April Blog Cover
Did you know that even the youngest children are affected by stress?  Both positive and negative changes in a child’s life create stress. Events that interrupt a child’s routine such as a new baby, moving to a new community, a new job with new schedule, job loss, financial strains, witnessing domestic violence, homelessness, coping with disabilities or developmental delays all create stress in a child’s life. Children do not always have the words to tell you how to support them.  As a child care provider you can help children by keeping a regular daily routine, introducing calming activities, listening, and providing resources for families.

April is National Child Abuse and Prevention month and so this month ARCHS’ STL Educare program highlights providers working to be the calm in the storm for children facing difficulties.  Many of our Four or Less Registered home child care providers care for grandchildren.  As one of our grandmother/caregivers was beginning the process for renewing her vendor license, she suddenly found herself the haven for her six grandchildren who had suddenly become homeless.  The provider knew she could count on ARCHS’ STL Educare Specialist, Amy Flesher, to help her schedule and complete the state required trainings.  She had called for assistance in finding the provider health check form, securing safety items, and reviewing the emergency preparedness plan to prepare for the upcoming on-site monitoring visit.  But, thanks to a recent training of Educare staff about supporting children experiencing homelessness, Amy was also able to recognize that the children were homeless and help this caregiver identify the Saint Louis Public School McKinney-Vento liaison to make sure the grandchildren, who were enrolled in school, did not have to change schools during their transition, and that the school social worker and councilor were aware of the children’s situation. Each school district in Missouri has a designated McKinney-Vento liaison.  See the link below to find yours.

Our April activities highlight two providers from north St. Louis county, and one from the Southwest Garden neighborhood in St. Louis City.  Check out these low-cost, calming activities St. Louis area providers are using to support children who are experiencing stressful transitions in their life.  Don’t forget to tune in next month when we highlight another of our STL Educare providers as they build positive relationships that help to prevent bullying and pre-school expulsion in the classroom.

Funding for STL Educare is provided by the Missouri Department of Social Services, Children’s Division, Early Childhood and Prevention Services Section

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Calming Activities:

  1. Becky Bailey’s “I Love You Rituals”: The key to using the I love you rituals is in creating a connection with the child through eye contact, touching hands, and repeating nursery rhymes or poems that become familiar to the child and can be used during stressful situations to recreate that connection and help the child calm. You can add lavender lotion and massage into the hands and wrists while reciting the poem or rhyme if the child is comfortable with lotion.
Equipment Needed: favorite nursery rhymes or poems, lavender lotion (optional)
  1. Becky Bailey’s Breathing Techniques: Conscious Discipline teaches children six different breathing techniques they can use when they are scared, or overwhelmed to self-calm. In Becky Bailey’s “I can Calm” book she has pictures to help children remember breathing techniques like STAR “Stop.  Take a deep Breath. And. Relax,” The Pretzel, and Bunny Breathing. Children can use pictures to go through all six techniques or go to their favorite.  Teachers are encouraged to incorporate at least one breathing exercise into their daily routine so children are familiar with them when they need them to self-calm.
Equipment Needed: “I Can Calm” by Becky Bailey, Picture Cards, YouTube videos of the techniques
  1. Creating a Cozy Area/Safe Place: Just like adults children sometimes need to get away from the bustle of the day and sometimes feel overwhelmed by what is going on in the classroom or in their life. Having a cozy space that only 1 or 2 children can go at a time gives children the opportunity to self-regulate, to think, and work things out.  The place should be out of the hustle and bustle of the classroom, large enough for the child and a friend or adult to talk, and comfortable.  You can add items such as the breathing techniques and other items to help children work through what they are feeling or to destress.
Equipment Needed: Soft pillows, bean bag or something soft to sit on, mat or rug, books, textured items (stress or sensory ball, rain stick, different textured materials, etc.), I Can Calm Book, Becky Bailey Brain Cubes

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  1. Rain Stick: Make your own rain stick using a mail tube, paper towel roll or other sturdy round object. Push or hammer in nails, pins, or golf tees.  Cover the outside with fabric, contact paper or construction paper and stickers.  Fill with rocks, beads, rice, or other small object that can pass through the nails or pins.  To create a calming effect, children should turn their rain stick gently from side to side listening to the objects as they cascade through the stick.
Equipment Needed: mail tube or paper towel roll, pins or nails, hammer (if using mail tube or other thick tube), contact paper, construction paper, scissors
  1. Kids Yoga: Kids Yoga can be both fun and relaxing with yoga cards that focus on animal poses or free YouTube resources that Cosmic Kids Yoga that take fun popular culture themes such as Star Wars, Trolls, and Frozen to introduce yoga poses as they sequence through a story with familiar characters.
Equipment Needed: Yoga cards or YouTube
  1. Music & Movement: Music has long been recognized as a way to enhance and change our moods. Try finding music pieces that let kids act out feelings. Sad, angry, happy, excited. How many emotions can you find a song for?
Equipment Needed: CD player, YouTube
  1. Healing Playdough: Kneading, rolling, poking, and punching a big pile of playdough can work wonders for easing stress for children and adults alike. Customize your playdough by adding these essential oils to create different types of healing doughs. Always check for allergies before using any ingredients.
  • Sick Day/Breathe Easy: 10 drops of one of the following - Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, Peppermint, or Respiratory Blend (can add cloves)
  • Calming: 10 drops of Lavender or chamomile essential oil (you can also add dried lavender petals)
  • Harmonizing: 10 drops of Rose essential oil (you can also add rose petals)
  • Uplifting: 10 drops of orange essential oil (you can add zest from orange or grapefruit)
  • Concentration: 10 drops of rosemary (you can add rosemary or thyme herbs)
Equipment Needed: 1.5 cups of flour, ½ cup salt, 2 tsp. cream of tartar, 2 Tbsp. vegetable or coconut oil, 1 cup boiling water plus 1-2 tsp. of color, 10 drops of the essential oil of your choice
  1. Sensory Play: Sensory play has many benefits from language development as child care providers help to give children the vocabulary to describe their world to helping children calm by giving them a sensory experience to focus on. Sensory play does not have to involve expensive materials and equipment.  Water play can use warm or cool water paired with common items found in the kitchen or from the child’s play area.  Do you have dishes, plastic dolls, or cars you can wash in warm sudsy water? Getting outside as the weather turns warmer to make mudpies, plant a garden, or dig in the ground can have calming benefits.  Having kids squeeze, sift, and feel a variety of different textured items in a sensory bin or box can be done inside or outside.  For those children or providers who do not want the mess try using unmatched socks and filling them with different ingredients that children can squeeze and move through the length of the socks during stressful situations.
Equipment Needed: water, soap, dirt, sand, toys

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Related Articles and Resources:

Helping Traumatized Children: A Brief Overview for Caregivers https://childtrauma.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Helping_Traumatized_Children_Caregivers_Perry1.pdf

Missouri Early Learning Standards, Social and Emotional Standards Parent Guide https://dese.mo.gov/sites/default/files/eel-el-social-parent.pdf  

Children’s Trust Fund of Missouri, Child Abuse and Prevention Month public awareness resources https://ctf4kids.org/public-awareness/child-abuse-prevention-month/

Progressive Relation for kids: https://www.therapywithcarolyn.com/single-post/2016/06/19/Help-Your-Kids-Calm-Down-Strategy-2-Progressive-Muscle-Relaxation

Free Resources from Becky Bailey’s Conscious Discipline https://consciousdiscipline.com/free-resources/

Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education: Homeless Children and Youth https://dese.mo.gov/quality-schools/federal-programs/homeless-children-youth 

Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education: 2018 list of District McKinney-Vento Liaisons https://dese.mo.gov/sites/default/files/qs-hmls-liaisons-17-18.pdf 

University of Missouri, St. Louis (UMSL): Kathy J. Weinman Children’s Advocacy Center and Institute for Trauma Recovery http://www.stlouiscac.org/

Information on becoming a Licensed Child Care Provider in Missouri if you care for more than four unrelated children in your home http://health.mo.gov/safety/childcare/licensed.php

Information for becoming a Registered Provider in Missouri if you care for four or less unrelated children in your home https://dss.mo.gov/cd/child-care/child-care-providers/in-home-child-care-providers.htm

Information for becoming a Licensed Exempt Provider in Missouri https://dss.mo.gov/cd/child-care/child-care-providers/licensed-exempt-child-care-providers.htm

Sign up for STL Educare trainings http://www.stleducare.org/trainings.html

YouTube Resources:

Becky Bailey’s Conscious Discipline https://www.youtube.com/user/lovingguidance

Cosmic Kids Yoga https://www.youtube.com/user/CosmicKidsYoga/featured