Holiday Director’s Corner

December 2015

Well the holiday season is in full swing here in Bakersfield. Decorations are going up, sales are happening to entice the purchase of many perhaps unnecessary items and the excitement of the season is showing in the faces of the children here at the center.

This is my favorite time of the year. Not because of the commercialism of it all but rather the meaning of the season. No matter what holidays you celebrate it is about family and friends coming together. It seems that in many cases this is the only time of the year you gather and celebrate just being together and oh what a shame that is. We should keep our family and friends close to enjoy all year long. Years pass far too fast.

With this season, many parents are making the purchase of toys for their children so I thought that I would give some simple safety tips to help make shopping easier.

* Always pay attention to the age recommendations on toys and choose one according to a child’s age, interest level and skill level.

* Be aware of safety labels such as “Flame retardant/flame resistant” or Washable/Hygienic materials” on dolls and other stuffed toys.

* Discard the plastic wrappings from toys immediately; they can become deadly playthings to small children.

* For children one and under, choose toys that are colorful, lightweight, have various textures and are made on non-toxic materials. Children this age learn through sight, touch, sound and taste and often put things into their mouths to explore them.

* Don’t give young children any toys with small parts such as removable eyes, noses, etc. These can become choking hazards.

* Toys with strings, cords or ribbons of any kind should not be hung in cribs or playpens. Young children can become entangled which can cause injury or death.

* Teach older children to keep their toys that may have removable small parts, sharp points or toys an on electricity out of reach of younger siblings. Young children are very curious and may investigate toys that aren’t appropriate for them.

* Toys get used and abused by children; regularly conduct a toy maintenance check for safety and durability.

* Teach children to put toys away when they are finished playing with them. This will prevent accidental falls over them.

More information can be found on the Fisher-Price website.

I wish everyone the Happiest of Holidays and Blessings for the coming New Year.
Fall Director’s Corner
Fall Director’s Corner

Fall is in the air and for me a new since of excitement. We have many new children coming into the center, children moving from one room to another as they get older, and children able to separate from parents that were having difficulty doing so. What an exciting time. Part of my excitement every day comes from the observation of children and the trust that has grown for me over the past thirty plus years that children are going to do what children need to do, if allowed the freedom and right to do it. (of course under supervision).

I was out on a play yard last week and watched as one of the three-year old boys contemplated jumping off the structure platform. I watched as this young explorer looked at the ground then up on the platform. He and one of his friends were pointing up and talking about how far it must be. They then climbed up on the platform and looked down. Creeping to the edge of the surface and placing his toes just over the edge, all the while keeping his balance, I heard him say to his friend,” I can jump off, wanna see?” Now a true friend would be supportive of this adventure which was exactly what happened. The friend urged him, “You can do it- do it.” Just as he started to let go and drop to the ground, the teacher stopped him. “No jumping from the structure please.”

We need to examine our environments to see if they allow for risk taking. I remember as a child our school playground allowed for many risks. The one most memorable was of course jumping out of the swings. I am sure you all remember that. We would swing until you could not get any higher, move our arms into position and at the precise moment we would fling ourselves out of the swing and for a split second we were flying. What was the worst that could happen, a skinned knee or elbow, a split chin or possibly a broken bone. But as a child those thoughts never crossed our minds, only the joy of flying freely until we came to that sudden stop. Once we shook off the landing we would run back to the swings and wait our turns again. Why in the world would we subject ourselves to the potential harm? Risks – that why. Taking risks, a part of life that we don’t consciously think about but yet we do things that include risks each and every day.

In the National Education Association’s publication of Play’s Place in Public Education for Young Children, we learn that risk taking is linked to literacy. In their article, “Play, Risk Taking and the Emergence of Literacy,” contained within the above mentioned book, authors Ann Fordham and William Anderson state, “Children who are afraid to take risk rarely become fluent readers. They shrink from the venturesome activity that is essential for literacy to flourish. Forced attention to an intricate set of unreliable and confusing rules takes precedence over natural tendencies to explore.”

Children need to jump off things and climb on things. Of course they are doing all of the while being watched closely. Another example of risk taking happened a few years ago in a classroom with a small group of boys. They were building with the large hollow blocks. I could see what was going on – they were building a large structure, testing it as they went along for its soundness ad sturdiness. When they had it as tall as they could reach one little guy did what I trusted he would do, he started to ascend to the top of the structure. Again as he made his first step from across the room the teacher stated, “Feet on the ground.” I walked over closer and asked, “What are you wanting to do here? “He simply answered, “Stand on the top.” Trying to hide my smile, I explained that he could only do this if I or another adult were close by. So I let him. He made it to the top or as close as he could, raised his hands in victory and shouted, “Yeah! I did it.” Then he climbed down and didn’t ask again. He had taken his risk, it was successful and he could move on to another activity. Now, I am in no way encouraging anyone to compromise safety. I am simply pointing out the importance of behaviors such as: climbing up slides, swinging on tummies, jumping off swings and other objects, hanging and dropping from monkey bars and having two children on the bike at the same time. All things that most adults enjoyed as young children.

In Lisa Murphy’s book, Identifying and creating child-centered environments she writes, “children who do not risk when they are little grow up looking for risks to take when they are older. But when we are nineteen, twenty or twenty-one years old, sliding down a slide face first or diving into a puddle of mud just doesn’t meet the risk requirements they may have when we were four. So what do we do as adults? Drive 125 miles per hour down the freeway, bungee jump, or a new one that is becoming more common – elevator surfing (climbing to the top of an elevator and trying to get off before it hits the top of the building.) These seem to be risks of choice for some young adults. Personally I’d rather assist in cleaning up a skinned knee or helping to rinse out a mouthful of sand when a child is young, than get a call from the police at 2:00 am asking me to identify my teenager.” Wow what a powerful statement she makes here.

My thought for us as early childhood educators is to create safe environments that allow for risk taking each and everyday. Allow children to test, investigate, explore and test some more – the advantages of risk taking at an early age will be beneficial as your child grows older. Take a risk – let your child do the same.