Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care


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What’s the Deal With Preschool Anyway?

play-and-learn-preschoolThe word pretty much speaks for itself. The school before the “big school.” As a kid, I loved going to preschool. We got to play and make art projects. But there is more to preschool than just having fond memories of fun times. Those play experiences build the foundation for future learning!

As an adult I when I was reintroduced to preschool, I was hooked from the get-go. Play is a huge focus in preschool. Play is actually how kids learn. For instance, how many of you, as a child, played “house?” Growing up that was all I ever wanted to play. I was always the mom, I loved to be in charge! Playing house and having dramatic play areas in preschool classrooms are a way to get kids ready for kindergarten. Think about this. Kids “pretending” to act like they are in a “real life situation.” They model what they see from their own lives and what they see their parents/caregivers do all while using their elaborate imagination.

One of my many responsibilities at 4C for Children is to facilitate Play & Learn groups. We play, learn about cleaning up, read a story together that falls in line with the lesson of that day, we have our snack and parents leave with their kids once the session is complete. In addition to the children playing and learning the parents are asked to fill out an evaluation at the end of the session. We use these evaluations for data and feedback on our sessions. 4C also offers parents the opportunity to fill out ASQ’s (Ages and Stages questionnaire) on their child. In a recent Play & Learn I had a child that just turned 2. His mother filled out the ASQ saying that her son could not string beads. In that very session I sat with him and watched him string beads onto a pipe cleaner. When I told this mother, her face just lit up. It was so exciting for her to learn that her son has been growing and learning different skills.

Kids are like sponges; they literally soak up all the knowledge. It is amazing to see how their minds just brighten when they learn something new. Writing their name, understanding the importance of what it means to be a friend, and more! For parents that are on the fence about preschool I would encourage you to look at the advantages of quality early childhood education. Unfortunately, preschool is not an option for all families. Search out the resources in your community; learn about some different early childhood experiences in your neighborhood. Talk to other parents, teachers and community members who are advocates for early childhood education and learn what you can do to set your child up for success in school.

Here are some local resources:


When Life Takes an Unexpected Turn

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The importance of kinship caregivers and the challenges they face cannot be understated. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, there were more than 2.5 million children in this country living in kinship care in 2012, an increase of nearly 18 percent since 2002. There are 119,000 children living in kinship care situations in my home state of Ohio (Between 2013-2015).

“Research shows that children and youth fortunate enough to be raised by a safe familiar kinship caregiver have better outcomes than those children in unrelated foster care—more regular school attendance, better grades and fewer community problems. And they are less likely to move from home to home.” (KinshipOhio)

This issue hit close to home fairly recently. My sister is caring for her 13-month-old grandson. I have the utmost admiration and respect for her and others in this situation. This has not come without unique challenges. I see firsthand what my sister is dealing with: she is paying for child care, food and clothing, and learning to navigate the legal system. All this while simultaneously attempting to run her own business and raising her own two teenagers.

All of this wouldn’t be possible without community support. My sister relies on the advice and assistance of friends and family who are willing to help when needed, as well as resources shared by local agencies that are working to support kinship caregivers (If you’re in Ohio, check out KinshipOhio. In Kentucky, learn about Kinship Families Coalition of Kentucky).

I see my sister loving her daughter, the baby’s mother, by loving her grandson and providing him with a nurturing and stable home while her daughter is unable to at this time. This child is with someone he knows, loves and trusts, which will help him maintain a healthy social emotional development.

When I am with this beautiful, happy 13-month-old boy I say a silent prayer for his mother. My hope is that she and all of the other parents of young children who have found themselves in this situation will one day be able to care for their children on their own.


We Stopped Making Casseroles

In my work for 4C I am afforded opportunities to work with family serving agencies across Ohio. Most of this work focuses on helping these organizations identify strategies they can use to better support the wellness of families. What has struck me about this work is how frequently I have heard that many families lack a reliable support network: no friends or family that they can count on for support.

We can all agree that parenting can be overwhelming and for parents going at it alone, these feelings are only exacerbated. While there are a variety of reasons parents might feel isolated, it seems to me that there are two major factors. The first is that many parents do not create opportunities to build social networks of support. And the second factor is that we stopped making casseroles!

Parents need to intentionally seek opportunities to make friends. Having friends in your corner can have an incredible impact on your resilience and quality of life. As parents this kind of support can also have an incredible impact on your capacity to be a good parent. A reliable social network means that you have other people to share your parenting challenges and successes with. In addition, this can result in you gaining access to other parents to support your parenting. These parents can offer you ideas on parenting, share child care and connect you to good resources – like schools, doctors and community activities.

You may have to seek opportunities in the community to meet other “like” parents – parents with similar interests and values as you. You may also need to be a bit more forward than you might otherwise be. Next time you’re at the park, put down your cell phone and introduce yourself to others!

It’s not as easy as it sounds, and it’s even harder for parents working multiple jobs, raising children on their own or living in unsafe or extremely rural neighborhoods. For these parents, making connections can seem almost impossible. For these parents we need to make more casseroles!

When I was a kid, my mom frequently made casseroles for other families. Whether it was a new family in the neighborhood or a family experiencing a hard time, my mom’s common practice was to make and give a casserole. These casseroles were a way for her to start a new relationship or show support to an existing one. And for me these casseroles are a symbol of something we are lacking in many of our communities today.

I think we somehow have lost the common practice of reaching out to others – especially others we don’t know. This saddens me. Our fast-paced way of living has created fewer connections with others. And quite frankly as parents we could all use some more support. So if you are fortunate enough to have support networks you can rely on – that is awesome. If not, what can you do to create one? Is there someone in your life who could benefit from a casserole?


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Want your baby to learn? Turn off the TV!

Today’s guest post comes from 4C Board Chair Davida Gable.

In the late 1990’s, Julie Aigner-Clark founded The Baby Einstein Company which sold videos of babies playing with toys with classical music in the background.  These “educational” videos were marketed to parents as a way to safely educate their babies during the most critical period of their lives for brain development.

Every living adult in the United States knows a video in a TV buys precious time when in the company of children.  Who wouldn’t love a video that makes her normal baby a Baby Einstein, too?  In 2003, 33% of American babies aged six months to two years had a Baby Einstein video.  In fact, a 2005 study showed that 49% of parents believed educational videos were important for intellectual development.

Ms. Aigner-Clark eventually sat next to Laura Bush in President George W. Bush’s 2007 “State of the Union” address.  The President even lauded her achievements and noted, “Julie represents the great enterprising spirit of America.”  By the end of the decade, The Baby Einstein Company was valued at approximately $400 million.  The Disney Company purchased Baby Einstein, making Julie Aigner-Clark a millionaire several times over.

Shortly after our daughter was born, I eagerly brought out the padding and videos that would give me freedom to pursue my dreams.  I laid my squirming daughter on a pillow and maniacally shredded the plastic wrap from the Baby Einstein DVD case, delighting at the prospect of making my daughter an intellectual genius while I continued to conquer the world.  As my infant daughter paused her fist-sucking to curiously study my palpable excitement, I popped in the video to see…drumroll please…a baby playing with a toy!

OK, there was classical music in the background, too.  But my heart sank as I reluctantly realized that it would be better if I simply turned on the classical FM radio station and brought my daughter a toy.  She’d probably like it if I talked to her, too.  Maybe even held her for a while.

I wasn’t the only one who felt duped.  At the same time parents were sacrificing their hard-earned dollars on videos, falsely hoping and believing that they would enhance their babies’ intellectual growth, only 6% of parents were aware of the American Academy of Pediatrics’s recommendation that children under the age of two should not be exposed to any TV or videos… including Baby Einstein.

Under Disney’s leadership, Baby Einstein ceded to pressure from “false advertising” charges and continued criticism from child experts.  It offer refunds for videos purchased between 2004 and 2009.

During this period, Julie Aigner-Clark received praise and adulation for being an entrepreneurial mommy.  Meanwhile, I was feeling like an old-fashioned scold expressing skepticism about videos that could make my average child a genius.  Not only did my skepticism appear as a lack of support for desperate parents – but it also undermined my own personal goal to be part of the “great enterprising spirit of America.”  If I spent time playing, holding and talking to my baby, how would I ever start my own company or win awards?

I finally realized the truth.  Videos would not make my baby a “Baby Einstein.”  The TV station Nick Jr. really is not “The Smart Place to Play.”  When it aired its original slogan, “It’s Like Preschool on TV,” my wise caregiving friends and I would quickly respond, “Except it’s NOT!”

Believing that videos will provide intellectual development is an extension of our earlier flawed learning that taking care of babies is like taking care of an egg. Quality early childcare takes attention, time and effort, with “measurable results” possibly not revealing themselves for years.  It’s not easy, and it’s difficult to make efficient.

4C for Children knows this.  Even better, 4C for Children understands the pressures of caregiving.  They understand the pressures so well that they even appreciate why we use the TV and videos when we’re trying to prepare dinner or brush our teeth.  They know that parents don’t need false promises from heavily marketed products…and they don’t need the high pressure expectations of perfectionism either.  Parents and caregivers need support.  4C is here to provide support.


More Alike Than Different

At a recent 4C parent event, there were several Hispanic parents sharing their experiences about what it’s like to raise children in Cincinnati. As I listened and interacted with this group of parents I realized I was learning a lot – about what I thought I already knew.

Throughout my career, I have had opportunities to work with many families. I consider myself culturally aware and competent. I have spent time looking at data, reading articles and talking with Hispanic professionals about the needs and values of Hispanic families in our community. But what I learned last night was so much richer. I heard stories about struggles these parents have faced because of language barriers; I learned about their difficulties supporting their children in school because their own school experiences were so different. These families want to communicate, they want access to resources and they want to raise strong, healthy children. But the language barrier presents a real challenge. Just as I had the opportunity to learn and share, you can, too.

The myth that Hispanic families do not want to speak English is just that: a myth. Many times I’ve heard that “they [Hispanics] need to learn to speak our language,” but what I think is meant by this is that we want Hispanic families to conform to our ways. We want them to contribute to our society, follow our rules or leave. But the fact of the matter is that I’ve met many Hispanic parents who share my values. They are already contributing. They have the same ideals, hopes and aspirations. There are commonalities between us that I believe unify and connect us. I am far from fluent in Spanish, but together at that event we worked to understand each other, language barrier or no language barrier.

I don’t intend to erase our differences. Nor do I believe that all of us looking and acting the same is the answer. The challenges we face do not look the same nor are our solutions the same. However our similarities can help us to find a common ground – a place to start to interact and build stronger, more responsive communities.

– Carolyn


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Choosing Child Care Through Groupon?

There’s no question about it. We live in an age where people access information and services via technology. Parents are no different. So I commend early child care programs that utilize technology to reach parents where they are. Most promote their services online and use the web to communicate via social media. Since I value thinking outside the box, an ad I saw recently jumped off the screen at me. A child care center was advertising a deal on preschool though Groupon… this I had to see!

The program that chose this modern method of advertising did many things well:

  • Highlighted some of the benefits of quality child care, including activities that enhance early development
  • Offered parents options to meet their financial and scheduling needs
  • Painted a picture of what a child’s day might look like (activities, meals, etc.)
  • Provided an overview of their philosophy and educational programs along with locations
  • Included an “Ask a Question” link with the advertisement

The last item listed was the one I felt best about as a parent. Curious to learn what questions parents had, I clicked on the link and found they didn’t ask the same things I would have. I wondered, at first, why hadn’t anyone asked about touring the program before taking advantage of the deal, or inquired about the quality of the care and education their child would receive while there? Is it that they didn’t care, or is it that they didn’t know to ask? Having been there myself, I’m pretty sure it’s the latter.

When I needed child care for the first time, I was in a major state of transition. I was newly single, returning to the workforce after staying home for three years and broke. Though a teacher for a decade, I knew virtually nothing about child care and was terrified. So much so that I switched careers and became a center director. That way I knew for sure what was going on with my children! My foray into the early childhood field was supposed to be temporary, but six years later, my job is to share my experience in order to help other parents move out of that scary unknown child care place into a place of being educated, equipped and empowered.

If only I’d known back then what I know now! In sharing what I now know, I use this CARE acronym to summarize how parents can get started:

Contact 4C. You’ll learn what to look for in a quality setting, what questions to ask and whether you may be eligible for financial assistance.  4C does not make recommendations, but we do offer free referrals. There are three ways we can help you find child care.

Ask questions. What type of care works best for your family’s needs and schedule? Ask about vacancies, ages served, cost, location, hours and days of operation. And don’t forget to ask the six questions for providers:

  1. What training have caregivers received on how to care for children?
  2. How will my child learn and grow?
  3. What shows it’s a healthy and safe place?
  4. How is family involvement encouraged?
  5. Is this program quality-rated, accredited or working toward it?
  6. How well is the program managed?

Research. Visit and interview two or three places. Spend about one hour at each program while children are there. Observe the program in action.

Evaluate. Ask for and check references. Evaluate each program using 4C checklists. Keep in mind what is best for your child and family’s needs!

The child care advertisement that caught my eye is really no different than a friend referring you to a center. In either case, you should educate yourself on what to look for in a quality setting and then equip yourself with the information to make the best decision. Making these choices isn’t always easy, but it’s always important, so a discount or freebie shouldn’t cause you to lower your standards when weighing your options.

If you follow the suggested tips above, you’ll feel empowered to select the best possible care and education for your child, regardless of its cost.

Now that’s a good deal.

– Tammi


Lonely Parents

Guest blogger Carolyn Brinkman knows parents need support, and many of them aren’t getting it!

More and more, I have met parents who say that they have few friends in their life… and more and more I hear parents talk about feeling lonely or alone.   Today I talked to a preschool teacher who reported that several parents have confided in her that they truly have no one they call a friend.  And I can’t help but wonder…  is this something new or have parents been feeling this way all along?

I honestly don’t remember my mom ever saying that she was lonely – although as she was home with 5 children, maybe she didn’t have the time to say it!   I remember many talks she had with family members and neighborhood friends, I remember her church friends and I definitely remember that during emergencies, the neighbors, my mom’s friends or my grandparents were there in a pinch to take care of us kids.  With my generation, it seems that friends have changed.   We have more work friends than neighborhood friends, church friends remain intact and family supports are non-wavering.  But this is my experience, is everyone as fortunate as I?  And what about younger parents, do they have friends to lean on for support, especially parenting support?

As I think about our neighborhoods, our lifestyle and our society, I can honestly say that lonely parents don’t surprise me.  They dishearten me, but they don’t surprise me.  From what I am hearing and seeing, it is clear that many parents are in need of friendship.  And yet, we are more closed off from others around us.  We get busy, we try to keep up with our schedule and our daily expectations.  Communications are fast- paced and often non-personal.  I have a longtime friend whose brother is very ill and I sent her a text message today, and though I am sure she appreciated the message I did not really get to convey all my feelings and thoughts for her.  It was a five word message!

And so I am struck, not only with what our values and culture may be doing to the concept of friendship, but also struck with the choices and decisions I make.  Who do I want to be in my relationships and who do I want to reach out to?  I am fortunate,  I do have friends and family who support me, so what I chose to do to honor those relationships is critical.  The ways in which I communicate, the time I take to ensure that not only are those friends there for me but I am there for them is important.  I need to be as intentional in these actions as I am in exercising each day or watching my favorite television show.  Also, am I aware of others in my life who are lonely or isolated?  If so, I can take steps to reach out more, to be more inclusive, to open up my circle of friends to others.

There are lonely parents out there, parents trying to care for their families with little support.  Maybe we can figure out a way to ensure those supports are in place for more parents, maybe it is worth a little bit of our time.