Thursday, May 28, 2015

Active Play Can Promote Development & Learning

One of the hottest media topics is the increase in health risks for children, namely the rising rates of childhood obesity. In fact, health experts have warned for the first time in a long time that this generation of children may have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. One way to combat childhood obesity is to incorporate healthy activity and play into children’s lives.

Living in a climate where clouds and rain are common can be challenging, but according to the National Weather Service, with the proper clothing, children can play outdoors daily when weather and environmental conditions do not pose a significant health or safety risk:

  •    wind chill factor at or below minus 15°F
  •    heat index at or above 90°F

Governor Inslee, who has made improvements in children’s health a key Results Washington goal, worked with legislators in early 2014 to secure funding for his Healthiest Next Generation initiative. The public-private partnership developed strategies to reduce obesity in children such as promoting breastfeeding, supporting schools in providing more nutritious meal and drink options, and encouraging children to be more active.

The Department of Early Learning supports the many benefits of activity.

Active play:

  • Builds strong, fit bodies
  • Supports a healthy weight
  • Promotes balance and coordination
  • Decreases chronic risk of disease
  • Encourages active living habits
  • Helps children sleep better
  • Contributes to cognitive skills
  • Improves behavior
  • Promotes school readiness
  • Teaches focus
  • Enhances memory
Adrienne Dorf, DEL’s Healthiest Next Generation Program Manager and Katy Levenhagen, Nutrition Coordinator at Puget Sound Educational Service District  trained to DEL childcare licensors this past spring on nutrition and physical activity national evidenced based best practice standards. The two outlined clear guidelines based on the best practice standards are as follows.

Infant movement guidelines:

  • Infants have at least 3, 5 minute sessions  of supervised “tummy time” when they are awake
  • Infant environment is least restrictive at all times
  • Infants go outside 2-3 times a day 
Physical activity guidelines:
  • Moderate to Vigorous Activity
    • Toddlers: 60 - 90 min for a full day
    • Preschoolers: 90 -120 min. for a full day
    • School Age: At least 20 minutes for every 3 hours of care2 - 3 adult led activities/day
Things to consider:
  • Have children play outside 3 times or more per day
  • Outdoor activity provides continuous opportunities to practice skills
  • Never withhold active play as a form of punishment
Data from the UW Center for Public Health Nutrition’s:  2013 Washington State Survey of Nutrition and Physical Activity in Child Care:
  • 32% of 2 year-olds get 90 minutes of physical activity per day
  • 18% of preschoolers get 120 minutes of physical activity per day
Check out the recent article published in the Seattle Times revolving around the link between movement and brain development. The article states:
“Babies, for example, need regular movement to carve out critical pathways and form connections in the brain. In children, research suggests exercise improves attention, focus and academic performance…”
Physical activity might seem impossible to incorporate into tight lesson plans and packed days at child care programs and pre-schools, but with the help of multi-beneficial activities, kids may experience lasting advantages.

Activity idea: outdoor scavenger hunt (find three, green objects and two, red objects)
Benefit: curriculum teaches colors and counting, while also engaging kids in physical activity

Follow the links below for more information and best resources for Child-Care Providers and parents:

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

National Better Speech & Hearing Month: Early Intervention

Early intervention services during the first three years can make a big difference in a child’s life. In honor of National Better Speech and Hearing Month (May), DEL would like to highlight the various programs and resources Washington has for families with young children in need of speech and hearing assistance.

DEL supports early intervention services as they are designed to enable young children to be active and successful participants during the early childhood years and in the future in a variety of settings:
  • in their homes,
  • in child care,
  • in preschool or school programs,
  • and in their communities.

DEL’s Early Support for Infants and Toddlers (ESIT) program supports families with information and skills to ensure they are supported as the most critical influence on their child’s early learning and development.

Early intervention services may include but are not limited to:
·         specialized instruction,
·         speech therapy,
·         occupational therapy,
·         or physical therapy.

If babies have hearing loss, it is important to find out as soon as possible so that they can receive the proper developmental and communications support.

According to the Washington Department of Health, undetected hearing loss can lead to delays in speech and language development, social development and difficulties learning. The Early Hearing-loss Detection, Diagnosis and Intervention (EHDDI) Program follows the 1-3-6 goals, to ensure that infants in Washington are:

1 – Screened for hearing loss before hospital discharge or by one month of age
3 – Have a diagnostic hearing evaluation by an audiologist by three months of age (if the infant did not pass two screens)
6 – Enrolled in early intervention by six months of age (if a hearing loss was found)

For more information about early hearing loss from the Washington State Department of Health, click here.

The Family Health Hotline is a good place to start to find out whether your child is eligible for early intervention services. Call 1.800.322.2588 (TTY 1.800.833.6384) to be connected with a family resources coordinator in your area. The FRC will help you access early intervention services your child may need. For more information about who is eligible for services in Washington, click here.

You can also reference the following web resources if information is needed or when there are concerns a about a child’s hearing, speech/language, or overall development:

·         Washington State Hands & Voices

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Child-Care Providers: Immunization Course Available and More Resources

The role adults play in preventing diseases is often overlooked, but child-care providers and educators of young kids may consider further education and training on the topic
of immunizations.

A number of immunizations may be required as an adult, so if you’re not sure if you need one or if you've already been vaccinated, talk to your doctor or a public health professional. A good place to begin looking for more vaccination information is the Washington Department of Health's web page on vaccinations. The state's requirements for parents and child-care providers is clearly represented in multiple languages.

Another resource targeted specifically at people who care for children is the recently available, free course offered by the Coalition for Safety and Health in Early Learning (CSHEL) and WithinReach. 

“Adult Immunizations” is a free online course offering 2 STARS credits. English and Spanish
versions are currently available.

Immunizations protect you, your family, and the children in your care. Taking this course will allow you to learn more about the immunizations adults need in the child care setting and beyond.
Topics include:
  • How immunizations work
  • Diseases vaccines prevent
  • Vaccine safety
  • Community (herd) Immunity
  • Requirements in the child care setting
  • Reporting & disease investigations in the child care setting
To participate, go to
To view the official flyer click here: Official "Adult Immunizations" Flyer.

The Washington Department of Health cites clear reasons to get vaccinated:
  • To keep you and your family healthy.
  • To keep your community healthy.
  • To protect loved ones from disease.
  • To stop the spread of disease to the most vulnerable populations.
  • Because other parents and experts agree it’s the best thing you can do to keep your family healthy.
If you are a child-care provider, an educator of young children, or a parent, consider furthering your education and training about the required vaccinations and schedules. For even more information on childhood disease prevention, visit DEL's web page dedicated to that topic.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Featured Teacher: Cindy Banuelos, Heritage University ECEAP program

Cindy Banuelos is the Lead Teacher at Heritage University’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance (ECEAP) Program in Yakima.
“She’s amazing,” said colleague, Stacie Marez. “She provides one of the most positive social-emotional climates I have seen. She provides an interesting and engaging classroom.”
Banuelos was motivated to begin teaching after spending time volunteering in her mother’s classroom.
“My mother inspired me to teach,” said Banuelos. “I tried a little bit of everything in college . . . but I think my time volunteering led me to the teaching career I have today.”
Banuelos enjoys engaging with her students who are all five-years-old or under.

Cindy teaching about space.
“I recently walked into the room and noticed that the home living area was set up as a veterinarian's office complete with stuffed animals, a changing table as an examining table, doctor's tools and pictures of animal x-rays,” said Marez.
On a cultural level, Banuelos embeds Spanish, French and Sahaptin (Yakima tribal language) into her curriculum as well as provides activities that will spark active imaginations.
“Sometimes when I teach, I get to step out of the grown up world,” said Banuelos. “The kid world doesn’t have a lot of stress or worries. As a teacher, I enjoy it because I can see their imaginations grow and go on and on.”
Currently, Banuelos is teaching her 20 enrolled students about the solar system.
“We are learning about planets, outer-space, astronauts . . . we do hands-on activities like making yucky-looking food that tastes good. We have an alien cafĂ©... It’s a lot of fun.”
Thank you Cindy for using creativity in early education and for inspiring children to explore and use their imaginations!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Washington Early Learning Ranks in National Standings

For the second year in a row, nonpartisan National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University released data showing that, nationally speaking, the U.S. has increased funding for pre-K. 

Adjusted for inflation, state funding for pre-K increased by nearly $120 million in 2013-2014 across all 50 states and Washington, DC. Enrollment growth also resumed, albeit modestly, with a total increase of 8,335 slots to reach its highest level recorded over the report’s 12-year history.
And program quality standards increased as an unprecedented seven states gained ground on NIEER’s 10 benchmarks for quality standards.

  • Washington ranks 33rd for access to pre-K education for 4-year-olds. The program saw only a slight enrollment increase in 2014, with another 350 children enrolled. 
  • The state ranks 8th for state spending, though it experienced a slight decrease in per-child spending in 2014 (reduced $76). With the addition of funding from other sources, Washington spends $6,658 per child and is one of the few states spending a sufficient amount to provide a high-quality program, coming in at 8th in the resource rankings
  • Washington Early Learning achieves 9 of NIEER’s 10 quality standards benchmarks. The nonpartisan Washington State Institute for Public Policy has found that the state’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) leads to strong gains in later achievement, but less than 1 in 10 of the state’s 4-year-olds and only 2 in 100 3-year-olds receive the program.
With access to quality pre-K so limited in the state, Seattle is one of several large cities across the nation that has stepped up to expand early learning opportunities on its own, with a new program to offer quality preschool to all children. In the state legislature, a proposal to increase per-child funding and add 1,350 new slots for Full School Day and Extended Day services was approved for 2014-2015. Governor Inslee has proposed plans to expand preschool access to low-income families with children and develop state funded full-day kindergarten.
“In the coming years, Washington State Department of Early Learning’s goal is to promote high-quality pre-K education for children under the age of five,” said Washington State Department of Early Learning (DEL) Director, Dr. Bette Hyde. “Every pre-K child deserves the resources and tools he or she needs to build a strong foundation for learning and success."

Friday, May 8, 2015

Michael Snow & Katie Pomeroy: Engaging Pre-K Kids with Quality Interaction

In honor of National Teacher Appreciation Week, DEL would like to highlight some of the state’s outstanding teachers from varying programs and areas.

Katie Pomeroy and Michael Snow are instructors for Lewis County Head Start. The two are from the area and enjoy working closely with children in an active and creative environment.
“What I love most about teaching is seeing a child ‘get it,’” said Snow. “There is no greater joy than seeing a child’s eyes light up when they have been working so hard at a skill or concept and it finally all makes sense.”
Pomeroy shares Snow’s views and is happiest when children achieve educational goals.
“For me the most rewarding aspect of teaching is being able to help children bring out the best in themselves and meet their full potential,” she said. “We tend in our society to underestimate the capabilities of children. They can do great things if given the opportunities.”

Snow and Pomeroy are currently utilizing a variety of engaging activities in their classroom to help kids with reading, math, and logical and critical thinking skill sets.
“The kids in my preschool class have been working on a lot of math/number concepts and creating graphs to track their progress,” said Snow. “It is quite astonishing that my partner and I can show them a new concept like creating a chart or graph and moments later they are able to put their new learned skill in action during their own free time," said Snow.
Snow described the class-room activity using dice. Children roll dice and identify numbers on a chart to see which number is rolled the least. 
"30 minutes after that lesson, I caught four kids taking turns rolling dice and keeping track of the numbers that had been rolled on a chart they made themselves,” he said.
Michael Snow helping children use charts to learn numbers.
Beyond numbers, children at Lewis County Head Start are working on literacy and logic.
“Our kids are really engaged in literacy activities right now and we are supporting them in illustrating and labeling their own stories,” said Pomeroy. “All of our children can name at least a few sight works, and some are beginning to sound out words on their own.”
Katie Pomeroy teaching using "Mystery Items."
Pomeroy also noted that children are interested in solving problems and asking the “what if” question.
“We are also encouraging questioning and logical thinking with ‘Mystery Items,’ that the children have to ask questions about in order to identify,” she said.
“Katie & Michael exemplify quality Teacher Interactions through their rich and relevant classroom studies based off the interests/desires of the children in their classroom,” said Debi Hood, director of Lewis County Head Start. “This dynamic duo extends their quality teaching strategies to families through family engagement activities within the classroom with parents regularly facilitating activities within their classroom.”

Thank you Katie Pomeroy and Michael Snow for being dedicated and imaginative instructors for Pre-K children in Washington!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Jo Ader: Champion of Respectful and Responsive Caregiving

On April 10, 2015, the early learning world lost one of its great champions of high quality care for our very youngest learners and their families. Jo Ader passed away last month from complications of kidney disease but left behind her legacy as an amazingly respectful and responsive infant/toddler educator in our Early Head Start program at the Washington Corrections Center for Women.

Jo began her tenure with Puget Sound ESD Early Head Start 15 years ago, shortly after we began our collaboration with the Department of Corrections to support a Residential Parenting Program within the fences of WCCW. From the beginning, she was passionate about her work with the women and children participating in the RPP. She believed strongly that every human deserves to be treated with respect and dignity, including babies and women serving felony sentences. Working within the corrections culture, convincing others of this was often an uphill climb. However, this didn’t stop her from being a persistent voice, whenever needed, for those unable, or without the power, to advocate for themselves.

Jo built strong, trusting relationships with not only the infants and toddlers in her care but with their mothers as well.  She was intentional about developing these connections as she understood how critical a mother’s well-being is to her baby’s healthy development. Most of the mothers in our program have experienced significant, and often chronic, trauma. Jo’s interactions with the mothers were sensitive, non-judgmental and supportive. She instilled in the mothers the importance of making informed decisions about their own lives and the lives of their children. Jo highly valued information and knowledge. She was an avid reader and researcher of anything related to early development and learning and she generously shared what she learned with the mothers.

Jo Ader working with children.
Jo was also a strong advocate for early education getting the respect it deserved. She was well-known at WCCW for her gentle reminders that we were not “babysitters” or a “daycare” and she insisted we be referred to as “early educators” and our center as the Child Development Center. Jo mentored, coached and encouraged a number of colleagues over the years. She believed that knowledgeable, skilled and dedicated  early educators could truly make a difference in a child’s life and she had high expectations of herself and her early learning colleagues. Two of Jo’s proudest accomplishments were the development of a collaborative staffing model for our program and the creation of a Facebook group called “Circle Time” for early educators to share ideas, strategies and reflections.

Jo will be deeply missed by the many children, families and colleagues whose lives she touched.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Darcy Gimmestad: Helping Children Grow Socially and Emotionally

In honor of National Teacher Appreciation Week, DEL would like to highlight some of the state’s outstanding teachers from varying programs and areas.

Darcy Gimmestad is the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program instructor at Meadowcrest Early Learning Center in the Renton School District. She was recently selected to pilot and present on the special “Second Step” curriculum in Washington D.C. as she was active in the practical use of it in her own classroom.

"Second Step" is a step-by-step program for early learning, elementary and middle school learners involving social and emotional tools.
“The first stage is self-regulation like listening skills,” said Gimmestad. “Everyone needs these skills. The second is about feelings—recognizing their own feelings and the feelings in other people.”
Darcy Gimmestad in class.
The curriculum covers everything from making friends and joining in, to basic and personal safety skills like seat belt safety and safety from sexual abuse.
“We practice to stop and think,” said Gimmestad. “And they really get it. I have had a lot of success with this program.”
One of the qualities that makes Gimmestad an exceptional teacher goes beyond the curriculum she was chosen to pilot. She is genuinely happy for her students as they achieve academic goals throughout the year.
“The children really learn and grow,” said Gimmestad. “They come in to my classroom and they don’t have any academic or social skills. Some of them can barely speak English. But after time, they know letters, some of them can read. They love it. They love being here. That’s the foundation I want to build for them—to love learning and to be happy human beings.”
Gimmestad currently has 18 students, the majority of which do not consider English their first language. But she admits she loves working with children from different cultures.

The teachers at Meadowcrest in Renton are celebrating their second year in a brand-new facility and with teachers like Darcy Gimmestad, they have a lot to be proud of.
“We are blessed to have a new facility and a great principal,” said Gimmestad about her work environment at Meadowcrest. 
Thank you Darcy for piloting and practicing a winning curriculum that will better prepare young learners for their futures!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Noven Chiu: Building Confidence and Culture in Children

In honor of National Teacher Appreciation Week, DEL would like to highlight some of the state’s outstanding teachers from varying programs and areas.

Noven Chiu is originally from Hong Kong, China, and is a Head Start Lead Teacher at the Denise Louie Education Center (DLEC). DLEC provides high-quality multicultural early learning and family support services so that Seattle kids will be ready to succeed in school and life.

Chiu has worked with DLEC for over 10 years.
“She has been a major contributor to DLEC's success,” said Susan Yang, Executive Director of DLEC. “She has extensive knowledge about cultural competency and how to incorporate cultural values in the classroom.”
According to Yang, Noven builds and continues to maintain positive relationships with the families and children she serves. She took leadership in supervising the International District Center in the absence of a director, led a Dual Language workshop with the Center for Linguistic and Cultural Democracy, and is now a certified CLASS Observer. She is a peer mentor to all of the staff and she continues to seek out other opportunity for professional development. 
“Her passion for early education is admirable, and she is the epitome of a great teacher,” said Yang.
Chiu’s curriculum is usually two-years long and incorporates multiple languages and cultures into student work.
“After the kids come to our agency, they are confident in their culture and values. They appreciate learning and enter kindergarten with a willingness to learn new things,” said Chiu. “I really like my program. We can help the children learn about other cultures and learn the basics of other languages, and they also keep the culture and language they were born with.”
Chiu currently has 19 children in her classroom, a majority of which are Chinese speakers. The children in her classroom are encouraged to solve problems on their own, answer open-ended questions, develop critical-thinking skills, and as Chiu puts it, “gain confidence and learn to trust themselves.”
Chiu instructing at DLEC.
Thank you Noven Chiu and DLEC for teaching and encouraging some of Washington’s littlest learners!