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Find out more information about Keeping Safe, Assessing Young Children, Handwashing and Culturally Sensitive Care.

Keeping Safe

Safety is the number one concern around small children. If child care takes place in a home, there are even more potentially dangerous items and situations in the environment than are present in center-based child care. All obvious dangers must be eliminated.

Family homecare providers must also protect children from each other, particularly when there is a significant age difference. For example, a running preschooler may not be aware of the baby playing on the floor!

The Program for Infant and Toddler Caregivers (PITC) from WestEd recommends a daily safety inspection. This includes, checking the walls and ceilings for peeling paint or wallpaper, splintering baseboards or molding and checking the floor for frayed carpet, bits of linoleum or chipped tiles.

Bare floors should be dry and not so polished that someone can slip. Carpets should be vacuumed daily. A bleach solution can be used to sanitize most surfaces and materials.

A diaper table should have a three-inch raised edge to keep babies from rolling off. Supplies, including the bleach solution, should be stored in locked cabinets.

Climbing structures of two feet or less are for children 18 months and younger. Three foot slides work well for 18-36 month old children.

PITC also recommends that you ask yourself these questions when considering safety in an outdoor play area:

  • Does anything have sharp edges?
  • Is there anything that would be dangerous if a child put it in her mouth?
  • Do the children have access to unsafe pressure-treated lumber?
  • Is the sand box clean, and is it covered at night?
  • Is there standing water that could be hazardous?

Removing unsafe items from the environment reduces the time the adult has to say “no” and offers more opportunities for the child to explore the environment, safely.

Additional information on Health and Safety can be found in Young Children, the Journal of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, March 2004.


Assessing Young Children

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) defines assessment as a systematic procedure for obtaining information from observation, interviews, portfolios, projects, tests, and other sources that can be used to make judgments about children’s characteristics.

In assessing children, we look to see what types of knowledge and skills children have. What do they know? How do they reason? What can they do? What can they create? What do they like?

Carefully gathered evidence is of little use unless it begins to answer questions about how young children are developing and learning and if programs are providing the most appropriate and effective learning environments. (NAEYC, Young Children, January 2004 p. 17)

In the book, Six Simple Ways to Assess Young Children by Sue Y. Gober, these methods are suggested:

  • Developmental checklists
  • Parent Interviews
  • Self-Portraits
  • Scribbling, Writing and Drawing Samples
  • Audio or video tapes
  • Anecdotal records

To learn more about developmental screenings (defined as a brief assessment procedure designed to identify children, who because they might have a learning problem or disability, should receive more extensive assessment), the book, Developmental Screening in Early Childhood, A Guide by Samuel J. Meisels and Sally Atkins-Burnett is a good resource.


Handwashing is the single most important thing you can do to prevent the spread of germs! Insist on frequent, thorough handwashing for both staff and children and insist on general cleanliness and sanitizing.

People touch their hands to their mouths, noses and eyes all day long — usually without washing first. Each time they touch their mucus membranes with contaminated hands, they inoculate their bodies with germs they have picked up from the surfaces they have touched.

Programs that care for children in diapers are especially at risk because staff and children get feces on their hands. When infectious stool gets on hands or objects, people to fail to wash before touching their mouths or food swallow the germs.

Wash your hands properly and frequently.

  • Use liquid soap and running water
  • Rub your hands vigorously for at least 10 seconds
  • Wash everywhere: backs of hands, wrists, between fingers, under fingernails.
  • Rinse well
  • Dry hands with a paper towel
  • Turn off water using a paper towel, not your clean hands.
  • Help children learn to wash their hands, too.

Source: Healthy Young Children, A Manual for Programs, by Susan S. Aronson, M.D.


Culturally Sensitive Care

Children learn and “idea system” from their parents that speaks to the values of a group of people. This goes far beyond art, music, style of dress, language or religious beliefs. It is also “ways to behave” that are socially acceptable.

Children in all cultural communities learn valued skills and behaviors through social interaction with parents and other primary caregivers. Many differences in the learning styles and skills of children are directly related to the early lessons of their home culture.

  • Culture is learned.
  • Culture is a characteristic of groups.
  • Culture is a set of rules for behavior
  • Individuals are embedded to different degrees with a culture.
  • Cultures borrow and share rules
  • Members of a cultural group may be proficient in a cultural behavior but unable to describe the rules.

Child care providers may find that parents may have different ideas (based on cultural expectations) particularly around toilet training, feeding and sleeping. Caregivers often raise issues in responding to a parent who asks for something to be done differently from that of the child care program’s standard routine, especially when the request is for something that seems unreasonable and difficult to carry out.

Caregivers must find out how the parents view their child’s care. They must observe, ask and communicatewell with parents. It’s the key to providing the best care for each child.

Source: The Program for Infant Toddler Caregivers/WestEd, A Guide to Culturally Sensitive Care.

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