Our Mission

Our mission is to enrich children's lives through innovative support, education and enhanced family and provider services.

Our program puts families at the center of a community of support services.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Time for Loose Parts

In 1971 British architect Simon Nicholson wrote "How not to cheat children: The theory of loose parts" in Landscape Architecturecoining the phrase 'loose parts' which refers to open-ended materials that can be used in many different ways. Nicholson stated, 'In any environment, both the degree of inventiveness and creativity, and the possibility of discovery, are directly proportional to the number and kind of variables in it." Loose parts are essentially environmental variables. The more variables, the more chances for creativity, learning and innovation. 

Loose parts can be made of anything, natural or man made. They can also be found by the child or provided by an adult. To fit the definition of a loose part children should use the items in self-directed way. The items should not be offered with a defined use and must also be accessible to the child without having to ask for access. 

Loose parts allow children to really flex their creative muscles since the items don't have a preset job like a bowling set, puzzle or playhouse. While the preset toys can serve a very good purpose they don't offer the length, variety or strength for learning that loose parts offer. 

Loose parts are also great for mixed age groups, families and children with developmental delays because there is no right or wrong way to use them. The children choose to use the items in a way that matches their developmental level. This allows them to build on their strengths and develop feelings of confidence. 

Alan Binder, Professor of Economics at Princeton University maintains our future economies will need a creative and innovative workforce that develops new processes, products, and industries. Playing with loose parts helps children develop the diverse thinking which will be needed for the future. Children learn best through hands on play and loose parts have high play value because they can be used in a variety of ways. Loose parts put the learner in control of their use. Children use them based upon their current levels of development and interests. Loose parts can moved, manipulated, controlled, changed, lined up, taken apart, mixed and more. These processes allow children to learn concepts of math, physical science, symbolic play, language, literacy, art, texture, music, movement and sensory exploration.

For many years we have collected odds and ends in several coffee cans in our office. Children are inevitably drawn to the collection of loose parts and begin exploring the materials during their visit. It should also be noted our office is a toy library as well so we find it intriguing that children often choose the loose parts over the toys once they have been happened upon.

River slate rocks. Found while traveling. Not natural to our area so it is a high interest, novel material.
A few notes to boost the effects of using loose parts: Be sure to replenish the stores as well as adding new materials to the stores over time. Novel objects are best because the interest level for these materials will be higher. Lastly, be sure to give children plenty of time to explore and use the material, making time and space for loose parts. 

We also recommend the book, "Loose Parts: Inspiring Play in Young Children" by Lisa Daly and Miriam Beloglovsky which we have available for loan in each of our offices. 


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Remembrance Poppies

In honor of Memorial Day we made poppies for remembrance of those who gave their lives in service for our country.

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You will need
coffee filters
red/orange pigment
black paper
green pipe cleaners

This projects is not as open-ended as most of the activities we try to present so we gathered a great deal of red/orange pigments with a variety of ways to apply them to build more creativity into this project.

We had everything on-hand except black brads which we purchased. If you want to save a search for this specialty item, just paint brass brads black or even use a black pipe cleaner and twist in place in the center of the flower.

We used a circle punch and flower punch to create the centers. You can cut small circles by tracing a small object (1"-1-1/4" in diameter) if you don't have punches.

Begin by applying the pigment. Be sure to add the minimal amount of water or liquid to keep the red/orange pigments vibrant. 
Using dobbers.
Watercolors. We popped the red and orange paints out of the palette, moistened and eventually used like crayons.

We also used tubes of watercolor paste and applied with pipettes. 

Allow your filters to dry. Fold into fourths by folding in half twice. Cut your folded filter into a heart shape, trimming off a lot or a little depending on the size of flower desired.

We overlapped our black flower and circle punches and pushed the brad through the black centers and red flower. 

Attach a green pipe cleaner beneath the legs of the brads.f

Adding red glitter glue made the poppy sparkle. 

Children can then give their beautiful poppy to a Veteran in remembrance and appreciation for their service to our country. Thank you!


Friday, May 15, 2015

Parenting 0-5: Building Bonds with Your Children

Alpine First 5 hosted an 8 week parenting series, using Active Parenting curriculum presented by Carol Ledesma of Choices for Children, for parents of children 0-5 years old. This is the second post in the blog series "Parenting 0-5 years" allowing us to share some of the information presented in the sessions with those unable to attend.

Session 3: Building Bonds with Your Children

Building a bond with routines
Routines involve doing some things at the same time and in the same way each day. Routines help young children feel safe and secure- a critical emotional need. To get you thinking...What happened this morning? When did your children wake up? How did they wake up? What things happened and in what order this morning? Does every morning look roughly like this morning? If so you have a routine. Also begin thinking about eating routines (when and where meals are provided), sleeping routines (naps and bedtime routines). Change is a necessary part of life and routines will have to be modified in response to those alteration. While routines will need to be altered the key is to provide a level of predictability by sticking to the routines you can keep and simulating as best you can those you can't. 

Building bonds through play
Playing with your child helps build a strong bond between you and your child. Realize that playing with your child for a few minutes a day is better than playing with them once a week for an hour. Try to incorporate play into your everyday routines so your children can expect and anticipate one one one time with you.

Building bonds through mutual respect
Feeling respected is a critical emotional need for children. One of the best ways children can learn respect is to be treated with respect. "Put the shoe on the other foot" by speaking to your child with words and a tone you would desire to be given yourself. Children are never too young to be shown respect. Infants can be given respect by talking them through what you are doing. Tell them what you are doing, "I'm turning the light on." or "We need to change your diaper. I am going to pick you up". Young children feel respect when they are allowed to express their emotions and are not judged negatively for their feelings or told they are "okay".  Allow children time to play and the choice of where to direct their attention. Value and accept your child's temperament and individuality. Observe them more. Through observation and listening you can learn more about your child and understand what they are trying to communicate. 

Be sure to offer your child plenty of Genuine Encounter Moments (GEMS)*. This can be done by getting on your child's eye level, making eye contact, touching them, giving them 100% focused attention and a response coming from your heart rather than your head.  

Tell your child "I love you" and say it often. You can't say it enough or spoil them by doing so. 

*To learn more about Genuine Encounter Moments read Kathryn Kvols book Redirecting Children's Behavior. This title available in our Resource Libraries. 

Additionally, to learn more about treating infants and toddlers with respect, read Magda Gerber's book Caring for Infants With Respect.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Quality Child Care Matters: Respect for Children and Families

Renowned early childhood educator, Magda Gerber, had a philosophy of respect for parents and their needs as well as their children and their needs.

educarers demonstrate love by showing and teaching respect
Child care providers who provide quality care settings are respectful in their interactions with the children in their care as well as with the children's families. Children are seen first and foremost as having a human right to be treated with respect as opposed to having needs to be met. Exemplary child care providers allow children opportunities to make safe choices throughout their day, valuing each child's individuality and the decisions they make based upon their preferences.

Early childhood professionals who provide quality care create environments and experiences which are not only developmentally appropriate for the children but are also meaningful to the children. They also afford children time to play/work on tasks allowing children to develop mastery. Providers should let children to do what they are capable of, assisting in specific areas when needed, allowing children to develop feelings of competency.

Child care providers who cultivate quality environments listen to children and what they are trying to communicate. Recognizing the importance of social-emotional learning they teach them to interact in positive ways with others. Quality providers allow children to experience their feelings and have appropriate expectations for behavior based upon their developmental level.

When teachers treat children in a nurturing manner, an attachment forms between the child and the provider setting the stage for learning. As a parent looking for child care it is important to ask about staff turnover by inquiring how long providers have been at the facility.

Additionally, quality child care environments include parents as equal partners with regular communication about their child's progress. Parents are asked to share information about their child with the provider(s) in order to care for the child as an individual and provide continuity of care between child care and home. Parents should meet with providers prior to enrolling in care not only to visit the facility with your Quality Child Care Checklist, observe teacher interactions and the physical environment, but also to begin developing a rapport with their potential provider.

Read more about showing respect for children in our post "Five Critical Emotional Needs of Children".


Friday, May 8, 2015

3-D Magazine Flowers

We owe this great craft idea to Susan at Organized 31. We are always searching for low-cost, easy activities for our families and it is an added bonus when we can up-cycle an item which would otherwise be recycled or tossed.

You will need:
old magazines
pipe cleaners
hole punch

We cut our strips with a paper cutter to make sure they were even. If you don't have a paper cutter, trace a straight line with a ruler as your cutting guide. We looked for pages with bright colors and used a portion of the page for one flower. We cut the strips from 1/2 to 1 inches wide. The 1/2" results in a daintier flower, but 1" strips may be easier for younger children to work with.

Fold the strip as shown in the picture below, making sure that both ends overlap. 
You should have a total of 3 holes in each strip. We used a 1/8" punch because we had it on hand. You can use a regular hole punch you will just need to make your twists bigger. 

Continue folding, punching and threading your folded petals onto the tip of a pipe cleaner. 

Once you have enough petals, fold, twist or knot the pipe cleaner section behind the flower.

Complete the flower by twisting the pipe cleaner at the front of the flower. 

Place in a vase to enjoy. We used empty 8.5 ounce soda bottles.

If you cut the pipe cleaner in back, you could also use for a gift decoration; it is nearly free to make and better for the environment than a purchased bow.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

April 2015 Child Care Referral Data

See what kind of child care parents in El Dorado County were looking for in the month of April -based upon data collected when parents contacted us during this time frame.

If total percentages exceed 100% it is because more than one response or category was recorded for some clients.