Communities of Play Innovation

Cities that promote play are at an economic advantage because people want to live, work, spend time and money in positive play environments. A sense of community can be established when families and children are able to play in public locations (Ehrenhalt, 2014). Play deserts occur in places where children have limited play opportunities. Crime, community facilities, and obesity are some of the factors leading to play deserts (Sharaievska, 2014). Location may also hinder opportunities for play. At least four things are needed to create communities of play.

#1) Safety. The basic ingredient for play is that it must be safe. Communities of play are environments where great care has been taken to ensure children are protected from harm. Safe play communities have low or no crime.

#2) Clean and welcoming facilities. Families seeking play communities for their children want clean spaces that are attractive and welcoming. The well-being of children is maximized when there are facilities conducive to play. Clean water, playgrounds, spaces, equipment, toys, and more are needed to attract children and families (Juster & Leichter-Saxby, 2014). 

#3) Access. Play environments must be accessible to people with diverse abilities. In my community, we recently renovated our community playground so that it could be more accessible to children with motor delays and people who use wheelchairs. The results have been more inclusive play for all our children. Such a valuable investment.

Access to play communities that are close to home and work are necessary to making play a priority for families. Schedules are busy and there are many things to do each day which may push opportunities for play to the bottom of the to-do list. Families do not need an extra errand to transport children far away to play.Community planning is necessary for the development and maintenance of play communities. 

#4) Supervision. Children require adult supervision. Parents, grandparents, family members, teachers, parks and rec staff, city employees paid to supervise community activities, and other adults designated to ensure the safety and well-being of children are necessary to play communities. Public spaces for play should be managed by qualified adults trained to properly supervise children.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states in Article 31 that children have the right to: “rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.” Children benefit when they are able to play in safe, clean, accessible, and supervised environments. Childhood is enhanced where there are nurturing and caring communities of play.

 "I Spy with My Little Eye" playground.

"I Spy with My Little Eye" playground.

 

Sources:

Ehrenhalt, A. a. (2014). Cities, families and places to play. Governing, 27(7), 14-16

Juster, A. H., & Leichter-Saxby, M. (2014). Citizens at play: Children's participation through community-based opportunities for child-directed play. Global Studies Of Childhood, 4(2), 77

Sharaievska, I. (2014). Family leisure and the play desert. Parks & Recreation, 49(8), 36-37.

"kids who pretend to be..."

Picture books ideas come in all different forms, but here is my journey in writing and illustrating “Hello, My Name is Tiger”.

Hello My Name is, Tiger.jpg

I’d like to say that I had a grand plan for a picture book that would make kids feel like there are other kids just like them.

But the reality is I just drew a picture.

Before I knew I was going to write and illustrate my book “Hello, My Name is Tiger”, I drew a picture of a kid in a cat suit. Just out of the blue. Not sure why, other than Halloween was around the corner.

An editor saw the drawing and asked me if I had a story to go with it. I told her I would noodle it.

In thinking about it, I remembered that my daughter, when she was 4, had a friend named Simon, who wouldn’t take off his red-footed PJ’s for almost 4 months. He was Clifford the Big Red Dog and no one was going to tell him otherwise.

Simon was having a ball being his favorite character, and in my research I learned there are lots of kids who pretend to be cats and dogs or other creatures. Sometimes they are doing it for fun. But other times, they are going through something they are uncomfortable with and being in costume makes it a little easier. Seems like a good plan to me. I don’t remember, but I may have done this myself when I was a kid.

Actually, here is a picture of me as a bunny. I do recall wearing this on other days than Halloween.

 Author Jennifer Goldfinger

Author Jennifer Goldfinger

I moved every two years when I was growing up. I was always the new kid and it stressed me out every time I started a new school. I felt like I was going through something that no one else was, that everyone else had it all figured out and everyone else had lots of friends. I wish now that I had someone tell me how I wasn’t really alone in my feelings. Kids who had been at the school and weren’t new, sometimes felt that way too.

In my book, Toby would rather be a cat than a boy as he starts a new school. He struggled with his isolation until a monkey (another boy) rescued him from being stuck in a tree.

Picture in tree.jpg

Eventually they also befriended a bird (a girl). They were going through the same thing separately until they found each other.

It was a roundabout way I got to making this book. But it all came together for me when I looked deep inside an emotion I had as a child and still have at times as an adult. I’m so familiar with this feeling that once I identified it, I was able to make a book that told my story through Toby/Tiger’s eyes.

Today's guest blogger is Ms. Jennifer P. Goldfinger. She is a children's author and illustrator. You can find more information about Ms. Goldfinger at http://www.jennifergoldfinger.com/. 

Happy Place

There are happy meals. There are happy birthdays. There are books about happiness. There are even songs about being happy. Thank you, Pharrell Williams!

The pursuit of happiness is in our American DNA. But how do we create happy environments for young children?

This is a question we can explore when designing spaces. In our early childhood theory and practice class this week we are reading about the physical environment. There are many things to consider when designing the physical environment for young children. What may be most important is to create a HAPPY PLACE!

A happy place for children would consist of at least five things.

1.      Safety.

2.      Accessibility.

3.      Functionality.

4.      Developmental appropriateness.

5.      Beauty.

A local bank is offering teachers a contest to renovate their classrooms. Contest winners will receive $2,000 to spend on classroom renovations. What would you do with an extra $2,000 to spend on your early childhood space? We can look to the Danes for answers.

Despite their long winters, Danish people are considered some of the happiest people in the world. What makes Denmark one of the happiest nations?  In Denmark, the concept of “hygge” is focused on creating a nice atmosphere. In their books, Wiking and Søderberg share the way to create happiness the Danish way with the concept of hygge (pronounced hoo-ga). Dr. Meik Wiking reveals the Danish secrets of hygge and the keys to happiness that he and other researchers study at the Happiness Research Institute. He says, “Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down,” (Wiking, 2017, p. vi). Sounds really good to me! We could all use more hygge when we go to our happy place!

Happy Place.jpg

 

Sources:

Søderberg, M. T. (2016). Hygge: The Danish art of happiness. New York: Penguin Books.

Wiking, M. (2017). The little book of hygge. Danish secrets to happy living. New York: HarperCollins.

Stranger Danger

It can be hard for us to have empathy for strangers because they STRESS US OUT. Research is showing that being around strangers increases stress and decreases empathy. Dr. Jeffrey Mogil, a researcher from Canada, has been conducting studies on emotional contagion. One experiment is simply putting two people who have never met in a room. Stress levels increase (e.g., heart beat increases, sweaty palms, etc.), and empathy for the stranger decreases.

Another experiment involves having research participants soak their hands in a freezing cold bucket of ice for thirty seconds and having them rate their pain.

  1. One condition is having a person do the ice bucket by themselves.
  2. Another condition is having a person and a stranger do the ice bucket together.
  3. And then the third condition is a person does the ice bucket experiment with a friend.
 Ice Bucket Experiment

Ice Bucket Experiment

They found that being alone, and with strangers, resulted in about the same amount of pain. However, the condition with friends resulted in more pain. Interesting! 

My guess was that pain would decrease if there was a friend for support. “We’re in this together.” “I can get through anything with this awesome friend by my side.” This was not the case.

A possible explanation for the finding is empathy. We feel more pain when we do the experiment with a friend. When our friend is experiencing pain, our own pain increases. We have our own pain + a little bit more from our friend. Research shows that we have emotional empathy for friends, however not for strangers. No wonder it is so hard to put ourselves in another person’s shoes at times, and take their perspective when they are a stranger to us.

Does being around strangers increase stress + decrease empathy? Yes!

Another thing the emotional contagion researchers did was experiment with games and play. They found that when the strangers played a video game called Rock Band for a half hour their stress decreased and their empathy increased. So more support for the power of play. Yay! Simply playing a game together for a half hour can make a meaningful difference. 

 Rock Band Game

Rock Band Game

Many caregivers tell children, “do NOT talk to strangers.” We do this to protect our little ones. One of my favorite quotes I use in my assessment class is from the theorist, Dr. Urie Bronfenbrenner. He said we examine, “the strange behavior of children in strange situations with STRANGE ADULTS for the briefest possible periods of time” (1979, p. 19).

 Dr. Urie Bronfenbrenner

Dr. Urie Bronfenbrenner

He wrote this decades ago. In many situations, we still conduct early childhood assessments today the way Bronfenbrenner described in the 1979 quote. There should be better ways to do assessment. 

When unfamiliar adults assess children, we may not see the child's true abilities and skills. Children are taught not to talk to strangers. And what do we do... we sometimes assess children when the assessor is a stranger. Take for instance a speech and language assessment where the assessor is diagnosing a delay or disorder. If  the assessor is a stranger and the child is taught not to talk to strangers,  an accurate diagnosis may be difficult. 

We can apply some of the research out of neuroscience and play with children. Allow the child to get to know the assessor via play before, during, and after an assessment. The result may be a more accurate picture of the child's abilities and development. 

 

Sources:

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Mogil, J.S. (2012). Pain genetics: Past, present and future. Trends in Genetics, 28, 258-266.

Mogil, J.S. (2015). Social modulation of and by pain in humans and rodents. Pain, 156 (Suppl. 1), S35-41.

What's New?

Happy New Year! I hope your new year is off to a great start. In 2018, my colleagues and I will be putting the finishing touches on the new edition of the Assessment, Evaluation, and Programming System for Infants and Children (AEPS®).

We have been working on the AEPS®-3 since 2005 and I’m thrilled to see it going into production. Early childhood professionals can benefit from having a measure to assess young children that also links to a curriculum that could be used during play and routines. The AEPS®-3 Family component can be used to create positive and engaging partnerships with parents. Some of the most exciting new things in the AEPS®-3 are the early childhood math and reading areas.

Listen in to my iTunes show to hear a conversation with the pioneer of the AEPS® Dr. Diane Bricker (pictured below) talk about how she got started in our field, early childhood theoretical perspectives based on the work of Skinner and Piaget, and the influences and impact of her work in the area of early childhood assessment. 

If you would like professional development on the new AEPS®-3, start now. You can email me at marisamacy@gmail.com to begin. Wishing you all the best in 2018!

 Left row: Carmen Dionne (Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières), Amy Perkins (Brookes Publishing), Naomi Rahn (Wisconsin DOE), Diane Bricker (University of Oregon), that's me in green - Marisa Macy (University of Central Florida), and I-Ching Chen (Kent State University). Right row: Sarah Zerofsky (Brookes Publishing), Misti Waddell (University of Oregon),  Jennifer Grisham-Brown (University of Kentucky),  Joann Johnson (St. Cloud University), and Heather Shrestha (Brookes Publishing)

Left row: Carmen Dionne (Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières), Amy Perkins (Brookes Publishing), Naomi Rahn (Wisconsin DOE), Diane Bricker (University of Oregon), that's me in green - Marisa Macy (University of Central Florida), and I-Ching Chen (Kent State University). Right row: Sarah Zerofsky (Brookes Publishing), Misti Waddell (University of Oregon),  Jennifer Grisham-Brown (University of Kentucky),  Joann Johnson (St. Cloud University), and Heather Shrestha (Brookes Publishing)

 

Below is a PDF of our “Sneak Preview” my co-authors and I presented at a national conference. 

http://aepsinteractive.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/DEC-AEPS-3-Presentation-2017.pdf 

http://www.brookespublishing.com/resource-center/screening-and-assessment/aeps/

Car Seats, Strollers, and Child-size Suitcases...oh my!

Families traveling with young children have many considerations to make when going on a journey. I was traveling recently and noticed a family next to me struggling to get through airport security due to all the extra objects needed when traveling with small children. In addition to all the adult things they brought for the trip, they had: a car seat for each child, one stroller, 2 child-size suitcases, and a diaper bag. Many of the contents in the diaper bag had to be removed because they contained liquid. We were on the same plane and again I saw how challenging it was for the family boarding the plane. It is no wonder that many parents choose to stay home and avoid travel because of the hassle involved in moving a family from point A to point B.

 On the Go

On the Go

The Dean of the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida, Dr. Pizam, delineates travel from tourism. He says that travel is moving people from one place to another, whereas tourism represents businesses engaged in providing goods and services to tourists (who are people traveling to places outside their homes and usual settings). Families are a unique segment of the travel and tourism industries and may need different things compared to people traveling without children.

There are so many benefits to family travel and tourism. Relationship therapy is one of them. Family functioning may improve when a family has the opportunity to go on a vacation together. Enabling access to travel and tourism opens doors for young children and their families.

Source: Pizam, A. (2009, June). What is the hospitality industry and how does it differ from the tourism and travel industries? International Journal of Hospitality Management. pp. 183-184.

Ordinary Treasures

In her travel memoir, Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman, author Alice Steinbach talks about the power of paying attention to ordinary life moments.  She shares a simple treasured memory of her sons playing innocently out in the backyard on a summer evening.  There was nothing special or different about this evening, there had been many like it before.  But for some reason, as she heard the childish chatter outside, Steinbach was lucky enough to recognize the power and beauty of that ordinary, everyday experience.    She calls those special bits of time, when our hearts are touched by the magic and specialness of the ordinary, “Holy Moments.”

It is easy, as parents, to get caught up in life’s busyness.  Running from activity to activity, our daily life becomes so routine that we forget to pay attention to the little moments.  And here’s the thing.  By not paying attention to those moments we lose them. 

The truth is, most of family life is ordinary. Taking the dog for a walk. Cleaning up after dinner. Snuggling in to read a book together before bed.   Yes, these moments are ordinary, but they are special, too, because these are the moments that make up your life.  These moments turn to hours, the hours turn to days, and pretty soon the days add up to a time when moments like these no longer happen.

So today, make an effort to notice and savor the ordinary moments in your daily life. The sound of your children laughing together.  A tiny hand fitting snugly into yours.  The smell of your toddler’s neck when you kiss him goodnight.  In this way, today’s moments become tomorrow’s treasures.

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Today's guest blogger is Ms. Julie Danneberg. She is a teacher and a children’s author.  She started working on collecting her own Ordinary Treasures when her children were young.  You can find out more about her books and follow her blogs on writing and teaching at www.juliedanneberg.com.

 Guest Blogger: Ms. Julie Danneberg

Guest Blogger: Ms. Julie Danneberg

First Day Jitters

Young children may have a variety of feelings about starting school. Books are a way for children to make meaning out of their emotions, talk with a caregiver about how they feel, and enjoy the benefits of children’s literature. If you have children who are dealing with going back to school jitters, here are picture books you could read with them.  

 Ash, B., & Gee, K. (2016).  The class.  New York: Beach Lane Books.

Ash, B., & Gee, K. (2016). The class. New York: Beach Lane Books.

 Brown, Marc Tolon. (2015).  Monkey: not ready for kindergarten . New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Brown, Marc Tolon. (2015). Monkey: not ready for kindergarten. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

 Carlstrom, N. W., & Moore, M. (2009).  It's your first day of school, Annie Claire . New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers.  

Carlstrom, N. W., & Moore, M. (2009). It's your first day of school, Annie Claire. New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers.  

 Child, L. (2004).  I am too absolutely small for school.  Cambridge, Mass.: Candlewick.

Child, L. (2004). I am too absolutely small for school. Cambridge, Mass.: Candlewick.

 Cohen, M., & Himler, R. (2009).  Will I have a friend?  Long Island City, NY: Star Bright Books.

Cohen, M., & Himler, R. (2009). Will I have a friend? Long Island City, NY: Star Bright Books.

 Cuyler, M., & Terry, W. (2017).  Bonaparte falls apart.  New York: Crown Books.

Cuyler, M., & Terry, W. (2017). Bonaparte falls apart. New York: Crown Books.

 Danneberg, J., & Love, J. (2006).  Qué nervios! El primer día de escuela.  Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.

Danneberg, J., & Love, J. (2006). Qué nervios! El primer día de escuela. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.

 Dewdney, A. (2009).  Llama llama misses mama . New York: Scholastic.

Dewdney, A. (2009). Llama llama misses mama. New York: Scholastic.

 Goldfinger, J. P. (2016).  Hello, my name is Toby Tiger . New York, NY: Harper Collins.

Goldfinger, J. P. (2016). Hello, my name is Toby Tiger. New York, NY: Harper Collins.

 Grandits, J., & Austin, M. A. (2011).  Ten rules you absolutely must not break if you want to survive the school bus.  New Yo

Grandits, J., & Austin, M. A. (2011). Ten rules you absolutely must not break if you want to survive the school bus. New Yo

 Harris, R. H., & Ormerod, J. (2003).  I am not going to school today . New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books.

Harris, R. H., & Ormerod, J. (2003). I am not going to school today. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books.

 Hennessy, B.G., & Meisel, P. (2006).  Mr. Ouchy's first day . New York : Putnam's Sons.  

Hennessy, B.G., & Meisel, P. (2006). Mr. Ouchy's first day. New York : Putnam's Sons.  

 Kleve, E. (2007).  The apple doll.  New York: Farrar Straus Giroux.

Kleve, E. (2007). The apple doll. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux.

 London, J., & Remkiewicz, F. (1996).  Froggy goes to school.  New York: Viking.

London, J., & Remkiewicz, F. (1996). Froggy goes to school. New York: Viking.

 Marshall, J. (1975).  Eugene.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Marshall, J. (1975). Eugene. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

 McCarthy, J., & Palacios, S. (2016).  Lola knows a lot.  New York: Balzer + Bray.

McCarthy, J., & Palacios, S. (2016). Lola knows a lot. New York: Balzer + Bray.

 McGhee, A., & Bliss, H. (2004).  Mrs. Watson wants your teeth.  Orlando: Harcourt.

McGhee, A., & Bliss, H. (2004). Mrs. Watson wants your teeth. Orlando: Harcourt.

 Rankin, J. (2002).  First day.  New York : Margaret K. McElderry Books.

Rankin, J. (2002). First day. New York : Margaret K. McElderry Books.

 Rex, A. & Robinson, C. (2016).  School's first day of school.  New York: Roaring Brook Press.

Rex, A. & Robinson, C. (2016). School's first day of school. New York: Roaring Brook Press.

 Robbins, B., & Stuart, J. (2001).  Tom's first day at school . New York : Dorling Kindersley Pub.

Robbins, B., & Stuart, J. (2001). Tom's first day at school. New York : Dorling Kindersley Pub.

 Sadu, I., & Delinous, A. (2017).  Greetings, Leroy.  Toronto; Berkeley: Groundwoood Books/House of Anansi Press.

Sadu, I., & Delinous, A. (2017). Greetings, Leroy. Toronto; Berkeley: Groundwoood Books/House of Anansi Press.

 Scotton, R. (2008).  Splat the cat.  New York: Harper Collins.

Scotton, R. (2008). Splat the cat. New York: Harper Collins.

 Thaler, M., & Lee, J. (1989).  The teacher from the black lagoon.  New York: Scholastic.

Thaler, M., & Lee, J. (1989). The teacher from the black lagoon. New York: Scholastic.

 Wing, N., & Wummer, A. (2011).  The night before preschool.  New York: Grossett & Dunlap.

Wing, N., & Wummer, A. (2011). The night before preschool. New York: Grossett & Dunlap.

 Wing, N., & Durrell, J. (2001).  The night before kindergarten.  New York: Grossett & Dunlap.

Wing, N., & Durrell, J. (2001). The night before kindergarten. New York: Grossett & Dunlap.

 Wing, N., & Zemke, D. (2005).  The night before first grade.  New York: Grossett & Dunlap.

Wing, N., & Zemke, D. (2005). The night before first grade. New York: Grossett & Dunlap.

Thank you to Emma, my librarian, for helping me find these books.

Instruction Worker

I was walking into my public library when I heard it.

“I’m an instruction worker,” said the little boy.

Hmmm? I looked. His Dad was taking his picture with a cell phone while the boy posed through a hole in the cardboard prop of a construction site.

 Build a Better World

Build a Better World

In libraries across the country, a summer reading program is going on called “Build a Better World/ Construir un Mundo Mejor.” This is the 2017 reading theme for the Collaborative Summer Library Program. It was started in the 1980s by a group of librarians in Minnesota and has blossomed into a really cool national program to support children in the summer with reading opportunities. To prevent summer reading loss, many public libraries promote programs for children and families. Maybe the child is on to something. Maybe we can build a better world around us through instruction workers….

Animals Strike Curious Poses

One day physicist Dr. Helen Czerski visited a pond in Winchester in the south of England. She noticed a little girl asking her mother a curious question. The child wanted to know why the duck she was observing didn’t get cold feet. Hmmm… Young children are naturally inquisitive about their surroundings and they ask awesome questions! Their sense of inquiry comes natural to them. I have visited many early childhood classrooms to observe my student teachers. I try not to be seen. I prefer to be like a fly on the wall, however young children usually want to know who I am and why I am there. They generally notice when something is out of place in the environment. Children are relentless seekers of information. Adults can support children by being responsive to their inquiry. We can even try being more like children by following some age-old advice from Jane Austen, “indulge your imagination in every possible flight” (Austen, 1813- Pride and Prejudice).

Teaching is Like Making Chocolate Chip Cookies

“Change lanes when conveeeeeeeeenient,” Mr. McDonald would say. I’m not sure the best way to teach driver’s education. I’m pretty sure one of the main ingredients is staying calm behind the wheel. Mr. Bruce McDonald taught me driver’s education when I took it the summer before I turned sixteen, and his calming presence in the car (and use of vowel stretching) helped me feel safe. He also had a brake on his side of the car. I knew he was on my side and would help me if I had a problem.

School is out now for summer. It is time for those of us in the business of education to reflect on the past year, rest, play, and start thinking of the upcoming year. My reflection centers most on gratitude. I was fortunate this year to have taught smart and hardworking undergraduate and graduate students at a university in a border town between the United States and Mexico. Many of my students cross a border every day to gain access to higher education. Just like Mr. McDonald did for me, it was my responsibility to support my students when needed. It was a pleasure! A guest on my iTunes show recently talked about teaching methods on our podcast. She said that teaching is like making chocolate chip cookies and that there are many ways to do it. Dr. Jean Feldman was making a good point that there are unlimited strategies for effective teaching. As I get ready to change lanes and move into a new school year, I will take happy classroom memories with me. The best part of making chocolate chip cookies is savoring every morsel.

Dads and Play

Dads benefit when they play with their children. Researchers studied fathers and found there were no differences in testosterone levels, but there was a decrease in cortisol and prolactin in fathers after just a half hour of playing with their children. This study suggests fathers experience hormonal responses when playing with their children (Gettler et al., 2011). Playing with children can decrease stress, be lots of fun, and create wonderful memories. 

Play is good for Dads!

My playspiration is my Dad! When he plays with children in our family, my Dad is totally engaged and present in the moment. His granddaughter reminded me that the last time Nonno was at our house they played hide-n-seek for “lots of hours.” True! It was probably about two hours without a break. 

My Dad believes play is important. Places to play are important too. When I was little my Dad built me a playhouse in our backyard. After putting in a full day’s work, he would come home and work on the playhouse until everyone went to sleep.

 The Playhouse Nonno Built 

The Playhouse Nonno Built 

Thank you for being my Dad! Also, thank you for making PLAY an important part of our life together. I love you, Dad! 

Happy Father's Day to all Dads this Sunday. 

 

Source: Gettler, L. T., McDade, T. W., Agustin, S. S., & Kuzawa, C. W. (2011). Short-term changes in fathers' hormones during father–child play: Impacts of paternal attitudes and experience. Hormones & Behavior, 60, 599-606.

Dapper Days

Playing dress up is an activity many children enjoy. Early childhood programs often include a socio-dramatic play area or center in America. On a recent trip to Disney World I saw people of all ages engaging in the fun of dress up on "Dapper Day." Twice a year guests arrive at the Disney gates dressed to the nines. How fun to see that some "grown-ups" have not outgrown this playful part of childhood. 

Man's Best Friend Receives Accommodation

Maybe it has always been here and I just now noticed it. Across from the gates in Concourse B at the El Paso, Texas airport exists a quiet and relaxing lounge for service animals. 

Service Animal Relief Area.jpg

Years ago I had an internship with Dr. Debra Hamilton. We traveled throughout the county providing home visits to young children with disabilities and their families.  Dr. Hamilton had a black lab named Hagar who was her service dog. 

One family we worked with that summer had a toddler who was losing her vision just like Dr. Hamilton. When we would pull up to her driveway, "Sonya" and her siblings would be lined up at the window waiting for Hagar to arrive.  Dr. Hamilton promised the children they could play with Hagar if they allowed "Sonya" and us time to work during the visit. 

Hagar was always laser focused during the session. Once we were done working, Hagar turned into a playful puppy with his tail wagging enthusiastically when his service vest came off. 

Thank you El Paso airport! What a thoughtful way to serve those who provide so much service to others. 

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“Hold On, Mr. President!”

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, has recommended that we prepare young people for living in a world of powerful images, words, and sounds. Parents and professionals working with children have a responsibility to help them interpret and create personal meaning. What do we need to know about media that can help our children?

This was a question I asked renowned reporter, ABC news anchor, author of the book "Hold On, Mr. President," and White House correspondent, Mr. Sam Donaldson.

 Mr. Sam Donaldson at our state's annual press women conference.

Mr. Sam Donaldson at our state's annual press women conference.

Check out the podcast to hear Mr. Donaldson share his ideas on several topics like: early childhood education, communication, media literacy, asking questions of public officials, and much more. http://www.marisamacy.com/podcast/

Source: Donaldson, S. (1987). Hold On, Mr. President! New York: Random House Inc.

What Not to Ask

There is an art to asking parents questions. What not to ask parents may be just as important as what to ask.

“Can you be here at 1:30pm on Monday for our appointment to talk about your child?”

 “What worries you about your child?”

These are some of the many questions parents get asked.

Recently, I had a chance to chat with Dr. Frances Page Glascoe on my iTunes show about her work with parents and professionals. One of the things she shared was how to use time efficiently when interviewing parents about their children during pediatric encounters. Dr. Glascoe talked about how to use different tools to gather information prior to the parent/professional visit. This could help avoid the oh, by the way and door knob concerns at the end of an interview when the time is up.

Health communication literature has a well-known study called the “3-Min. Interview.” Researchers studied encounters between healthcare providers and patients. They found that if the professional interrupted the patient within the first 3 minutes of the encounter, the patient was less likely to give information that would lead to an accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Dr. Glascoe cautioned the use of the word, “worry.” For example, is there anything that worries you about your child? This could be a loaded word that parents may have difficulty addressing. Words and methods for communicating with parents may have a significant impact on service quality.

Check out the podcast to hear Dr. Glascoe talk about facilitating effective communication with parents and much more. http://www.marisamacy.com/podcast/

 Dr. Frances Page Glascoe

Dr. Frances Page Glascoe

Lights, Camera, Action!

Since World War II, ethical standards for conducting research with human participants has been evolving. Researchers affiliated with a university MUST get approval from their institutions’ Internal Review Board BEFORE beginning a study with human participants. Outside of academia there may be different processes and standards for conducting research with human participants. If this topic is of interest to you, consider reading a book by Rebecca Skloot about the evolution of research on a human subject by the name: Henrietta Lacks.

The human cells are referred to as HeLa for the first two letters of the participant’s first and last names. Skloot tells the story of how cells taken from Lacks in 1951, without her permission, have been used widespread by scientists all over the world for several decades to learn more about a range of conditions including polio and cancer. This fascinating story is going to be told on HBO this month. Oprah Winfrey plays the daughter of Henrietta Lacks who shares the impact the research on HeLa cells has had on her life and of other members of the Lacks family. Do you hear that sound? That’s me setting my DVR. I can’t wait to see this movie!

Skloot, R. (2010). The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks. New York: Crown Publishing Group.

Bird Feeder: Spring Craft

Are you looking for a spring activity to do with the little ones in your life? Look no further than your kitchen pantry and bathroom. To make a feeder you can set out on nearby trees for your feathered friends, gather the following things: peanut butter, sunflower seeds, and toilet paper rolls. Start by smearing the peanut butter onto the cardboard. Next, coat the peanut butter rolls with seeds. You’re done! Simple!

 Bird feeder

Bird feeder

Have fun doing this craft with kids, and get ready to see the birds nibble their way through spring. Attracting birds to a child’s environment creates endless opportunities to learn and be entertained by nature.