit well into classrooms, making their jobs more about “crowd control” rather than teaching and ultimately affecting students’ ability to learn.

Dangerously Low Student Teacher Ratios
It’s not just public schools that are feeling the pressure due to understaffing. Earlier this summer, 3-year-old Naseir Janas Ponders nearly drowned at the Otter Creek Water Park in Greenville, SC. The boy was on a field trip with the teachers of the YMCA of Judson’s Community Center, but he was found floating face down in the water and had to be resuscitated by a passerby at the park. Once saved, sources say it was approximately 45 minutes before the staff from the YMCA had realized. When staff was asked what happened, they stated that they were trying to round up all of the children, and Ponders took off running… but what was done?

Only two YMCA supervisors accompanied approximately 11 children on the field trip, which, according to the S.C Department of Social Services, should have been a 3-to-1 child-to-teacher ratio. While his family is grateful that their little boy is still alive, they blame his near-death on negligence, “Accidents happen. This was not an accident. …it was negligence that nobody was supervising him.”

Thankfully, Ponders is ok, but the whole scenario, including an investigation from the Department of Social Services, could have been avoided with better childcare management. It’s important for childcare directors to manage their staffing levels, and realize an appropriate student teacher ratio, especially for field trips. Now, the Tadpoles Pro app offers increased functionality to help childcare directors manage the amount of staff they need. In addition to seeing attendance based upon data, there’s a new feature for future expected attendance. By using student schedules, enrollment dates, graduation dates and return dates, the Tadpoles Pro app calculates expected student levels, for dates far into the future… all for free!

If you work at a school or childcare provider, do you anticipate your classroom sizes expanding this fall? If so, how do you plan to cope? Let us know by commenting below, or on our Facebook or twitter pages.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Can Childcare Providers Help Stop Childhood Obesity?

Learn simple steps childcare providers can take in order to prevent childhood obesity.

Currently, approximately 60 percent of children under age 5 are in some form of child care, spending approximately 29 hours a week there. Over half of obese children first become overweight at or before age 2 and one in five children are overweight or obese by the time they turn 6.

First Lady Michelle Obama launched the Let’s Move campaign, releasing a checklist of best practices for reducing childhood obesity that child care providers could implement in order to aid in the prevention of it. The checklist includes:

Physical Activity
Childcare providers should offer 1-2 hours of physical activity throughout the day, especially outdoor activity if possible.

Screen Time

Children under 2 years of age should not look at electronic screens, but for children age 2 and older, screen time should be approximately 30 minutes per week during child care hours. Providers should work with parents to ensure that children do not get more than 1-2 hours of screen time per day, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Food & Beverage
Childcare providers should serve fruits or vegetables at every meal, avoid fried foods and eat in a group when possible. Beverages should consist of water, which should be offered throughout the day, low-fat or non-fat milk and no more than 6 oz. of 100% juice per day. Sugary drinks, such as soda should be avoided.

Childcare Providers & Parent Involvement
While we’ve discussed how parent involvement is crucial in early childhood development, it’s also crucial for reinforcing these healthy habits. Even if childcare providers are following the checklist, it may not be enough unless they are actively pursuing parent involvement and engagement.

Engaging Parents
If parents are able to see that their child is eating and drinking healthy and getting a lot of physical activity, they may become inspired and thus more inclined to continue those habits at home. Childcare providers can easily do this by sending pictures and/or videos of their children eating healthy snacks and playing outside via childcare management applications. Seeing a video of their child playing outside, and how happy it makes them, may inspire parents to play with their children outdoors more—despite their busy days.

If you’re a childcare provider, let us know how you plan to, or how you already have, implemented the checklist by commenting below, or on our Facebook or twitter pages.