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As many summer camps and programs cancel their usual plans in favor of caution due to the coronavirus outbreak, parents are finding themselves at a loss for options to keep kids busy. Additionally technology has made itself an invaluable tool during the pandemic, with things like school and birthday parties taking place online. These factors have contributed to the rise in screen time for children, but many parents are wondering how much screen time should be allowed for children during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s important to acknowledge that we’re living in unprecedented times, so the recommendations for screen time that previously guiding our best practices doesn’t hold the same weight as before. Work with your family to create a new screen time schedule to follow. If you work from home screen time could be scheduled for times you need to put more focus into your own tasks. Adults in the house should also follow this schedule in order to model healthy screen use for the kids. Keeping to the schedule helps create a solid routine that kids will begin to question less.

Screen time isn’t all negative. It can also act as a reward, or play a vital role in connecting children to grandparents and friends in video chat. However, technology should not be the only thing your child enjoys this summer. There are activities to enjoy in your own backyard all summer long, as well as engaging activities for children indoors. Demonstrating healthy screen usage and engaging with children will be the best way to prioritize your family’s wellness during this time.

Learn more about your child and their development by submitting a free and confidential Ages and Stages Questionnaire. The ASQ Developmental Screening can be requested at any time for children ages two months to five and a half years.

Summer is here and families are finding themselves at home more often. Warm weather is inviting you to come outside, but you don't need to leave your own backyard to enjoy the summer. Here are five things your family can do to savor this summer outdoors.

  1. Sidewalk Chalk
    A pack of sidewalk chalk holds unlimited options for art and games. Kids can create hopscotch, obstacle courses, and even opportunities for learning letters and words. Tracing shadows and other artistic drawings are always fun, and when the chalk piece becomes too small for hands to hold, you can spray the stub with water to make a new design on the sidewalk.

  2. Water Games
    Small children can entertain themselves endlessly with paintbrushes and water in the sun. Other basic games can be improved with a little water, like playing Duck, Duck, Goose with a cup of cold water or soaking sponge. You can even make your own slip and slide with a large piece of plastic from the hardware store, some soap, and a hose.

  3. Scavenger Hunts
    Create your own scavenger hunt by hiding objects and clues throughout the yard, or set the kids out on a hunt to find as many different types of bugs as possible. Keep track of where the bugs are found in the yard and what types of plants they like.

  4. Start a Garden
    By starting your own garden, children are more likely to be invested in its well-being. The garden teaches kids responsibility, as well as the basics of gardening. Consider planting healthy fruits and vegetables to pique their interest in eating new things. Additionally, planting brightly colored flowers will attract butterflies and hummingbirds for even more beautiful scenery.

  5. Enjoy a Picnic
    Appreciating a meal with the family outdoors in nice weather can make a big difference in the mood of the home. A family meal does a lot to build the bond between family members, and appreciating good weather while you do can help boost your attitude.

Parents and caregivers should remember to apply sunscreen and wash your hands regularly. Follow our Pinterest page for more ideas on outdoor activities.

From time to time we can let our emotions get the better of us. However, those who work with children know our emotions can cause things different than we intend. During times of high stress, it’s important to remember to take care of yourself so you can provide the best environment for children in your care. Children are sponges and can easily pick up on your emotions. When you feel anxious, try practicing a few things to relax before it overwhelms you. Here are a few strategies to help de-stress in times of high tension.

4-C Online Courses

Register for one of our many online courses to help support your emotional well-being as an early childhood professional.

Mindful Breathing

Find a quiet place alone in your daily routine to take five minutes to focus on your breathing and focus on nothing else. If you are with children, ask them to join you for daily quiet time on the floor. Focusing on one sensation helps reduce blood pressure, as well as stress. If the concentrated breathing is not enough to reduce your tension after a few sessions, you may want to consider adding progressive relaxation techniques to your mindful sessions. It is essential that you care for yourself and your well-being first, so that you can be your best for children in your care. You can find more activities to focus on mindfulness for both you and the children in your care on our Pinterest board.

Yoga

There are many apps and free videos online for simple yoga poses, as well as simple and calming yoga poses for children. All it takes is 15 minutes a day for yoga to decrease stress and improve your concentration and memory. This is a time to focus on your physical and emotional sensations, being mindful of everything you feel. A small bit of exercise never hurts, either!

Free Virtual Workouts

There are many health benefits to exercise other than just aerobic capacity and muscle size. Exercising regularly can have a dramatic positive effect on depression, anxiety and more. Research has shown that even modest amounts can make a difference. Try to focus on activities you enjoy, anything that gets you moving counts. Now, more than ever, connecting with others is important. Thankfully, there are a variety of free virtual workouts available to keep your mind and body active without going to the gym.

Feeding children while in care can be one of the biggest responsibilitiesthat a provider faces each day. Menu planning, grocery shopping and meeting requirements are just some of those responsibilities. We also know providers strive to do what’s best for the children in their care and use best practices whenever they can in their programs. The 4-C Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) believes that serving meals and snacks family style incorporates best practices into feeding children while in care.

Along with information on family style dining, we will look at serving sizes and how serving family style gives children a choice as to what and how much they choose to eat. We in turn have asked providers who are currently serving Family Style Dining to share how they got started, share their challenges, their accomplishments and overall outcomes with the process.

Why Should You Serve Family Style?

Family Style Dining encourages learning and development not only at the table, but away from mealtime as well. Children learn independence, social skills and other important habits that will last them throughoutadulthood.

Types of Meal Service

Meals can be served either Pre-portioned or Family Style.

  • Pre-portioned – means that the minimal requirement (or more) of food for each required component is prepared by an adult and given to each child on plate or tray. All food must be served at the same time, including milk.
  • Family Style Dining – means that the food is placed on each table for each child to help him/herself. Children may then select the foods they want and the amount of each food they want. Providers should offer foods to children at different times during the meal to assure children are offered an opportunity to taste all foods and ensure minimum portions are available for each child. Providers also sit with children during the meal service to model positive meal time behavior, assist with serving food and encourage social development that goes along with feeding and sitting down to enjoy a meal.

The Science Behind Family Style Dining

A University of Illinois College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environment Sciences (ACES) studied the feeding practices of two-to-five year olds in 118 child-care centers. They found that given the opportunity children who serve themselves are better able to regulate their intake of food by innately tuning into their own body’s cues for hunger and satiety (fullness), than when food was pre-plated. The study stated that adults have a tendency to overestimate how much a child wants to eat, instead of serving what is a more appropriate serving for the age of that child.

How do providers set children up for success when introducing Family Style Dining?

  • Denise – set up the environment for children to help with the setting of the table. During the meal children serve themselves and pass foods to one another. Children clean up their own placemat and put dishes into a tub and one child is responsible for washing the table. Denise plans her meal ahead of time, featuring Family Style vegetarian meals, made from scratch.
  • Emily – take the time to find the appropriate serving dishes and utensils, such as tongs young children can operate, bowls small enough to pass, and milk serving containers with lids (such as a syrup pitcher).
  • Lisa – I start out by putting food in the center of the table and serve the kids, from there they gradually gain the confidence to serve themselves.
  • Emily - teach children how to prep food by peeling bananas, oranges and hardboiled egg or use a small butter knife to spread and slice soft foods like peanut butter and cheese. Prep some of the food at the table - it teaches them children the whole parts of the food, exploring textures and appearance of peels, stems and seeds and counting the slices and talking about how the food was grown.
  • Nancy – Allow children to do what they’re developmentally able to do, but realize thatyounger children may need assistance. For example, put milk or dish out food for children age two and under. Also, the older kids can help the younger kids by getting them more servings, and the older kids feel proud of helping.
  • Emily - Involve the children in meal planning for the following week. Share information with the children about meal planning during conversations, but planning meals could also involve using photos, felt pieces of foods or store fliers to select foods. She also gardens with the children, so food can come straight from their garden, from the farmer’s market or on occasion from a field trip taken together at the grocery store.

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