31 December 2009

Approximately 3 out of 5 Family-based Child Care Programs Restrict Mobile Play As A Form Of Punishment: Findings From A Recent Study

Stewart Trost, Oregon State University researcher and expert on obesity problems, surveyed approximately 300 family-centered child care facilities serving families with children aged 2 to 5. Even though about 4 out of 5 surveyed programs provided more than an hour of mobile playtime per day, approximately 2 out of 5 indicated that the children enrolled in their programs were required to sit still for prolonged time periods. Two-thirds of providers surveyed reported that they leave the television switched on for most of the school day.

Perhaps even more distressing was that over 60% of the surveyed child care staff reported that they withheld mobile playtime and movement (sometimes called “time-out”) as a punitive measure. Although time-out is preferred to corporal punishment, requiring children to sit still doesn’t improve behavior if what they really need is to burn off some energy. “Would you withhold fruits and vegetables for kids who misbehave and negatively affect their health?” Troft asks.” All the research shows that restricting physical activity makes children more, not less, likely to misbehave. So, it’s not even an effective means of punishment.”

Play is one of the most critical things a child does. Through active play and engagement with adults and other children, a child explores her surroundings, retains important information and builds connections in her mind. Play also provides children with the opportunity to develop crucial social traits (BBB, 2007).

As Trost suggests, preventing children from participating in the act of play is not effective in changing inappropriate behavior. Need ideas on parenting and discipline techniques that work? Please visit The Urban Child Institute’s resource page on sensitive discipline techniques at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/Parenting.

Better Brains for Babies. (2007). Better Brains for Babies Trainer’s Guide. Athens, GA: Better Brains for Babies.

Kids in home-based day care lack exercise. (2009, December 18). Yahoo! News. http://news.yahoo.com/s/hsn/20091219/hl_hsn/kidsinhomebaseddaycarelackexercise/print

22 December 2009

Preparing Early Childhood Staff To Adapt To The Diverse Educational Setting: Findings From a Recent Study

Today’s early education environments exhibit our country’s evolving cultural landscape. In the future, most early childhood educators will doubtlessly interact with an increasing number of children from families very different from their own. The transforming makeup of the American educational system demonstrates the advancing unification of ethnicity, faith, physical capability and language. This inspiring (yet demanding) cultural phenomenon mandates that new educators be increasingly perceptive and ready to teach young, multifaceted pupils, as well as become powerful advisors in the multicultural educational setting.

Leaders in college-level early childhood education programs have reacted uniquely to this crucial concern. Little is understood about variables that may influence how diversity and language issues are approached in university early childhood degree programs. Recently, the FPG Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina conducted a study examining the impact of geographical locations, institutional features and program components on the diversity-related educational requirements in over 400 Bachelor’s degree programs that educate early childhood teachers.

Some Findings:
- Four-year degree programs with a higher number of nonwhite faculty were more likely to mandate more coverage of cultural issues in the ECE program. This finding implies that attracting and maintaining a diverse faculty may be a critical approach for creating a culturally sensitive early childhood labor force.
- Early childhood programs in rural locations were less likely to require coursework focused on linguistic diversity than programs located in metropolitan areas[1].

The complete results of the study emphasize the significance of coordinating best practices with teacher readiness mandates, retaining a diverse faculty, and providing information about cultural contexts to the largely White early childhood teaching personnel.

The University of Memphis offers a four-year program in which students can earn a Bachelor’s of Science degree in early childhood education. Prior to earning the degree, students are required to complete coursework relating to race and ethnicity, family and culture and gender issues. For more information about the early education program, please call 901.678.5915.

For more information on the well-being of children in Memphis and Shelby County, please visit The Urban Child Institute at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/Home/.

[1] For a more complete listing of the findings, please visit the UNC Child Development Institute’s website at http://www.fpg.unc.edu/

10 December 2009

New Research Suggests That Daily Television Viewing Time Varies Significantly By Type Of Child Care Setting

According to new research published this fall in the journal Pediatrics, young children enrolled in out-of-home care may be spending over 30% of the time they are awake each day watching television. The study (the first in more than two decades to examine television watching in the child care setting) suggests that television viewing patterns vary significantly by type of child care setting- about 70% of family-based child care programs reported daily television watching, while 36% of center-based child care programs reported daily television viewing.

Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle and a researcher at the University of Washington, surveyed 168 licensed daycare programs in four different states. The results suggest that among preschool-aged children, those in family-based day care programs watched television for 2.4 hours per day on average, compared to 24 minutes in larger centers. Only family-based providers conceded to placing infants (less than 12 months of age) in front of the television, for an average of about 12 minutes per day.

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages any television watching of any kind during the first 24 months of life and advises a daily restriction of 60 to 120 minutes of superior programming for older children. Young children attend child care programs in order to foster social abilities, cultivate cognitive skills and partake in creative play, as well as allowing parents to work. According to Christakis, “It’s not what parents have signed up for. I’m not sure how many parents are aware of this…We know what is good for children and we know what’s not. High quality preschool can make a very, very positive difference. We’re so far from meeting that, that we really have a lot of work to do…It’s alarming to find that so many children in the United States are watching essentially twice as much television as we previously thought.”

Other studies have linked extreme television watching during early childhood with language problems, weight issues, attention difficulties and hostile behavior. (See Television Viewing Associated With Increased Combative Behavior In Young Children ). Christakis suggests that one of the primary issues with television watching for young children is that it replaces time that could possibly be spent running in the backyard, reading a story, playing with toys and interacting with adults and peers- all behaviors and activities that promote optimal cognitive, social and emotional development during the first years of life.

For more information on the well-being of young children in Memphis and Shelby County, please visit The Urban Child Institute at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/.


Blankinship, D.G. (2009, November 23). Study: Kids watching hours of TV at home daycare. Associated Press: Yahoo! News.

Measuring Quality in Early Childhood Care and Education: Moving from an “Inputs” Focused Program to an Outcomes Based Model of System Reform

All across the U.S., low income and minority students are consistently less likely to be prepared for kindergarten, less likely to be proficient on achievement tests, more likely to be held back and less likely to graduate from high school; this phenomenon is called the “achievement gap”.

Earlier this year, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke at the annual meeting of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) that was held in Washington D.C. During his remarks, Secretary Duncan commented on the importance and value of early learning systems that span pre-kindergarten to 3rd grade as the best opportunity policymakers have to “get schools out of the catch up business” (Duncan, November 2009, para. 6). In other words, - as NAEYC’s call to action on pre-K to 3rd grade systems states-, “to close the (achievement) gap, we must prevent the (achievement) gap” (Duncan, November 2009, para. 5).

However, the most interesting aspect of Secretary Duncan’s speech is not in recognizing the role of early education in helping to prevent achievement gaps between children from different backgrounds. Instead, his most valuable point is that system reform in early childhood can not have the intended effect of eliminating the achievement gap, unless reform efforts are measured in terms of children’s “outcomes” instead of “inputs” to their early education.

Traditionally, education reform in early childhood has been focused on raising teacher qualifications, lowering staff to child ratios and improving curriculums. While these are all “inputs” which have been linked to better child outcomes in research studies, Duncan’s larger point is that it is ultimately not enough to simply raise the quality of early childhood education. We have to know if reform efforts are leading to better outcomes for children served by the system.

What types of outcomes? Kindergarten readiness has traditionally been thought of as a child’s academic or intellectual preparation for school. Certainly knowing letters of the alphabet, having a large receptive vocabulary and the ability to distinguish beginning and ending sounds of words are all important to the process of becoming literate. Many, if not most, of our current assessments of pre-kindergarten programs are focused on children’s intellectual preparation for kindergarten. However, we also know that social and emotional development, which encompasses the ability to self-regulate and participate in groups, is a key component of school readiness. Therefore, as Secretary Duncan pointed out, effective outcomes measurement must be expanded to include all dimensions of school readiness, not just the ones we actively know how to measure.

There are several valid tests of children’s social and emotional development including:

- Behavioral Skills Rating Scales of the Bayley Scales of Infant Development;

- Ages & Stages Questionnaire on Social and Emotional Development; and

- The Brief Infant Toddler Social Emotional Assessment (BITSEA).

Currently in Shelby County, Head Start and Early Head Start are the only early care and education programs that are required to asses and track children’s social and emotional development. Head Start and Early Head Start are also the only early care and education programs that are required to help children access physical, mental, and developmental health services. Children need to be academically, social/emotionally and physically prepared to participate in school from day one. Effectively expanding and improving our current early care and education system to help eliminate the achievement gap locally should include assessment of the full range of children’s developmental preparation for school.


Duncan, Arne. November 18, 2009. The Early Learning Challenge: Raising the Bar — Secretary Arne Duncan's Remarks at the National Association for the Education of Young Children Annual Conference. Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of Education. [Accessed December 3, 2009]

Action Steps To Improve Child Well-being In Memphis: Call the White House Today!

Children’s early brain development occurs through a process of interaction between children and their environments. The quality of these environments and relationships shape the degree to which children’s brains will develop effectively. Children’s early developmental experiences build the foundations for their subsequent success in school and life.

More than half of the children born into our community every year are raised in families lacking access to resources that children need for healthy development. As a community, we need to understand that many of our problems stem directly from the earliest experiences of our children. We can’t wait- NOW is the time to invest wisely in our youngest citizens in order to achieve an ideal future for the city of Memphis.

The national financial plan is crucial to maintaining and expanding high-quality early childhood education programs, such as Early Head Start and early intervention programs for children with special requirements. In order to confirm that the federal 2011 national budget incorporates the monetary support that these programs need to assist vulnerable young children, we are encouraging all Shelby County citizens to communicate with the White House in order to advocate for early childhood issues.

Why contact the president NOW? The Obama cabinet is presently laboring over the financial plan suggestions for the next fiscal year and we need to guarantee that programs that serve infants and toddlers are penciled in. President Obama’s financial plan delivers a message to Congress regarding the issues that should be the primary expenditures during the next financial phase- fundamentally setting the model for what is incorporated into our national budget.

Why is expansion in these early childhood programs critical for the Memphis community? We have a tremendous number of susceptible young children who are not receiving federal services that could be hugely beneficial to families and the greater Shelby County community.

- Designed to promote healthy physical, emotional and cognitive growth for at-risk children, Early Head Start (EHS) has been shown to improve child developmental outcomes and strengthen parenting skills. Currently, less than one percent of eligible children in Shelby County have access to EHS.

- Early Intervention services support optimal early childhood development, and help families trying to provide for their children’s special needs. Approximately 2% of Shelby County children under three are enrolled in the Tennessee Early Intervention Service system. Recent estimates suggest that our community has a significant need to expand enrollment in services for children with disabilities or developmental delays.

You can help by asking for increased funding for Early Childhood Programs. Please take action today by contacting the White House in one of the two following ways:

1. Leave a message for the Obama administration on the White House Comments line. To call the White House Comments line, please dial 202-456-1111.

2. Send President Obama an e-mail in support of the expansion and maintenance of quality early childhood programs. To e-mail President Obama, fill out the form on this website: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact.

For more information on the well-being of young children in Memphis and Shelby County, please visit The Urban Child Institute website at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/Home.

04 December 2009

Perry Pre-School: Still a Good Investment but Not as Good as Previously Reported

The last 10 years have seen enormous growth in the amount of state and federal funding being directed towards creating pre-kindergarten programs. In spite of a grim economic climate nationally, state pre-kindergarten programs were slated to receive $5.3 billion in state and federal funding next year (Pre-K Now, October 2009, 2). Why are pre-kindergarten programs becoming a major target of public spending? Many pre-kindergarten programs have been funded in the hope that they will help low income children be better prepared for kindergarten and that they will narrow the achievement gap and earnings between lower and upper income children as they grow to adulthood. So where does Perry Pre-School fit into this picture?

The Perry Pre-school Project was a two year, high quality early childhood education program offered to low income children in Ypsilanti, Michigan in the late 60’s. The notable thing about Perry Pre-School is that its original researchers created equally sized control (children who did not participate in the program) and experimental (children who did participate in the program) groups at the beginning of the project. Then they tracked each group of children for the next 40 years to measure how the control and experimental groups did on various indicators as they grew to adulthood. For instance, they tracked whether or not the children failed grades, were suspended in school, became teenage mothers, graduated from high school, went to college, went to prison, how much they earned in adulthood, how often they used welfare and food stamps, etc.

Forty plus years into the program they can now demonstrate that children who participated in Perry Pre-School at ages 3 and 4 have lead significantly more productive and stable lives. For instance, they were less likely to fail grades in school, less likely to be suspended, less likely to go to jail, less likely to be teen parents, more likely to go to college, more likely to be employed, etc. All of these findings on the experimental group were then compared with the results of the control group in order to calculate the long range cost savings associated with having participated in the program. Researchers then compared the cost savings generated by program participants to the initial cost of providing them with high quality pre-kindergarten. For many years, this return on investment (ROI) was calculated for Perry Pre-School as being either 16 or 17 to 1. In other words, for every dollar invested in the program, the program participants cost society $16 or $17 less than they would have if they had not gone through the program (Rolnick & Grunewald 2003, Belfield et al., 2006).

This fall, Nobel prize winning economist James Heckman revisited the earlier work of the return on investment from Perry Pre-School to determine the accuracy of the estimated ROI. They found that due to errors in earlier estimation analysis, the ROI for Perry Pre-school has been overstated. They describe an estimated ROI of between $7 and $10 for every dollar invested in Perry. While this is much smaller than the earlier estimates, it still represents a substantial return (Heckman et al., November 2009).

Given the reality that much of the enthusiasm for investing in state pre-kindergarten programs has been fueled by the promise of generating large ROI’s for the next generation, it remains to be seen whether or not a $7 to $10 ROI is large enough to inspire lawmakers nationwide to continue to invest in these programs. It should also be noted that Perry Pre-School was only able to demonstrate a $7 to $10 ROI after 40+ years of tracking its participants. None of our current state pre-kindergarten programs has existed long enough for us to know whether or not they will prove as cost-effective as Perry Pre-School.


Belfield, C.R., Nores, M., Barnett, W.S., Schweinhart, L., (2006). The High/Scope Perry Preschool program: Cost-benefit analysis using data from the age-40 followup. Journal of Human Resources, 41, 1, pg. 162-190.

Heckman, J.J., Moon, S.H., Pinto, R., Savelyev, P.A., Yavitz, A. (November 2009). The Rate of Return to the High/Scope Perry Preschool Program. NBER Working Paper No. 15471. [Accessed November 11, 2009] http://www.nber.org/papers/w15471.pdf

Pre-K Now. (October 2009). Votes Count: Legislative Action on Pre-K Fiscal year 2010. Washington D.C.: Pew Center on the States. [Accessed November 10, 2009]

Rolnick, A., Grunewald, R. (2003). Early childhood development: Economic development with a high public return. Tech.rep., Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Minneapolis, MN.

25 November 2009

Television Viewing Associated With Increased Combative Behavior In Young Children

Recent research suggests that television watching is related to hostile behavior in children under the age of three. While investigators in the current study (published in the November issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine) found that young children who received corporal punishment, resided in a dangerous community, or had a mother who was distressed or under mental pressure were more likely to display aggressive behaviors, they also found that television viewing (both direct and indirect) had a statistically meaningful effect on children’s aggression.

The study, conducted by Dr. Jennifer Manganello- an assistant professor of health communication at the University of Albany School of Public Health- provides results from an analysis of national data collected for over 3,000 children born between 1998 and 2000. Because so many variables can impact a child’s actions, the investigators attempted to control for as many variables as possible, including maternal parenting beliefs, maternal experience with violence, the security of family surroundings and demographic characteristics. Even after weighting for these variables, television was more likely than many other factors to elevate aggressive behaviors.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is disturbed enough about the media’s impact on the behavior of young children that they recently refreshed their protocol on media brutality:

Exposure to violence in media, including television, movies, music and video games, represents a significant risk to the health of children and adolescents. Extensive research evidence indicates that media violence can contribute to aggressive behavior, desensitization to violence, nightmares and fear of being harmed,” wrote the AAP Council on Communications and Media.

According to Richard Gallagher, director of the Parenting Institute at the New York University Child Study Center in New York City, television is not a harmless instrument- it does have an impact on children and families. While media subject matter may influence actions, Gallagher suggests that children’s behaviors may also be influenced by “opportunities lost.”

In other words, when an infant or toddler is viewing a television show, which is an inactive behavior, the child does not have the occasion to engage with other family members and may have decreased interaction with his or her companions. “The AAP guidelines that children under 2 shouldn’t watch any television may be fairly strict and hard to carry out, but parents should be judicious about how much TV young children are watching, and be aware that it’s not likely to be appropriately stimulating,” stated Gallagher.

Parents should operate as a television “purifier” for their young children. For instance, moms and dads should indicate when something is nonsensical on television and that it is not a real-world situation. Also, if they happen to see something disturbing or violent- even in a television show designed for children- parents need to translate that situation for children, and inform them of what would happen if that were a real scenario.

For more resources on parenting and early child development, please visit The Urban Child Institute’s Parenting Resources webpage at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/Parenting.


Gordon, S. (2009, November 2). TV may increase aggression in toddlers: The more watched, the more aggressive the behavior, study finds. HealthDay Reporter.

23 November 2009

New Research Links Tobacco Exposure During Pregnancy to Various Neuro-developmental Problems in Early Childhood

According to new research presented at the 2009 American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Annual Meeting, tobacco exposure during pregnancy has been found to be associated with disagreeableness in very young infants, inadequate concentration and information synthesizing during the first year of life, as well as impulsivity during the preschool years.

“We found that even in the first year of life, we can see differences in attention and irritability and in the regulation of emotions…Then at age 3, we saw that kids with prenatal tobacco exposure seem to have trouble waiting for an award, which ties in with findings that smoking during pregnancy can have a specific impact on the parts of the brain that are involved in regulating behavior, ''stated Dr. Sandra A. Wiebe, lead investigator and professor at the University of Alberta, Canada.

An estimated 10% to 30% of females in the United States use tobacco during pregnancy (Brauser, 2009). Last year in Tennessee, over 16,000 (18.8%) of mother’s giving birth in our state reported cigarette smoking during pregnancy . Over 1,100 (6.9%) of the birth mother’s reporting cigarette smoking during pregnancy gave birth in Shelby County (TN DOH, 2009).

Dr. Wiebe acknowledges that it can be difficult for mothers to quit smoking; however, she believes that information and education on the effects of prenatal tobacco exposure can help encourage moms to abstain. “We need to explain that it can affect how well a baby learns about the world, as well as how well they’re able to behave adaptively in various situations once they start preschool or kindergarten,” she suggested.

Local Resources

The Church Health Center's Hope and Healing Center offers health and wellness programs including weight loss classes and smoking cessation counseling. Their Freedom From Smoking program is eight weeks of group counseling designed to help participants kick the smoking habit. They offer sliding scale membership fees based on income and family size. For more information, please call 901-259-4673.

For more information on the well-being of young children in Memphis and Shelby County, please visit The Urban Child Institute website at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/Home/.


Brauser, D. (2009, November 9). Prenatal tobacco exposure linked to multiple problems. Medscape Medical News.

Tennessee Department of Health, Division of Health Statistics. Personal Communication, November 12, 2009.

13 November 2009

Following AAP, the American Dietetic Association Supports Exclusive Breastfeeding For 6 Months

According to a recent policy report released by the American Dietetic Association (ADA), breastfeeding provides health advantages to both mothers and babies; thus, the use of human milk for infant feeding should be advanced and applauded.

It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that exclusive breastfeeding provides optimal nutrition and health protection for the first 6 months of life, and breastfeeding with complementary foods from 6 months until at least 12 months of age is the ideal feeding pattern for infants. Breastfeeding is an important public health strategy for improving infant and child morbidity and mortality and improving maternal morbidity and helping to control health care costs,” the ADA stated in a press release.

The recommendations of the ADA mimic the breastfeeding policy statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months after birth, continuous breastfeeding for at least 12 months after birth, and thereafter as long as mutually desired (AAP, 2005).

The authors of the policy report developed a science-based examination on the framework of breastfeeding customs and health advantages in the United States and in other nations. They determined that human milk supplies superlative nutrient content for very young children and weakens the possibility of developing multiple serious and enduring conditions.

The health advantages for babies include:

- A sound immune system

- Reduced possibility of developing asthma, lower respiratory tract complications and gastroenteritis

- Elevated defense against allergies and sensitivities

- Appropriate growth of teeth and jaw

- Correlation with increased IQ and improved educational achievement

- Decreased risk for SIDS, as well as recurrent illnesses, including weight issues, diabetes, heart problems, elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol and childhood cancer

The ADA suggests that dietetic specialists and registered dietitians maintain a critical role in endorsing and fostering breastfeeding for its health advantages for children and families. Additionally, dietary professionals also have a crucial position in administering pragmatic research on breastfeeding-related matters. The authors suggest that more research on breastfeeding promotion campaigns is of particularly high priority.

For more information on the current Shelby County breastfeeding campaign, please contact Dr. Julie Ware (President of the Shelby County Breastfeeding Coalition) at julieware2@bellsouth.net. The Shelby County Breastfeeding Coalition is a county-wide collaboration that aims to implement national breastfeeding policy recommendations. The collaborative consists of nine organizations and represents a partnership between the public and private sectors, as well as uniting the community with medical, academic, public health, research, and business groups.

For more information on the well-being of young children in Memphis and Shelby County, please visit The Urban Child Institute at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/Home.

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2005). Policy statement: Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics, 115 (2).

Breastfeeding benefits moms and babies: Report. (2009, November 6). Healthday: Yahoo!News.

11 November 2009

Flu Vaccination During Pregnancy: An Effective Way to Help Improve the Health of Memphis Babies

With the very real concerns surrounding the flu this winter, many of us are wondering if it is safe for pregnant women to get the flu shot.

Research that was recently presented at the Infectious Diseases Society of America meeting found that getting a flu vaccine during pregnancy greatly improves a child’s chances of having healthy birth outcomes. The researchers examined the effect of having a regular flu vaccination and not the H1N1 vaccination. However, the CDC does recommend that all pregnant women receive the swine flu vaccine as well (CDC, 2009, November).

Why does vaccination help? Pregnant women are especially vulnerable to infectious diseases like the flu because their immune systems are depressed in order to protect their developing babies. Additionally, infants cannot be vaccinated against the flu for the first 6 months of life, so they are vulnerable unless they have received the vaccination second hand while they are in utero (Fox, 2009, October 29).

Specifically, the studies have revealed that flu vaccination during pregnancy at the height of the flu season can reduce an infant’s chances of being hospitalized in the first 6 months of life by up to 85%. Pregnant women who were vaccinated against the flu were also 80% less likely to have a premature birth and 70% less likely to have a baby that was small for gestational age. Their babies, on average, were a half pound heavier than those of unvaccinated women (Fox, 2009, October 29).


Fox, M. (October 29, 2009). When Moms Get Flu Shot, Babies Benefit Too: Study, ABC News. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory?id=8951864

Centers for Disease Control. 2009 H1N1 Influenza Shots and Pregnant Women: Questions and Answers for Patients. http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination/pregnant_qa.htm