Child Care Licensing
Baby, itís cold outside
The sweltering hot days of summer are in the rearview mirror. Most of us in Texas have a few days of fall and will move directly into winter. With cold weather coming our way, it’s a good time to remember how to ensure the health and safety of the children in our care. Let’s review three areas that we must ensure we are maintaining daily.
Stop, don’t use that warm fuzzy blanket on your infants
As outside temperatures drop, an infant’s body temperature in a regulated environment does not. Adults may want to snuggle up in a warm blanket, but infants and blankets can be a deadly combination.
As cold weather approaches, let’s remember what a safe sleep environment looks like.
Always place infants on their backs to sleep.
Use safe cribs only. Infants should sleep only in a crib certified by the Consumer Products Safety Commission or in a Pack ‘N Play.® Car seats, swings, and bouncy seats are not intended as sleeping devices.
Keep cribs bare. Infants face increased risk of suffocation, entrapment, and strangulation with the addition of blankets, bumper pads, pillows, stuffed animals, and similar items.
The room temperature should be comfortable to an adult in light clothing. Recommended temperature ranges between 68 and 72 degrees. To keep infants comfortable during sleep, dress them in one-piece sleepers or sleep sacks, which are the only recommended items to keep infants warm during colder weather. As parents bring sleeping babies into your classroom, ensure that hats, jackets, and hoods are removed before placing a sleeping infant in the crib.
For more information on safe sleep, visit the following:
To go outside or not: That is the question
Texas has a wide range of winter weather. The Panhandle gets its fair share of snowy days, while the Valley enjoys cold fronts with highs in the 70s. With changing weather approaching, it is important to plan ahead. Remember that standard §746.2205 (December 2010) calls for “outdoor play in which the children make use of both small and large muscles, both in the morning and afternoon.”
Also remember that in the infant-school age divisions, standards restate the need for “daily opportunities for outdoor play as weather permits.”
Outdoor time for young children has many benefits. Fresh air in a large space contains fewer germs than indoor space regardless of the temperature. Outdoor play provides a wider variety of opportunities for sensory stimulation through sounds, smells, and textures and is supported by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
Outdoor play provides for greater freedom and flexibility, fuller expression through loud talk, and a greater range of active movement. Outdoor play also extends opportunities for large muscle development, social-emotional development, and small muscle development by offering variety, challenge, and complexity in ways that are not attainable in a confined indoor space.
Now is the time to plan so that you can successfully get the children outside.
Remind parents that they must provide appropriate clothing for the children to go outside. As educators, we get to share information with parents as well as their children. Explain that their children will get some fresh air and work those gross motor muscles daily. A newsletter, notes in cubbies, reminders via text messages, or systems like Remind can get parents in the habit of sending coats, hats, and gloves as needed for the weather in your area. (See www.remind.com.)
Make sure that all staff are prepared for colder weather and dressed to go outside.
Plan outdoor activities that involve teacher-directed activities so children are not wandering around on the playground.
Have on hand an extra set of items, such as coats, caps, and mittens, that a child can borrow. Remember to wash the items before loaning out again.
On bright sunny days, remember the sunscreen.
Encourage children to spend a few minutes in aerobic exercise, such as running, jumping, and riding wheeled toys. Aside from the physical health benefits of increasing the heart rate, studies have shown that boys perform better in science and math after period of aerobic exercise with good hydration (Michael Gurian, The Minds of Boys, 2007).
Educate staff and parents that we do not catch a cold from being outside on a cold day. This is a longstanding myth. You have to be exposed to a cold virus to catch a cold and this is more probable inside a contained area (such as inside a classroom). Of course, cold fresh air may irritate an existing condition, such as asthma, which could weaken your immunity. This could make your body more receptive to the virus you come in contact with. The cold air alone, however, does not bring on an illness, such as a cold.
For FAQ’s about the common cold, see this website: www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/top-10-questions-cold?page=3.
Coughing, sneezing, and flu—Oh my!
While we do not catch a cold from playing outside in cold weather, caregivers and children are exposed to a wide variety of viruses and bacteria while in care. One of the first lines of defense is hand washing.
One way that you can go above the minimum standards is to ask children to wash hands upon entering the classroom in the morning. Caregivers are required to do this, but children are not. This practice is helpful to prevent a child from sharing the illness that a family member may have at the time.
Hand washing, while a simple practice, helps decrease the spread of illness in a program. But it must be done correctly.
According to §746.3419, “Children 18 months of age and older and employees must wash their hands with soap and running water. Pre-moistened towelettes or wipes and waterless hand cleaners are not a substitute for soap and running water.”
Rubbing hands together under running water is the most important part of washing away infectious germs. Deficiencies in hand washing, including sharing basins of water, have contributed to many outbreaks of diarrhea among children and caregivers in child care programs.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends these hand washing steps:
1. Wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap.
2. Rub your hands together to make lather and scrub them well. Be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
3. Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Tip: Hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
4. Rinse your hands well under running water.
5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry.
6. Use a paper towel to turn off the faucet.
The use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers does not substitute for hand washing in the group care setting. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are flammable and toxic if ingested by children.
One question often asked of Licensing’s field staff is how to wash an infant’s hands.
The answer lies in §746.3421: Until the infant is old enough to be raised to the faucet and reach for the water, you must wash the infant’s hands using an individual cloth or disposable towel with soap, followed by a cloth or disposable towel used to rinse with clear water and dry.
When an infant is old enough to be raised to the faucet and reach for water, you must use soap and running water as specified above.
Make infant hand washing easier, cheaper, and more efficient with these steps.
1. Use an empty plastic wipes box.
2. Fold sheets of paper towels and place them in the box.
3. Add a small amount of a mild liquid and add water to moisten the paper towels.
4. Use one or more of these pre-moistened towels to wash the baby’s hands.
5. Use a damp paper towel to rinse the infant’s hands.
6. Use a dry paper towel to dry the hands.
Remember that these practices are required in all weather, not just when it’s cold. Our role as professionals in the child development field is not only to educate children, but also to reduce the risk of infection and illness. Complying with the standards is the first step toward ensuring the health and safety of the children in your care.
Remember that your local licensing office is a great resource when you have questions regarding standards or best practices in your program.