Managing and teaching in a shelter child center

Posts tagged ‘Toddler’

Grass-An infant’s experience

Okay. Sometimes it really is the simple things that can be the most interesting.sometimes when we go on our picnic days a lot of bigger school kids had the same idea. So I have to keep the infants and younger toddlers on the grass so they won’t get trampled by the older kids. dogs, however, well…. that’s a whole other blog!

Anyway, I’ve written before about the varies ways infants handle their first  (or at least first for a while) grass experiences. Some love it, some hate it, some don’t give it a second thought, and some consider it part of their lunch. But today I’m going to talk about just one child and her grass experience.

Karla(name changed to protect the innocent) has never come out with us before. She is one of the children I worry about. So limp and floppy and unengaged with everything. One of those children that has no light in their eyes at all, and I wonder what horror she might be seeing instead of what is really in front of her. She had to come with usthat day, because the only other care giver she reacts to at all was out sick.

I sat with her flopped in my lap while we watched other kids playing with toys on the blanket we had brought. I saw that she was really watching too. and she was tracking the two other children her age who were rolling balls on the grass. So I got an idea. Maybe she would connect with the grass. I picked a couple of blades and held them for her to look at, explaining grass as best I could. (With infants, you learn to describe all kinds of things you take for granted) I brushed it lightly in her hand,expecting her to scream. She didn’t. She reached for it.

So then I took off her socks and let her brush her feet against it. Not pushing down,or forcing her to stand on it. She put one foot down, pulled it up, looked at me,and did the same thing again. Over and over. If we were having a conversation, it may have been something like this: Karla”I don’t know about this.”

Me”It’s okay. go ahead”

Karla(pulling toes back in)”nope”

Me” go ahead.”

Karla “are you sure about this?”

I think she wanted to make sure that I was there. That I didn’t mind it and that I wasn’t going to let anything happen to her if she changed her mind and wanted off. Eventually she did put both feet down for about three seconds. And she smiled for the first time that I’ve seen in the three months we’ve worked together.

  • Picnick days (

Would you give your toddler or preschooler water that looked like this?

THe water at my children's center. AFTER being run through a filter three times

Don’t adjust your color settings. this is actually what the water at my center looks like.And that’s AFTER it has been filtered three times. Then we boil it, and filter it two more times before boiling it again and a final filtering.

I seriously wish this was a joke. It’s not. Our water contains copper, lead, and trace amounts of other heavy metal particulates and mineral deposits. That’s a very fancy way of saying our water is basically undrinkable. And yes, licensing saw it.But it was waived, since we only use it for projects,never for meals. It is also taken into account that our building was put up in 1907 and hasn’t been renovated since 1969.

Still I think the kids deserve better than something that looks like a cross between toilet water and a science fair project. How many people take for granted that the water from their tap will be drinkable? shouldn’t my kids get that too. It shouldn’t take two hours to get clean water. And then water that still isn’t drinkable.


Of course :

  • Its down-pouring rain and ALL 312 kids showed up
  • Today ‘s activities have all been cancelled, and the staff are looking at me blankly when I told them to go to plan B. (we always have a plan B and usually a C,D, and E as well.)
  • the kids that aren’t in pj’s are in snow suits
  • The rooster came back
  • so did the possum
  • My office got tossed, and all the important stuff is out of order (to say the least)
  • I can’t walk today, and there are 5 parent meetings scheduled.
  • As soon as I hit the infant room, all the above stopped mattering.
  • of course: (

Who we are,what we do and all other important stuff!

Who we are: The Elk Care Shelter Center( or interchangeable versions of this.) The firstpreschool/infant toddler center/after school operating within the Bay Area shelter system. Our building is a combination of Community living for people with terminal illness and their families and what was meant to be temporary shelter for homeless families and a domestic violence shelter.

What we do: Provide care and preschool  for the children that got caught in the bad economy. We provide preschool ,pre-k,Infant/toddler child care,sick child day care, after school supervision for children up to age 12.

Who we serve: Children who have been in the shelter for 4 weeks or more. The average stay is now . Many have parents who are terminally ill,or are escaping horrible home situations.

Why we started: I was horrified by the situation of the children in the shelter. They were all in a day room the size of a large school gymnasium,with sometimes only 1 adult supervising. One adult is all that is required by shelter rules,even though there are sometimes up to 240 children at a time,many infants and toddlers who are just left sitting in the cribs (or boxes) by themselves. This is the Bay area, not some foreign orphanage. I couldn’t stand the chaos or seeing that many hurting children. So I got together with some of the parents and we started a better system.

  • Safety: We have many more supervising adults now, but not all of them are trained to work with children. (although they are all parents and have some experience) Also we don’t have a great water supply and some lead based paint. Also gangs within the building sometimes fight.
  • Not sure who is in charge of us: no one wants to claim us. We are sort of Housing and urban health,sort of parks and recreation, sort of shelter.
  • Lack of basic materials
  • Lack of funds
  • Many “shocky” children because of family situations
  • Children not ready to learn because basic needs aren’t even close to being met.

Lack of support from either the general community or the ECE community. We really feel like we are functioning in a vacuum. Other ECE groups look down on us and say we’re not really part of their community.(with a few exceptions)

What we have going for us:

  • A staff with heart,willing to give their all
  • Great parents/guardians/families(and even sometimes pets)

Why the Elk: In the Nez Perce culture (and many other Native American cultures as well) the elk is the Animal that represents perseverance, Endurance and inner strength. Those are the qualities we want the children here to have.

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