Give Kids the World

Many people walked by and did not stop to help when a young child was in distress. The little girl was in potential danger all by herself in this big world and campus. K.T. was walking on campus at our university when she noticed the child. The little girl was separated from her Mom when K.T. stopped to ask if she needed help. The little girl said her Mom parked her car in the garage that goes “round and round.” They searched parking garages together. They tried to call home, but no answer. After looking for what might have felt like an eternity, the child and her mother were reunited.

How many times do we look the other way when we might be able to be helpful to someone? It is good that people like K.T.  are willing stop and help. How can we help children?

·       We can give kids the world when we take time to become aware of their needs.

·       We can give kids the world when we show we care about them.

·       We can give kids the world when we help them when they are in danger.

The way she responded is inspirational. Let’s follow K.T.’s model and Give Kids the World.


Tips for Practicum

I have the privilege and pleasure of coordinating fieldwork for students in Early Childhood Development and Education at our university. What students do (and in some cases don’t do) before the first week of field placement sets the tone for the rest of the term. I’ve compiled a list of tips to consider.

Prior to Field Work

·       Start communicating with your on-site supervisor and university supervisor as soon as you can. Keep the conversations and communication ongoing. The relationship you create with these two people on your team are important for your success, as well as your future. Contact your On-site Supervisor by phone and email.

·       Have all your required paperwork and clearances in order.

·       Make all arrangements for transportation ahead of time. Get the address and map ready so that you don’t have to fumble on your first day.

·       Go online and learn who the people are at your field placement. 

·       If applicable, do research on your placement. Learn about the mission and goals of the organization. Find out what the expectations and/or rules are ahead of time.. For example, many schools do not allow gum chewing. So you will want to make sure to spit out your Bubble Yum™ before you go. If available, become familiar and read the field placement handbook.

Getting Started

·       Wear your name badge, or other self-identification.

·       Check in and out at the field placement main office. You will most likely be required to sign your name, date, time of arrival and departure, and purpose of your visit. Some schools have you wear a name tag in the building. Ask the office personnel if there is anything you might have forgotten for check in/out procedures. *Remember to follow these important safety precautions. Programs serving young children need to know who is in their building. These procedures are in place to protect children and personnel.

·       Introduce yourself to the office personnel. If possible, ask to introduce yourself to the school principal and/or leadership personnel. Here are a few hints for an introduction (Post, 2004):

o   If you are sitting, rise to greet the person who has entered the room. It is a sign of respect.

o   You may want to shake the person’s hand.

o   Tell them your first and last names. Speak clearly.

o   Address the person by his/her title (e.g., Mr., Ms., or Dr.). It is better to err on the side of formal.

o   Example, “Hello Dr. Smith! my name is Marisa Macy. I am an undergraduate student at the University of Central Florida, and I will be doing my practicum here for the next 15 weeks. My university supervisor will be <fill in the blank> and coming out to observe me during the semester. I look forward to doing my field work here. Thanks for the opportunity.”

·       Find out where you will be spending your time during your field placement. You may also want to find out where the bathroom, exits, and other necessary landmarks are located. Some programs have a map available to guests. Ask for one if you want it.

·       If you drove, determine that where you have parked your car is okay with them. Sometimes, programs have designated parking and/or information about transportation that will be useful to you.

While You Are There

Remember you are a guest at this placement, and a representative of the university. Be polite and respectful. Every interaction you have is an opportunity for you to make a good impression, and apply what you have been learning. Use your best judgment, have fun, and good luck! I hope these tips help you with practicum.


Post, P. (2004). Emily Post’s etiquette: The definitive guide to manners, completely revised and updated (17th ed.). New York: HarperCollins. 


Professional Development

by guest blogger Melissa Hogan

Over the past two years, I have researched and studied at one of the finest institutions in our country that offer the Bachelors of Science in Early Childhood Development and Education. My goal was to discover better ways to support early childhood educators, directors, owners and staff. I discovered that this industry is still young in its development (Dr. Sharon Carnahan, Rollins College, 2019, Personal Conversation.) According to NAEYC (2018), the industry is equivocally educated. In my own seventeen plus years, I have found this to be true.

When I first opened a preschool with a popular local franchise, I interviewed applicants with no training, basic forty-five hour trainings, CDAs, and bachelor degrees. In addition to the varying types of education there were the factors of experience, personality, work ethic and professionalism to take into account. My eyes began to open to the fact that each person that I interviewed was valuable and special because they wanted to work with the fastest developing brains in the community, young children. The questions of how to solve this varying educational puzzle began to circle in my head, so I decided to go back to college and earn my doctorate in early childhood.

I am now in the practicum stage of the bachelor’s degree. I have at my practicum placement for one week and already I am applying what I have learned in my coursework at my prestigious college. I am excited to say that there are a whole team of professionals at this placement that are committed to assessing, coaching and supporting ECEs on a daily basis.

Using assessments, I have been given the opportunity to go into the early childhood classrooms and witness how Provider Services Specialists are helping early educators to provide the best teacher-child interactions possible. These teachers have many different educational backgrounds, yes even bachelor degrees, yet still needed the support and guidance of outside sources. This showed me that as the early childhood field strives to get all teachers on an even playing field educationally, the professional development piece is vital because applying all that is learned on an everyday basis can be difficult without the right kind of quality support for all staff involved, including directors.

I am excited to watch the early education field grow and evolve over time, but the biggest take away for me so far has been the value of supporting each other in the field with research-based practices. What we learn in college can be applied, but our education doesn’t stop there. Mentorship, professional development and collaborating with each other on a consistent basis are the keys to providing the best possible start for young children everywhere.

Reference: National Association for the Education of Young Children (2018). DRAFT: Professional Standards and Competencies for Early Childhood Educators. Retrieved from:

Message from today’s guest blogger:

My name is Melissa Hogan and the education of young children has been my whole adult life’s work. I knew since I was young that I wanted to be a teacher. I never imagined my passion would include the youngest of children and those that mean to serve them. I have had the honor to be a part of many experiences in the early childhood field including assisting, lead teaching, managing, facilitating community partnerships, and mentoring. It was opening a preschool franchise from the remodel phase to 100% enrollment that I realized my dream of supporting early childhood teachers, their careers and the teacher-child interactions that are vital to any successful early education experience. Motherhood has only strengthened my perspectives of the need for quality early childhood experiences and as I pursue a graduate degree at the University of Central Florida, I am inspired by my own sweet boys daily. I am proud to be a part of an evolving early educational system and hope to implement change for young children globally.

MH picture.jpg

Universal Perspectives

A world class education begins with access to ideas that can transform learners. Higher education must challenge students to reach their full potential. Exploring beyond what students already know to dive into depths beyond the shore of their existing knowledge is the objective of higher education. This semester I went on a quest with our graduate students to learn more about early childhood assessment by hosting an international expert, Dr. Carmen Dionne.

Dr. Dionne shared her ideas and research on early childhood assessment. She brought up so many topics related to the challenges and opportunities we all face as researchers. Faculty in the School of Teacher Education, my Dean and Research Dean, and our talented graduate students in the College of Community Innovation and Education participated in the Research Symposium. Dr. Dionne is Professor at the University of Québec at Trois-Rivières, and she is the sole United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) Chair in Child Development with a focus on screening and assessment of young children. The purpose of the UNESCO program she chairs is to conduct research in early childhood intervention for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers who are at risk for developing a disability or have disabilities.

Thank you to Dr. Dionne for coming all this way to Orlando from Quebec. A BIG thank you goes to the University of Central Florida College of Graduate Studies and UNESCO for sponsoring our research symposium with Dr. Dionne. The research symposium with Dr. Dionne has given us the opportunity to reflect upon ways to improve the world for young children and their families.  Reaching past our direct sphere of influence leads to transformation that comes from learning about the immense world around us and global perspectives.

If you’d like to read more about the UNESCO child development chair, follow this link:

Save the Date flyer Dr. Dionne March 4 2019.JPG

Communication with Families

This semester in my early childhood assessment class we have a peer coaching program where parental communication is a focus. The university has created a High Impact Practice (HIP) Peer Coaching program that we are using to support college students in their development of effective parental communication around early childhood assessment and assessment practices.

Here are 7 tips for meaningful communication with children's parents when English is not their first language created by María Spinetti who is a Guest Blogger and a HIP Peer Coach.

1) Establish what language is best to communicate. Ask parents if they feel comfortable with English or if they would rather have the message translated. Even though it does not take long to translate an email to the parents, doing so demonstrates a willingness to accommodate their needs and helps them feel supported.

2) Establish what is the best way to communicate. Some cultures prefer face-to-face meetings, while others are more used to emails. Let the parents know how to best contact you.

3) Avoid using acronyms no matter how common you think they are. This can be hard depending on your job, but if the parent is translating the message, the acronym won’t translate.

4) Establish your job title and responsibilities. For jobs such as Child Life Specialist, chances are they have never heard of the position before and don’t know what to expect from you. To establish a healthy relationship, it is important to determine expectations from both ends. This doesn’t have to be long, but explicit enough for parents to understand your role.

5) Be succinct. For non-native English speakers it can be daunting or exhausting to read a very long paragraph in a language that they don’t speak very well.

6) When explaining your degree, a lot can be lost in translation. Some countries don’t have AA degrees or use words like major and minor. Similarly, when translating the word “bachelor’s”, there is a high chance that the new word won’t be accurate. I recommend sticking to more universal words such as university or college.

7) If you will be meeting, determine how you are going to communicate. Whether parents need to bring a translator, or your employer will provide one. Maybe they are comfortable enough speaking in English. Either way, sorting this out will allow them to be prepared for your meeting.


Message from today’s guest blogger:

My name is Maria Spinetti, I was born in Venezuela and moved to the United States when I was 18 years old. I’m currently an Early Childhood Education major at the University of Central Florida. Coming from a different culture, I have come to realize how nuances can be difficult to understand and how communication is dictated by cultural practices. Sincerely, Maria Spinetti

Guest Blogger M. Spinetti.png

Take Time

Effective communication does not just happen. We must take time to build trusting relationships with the families we serve. Here are some ways we can create meaningful relationships.  

1.     Introduce yourself. Share who you are with the family. Make first contact(s) positive.

2.     Use family friendly words to convey meaning. Avoid technical jargon.

3.     Tell the truth. Never lie or over-promise. Honesty is the basis of a trusting relationship.

4.     Maintain confidentiality. Keep sensitive information private. Do your best to control what you say and write when it comes to confidential information.  

5.     Put yourself in the family’s shoes. Taking the perspective of another can create empathy.

6.     Share resources. If you are aware of needs, you can share what you know and/or do research to locate resources for families.

7.     Build on family strengths (not deficits).

 Spend time each day connecting with parents and families. Checking in on a regular basis with parents can support the bond we have with the families we serve. Children benefit when we invest time in creating mutually beneficial partnerships.


Bringing the Ivory Tower into Homes

Access to higher education is made possible when educators and administrators incorporate strategies to support all students in inclusive learning environments. More than ever, students with disabilities are seeking alternative options to traditional classroom experiences. Students with diverse areas of abilities are seeking online learning for various reasons. In a study of university faculty, over half did not know if they had training or resources to ensure accommodations (Phillips et al., 2012). Many online educators are unaware of legal, practical, and/or ethical responsibilities for students with disabilities.

An article that offers information about how to create an accessible online learning environment is, “Bringing the Ivory Tower into Students’ Homes: Promoting Accessibility in Online Courses.” The article shares information about: professional development, modeling diversity, assignment choice, universal design for learning, and the use of authentic assessment to measure student learning and determine outcomes. Appropriate accommodations for individual learners with disabilities, as well as universal design concepts for the entire class can lead to an accessible online learning environment that meets legal requirements and recommended practice standards. Seven categories of accessible features fall into: images, tables, page content, multimedia, color, and auto-testing tools. When the ivory tower goes into students homes in the form of online courses, accessibility is the key to unlock learning and development.  

Drawing courtesy of Adriana Macy age 6

Drawing courtesy of Adriana Macy age 6



Macy, M., Macy, R., & Shaw, M., (2018). Bringing the ivory tower into students’ homes: Promoting accessibility in online courses. Ubiquitous Learning: An International Journal, 11(1), 13-21. doi:10.18848/1835-9795/CGP/v11i01/13-21.  This paper won the International Award for Excellence.

Phillips, A., Terras, K., Swinney, L., & Schneweis, C. (2012). Online disability accommodations: Faculty experiences at one public university. Journal of Postsecondary Education & Disability, 25(4), 331-344.

Access to Higher Education

Higher education should be accessible. President Abraham Lincoln believed in access to higher education. One of the things he did was create a land grant system that would have a mission of creating higher education opportunities for the public in every state.

My public university is located in the central part of my state which makes it a good location in the middle. Easy access. The other attractive feature is that this location is sought after by people from around the world who come here for their vacations and/or work experiences—Orlando, Florida. At the end of October, early childhood professionals and parents of young children came to Orlando for the Division of Early Childhood international conference.  My Early Childhood Development and Education (ECDE) program at the University of Central Florida (UCF) had a booth in the Exhibit Hall. Our goal was to get the word out about three different opportunities for people who would like to pursue higher education at our public access institution. I had the opportunity to share with others what makes UCF an outstanding place to come to school. I talked with people about our ECDE undergraduate degree, ECDE master’s degree, and ECDE doctoral degree programs. Our ECDE master’s students, Ms. Toni-Ann Rusiana and Ms. Kim Nassoiy, were there to share valuable information with participants about higher education and their experiences as students in the ECDE program at UCF.

President Lincoln said, “Whatever you are, be a good one.” Higher education can help prepare you to become a good one. Like Lincoln, I believe in the power of education. There is no better way than through education to level the playing field and create opportunities for everyone who seeks to improve themselves, improve their communities, and improve society.



If you travel for work, why not extend your trip for leisure?

Business + Leisure = Bleisure.

Last year we had 72 million people travel through our Orlando airport, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Many of those travelers were experiencing a happy case of bleisure. Here are some ideas for you in how to spend the leisure part of your bleisure if you are fortunate enough to travel to Orlando, Florida.

Winter Park

If you like to shop, then visit Park Avenue in Winter Park. The main street has over 100 boutiques. The oak trees will offer you plenty of shade as you meander your way to a quaint café for a bite to eat or sip of espresso. Throughout the year there are events that are sure to please you and your family. One of my family favorite events is the WUCF PBS Kids “Be My Neighbor Day” celebrating Mr. Fred Rogers who attended college in this area. 

Vero Beach

Many people who come to Orlando think of theme parks, but just a short drive from the hustle and bustle of the attractions is the Atlantic Ocean. Vero Beach is a great place to unwind after corporate travel. Vero Beach is a welcoming community with sandy beaches, palm trees, and a variety of bird species. If you come at the right time of the year, you might be able to catch a glimpse of loggerhead sea turtles laying their eggs on the beach. Nature tours are a great way to learn more about this unique ecosystem during your bleisure trip.

Vero Beach, Florida

Vero Beach, Florida

Space Coast

While you are at Vero Beach, head north up the road and experience the Space Coast of Florida. The Kennedy Space Center offers many things to see and do. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, cruise ships, beaches, NASA, and rocket launches… oh my. Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezo’s Blue Origin are actively dominating the Space Coast scene.

Space Coast Florida

Space Coast Florida

U-pick Fruit Farm

The subtropical climate in central Florida is a paradise for fruit lovers. Discover citrus groves and pick your own fruit. Find a hydroponic garden and you might not even get dirty when you pick your own fresh fruit. “A Patch of Blue” is an urban hydroponic community farm near Winter Park that grows blueberries to pick during April and May, and strawberries from January to May.

Hydroponic U-pick Farm

Hydroponic U-pick Farm

Downtown Public Library

Since the 1960s, the Orlando Public Library has been located in downtown Orlando. The design of this building was called, "composition in monolithic concrete” by the architect John M. Johansen. The Orlando Public Library is the headquarters for the entire award winning Orange County Library System (OCLS). There are many branch library locations throughout the county. OCLS received the National Medal for Museum and Library Service which is the highest honor possible in America. When you visit this big urban library enjoy exploring all the floors. It wouldn’t be Orlando without a gift shop for you to take home a memorable souvenir before you leave. 

Bleisure is on the rise (Jain, 2018; Easen, 2017; Habtemariam, 2018; Lichy & McLeay, 2018). Wander your way around “City Beautiful” and make some great bleisure memories to last a lifetime. Treat yourself to extra time and play!!!


  1. Easen, N. (2017). Playing away. Buying Business Travel, 85, 28-31.
  2. Habtemariam, D. (2018). More than two-thirds of business travelers embrace bleisure. Business Travel News, 35(5), 6.
  3. Jain, A. (2018). Business, leisure or 'bleisure'?. Hotel Management, 233(6), 26-26.
  4. Lichy, J., & McLeay, F. (2018). Bleisure: Motivations and typologies. Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, 35(4), 517-530.

Sparklicious Snacks

I am forever looking for healthy recipes to make my family. Specifically, I am on the hunt for things to make children that are free of peanuts due to allergies. If you are looking for sparklicious snack ideas, look no further. Here are three recipes that your children might like.  

Bean Dip:

Open a can of your child’s favorite beans. Crush the beans after cleaning them. Add a dash of garlic powder, cumin, and lime juice (optional). Serve with carrot sticks.

Bean Dip.jpeg


Yogurt Dipping Sauce:

Start with 1/2 cup (or 4 ounces) of fat free plain yogurt. Next, add the following ingredients to the yogurt: 1 teaspoon of honey, 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon of ginger, a dash of nutmeg and lemon juice. Serve it with your child’s favorite fruit.

Yogurt Dipping Sauce.jpeg


Ants on a Log:

Instead of peanut butter, use sun butter to spread on celery sticks. Sprinkle some raisins on top.

Ants on a Log.jpeg

Just Add Bubbles

They are easy to make!

They are fun!

They are happy little memory makers!



I am talking about bubbles. It is easy to be in a good mood when bubbles are present! A fun project to do with a child, or group of children, is make homemade bubbles.

In a clean bowl, mix together: water, corn syrup, and liquid Dawn (recipe below). Other liquid detergents could be used for the bubble mix recipe, but I’ve found Dawn makes the best bubbles.

Recycled materials can be used as containers for each child’s individual bubble kit. Children can decorate their containers. Pour the bubble mix into clean containers like plastic bottles or plastic jars (e.g., from yogurt or other food items). Pipe cleaners and/or plastic spoons with holes could be created to dip into the container and into the bubble mix… and then blow.

Watch bubbles float through air.

Watch as children try to catch and pop the bubbles.

Watch your children have fun making memories through the universal language of bubbles.

Bubble Mix Recipe:
6 cups of water
1 cup of corn syrup
2 cups of Dawn liquid


Paper Airplanes

Something as simple as folding a piece of paper can be an adventure. Making and flying paper airplanes can be a fun activity for children and adults. Ms. Marie Tourell Søderberg, a guest on my iTunes show, talked about the benefits of following a child’s lead during play. She gave an example of a child being interested in paper airplanes and spending the afternoon engaged in exploring paper airplanes.


Here are some steps to making a paper airplane if it has been a while since you made one. To make a basic dart paper airplane, start with a piece of paper. Fold the paper in half the long way (hot dog style). Unfold. Next, fold 2 corners into the crease to form a point. Then take the 2 new corners to create a wing by folding it into the same crease. Now fold your plane in half. The last step is to fold the wings.


This easy paper folding activity can be used for artistic expression. Children can design and decorate their paper airplane. It can be used before taking a trip in an actual airplane to talk about what to expect on their trip. Allow children the opportunity to experiment with their airplane. They can send their paper airplane through space. Distance, time, speed, and more can be observed. Flying the paper airplane and doing acrobats allows children to see math and science concepts come to life. Leonardo da Vinci said, “Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” Let their imagination take flight with this simple paper folding activity.


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.



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 

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



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. 



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 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),&nbsp;Misti Waddell (University of Oregon),&nbsp;&nbsp;Jennifer Grisham-Brown (University of Kentucky),&nbsp; 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.

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.


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

Guest Blogger: Ms. Julie Danneberg

Guest Blogger: Ms. Julie Danneberg