Teaching Strategies transform the future

Alex is changing the landscape of education one child at a time.  “Not to recognize is not to educate”.  Keep up the great work Alex!


Head Start Funding Update

Our amazing sources at the NHSA have some updates regarding proposed legislation that would provide funding for Head Start and Early Head Start in 2013.  The Senate Committee on Appropriations recently recommended a $70 million increase for the next year, $45 million of which would go directly to programs to help offset the rising costs of energy, deferred maintenance, new regulations, staff salaries, and other quality measures. $25 million of the increase would cover costs associated with the Designation Renewal System competition.

This is a positive message of support from the Senate Appropriations Committee.  Once the legislation is considered on the Senate floor, the House have their turn.  Look for final numbers to be set later in the year.  Until then, contact your member of congress and thank them for their support of Head Start and Head Start Services. 


What is in Our Food??

For individuals who lead a healthy lifestyle, parents and food administrators, curiosity about the contents of our food may be an ever-present sensation.  For many in America, however, no second thoughts are given to the products we are consuming and providing for our families.

In the following video Robyn O’Brien shares her inspiration, research and conclusions about what is in our food and what impact it may be having on our society.  The information presented is startling.  She concludes that we all can make a difference if we all just do one thing to bring this issue to the hearts and minds of American consumers.  Businesses will respond to their respective market demand.  We need to demand better food for our friends, families and fellow Americans!!

Thanks, Robin, for a great presentation.


Media’s impact on young children

I had an opportunity to watch this great video today and thought it related to the post prior.  This is a video from a recent TED conference presentation by Dimitri Christakis.  Dimitri is a pediatrician, parent, and researcher whose influential findings are helping identify optimal media exposure for children. It is difficult to argue with the results.  All 16 minutes are worthwhile.  Enjoy!

Life without TV

I’ve learned, over the years, to attempt to live each day without regrets.  Of course, that is easier said than done.  Just as making mistakes is a way to learn, regret can be a great learning tool as well.

One thing I am able to do with this mentality is to look back on my life as a child and recall any regret that I might have.  One that is re-occurring and, seems to bug me more than any other, is the fact that I watched TV.  Not only did I watch TV, I watched entirely too much TV!!  And while these programs were funny, educational or just plain entertaining, I now wish I would not have watched any of them.

“What would life without TV be like?” I thought.  No more sports, game shows and dramas.  No news or weather updates.  Nothing to stare at while attempting to unwind after a busy day.  Two years ago I bit the bullet.  Unhappy with my provider, a new little girl crawling around and two seemingly full-time jobs coaching basketball and running the SDHSA prompted me to call it quits on TV.

But my decision was more than just the reasons mentioned above.  After thinking so much about all the time that was, and is, wasted in front of a television screen, I thought about all that I was missing as a result.  I eventually asked myself…”If I were to do it all again, would I do it differently?”  Of course.  So why would I allow my daughters to make that same mistake?  It had to be done.  And I couldn’t be happier!

The benefits so far have been unmeasurable.  I’ve saved money (a lot of money), had more time to enjoy the outdoors, played with my daughters more, gone on more walks with my dog, and made more time for friends and family.  Now, considering this is a blog about early childhood, what are the benefits for young children?  What are the downfalls? I’ve made a list below.  This is not a revolutionary thought, but I believe it is bucking the current trends.  I’d be interested to hear what others think of my list below and if they have any additions to either side.


  • More Play – Play is a powerful thing for young children.  The longer they sit in front of a TV, the less time they have for Play.
  • More Parents – According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 88% of parents with children 2 years or younger watch TV daily.  Children will typically not need much motivation to get up and play, but sometimes it’s the responsibility of the parents to get them up and out of the house.  How are they going to do that if they’re on the couch beside them?
  • More Imagination –  This is specific to my situation, and I have nothing to base it against, but my daughter’s creativity amazes me!  The dialog and situations she creates when we play is a spectacular display of her brain hard at work.  Yes, she could have been like that with TV, but at least I’m not wondering why she is with limited imagination.
  • More Motor Skills – Fine motor skills are so important for young children as they develop, especially when moving toward school readiness.  It’s difficult to draw and write when you are staring up at a television screen.  I’m just saying…
  • Quicker Development – While some studies have shown that high quality programing can be effective in teaching language and some create valuable learning opportunities, the majority of research suggests that children under 22 months will learn fewer words from interactions with television as opposed to interactions with actual people.  Recent research even suggests babies’ ability to read lips in order to learn.  Better get the 50 inch in HD if you want TV to help with that.
  • One Less Media Channel – It’s difficult to comprehend some of the programs showing on TV today.  Children are curious and (in many cases) able to turn on a TV by themselves before the age of 6 (77%).  I would not want my 4-year-old to have access to cable television if even for a short time.  Who knows what she would see.  Snooki and the Bachelor can keep their antics.  We’ll have none thanks.
  • Research is Rarely Wrong –  This from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

“Pediatricians should urge parents to avoid television viewing for children under the age of 2 years. Although certain television programs may be promoted to this age group, research on early brain development shows that babies and toddlers have a critical need for direct interactions with parents and other significant caregivers (eg, child care providers) for healthy brain growth and the development of appropriate social, emotional, and cognitive skills. Therefore, exposing such young children to television programs should be discouraged.”

Follow-up article in the NY Times

  • Develop Positive Habits – Watching TV can become habit-forming.  With a TV not in the way, there is more time to develop healthy habits that will last a lot longer than an impression of Dancing with the Stars.
  • The Other Options – The vastness of the internet provides numerous outlets for research, education and, of course, entertainment.  There are a number of television shows online that are free to watch and easy to access.  This also allows you to pick and choose the programming your child watches.  More options also means…well…MORE OPTIONS!  Nature, sports, cleaning, reading, writing, letters, social interactions, swimming…you get the picture.

Downfalls of No TV (and yes, there are a few):

  • No TV, no Message – At some point a child is going to have access to television.  Related to one of the benefits above, it will be difficult to help the child develop healthy television habits and teach them about the importance of moderation if there is no TV to be watched.
  • More Work – It is very easy, as a parent, to turn on the TV just to get a little free time. Sad but true.  Next time you’re feeling frustrated or worn down, try pulling out a book or game to enjoy with the kids before pushing the power button.  You might find that more relaxing than listening to the TV in the background.
  • Educational Programming – Yes, there are educational programs that are age specific and beneficial to the development of a young child.  I will admit that even without television, my daughter and I have sat down on the computer to watch an episode of Micky Mouse Clubhouse or Curious George.

Babies are for Learning

If you have 18 minutes and 29 seconds, I would highly recommend you watch this great TED presentation (video below) by Alison Gopnik, Professor of Psychology at University of California at Berkeley. If you don’t have 18 min and 29 secs, here is a brief summary of her presentation.

Alison’s discussion focuses on the psychology of babies.  She talks about their perceptiveness, problem solving and their ability to obtain an enormous amount of knowledge in a short period of time.  Here are some key points:

1.  Babies are perceptive:  Alison references a study done at Berkeley with broccoli and goldfish crackers.  Not surprisingly, when offered both, the children selected the goldfish crackers.  But when a researcher showed a preference for one or the other, and then asked for more from the child, the results varied.  Young babies (15 months) would consider what they had perceived, but would ultimately give the researcher what THEY thought was best.  However, 18 month old babies would provide the snack that they thought would bring the researcher the most joy.

2.  There is a direct correlation between the length of childhood and intelligence:  We grow smarter because of our time as babies.  This does not only apply to humans, but to other animals as well.  One particular example referenced by Alison was a comparison of Necalidonian crow and a domestic chicken.  The crows, how live under the care of their mother for up to two years, have special talents.  They are able to solve problems, use tools and evolve.  Chickens, who’s childhood lasts a few months, a great at…well…pecking grain.

3.  Babies are great at research and development: This is one of the many great analogies offered by Alison in this video.  She refers to babies as the “research and development department” of the human race.  Exemplifying that children are able to learn and become fit to survive on their own while they are safe and secure.  When they grow up, they are able to put all of those tools to use in their everyday life.

4.  Young children are scientists:  Alison discussed an experiment with four-year-old children and their ability to problem solve.  When given a difficult puzzle, these children would attack this problem/puzzle just as a scientist would.  They would take mental notes, make a hypothesis, test their hypothesis, make more notes, and try another hypothesis.  This would continue until the problem was solved.  The video she shows at the 12:28 mark is very entertaining.

5.  Babies are more conscious than adults:  Alison compares an adults consciousness to a spotlight.  When adults are conscious of something, it becomes a focused part of our attention.   On the contrary, she claims babies have a “lantern of consciousness” are not as good of focusing on one particular thing, but are taking in so much information from so many different sources.  When we think that babies are bad at paying attention, we actually mean they are bad and NOT paying attention to all the things that are trying to reach their brains.

Thanks for the great presentation Alison, and thanks to TED for posting it on their website.

Losing our sense of listening

Think of all the times you wished someone would listen to you.  Whether it was a boss, co-worker, friend/relative or child, I can think of numerous times when I wish my voice would be, not only heard, but appreciated and understood. More importantly, think of it from the perspective of the young child. Not only is it important to listen and appreciate their attempts at communication, but we must teach them how to listen, an art that Julian Treasure feels we are losing as a society. In this video, Juilian shares 5 ways to better our listening skills. Enjoy!

Great Outdoor Opportunity (Oh ya, and it’s FREE!!)

Allowing children access to nature has always been a vital part of their core development.  Not only that, but it will help teach young children about the intricacies of our ecosystem and how we can work together to preserve it for future generations. 

Unfortunately, we almost need an excuse to get outside anymore.  Distractions available in various electronic forms, are making it difficult for children and adults alike to get outside.  That’s why attending the 4th annual South Dakota Outdoor Expo is a great way to spend your upcoming weekend. 

This year’s expo will feature hands-on activities, workshops, demonstrations, interactive exhibits and much more!  They make it easy by providing all necessary equipment/products and with free entrance and camping available, it’s easy on the checking account as well.  You couldn’t find a more family friendly event to help children access outdoor opportunities, so get the kids out to enjoy nature June 11-12 in Huron, S.D. at the 4th annual SD Outdoor Expo


Hours of Operation:
Saturday, June 11, 2011 ~ 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sunday, June 12, 2011 ~ 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

Camping Rates:
Camping is free at the Outdoor Expo, with the exception of the full hook-ups in Coyote Corner.
Full hook-up (electricity, water, sewer): $20.00/night

Help young children learn to save with t

Help young children learn to save with this free resource… http://ow.ly/4SnBv #headstart #ECE

When exposed to traumatic events, toddle

When exposed to traumatic events, toddlers as young as 18 months can have serious emotional and behavioral problems later in childhood and in adulthood. More than 35 percent of children exposed to a single traumatic event will develop serious mental health problems. Learn more about childhood trauma and PTSD and pass it on to observe National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day: http://1.usa.gov/eURFX5