Thursday, July 2, 2015

Four Ways to Make July 4 Meaningful for Kids

Read About It
Head to the library or local bookstore and pick up a children’s book about July 4. According to the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, reading to kids of all ages is proven to be beneficial to their language development (this includes young children).

Activity idea: Read a book about the holiday before and after the celebration.
"Whenever you link a book to what’s happening in your community and culture, it brings the event to life," said Marisa Conner, coordinator of Youth Services for Baltimore County Public Libraries in Maryland. "If you are going to a 4th of July parade, then read a book about parades before and after you go. Reading about the event makes it more real for them."
Throw a Birthday Party for America
Although your child may be too young to understand the concept of Independence Day and the history behind it, he or she probably understands what a birthday is and what it means to be born. 

Activity idea: Have a party complete with red, white and blue cake, music and games. Many online music hubs like Spotify and Pandora offer "patriotic playlists" for events like this.

Get Creative
You can make sparkly hats or headbands to wear, let your kids use their imaginations. Think about arts and crafts as a way to exercise children's motor skills, visual learning and decision making. 
"Parents need to be aware that children learn a lot more from graphic sources now than in the past,” says Dr. Kerry Freedman, Head of Art and Design Education at Northern Illinois University. “Children need to know more about the world than just what they can learn through text and numbers. Art education teaches students how to interpret, criticize, and use visual information, and how to make choices based on it.”
Activity idea: Have a flag hunt. Help kids make their own American flags with construction paper, paint, glitter, etc. and then hide the flags for an outdoor hunt. 

Make it a Learning Experience
Consider teaching your kids about who signed the Declaration of Independence, why it's important and some important facts about the signers. Kids can learn about important past events and personalities and relate them to their own experiences.
"It's the knowledge of a subject like history that gives you the wisdom you need to put your own life in a broader context, and know what you might be capable of in the future, by knowing what people have done in the past," said Lynne Munson, the Executive Director of Common Core. "Without a knowledge of history, your world is very small."
Activity idea: Browse for coloring pages, interactive games and more. One cool resource to help children understand colonial life in America is The site has a variety of interactive maps, stories and games.  

For a more detailed list, check out Camp PBS Parents.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

How DEL Olympia Took Kids to Work

On Thursday, June 25, DEL in Olympia celebrated "Take Your Child to Work Day" by inviting the children of employees to attend work for either full or half of the day. Around 40 kids attended, ranging in ages from toddler to 15.

DEL designed their celebration after receiving the governor's proclamation regarding the event. In the state-wide, suggested guidelines it states that,
"Children who are between the ages of seven and eighteen years old will gain the most benefit from this experience. Children under seven may not have the comprehension skills or attention span to benefit from this event."
Because the Department of Early Learning's work affects young children (birth to three and beyond), the agency felt it was essential to include their own little learners. DEL offered activities that represent early learning principles, showing that children start learning at birth (and even before).

The day’s festivities included:
  • Block Fest
  • a work-themed scavenger hunt, 
  • social-emotional learning activities, 
  • capital tours, 
  • a tour of the HVAC system on the roof of headquarters, 
  • badge-making and
  • a “mock meeting” with ice cream.
Kids were also encouraged to create their own graffiti in DEL's Partnerships and Collaboration division: Strengthening Families. This is the area of DEL that focuses on:
  • strengthening family bonds,
  • understanding childhood development,
  • coping with the challenge of parenting and
  • developing positive discipline skills.
DEL employee's children created graffiti in the Strengthening Families area. 
Children were able to visit the Early Support for Infants and Toddlers (ESIT) division within DEL and practice social-emotional development with a simple exercise: identifying emotions through facial expressions.

Kids can practice social-emotional development by identifying facial expressions.
From a facilities perspective, kids and their families were invited to see Olympia from the roof of DEL headquarters and learn more about the HVAC system and servers that keep the building going.

Facilities manager, Shaun Sullivan shows kids how the HVAC system heats or cools DEL headquarters.
This allowed the kids to enjoy a great view and teach them the mechanics of facilities. 

Block Fest (activities that teach STEM lessons) takes over a DEL headquarters conference room.
Block Fest was a great opportunity for kids to practice Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) activities--which represents their capacity to learn those disciplines from a young age.
DEL's scavenger hunt list
The day ended with a "mock meeting" socialization that invited families to meet each other and discuss the activities they experienced that day. 

Overall, the day exemplified the governor's proclamation and the theme #MPOWR, as DEL's employees and their kids (even young kids) experienced an action-packed work-day with their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles--all while participating in some of the early learning essential and empowering activities that the department promotes daily.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Washington Celebrates National Get Outdoors Month

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and the Washington State Parks Foundation invite the public to celebrate National Get Outdoors Month with an outdoor expo June 27 on the Washington State Capitol Campus.

The Get Outdoors Adventure Awaits Expo is one of many events being offered at state capitols around the nation, in conjunction with the American Recreation Coalition’s Great Outdoors Month. The Expo takes place from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, June 27, near the steps of the Legislative Building in Olympia.
“One reason Washington is such a remarkable place to live is because of its remarkable beauty. National Great Outdoors Month and Get Outdoors Day provide a great opportunity for all of us to experience the beautiful parks and outdoor places that make our state so unique,” said Gov. Inslee. “This Expo is the perfect place to find ideas for family trips and adventures close to home.”
About 40 young campers from the Boys and Girls Club of Thurston County and the South Sound YMCA have been selected to participate in a variety of activities the day and evening preceding expo day and then will camp overnight on the lawn at the Governor’s Mansion. Washington State Parks staff will provide an interpretive campfire program and activities such as fire safety fishing lessons, orienteering, crafts, songs and games. 

The Coleman Company, Delaware North, Albertsons and Take Me Fishing are major sponsors of the nationwide event. Coleman is providing camping gear, which the campers will take home with them when the event wraps up on Saturday morning. Delaware North is providing chefs, who will be sharing tips for healthy eating and cooking. Food is provided by Albertsons. Take Me Fishing is providing fishing gear for the youth involved in the Capitol Campout to take home with them. Camper shirts and snacks are being provided by the Washington State Employee Credit Union and the Manufactured Home and Recreation Vehicle Show Association.

The Washington State Parks Foundation is a non-profit organization whose mission is “to engage, expand, and sustain a broad base of supporters who give to, advocate for, and treasure our state parks.” The foundation is coordinating participation in the Expo, where it will be presented with a $5,400 check from the Washington State Employees Credit Union. The Washington State Parks agency is coordinating the kids’ Capitol Campout.

For up-to-date event information, visit the Washington State Parks Foundation website:

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Washington Looks to Help Kids Grow

Washington has incorporated a new resource for families called "Help Me Grow." This is a national network that helps states implement state-wide planning and implementation of behavioral and developmental screenings. Twenty-three states are currently affiliates.

Between 12 and 16 percent of all American children experience developmental, behavioral and/or emotional delays or problems. In Washington, 1 in 6 children face a delay by age 18--50 percent of children with a delay are not identified before school.* Experts and the Washington State Department of Early Learning agree that early detection and connection to services lead to the best outcomes for children with such challenges.

"Help Me Grow" provides:

  • Child health care provider outreach
  • Community outreach
  • Centralized telephone access points to connect families to services
  • Data collection

What does Help Me Grow Washington offer families?

  • Free developmental screening for all kids under 5 (no waiting lists or income requirements)
  • Activities and games that support healthy growth and learning
  • Community resources like parenting classes, medical clinics, and food banks
  • Referrals for further evaluation and early intervention services

How Can Developmental Screening Help My Child?

Often, the signs are hard to see, even for a professional. Screening all kids regularly is the best way to catch delays early, when intervention is most effective. Even for families with kids developing on track, screening is a fast, flexible and fun way to learn about what’s coming next and what you can do to encourage healthy growth!

The Ages and Stages Questionnaire

To screen kids Help Me Grow Washington uses a survey tool called the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ). This tool can be accessed easily online by clicking the link above. Developmental screening cannot give you a diagnosis; however it can show you if your child is developing more slowly than kids in the same age group.

The ASQ covers 5 areas of development:

  • Communication – how kids use language
  • Gross Motor – how kids move their bodies
  • Fine Motor – how kids use their hands
  • Problem Solving – how kids interact with their world
  • Personal-Social – how kids calm themselves down
When using the ASQ:  Based on your child’s age, you will be asked about your child’s ability to complete certain activities, such as “Can your child stand on one foot?” When you’ve tried each of the items with your child, submit your answers online. The expert staff will score the ASQ and contact you with results within one week. They will also give you suggestions for games and activities to do with your child to practice emerging skills. They will send another screen every 3-6 months, so you can continue to learn about and support your child’s growth.

If you have questions or want to learn more about it first, please call the Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588.

*Citations for this article are courtesy of the Washington State Department of Health. For more information regarding developmental delay statistics, please click here: Screening Brief. Other data is courtesy of WithinReach's ParentHelp123.

For more information about DEL's role in developmental screening, check out the Early Support for Infants and Toddlers page at 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

"Love. Talk. Play." this Father's Day

Washington's "Love. Talk. Play." campaign is well-established across the state, but in case you haven't heard, the study-based initiative advocates a healthy, loving and educational relationship between children and their parents beginning at an early age.

A child’s early experiences shape his or her brain structure and cognition. “Love. Talk. Play.” has teamed up with researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences (I-LABS) to look at the science behind why love, talk and play are important to the development of babies and toddlers.

In honor of Father's Day, consider how dads might play a role in daily special interactions with children. 

Social interaction and imitative learning play an important role in early brain and behavioral development. Love is just as important as nutritious food to raise a healthy child. Your gentle touch, attention and understanding help your child grow in every way. 

Dr. John Gottman discusses this role in his book, Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child. 
"Dads have a pivotal role in their children’s lives. Research shows that when dads act as an emotion coach, by valuing and encouraging emotions, children do better in school, handle moods better and recover from emotional events faster," said Gottman.
Activity idea: Read with your child. "Love. Talk. Play" suggests cuddling with your child while reading, giving them your full attention. 

Children’s early language skills predict future reading abilities, and skills not developed early are difficult to remediate later on. As soon as your child is born, start talking, singing and rhyming about anything and everything. Check out the recent Seattle Times article regarding a study that found differences in the way mothers speak to children versus their fathers. 
“Even in singing to babies, moms will sing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle,’ and ‘ABC’ and dads will sing rock songs," said Tonya Bergeson-Dana, assistant professor at Indiana University Medical School, which runs the Babytalk Research center. 
Whether it's a high-pitched nursery rhyme or a rock anthem, communicating with your child is vital for healthy development.

Activity idea: Teach your child a song. "Love. Talk. Play." suggests sharing a song you enjoyed as a child.

Human cognition and innovation depends on memory, logic, mathematical reasoning, and the manipulation of physical tools and abstract symbols. Playing is not only fun; it’s also how your child learns. In another recent Seattle Times article, the effectiveness of play in learning is highlighted. 
"Play is often perceived as immature behavior that doesn’t achieve anything," says David Whitebread, a psychologist at Cambridge University who has studied the topic for decades. "But it’s essential to their development. They need to learn to persevere, to control attention, to control emotions. Kids learn these things through playing."
Check out the recent DEL blog post about play and learning that references Dr. Whitebread, and another blog post by Paul Nyhan for "Love. Talk. Play" partner, Thrive Washington called "Students are Ready for More STEM and Play in Preschool, Two Studies Find."

Activity idea: Make a meal together. "Love. Talk. Play" suggests letting kids play with pots, pans, spoons and cups to pretend to cook or making a game out of trying new foods.

"Love. Talk. Play." is sponsored by Thrive by Five Washington, the state’s nonprofit public-private partnership for early learning, the Department of Early Learning (DEL) and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, and it is supported by many other statewide and local organizations.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Whooping Cough in Washington: Protect Yourself and Your Kids

According to a recent King 5 News story, whooping cough is on the rise in Washington. Unfortunately, there have been more than 700 cases in 2015. This is a massive increase as one year ago, there were around 130 cases.

According to the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), whooping cough (Pertussis) spreads easily by coughing and sneezing. In a recent letter from DOH, parents and caregivers are urged to consider vaccination--especially those who care for young children and babies.
The letter states, 
"as a parent, there is nothing more important than safeguarding your child’s health. That’s why you should know the facts about whooping cough (pertussis) and the vaccine that protects against it. Make sure you and your family get the right dose at the right time." 
The dangers of whooping cough.
Whooping cough is most dangerous for babies. They can get it from adults or other children who have whooping cough. Babies can have severe coughing spells that make it hard to breathe. Whooping cough can lead to pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, and death.

Call your doctor if prolonged coughing spells cause you or your child to:
  • Vomit
  • Turn red or blue
  • Seem to be struggling to breathe or have noticeable pauses in breathing
  • Inhale with a whooping sound
How can I protect my child from whooping cough? 
The best tool for protection is the whooping cough vaccine. In addition to the vaccine, make sure that you and your child: 
  • wash your hands, 
  • cover your cough, and 
  • stay home and away from others when you are sick. 
It is especially important to protect babies and pregnant moms. If you suspect that you or your child have whooping cough, seek immediate medical care. 

Who should get the vaccine and when should they get it? 
  • Babies* get a dose of DTaP (diphtheriatetanus, and whooping cough (pertussis)) at 
    • 2 months
    • 4 months
    • 6 months
    • 15-18 months
  • At 4-6 years of age, they should receive a 5th DTaP dose. 
  • When kids are 11 or 12 years old, they get a dose of Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis). 
*Newborn babies can’t get a whooping cough vaccine until they are 6 weeks old. 

The best way to protect babies is for pregnant women to get vaccinated in their third trimester, between 27 to 36 weeks. Adults that haven’t had a Tdap dose, especially those who are healthcare workers or take care of young babies, need to get a dose Tdap. Child care and school requirements Children entering child care or preschool must be up-to-date with their immunizations. 

When considering Kindergarten Readiness, think beyond your child's social, emotional and intellectual development. Consider their medical vaccination needs, too. In Washington State, it is required for children entering kindergarten to have 5 DTaP shots.

Where can I find the whooping cough vaccine? 
Ask your doctor, nurse, or local health department to find out more about the Tdap or DTaP vaccine and where you can get it. 

Washington provides all recommended vaccines at no cost for kids through age 18, available from providers across the state. Providers may charge an office visit fee and an administration fee to give the vaccine. People who can’t afford the administration fee can ask to have it waived. Call the Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588 or go to ParentHelp123 to find a healthcare provider or immunization clinic. 

For more information about whooping cough, visit the Washington State Department of Health at

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Summer To-Do List: Consider Kindergarten Readiness

 Many WA children are looking forward to their first year of kindergarten at the end of this summer. They will meet new people, spend time in a new classroom and learn new rules. As a parent or caregiver, you can help your child start kindergarten ready to succeed. In their earliest years, children can learn and develop so much--simply through playing, exploring and reading with a parent. 

The Department of Early Learning (DEL) believes that school readiness is about much more than whether a child is ready. Many people have a role to play in ensuring children enter kindergarten ready to learn. Kindergarten readiness is achieved when children, schools, parents and families, and communities are prepared.

DEL has committed to working with our private partner, Thrive WA, and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to support families, parents, schools and communities in helping children succeed in kindergarten and beyond.

The Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) helps ensure that children in Washington get a great start in kindergarten. WaKIDS is a development tracking system created to help early learners, families and educators work together, learn about children's strengths, and share information with the pre-kindergarten communities in Washington. To learn more about the program, go visit the WaKIDS page online or watch the WaKIDS video

According to WaKIDS standards, children who are ready to enter kindergarten show signs of development in several areas. The following are small examples of how your child might be showing signs of kindergarten readiness. 
  • Social-emotional
    • Example: your child might be able to easily join other children at play, and play cooperatively.
  • Physical
    • Example: your child is able to throw a ball or other objects, trap a thrown ball against his or her body, and/ or kick a ball forward by stepping or running up to it.
  • Language
    • Example: your child may be able to name the cow, horse, chicken, pig, sheep and goat as he or she sees them on a trip to the farm and is beginning to be more descriptive, such as “The red barn had three sheep inside.”
  • Cognitive
    • Example: your child is able to ask for a solution and use it like asking another child to hold his cup while he or she pours. 
  • Literacy
    • Example: your child recognizes and can say words that repeat sounds, he or she may repeat the “b” sound by singing, “I’m bringing home a baby bumble bee.” Your child is beginning to be able to identify sound patterns: “Max and Maya… our names start the same!”
  • Mathematics
    • Example: your child is able to combine and separate up to five objects and describe the parts. He or she may say, “I have four cubes. Two are red and two are blue.”
For the full listing and deeper explanation of the six areas of development above, read "The Characteristics of Entering Kindergarten."

For a printable brochure about Kindergarten Readiness, click here: DEL Kindergarten Readiness

This summer, consider working with your little learner on these six areas. Reading with your child, exploring the outdoors, and playing games with educational components contribute to kindergarten prep. Being proactive with your child's learning will be beneficial in the long run as families are children's first, most important and life-long teachers. 

Quick tip: one creative example of productive play at home was featured in yesterday's National Association for the Education of Young Children's blog regarding music.

For an even more in-depth look at developmental guidelines, read the "Washington State Early Learning and Developmental Guidelines."

See also the WaKIDS pathway to success graphic below: