Monday, October 8, 2018

Preparing your infant for child care

Starting an infant in child care can be stressful for everyone involved. Parents want to be able to spend time with their little one, but have to go to work or school. Infants need specialized, consistent quality care. Child care providers want to provide high quality, loving care while balancing the needs of multiple children and licensing requirements.

The care your infant receives at child care will be similar to what you provide at home, but there will be unavoidable differences. Many of the differences are part of the regulations for licensed* child care providers. These may include things like safe sleep practices, safe and/or healthy nutrition guidelines, curriculum and activity requirements, and illness policies. Additionally, care givers strive to provide a caring transition that makes your little one feel secure and loved.

*If you didn't know, most states require some level of licensing for caring for children. This includes people who regularly care for children in their home. If you are unsure of your state's requirements for child care, check with the Department of Early Childhood Education to get more information. 

I surveyed family child care providers in Massachusetts to find out what parents can do to help them give the highest quality care to infants. Here is what they said:

What can parents do to help ease the transition from home to child care?

Safe Sleep Practices

Massachusetts has very strict guidelines for safe sleep practices in child care. The American Academy of Pediatrics also issued an updated list of recommendations for safe sleep recently. These guidelines and recommendations are intended to help reduce the risk of things like SIDS, strangulation, and choking.
What do caregivers need to do?
Caregivers must place infants on their back to sleep (unless prescribed differently by a doctor) in a bed designed for sleeping: crib, porta-a-crib, play pen, bassinet. Bed must have a firm, flat mattress and a tight fitting, clean sheet. Bed may not have anything in it other than the baby and what the baby is wearing, including a sleeper or sleep sack. Pacifier can be used while the baby is awake and will removed if it falls out of their mouth. Car seats, swings, or vibrating chairs cannot be used while an infant is sleeping. Items like blankets, pillows, wedges (unless prescribed by a doctor), or toys will not be allowed at child care. Infants younger than 6 months will be on constant visual supervision of infants, even during sleep. Provide safe sleep information to parents. Take regular training on safe sleep practices.
What can parents do?
At least once a day, have your child lay by themselves on their back on a flat surface intended for sleep during nap time. Allow time for the baby to sleep while on the flat surface. Occasionally lay the baby down while they are awake. Make sure the bed is clear from anything that is not the baby, his pacifier (with no stuffed animal, string, or clip attached), and a nap sack. Practicing at home helps baby to be comfortable with this sleeping arrangement.

Safe & Healthy Nutrition

Infant's food intake can be different from one child to another. Breast milk, formula, purees, and finger foods all have to be served to the right child, at the right time, using the right method. On top of the regulations, care givers have to do regular training in CPR, first aid, and choking prevention.
What do caregivers need to do?
It is recommended that bottles are given cold or at room temperature. There are guidelines to follow for warming bottles, including things like: the bottle should be held under warm running water, the baby cannot be held while caregiver is removing the bottle from warm water, bottle warmer appliances are not allowed. Caregivers must hold infants while giving them a bottle. Although it is not a regulation, care givers may have policies to send infants home that refuse to eat for extended periods of time.
Care givers are required to follow USDA guidelines for nutrition. Care givers must follow a feeding schedule, document feedings, and document newly introduced foods. Your caregiver may share information on developmentally appropriate feeding practices as your child reaches milestones.
What can parents do?
If the baby is nursing, make time for someone other than the mother to feed the baby on a regular basis for 2-3 weeks before child care begins. The baby may need time to adjust to using a bottle or may reject certain types of bottles. Hold infants while giving them bottles. Give bottles that are cold or at room temperature.
Follow a regular schedule for feedings for a few days before child care begins and follow that schedule on weekends after child care begins. Share that routine with the child care provider and inform them if the routine changes. Tell your child's care giver when your child last ate, what they ate, and if there were any changes since they were last in care. Tell your child's care giver if they tried a new food since last in care.

Curriculum & Activities

What do caregivers need to do?
Tummy time is required daily for infants. While in child care, babies will likely have to be laid down while they are awake. All children are required to be allowed gross motor and outdoor time on a daily basis. In a family child care, it is likely that there are children of multiple ages in the group. There will be times that the care giver is not giving 100% of their attention to your infant, because they are expected to provide developmentally appropriate activities for all of the children in their care.
What can parents do?
Trust infants to spend time on their own. Allow them time to lay independently on the floor, play mat, or in a play pen.  Outdoor clothing is needed starting on day one and every day after that, even for the youngest infants. Child care can be a loud, busy place. Don't be afraid to make noise at home that would normally occur if the infant weren't home, especially while they are sleeping.

Illness Policies

What do caregivers need to do?
Licensed providers are required to keep records of illness and injury, which includes reporting serious illness and injury to DEEC. There will be times where your infant will not be able to attend child care because they are suspected to have a contagious illness or are too sick to participate. A mindful caregiver will notify parents when one of the children in the program has symptoms that could be spread. Medication has to be documented and provided by the parent in the original container with the directions. Care givers also have to follow hand washing, diapering, sanitizing, and disinfecting policies.
What can parents do?
Have a plan for illnesses. Babies will get sick. It is important to fully understand your caregivers illness policy and to follow it accurately. Illness policies are designed to reduce the spread of illness and reduce how long those illnesses last.  Typically, illness policies include: sending home children with fever/vomit/diarrhea and excluding children for 24+ hours following their symptoms. You can help prevent the spread of illness by regularly washing your hands with warm, soapy water and helping your infant wash their hands with baby wipes or at the sink once they are strong enough. It is important to keep your emergency contact information up to date. Many providers require pick up within 30-60 minutes of notification of illness.

Loving Relationships & Secure Attachment

What do caregivers need to do?
Care givers are expected to support and encourage positive relationships with the families they work with. Providers should have open communication with the families and consider parent input for programming. High quality care givers will have an "open door policy," which means parents are allowed to come into program space at any time their child is present. Care givers are expected to have responsive relationships with the families and children they provide care for. This includes attentive, consistent, and comforting interactions.
What can parents do?
Follow a routine at home that is similar to what will followed at child care. Begin this routine 2-3 weeks before child care begins, then try to match it loosely on weekends until the child is well adjusted to the change. To help your infant feel secure at child care, sleep with a t-shirt, stuffed animal, or the sheet to be used when they are trying to settle for nap.
Have a plan for drop off. Dropping off and then leaving your child care be difficult. Demonstrate trust and confidence by following a quick, predictable routine at drop off. This will likely include putting your child's things away, updating the care giver of the last time they ate/slept/diaper change, and saying good bye follow immediately by leaving. Drop off is not a good time for in depth conversations.  If you need to have a longer conversation, send an email or ask when a good time to call would be.
Any child care that does not have an open door policy or refuses to allow parents to enter or see the child care space during operating hours is not a high quality program. High quality programs may ask you to call or text before coming at an irregularly scheduled time or to be mindful of the busier times in the routine (prepping for lunch, nap time), so that the program is able to run smoothly.

Keep in mind that each child care will be different. Do your research and find what is best for your family.

Note: Items listed under "What do caregivers need to do?" are not a complete summary of the regulations and policies that licensed providers in Massachusetts are required to follow. Child care providers should refer to the DEEC's website or their licensor for current and complete regulations and policies.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Child Led Project Based Learning: Building a Dam

Our outside area includes a mud pit. It is exactly what you think it is: a sunken area filled with mud.

There was a small problem with our mud pit. Last summer the adjacent patio was removed when the deck was replaced. This left a depressed area with nothing to keep the mud in the pit. The weather warmed up, we began using water, and the mud began moving to parts of the yard where we (I) didn't want the mud to go.

For a quick fix, I moved one of the logs to that space. I knew it wouldn't hold back all of the mud, but it would slow it down until I could put in something more permanent.

The children noticed a problem with this almost immediately.

With the new log in place to block mud and water, they set to work making a giant puddle. Which worked well for a few minutes, but the water began to seep under the log.

The first attempt to block the water involved layering rocks. That slowed the water, but they didn't have the puddle they wanted. The next time we met, they used both mud and rocks to block the passage. This worked much better, but there was still come leaking. The third attempt blocked all of the water from getting through. The main difference in this attempt was that there was time for the mud to dry.

Drying Mud

 Successful Dam!

Follow up research included watching an episode of Peep and the Big Wide World. There are a few episodes that have to do with building dams and understanding how water moves. This led to discussions about beavers and how they make dams.

Friday, May 18, 2018

I am not helpless.

I know I "shouldn't" make a political post, but here it is anyway:

Today we are faced with yet another tragedy in our schools. Families and friends in Santa Fe, Texas are mourning losses and beginning to wade through the grief of being a survivor.

I just read the story moments ago. First, reading for facts and in disbelief that this has happened yet again. Then, reading the first person accounts and personal connections to the school.

And I cried.

I cried because it is truly senseless violence. I cried because my heart hurt for the children and teachers who go to these places intended for creating a passion for learning, eagerness to explore and grow, building community and kinship - but instead have fear that they might not make it through the day.

I cried because I felt helpless.

Then, I cried a bit harder because I realised I am not in a position of helplessness. I, and you, can make a difference. For myself, There are three ways I’m going to face this problem head on and make a positive difference, make my community safer, help our children to grow to be healthy, mindful, and caring adults. (To be honest, I just teared up again.)

Becoming a caring, respectful person doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen when you turn 18, magically finished with childhood and now legally “adult.” It happens slowly, over time, starting at birth. Child care providers are the first teachers and their work is so, so important. We’ve all heard that the first three years are prime time for learning. I think what is lost in that is that the focus for learning is social. Its language and problem solving skills. All skills that require lots and lots and lots of playtime with peers and playing with adults who are modeling behavior and social skills. Not reciting from flashcards or being forced to try to read.

You learn to interact with others by interacting with others. So, I will continue to use my child care as a place where children can learn the skills they will need to be successful, healthy adults.

In that same vein, I am a board member to our local family child care association. This is an organization that licensed providers join for professional development. It gives me a unique opportunity to not only positively influence the children I work with directly, but to help train other teachers and hundreds more children than I ever could on my own. I will push for classes that teach how the brain works, how it grows and responds to various stimuli, and how children learn through play.

Additionally, I am actively involved in my town’s SEPAC. A SEPAC is an advisory council to the school committee for families that have children with special needs. With the others in this group, we will be able to give input on protocol during crisis events for children with special needs. We will be able to push for changes at the state level in IEP and 504 Plans so that they  include individualized instructions, practice, and training. We will be able to share information with parents about how to talk to their children if an event occurs. We will be able to help find information and specialized training for teachers, staff, and emergency professionals. We will be able to advocate for programming that includes social and emotional lessons across all levels of development and ability.

Am I still sad?


Am I still going to cry about it?


But I am not helpless. I am going to make a difference - not repairing what is broken, but by raising children who do not need to be fixed.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

2017-18 Update

Hi everyone!!

I don't know about you, but for me this year has been INTENSE.

Baby #3 joined our family last spring.

Our local SEPAC  became re-established over the past year and as of January I became the chair of that organization. Which, if you didn't know, is basically like taking on a second full time job, but it is all volunteer work.

I have continued serving on my local Family Child Care Association's board as Vice President - whose duty is to schedule and host all of the workshops for the year.

There is a new division of GFC called FCC Coaching. It is new, it is SO FUN and rewarding, but it is also a ton of work.

So, while all of that was going on, I was also running a Reggio Emilia Inspired child care program for children ages 1-4. Here are some photo highlights of our studies, adventures, and fun!!

Finding ants in September

Feathers as loose parts in September

Making sensory bottles with items found outside in September

Exploring gourds in October

Sending balls through a tube in October

Sending balls through a tube round #2 in October

Exploring gourds round #2 in October

Mud Kitchen in October

Exploring lines using whipped cream in October

Mixing colors in November

Usborne Book Fair in November

Making instruments in November

Exploring color theory in November

Building with big outside blocks in December

Loose parts tic-tac-toe in December

Taking risks in December

Making patterns with loose parts in December

Exploring texture in January

Exploring line making in January

Sorting & classifying in February

Getting outside for real world sensory experiences in February

Making gourmet mud pies in February

Sometimes the sensory experience is better if you actually get into the sensory table?

Painting on ice in March

Exploring ice in March

Doing some hard work in the snow in March

Testing out how rocks "roll" in the big tub in April

Painting in April

Cooking with loose parts in April

Painting on outside easels in April

I wish I could capture the hugs, giggles, and love that happens here each day in a photograph. <3

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Does my child count in ratio?

New Website
As GFC branches out to include FCC Coaching, there will be some changes on the website. For now, all blog posts will be made here. Once the new website is built, posts for parents and families will continue to be made here. Information for family child providers will move to its's own space reserved for educational consulting.

Does my child count in my ratio??

This question should be cut & dry for family child care providers, but it isn't. There are multiple variables that sometimes contradict each other within the regulations. So, let's try to wade through the regs. This list is for day time care, not evening or overnight care.

My understanding of ratio regulations for you own child:

My 0-4 year old
 - The child is on site during child care hours.
 - The child is home schooled.
 - The child has special needs.*
 - The child is off site during child care hours.
 - The child is on site with their parent (not the FCC provider) for less than one hour.**

My 5-9 year old
 - The child is there more than 3 consecutive hours for 5 or more days in a row, not including weekends and holidays, such as: summer vacation, extended school leave for illness or suspension.
 - The child is home schooled.
 - The child has special needs.
 - The child is there less than 3 consecutive hours and the child is there less than 5 days in a row each week.
 - There is a half day of school or no school for less than 5 days in one week, such as: professional day, snow day.
 - The child is on site with their parent (not the FCC provider) for less than one hour during one of the instances listed above where they would count in ratio.

My 10-15 year old
 - The child is home schooled.
 - The child has special needs.

My 16-17 year old
 - The child is home schooled.

* A child with special needs "may include" infants and toddlers on IFSP's for early intervention services. A child with special needs "may include" school age children that have a disability as  determined by evaluation. The qualifications of what would be included is not defined below.  More information on school age definition for special education can be found here and here

** "Child care child" is not defined. "Child" is defined below. There is no distinction between a child that lives in the home verses a child that does not live at the home. Care for the visiting child cannot impact care for other children in care at that time.


If my child stays home sick from school, do they count in my ratio?
No, usually. 
Your school age child that is 10 or older does not count in your ratio.
Your school age child aged 5-9 does not count on a sick day up to 4 consecutive days. After 4 consecutive days, school age children count in ratio if they are there more than 3 consecutive hours per day.
Your school age child that is age 5-16 that has special needs does count in your ratio.
If your child is less than 5 years old, they count in your ratio - unless they are visiting for less than an hour, are accompanied by a parent that is not the provider, and their presence does not impact the care for other children.

Does my child count in ratio on school vacation weeks?
No, usually. School age children do not count on holidays, if there is a holiday on the vacation week, do not include your own children on that day. School age children count after 4 consecutive days of being present for 3 or more hours each of those days.

My 4 year old goes to half day preschool somewhere else. Do they count in my ratio when they are here?

My 5 year old isn't in kindergarten yet, so they are here full time in my preschool program. Do they count as a school age child?
Yes. According to the definitions below, a 5 year old is a preschool child and a kindergarten child. School age child is partially defined as kindergarten children. If you have a license for 6+2, then your 5 year old would count as one of your +2.

I'm having a difficult time helping my 9 year old with homework, because they have behavior issues during academic tasks. It makes it very difficult to keep an eye on the other children. Do they count in my ratio if I'm helping them with homework during child care hours?
Yes. Your care for your own children cannot negatively impact the care for other children. If you are able to do homework during a different part of the day so that their behavior is not negatively impacting the care for other children, then they would not count in your ratio during the school year. Alternately, if the behavior issues during homework were resolved, the child would no longer count in your ratio during the school year.

Relevant Definitions

"Child – Any person under fourteen years of age, or sixteen years of age with special needs."

"Children with Special Needs – Children under sixteen years of age, who, because of temporary or permanent disabilities arising from intellectual, sensory, emotional, physical or environment factors, or other specific learning disabilities, are or would be unable to progress effectively in a regular school program. This may include, but not be limited to, a school age child with disabilities as determined by an evaluation conducted pursuant to M.G.L. c. 71B, § 3, and as defined by the Department of Education in 603 CMR 28.00 et. Seq, or an infant or toddler with an individual family service plan (IFSP) receiving early intervention services."

"Family Child Care –Temporary custody and care provided in a private residence on a regular basis during part or all of the day for no more than ten children younger than fourteen years of age or children under 16 years of age if such children have special needs. Family child care shall not mean an informal cooperative arrangement among neighbors or relatives, or the occasional care of children with or without compensation therefore."

"Fixed Age Group: A group of children within the same age range, such as infants, toddlers, preschoolers, kindergarten, and school age."

"Kindergarten Child - A child who is five years old or who will attend first grade the following year in a public or private school."

"Mixed Age Group: A group of children within two consecutive age groups, such as Infant/Toddler, Toddler/Preschool, Preschool/School Age or Kindergarten/School Age."

"Multi-Age Grouping: Ten or fewer children from birth through thirteen years (or sixteen years, if such children have special needs) assigned to a single group"

"Older School Age Child – A child at least nine years old."

"Preschooler/ Preschool Child – Any child at least two years and nine months old but not yet attending first grade."

"School Age Child – a kindergarten child or a child who is attending a public or approved private elementary school"

Relevant Regulations

"Unless specifically noted within the regulations, all requirements within these regulations apply to all programs providing non-residential services to children under the age of 14 years outside their own homes, regardless of the care setting or the age of the children served."

7.03 (5) (c)
"Determining Capacity.
The following children will be considered to be in the care of educators:
1. every child who lives in the family child care home who is younger than a school age child;
2. every child who lives in the family child care home who is home schooled, regardless of age;
3. every child under the age of ten who lives in the residence and is present for more than three consecutive hours on each of five consecutive days, excluding weekends and holidays;
 4. every person under the age of fourteen who does not live in the residence and is present during the time that child care is being provided;
5. during overnight care, every person under the age of eighteen who is present in the home."

7.10 (4)
"Multi-Age Grouping.
A group of children ranging in age from birth through thirteen years (or sixteen years, if such children have special needs), may be assigned on an ongoing basis to a single group, provided all provisions of 606 CMR 7.10(4) are met. The Multi-Age Grouping ratios and group sizes specified at 606 CMR 7.10(4)(d – h) may be used by:
(a) family child care and small group and school age -child care programs"

"group size: 7 or 8 children
Minimum Number of Educators Present: 1 educator
Limits on Ages of Children: No more than 3 children under two years of age, including at least one toddler who is walking independently. Additional children must be older than 24 months. All children over capacity of six must be school age."

Relevant Policy

Visits to the Family Child Care Home
606 CMR 7.10 et seq. specifies the number of children who may be present in the child care home and the means for determining licensed capacity. In addition, children visiting the family child care home will not be counted in determining licensed capacity if the visit lasts less than one hour and the children are accompanied by:
• the parent of a child care child
• a parent who wishes to place a child in the family child care home
• an adult with his/her own children who is visiting for the purpose of dropping off or picking up a child care child
Visitors must not impact the provider's ability to appropriately care for and supervise child care children."

These answers are based on the regulations and policies as they are written in July 2017. This is not legal advice. GFC and/or Alison Barnes are not responsible for any actions taken based on this information.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Spring 2017 Update

Hello World!

Our newest little one, Zadie, has joined the GFC family. Thank you for your patience over the last few months. We've been a bit busy with extra cuddles and getting to know her.

I'm starting to work on updating the website information, contracts, & parent handbook for the 2017-18 school year.

There are a few part time spots for toddlers and preschoolers over the summer. Full time & part time spots will be available for ages 6 months - 3 1/2 years beginning in September.

School age spots will be reserved for siblings of enrolled infant/toddler/preschoolers. At this time, those two spots are filled.

Some exciting changes coming up for next year:

Averaged Monthly Billing - This means I will calculate each families tuition for the year, then divide by the number of months enrolled. Families will pay the same amount each month, regardless of the actual days of programming in that particular month.

Flexible Payment Options - Invoices will be sent monthly. Families will be able to choose to pay from their checking account online or with a credit/debit card online.

Infant & Toddler Fun - Enrollment and programming will be geared towards our younger friends, specifically designed for those under 3.5 years old.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Baby Announcement!

The Can You Say That in English Please? series will continue in a few weeks. Keep an eye out for the next section: DEEC FCC Regulations 2010 - Can you say this in English, please? 7.06 Curriculum and Progress Reports.

For those who don't know, we are expecting a new little bundle in early March! New enrollments are on hold for the time being and the following memo addresses the upcoming closures related to our little girl's arrival.

New enrollment will begin in June for infants, ages 3 months-14 months, and toddlers, 15 months-30 months.

Maternity Leave Memo

We are so excited to be welcoming our new little girl to the world soon! So far, things are happening “on schedule,” but we all know that babies make their own timelines. In order to help your family plan, here is what will be available for child care with me over the next few months. The schedule is based on a due date of March 2.
Should I go into labor while children are here, my backup emergency person will come in. One of us will call parents for pick up and the backup care person will stay until you arrive.

Regular schedule will continue
Mon Jan 16 - GFC closed
Billing will switch to weekly payments, due the Friday before that week begins
Payments will be due Feb 3, Feb 10, Feb 17 - so long as baby doesn’t come early
Mon Feb 20 - GFC closed
Feb 21-24 will be full day care for school age children over Mid-Winter Break*
Feb 24 will be the last day of child care before I take my scheduled leave

There will be no child care and no tuition due for March 2017
GFC will be CLOSED Monday February 27 - Friday March 31
Monthly billing will resume on Fri March 31

Pending Ali & baby’s health, GFC will resume limited hours on Monday April 3
Fri Apr 14 & Mon Apr 17 - GFC closed
Full time care will not be available for school age children over April Break**
Expected hours***: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday: 830am-5pm
Tuesday, Friday: 3pm-5pm
Mon May 1 - GFC will resume regular full time hours

*If your school age child will not be attending GFC full time over February break, please let me know so that I can plan accordingly.
** GFC will not provide full time school age care April 18-21. Please make other arrangements.
*** Expected hours are based on current enrollment. If your children’s attendance is changing, please let me know so I can plan accordingly.

Thank you everyone for your support and understanding during this exciting time. We’ll be sure to post a few updates and pictures on Facebook!
Image result for baby girl clip art