Unplug for Screen-Free Week

For the second year in a row, Informal Family Child Care (IFCC) and Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood have partnered together to celebrate Screen Free Week — which takes place every year from May 4 – 10th.  The goal is to unplug from our digital gadgets and spend free time playing, reading, daydreaming, creating, exploring, and connecting with family and friends.

Young children learn best by interacting with people and exploring the world using their developing senses. The use of media and technology to engage, entertain and occupy children is a reality in many child care environments and can be challenging to manage. In the latest edition of Connections in Early Learning, we explored the impact of technology and screen time on children, and offered strategies for reducing this time.

The following information is excerpted from Facing the Screen Dilemma: Young Children, Technology and Early Education – a guide published by The Committee for a Commercial Free Childhood (CCFC) about the use, impact and reduction of screen time for young children. 

The Committee for a Commercial Free Childhood (CCFC) works for the rights of children to grow up—and the freedom for parents to raise them—without being undermined by commercial interests. We advocate for policies to protect children from harmful marketing and promote commercial-free time and space for kids about the use, impact and reduction of screen time for young children. 

Smartphones, tablets, e-books, and more – the explosion of new screen devices offers both possibilities and challenges for families today.  When should children be introduced to screens?  How much time should they spend with screens?  Is screen time helpful or harmful to children’s brain development?  Does content matter?  There’s not much research about new technologies and children—but there are some things we do know.

In order to thrive, young children need healthy food, shelter, and plenty of positive interactions with the people who love them.  They benefit from being talked to, read to, and played with and learn best from hands-on, creative play.  They also need time outside and with nature.  These early experiences build important life skills like creativity, compassion, curiosity, and problem solving.


  • The more time our youngest children spend with screens, the less time they spend interacting with caring adults and in hands-on, creative play—2 activities proven to be important for learning.
  • Too much screen time is linked to learning, attention, and social problems, childhood obesity and sleep disturbances. It also exposes kids to lots of harmful advertising.
  • Screen media can be habit-forming. Young children who spend more time with screens have a harder time turning them off when they get older.
  • Even a little exposure to violent, sexualized, stereotyped, or commercialized content can be harmful to children.


  • Make sure that children have plenty of time for hands-on, creative and active play. They also often love helping with everyday activities, including gardening, baking, and folding laundry.
  • If you choose to use screens with your children, set rules early on about when, where, what, and how much.   Screen activities with obvious end-points can help a lot with time limits.
  • Remove televisions and other devices from children’s bedrooms.
  • Turn off screens when they are not in use. Parents talk less to children when background television is on and it interrupts the kind of play essential for learning.
  • Take stock of your own screen time—remember that you are your child’s most powerful role model.


  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding screen time for children under 2 and suggests limiting screen time for children 2 and older to no more than 1-2 hours per day.
  • For preschoolers, watching just 20 minutes of a fast-moving cartoon show can have a negative impact on attention, the ability to delay gratification, self-control, and problem solving.
  • Electronic books in which screen images respond to touch are less likely than traditional books to bring about the kind of adult-child interactions that promote literacy.

Early Education News Roundup: May 1st Edition

Happy Friday to all! This week, there is a lot happening in New York in relation to Pre-K news! The articles below cover our top picks for the most important reads for this week. Happy read!

-With Pre-K Applications Almost Due, Parents’ Phones Keep Ringing – Chalkbeat NY

Fariña gave the city’s pre-K outreach workers a pep talk Thursday as they called parents and urged them to enroll in the program before Friday night’s application deadline. The city is just 5,000 students shy of its 70,000-student enrollment goal by Sept.

-Forest Hills Parents Launch Petition Demanding Fix to Kindergarten Crisis – DNAinfo

A group of Queens parents started a petition aimed at the education department after their children were put on the waiting list for their local kindergarten program.

-Dozens Wait-listed After New Corona School Cuts 4 Kindergarten Classes – DNAinfo

Queens' P.S. 330 cut kindergarten classes because of "space constraints," leaving local families on waitlists.

-Nearly 69,000 Families Applied to City Pre-K Programs in First Round of Admissions – Daily News

More than 68,000 families have applied for full-day pre-K seats for next fall, approaching the de Blasio administration's enrollment goal.

-City’s Pre-K Implementer on Year 2 Challenges – Capital New York

Deputy Chancellor Josh Wallack: This year's challenges will be ensuring the continued expansion goes smoothly and improving quality of the programs.

-Sunset Park Schools Have No Kindergarten Waitlists This Year, DOE Says – DNAinfo

Sunset Park used to have long kindergarten waitlists, but there were none this year, in part because of a rezoning effort and adding seats.

-Wanted: One Thousand More Pre-K Teachers – wNYC

In looking to hire 1,000 pre-kindergarten teachers to serve an additional 17,000 four-year-olds this fall, the city has sought after prospective teachers by recruiting at local universities, holding webinars and organizing panel discussions.

New York State Coaching Competencies – Public Feedback

Since last November, the Early Childhood Advisory Council’s Workforce Development Work Group has been working on a comprehensive set of competencies for individuals who coach others in the field of early care and school-age care. The draft New York State Coach Competencies are available for public comment until Friday, May 8th.

Click here to download the draft New York State Coach Competencies. We would love to hear your feedback!

Please send your feedback to amills@nysaeyc.org by Friday, May 8. Thank you in advance for providing your feedback to improve this draft.

Here is a summary of the draft New York State Coach Competencies:


  • Establishing Trust with the Coachee: Ability to create a safe, supportive environment that produces ongoing mutual respect and trust.
  • Active Listening: Ability to focus completely on what the coachee is communicating to understand the coachee’s intent in the context of their values and goals, and to support coachee self -expression.
  • Powerful Questioning: Ability to ask questions that provide information and stimulate thinking in support of the coachee’s learning and goals.
  • Direct Communication: Ability to communicate effectively during coaching sessions, and to use language that has the greatest positive impact on the coachee.


  • Track Record of Adult Learning Expertise: Knowledge, skills, and dispositions to design effective learning experiences for coachee.


  • Meeting Ethical Guidelines & Demonstrating High Professional Standards: Ability to make difficult decisions that have moral and ethical implications during the work, while understanding and aligning requirements of the specific coaching initiative with the needs and expectations of the coachee.
  • Commitment to Quality: Demonstrating leadership in the early childhood field with a proven track record of driving quality practices to classrooms and children.
  • Prioritizing Cultural Competence: Demonstrating a thoughtful, methodical approach to integrating strategies to promote cultural competence in all aspects of coaching and support.


  • Creating Awareness: Ability to integrate and accurately evaluate multiple sources of information, and to make interpretations that help the coachee to gain awareness in support of their goals.
  • Planning and Goal Setting: Ability to develop and maintain a strength based, effective coaching plan with the coachee.
  • Designing Actions for Implementation: Ability to create with the coachee opportunities for ongoing learning and actions that will most effectively accomplish agreed upon goals.
  • Managing Progress and Accountability: Ability to maintain focus on the coachee’s stated priorities while recognizing the coachee’s responsibility for action and progress.


  • Assessing Coach Practice: Engages in continual self -reflection of their professional practices and how their practices influence the coachee’s performance and outcomes.
  • Assessing Coachee Outcomes: Fosters a conversation that promotes and clarifies the coachee’s measureable criteria for success, including the coachee’s ability to set goals for future gains in their thinking, skills, knowledge and practices. In the initial meetings, it is important to foster discussion about the specific criteria for success of stated individual and programmatic goals and outcomes.

Early Education News Roundup: April 24th Edition

Happy Friday! The articles below cover our top picks for the most important reads of pre-k news this week. Enjoy!

-Bill de Blasio Joining Volunteers to Promote City Prekindergarten Program Enrollment – Daily News

Mayor Bill de Blasio will join thousands of volunteers Saturday to promote the city’s prekindergarten programs before the April 24 enrollment deadline.

-City Hits 60,000 Pre-K Applications – Capital New York

As the April 24 sign-up deadline approaches, 60,000 families have already applied for pre-K for next year, according to the mayor's spokesman.

-Experts: 'Opt-out' Campaign Could Cost Cuomo Clout – Lohund, The Journal News

Gov. Cuomo's education policy strategy is not good long-term politics, some observers say, and the opt-out movement will cost him politically.

-Researcher Questions Whether Pre-K Supply Meets Demand in NYC – wNYC

Bruce Fuller, a researcher and noted skeptic of the de Blasio administration's prekindergarten expansion, says the city undercounted the number of seats it needed to create by about 28,000 four year olds in private and charter schools.

Early Education News Roundup: April 17th Edition

Happy Friday! The articles below cover our top picks for the most important reads of early childhood educations news this week. Enjoy!

-Proposal would Let Pre-K Parents Join Local Education Councils – Chalkbeat New York

Expanding prekindergarten and parent involvement have been separate education policy initiatives under the de Blasio administration, but some elected officials say that a state law should change so that pre-K parents can serve on the city's community education councils.

-The Best for the Brightest: The City Schools' Gifted-and-talented Admissions Process Needs an Overhaul – Daily News

To even the playing field for entry into the city's competitive gifted and talented programs, the city should increase access for 4-year-olds living in poor neighborhoods and include universal testing in the new prekindergarten programs.

-72 percent of families get top kindergarten pick as fewer schools have waitlists – Chalkbeat New York

Slightly more families received an offer to their top-ranked kindergarten program this year and fewer schools put students on waiting lists, officials said Tuesday as families were sent offer letters.

-More than 1,200 Kindergartners Shut Out of Their Zoned Schools – DNAinfo

The number of zoned schools with kindergarten wait lists declined by nearly 25 percent since last year to 51 schools.

-Furious Parents Lash Out at DOE After Kindergarten Rejections – New York Post

But at one highly-regarded Brooklyn Heights school, parents are frustrated that 40 percent of the more than 200 families that applied for a kindergarten spot at P.S. 8 were wait-listed.

PDI Staff Attend the NYSAEYC Annual Conference

Late last week, New York State Association for the Education of Young Children (NYSAEYC) held their annual three-day conference. This year’s conference included over 120 diverse educational workshops and 50+ early childhood exhibitors, along with three informative presentations from PDI staff. Below we have included an abstract of the presentations from our staff.

QUALITYstarsNY                            FullSizeRender (2)

Ariel Davis: QSNY Project Coordinator

Bonnie Beukema: PDI Deputy Director

This informative session provided a synopsis of QUALITYstarsNY and the method(s) it utilizes to serve over 300 early childhood programs throughout New York State.

New York’s quality rating & improvement system is a framework that:

  • Uses research-based standards and assessment tools to evaluate levels of quality for every type of early childhood program.
  • Produces ratings on a 1-5 scale, which is a great tool for communicating quality to families and other key stakeholders that are looking for independent information about  child care options.
  • Supports programs to develop targeted quality improvement plans based on the program’s performance on standards and assessment tools.
  • Includes resources and support – such as, materials to enhance the learning environment and professional opportunities to get programs to achieve the goals of their Quality Improvement Plan (QIP).

Aspire                                           IMG_3760

Diana Diaz: Registry Manager

Amy Ludwig: Outreach and Communications Coordinator

This workshop provided an overview of New York Works for Children, the state’s integrated professional development system with particular detail to Aspire, New York’s workforce registry for early childhood professionals. During this interactive presentation, we outlined the many benefits of having an active Aspire profile, demonstrated how easy it is to join, and how to use Aspire’s Statewide Training Calendar, Career Ladder and other tools to plan your professional development. Our focus was for participants to learn about the functions of the registry and how to utilize the tools available to keep track of all the important aspects about their career.

Core Body of Knowledge

Dana Benzo: Project Coordinator

Using the Core Body of Knowledge (CBK) to Supervise Staff and Identify Professional Development Needs:                                                                                                                             

The Core Body of Knowledge (CBK) provides a framework for supervisors to evaluate performance of individual staff and supports the planning of professional development to ensure that it is intentional and relevant to the strengths, interests, and needs of each teacher.  Using the CBK Assessment and Professional Development Planning Tool, we analyzed various video clips to gather information to guide supervisory discussions, performance appraisals, and professional development plans.   The session provided participants the opportunity to practice observing teachers in a variety of contexts.  They reflected on the information gathered through their focused observation to inform the development of supervisory discussions and planning of individual professional development plans.  Opportunities were provided for participants to discuss challenges to supervision and ways the CBK can be a useful tool in this critical aspect of quality programming.

Intentional Curriculum Planning Using the NYS Early Learning Guidelines:

Committed early childhood educators used the lens of child development to help chart the individual and unique path experienced by each child in the classroom. Using the NYS Early Learning Guidelines as a tool, we analyzed the development of children through video clips and then brainstormed intentional learning experiences to optimally facilitate their growth. The presentation began with an overview of the background and structure of the NYS Early Learning Guidelines (ELG). The group then explored the purpose, strategies, and application for using observation and recording in the classroom setting. After these ideas were discussed, the facilitator distributed an observation template that was used during a series of observations based on video clips. A specific domain area to focus on was assigned to each small group of participants to target their observations. Using the ELG, each group pinpointed the areas and stages of development observed. Each group then brainstormed possible scenarios or types of activities that would be meaningful and appropriate for the child(ren) observed and shared their ideas with the entire group.

Early Education News Roundup: April 10th Edition

Happy Friday to all! This week, there is a lot happening in New York in relation to early childhood education news! The articles below cover our top picks for the most important reads for this week. Happy read!

-EXCLUSIVE: 51,000 Families Sign Up for City Pre-K in First 3 Weeks of Enrollment – NY Daily News

The city has signed up 51,600 children for pre-kindergarten programs, meeting the total enrollment for the 2014-15 school year and about three-quarters of the way to the de Blasio administration’s goal of enrolling 70,000 kids for the fall.

-Questions of Bias Are Raised About a Teachers’ Exam in New York – NY Times

Tougher new teacher certification exams have raised concerns for the judge assigned to 1996 discrimination lawsuit brought by minority teachers alleging bias in old exams.

-Aspiring Teachers Struggled on New Tests, Data Show, Prompting Diversity Debate – Chalkbeat NY

The judge's concerns come weeks after Chalkbeat reported data showing disparate gaps in the passing rates between white teacher candidates and their black and Hispanic peers.

-City to Use AmeriCorps to Staff Struggling Schools with Mentors – Chalkbeat NY

The city plans to use AmeriCorps service members as mentors in nearly 130 schools, including 94 schools part of the de Blasio administration's Renewal Schools initiative.

-As Full-Day Pre-K Takes Hold, Some Parents Plead for Half-Day Options – The Wall Street Journal

As the city looks to expand its full-day pre-kindergarten offerings for a second straight year, some parents want their half-day options back, saying the six-plus hours is too long.

-De Blasio Defends Full-Day Pre-K – The Wall Street Journal

Responding to complaints from some parents who believe full-day prekindergarten is too exhausting for four-year-olds, Mayor Bill de Blasio defended his signature program Wednesday, saying children "need full-day.”

This month, we are celebrating National Autism Awareness. Every year on April 2nd, autism organizations around the world celebrate the day with unique fundraising and awareness-raising events.

Autism recently re-identified through the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by:                              

  • Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts;                                                                    
  • Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities;
  • Symptoms must be present in the early developmental period (typically recognized in the first two years of life); and,
  • Symptoms cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning.

The term “spectrum” refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of impairment or disability that children with ASD can have. Some children are mildly impaired by  their symptoms, while others are severely disabled.

As part of a well-child visit, your child’s doctor should perform a “developmental screening,” asking specific questions about your child’s progress. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) list five behaviors that warrant further evaluation:                                                                               

  • Does not babble or coo by 12 months
  • Does not gesture (point, wave, grasp) by 12 months                                   
  • Does not say single words by 16 months
  • Does not say two-word phrases on his or her own by 24 months
  • Has any loss of any language or social skill at any age

Need Support?

Caring for a child with special needs can present itself with many challenges but there is help available for parents, caregivers and child care providers (licensed and legally exempt). If you are in need of support and knowledge, reach out to the community around you. The Autism Speaks organization has supported children and families for 10 years, and are available to answer your questions and provide information about screenings and medical and mental health resources.

Want to advocate and help raise awareness?                                                                                            

Walk for a Cause! Autism Speaks will be holding their ‘Walk Now for Autism Speaks’ events throughout the country and within the five boroughs. 

The walks will take place within the five boroughs on the following dates:

  • Queens/Manhattan:  April 26, 2015
  • Bronx: May 17, 2015
  • Brooklyn:  July 19, 2015
  • Staten Island: Oct. 25, 2015

For locations and times visit the Autism Speaks website at www.walknowforautismspeaks.org.

Voices from the field

We sat down with PDI’s own Ms. Margaret Ayala, MSW about her experiences and insights into working with parents, children and caregivers as it relates to the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Ms. Ayala has been working with children with special needs for over 10 years and comes with a wealth of knowledge.

Ms. Ayala explained that from her experience, children living with special needs (specifically ASD), have varying strengths and challenges. She reported that caregivers of autistic children have to quickly figure out what routines and conditions are best for the children.  Ms. Ayala stated that caregivers of children with special needs require on-going support and she reminds parents and caregivers to be patient and understanding – with their children and themselves.

High-Quality Community Early Care and Education Programs: An Essential Support for the Workforce

The Early Care and Education Consortium (ECEC) is a non-profit association of America’s leading national, regional, and independent providers of high-quality child care and early learning and development programs for young children representing over 7,500 programs in all 50 states. ECEC affiliates are devoted to serving as the unified voice for providers of high quality programs and services that support all families and children. They recently released a report outlining the importance of high-quality community early care and education programs. Click here to read the full report. We’ve put together a short summary for you below.

High-quality community early care and education programs play a critical role in supporting the workforce of today and tomorrow. It proposes developmentally appropriate early education opportunities for children; at the same time, it delivers a safe, dependable care that empowers parents to be financially productive within the labor force. Affordable high-quality community early care and education program options remain at the core of effective early childhood structures and include a range of programs (e.g. Early Head Start and Head Start, kindergarten, and home visiting).

High-quality community early care and education programs deliver evidence-based school readiness experiences to children of working class families. These families depend on year-round, full-functioning day program accessibility in order to continue being part of the workforce. The excerpt below displays the importance of high-quality community early care and education programs and the effect they have on parents and businesses:

Nationally, 76% of children under age five with employed parents spend some time in out-of-home care each week. Working families of all income levels need readily available, affordable, and reliable settings that provide high-quality care and early learning opportunities for their children during their hours of employment. Today’s working families generally require extended hours of care that exceed the traditional school day. Lack of access to affordable, stable care means substantial losses in worker productivity. On average, employee absenteeism based on disrupted access to child care is estimated to cost U.S. businesses $3 billion annually.

An increasing amount of research confirms that investment in high-quality early care and education programs produce positive results in school readiness, well-being and long-term efficiency. With 90% of brain development occurring between birth and age five, high quality care and learning environments shape children’s cognitive, social-emotional, and physical growth, and promote executive function skills during their early years[1].

High-quality community early care and education programs support tomorrow’s workforce by:

  • Participating in state licensure as a foundation for continuous quality improvement.
  • Ranking within the top levels of state Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS).
  • Holding accreditation by a nationally and internationally recognized entity, including NAEYC and AdvancED.
  • Relying on an evidence-based curriculum, including Teaching Strategies’ Creative Curriculum and HighScope’s Infants and Toddlers or Preschool Curriculum.
  • Administering a developmentally appropriate, research-based child assessment, including Teaching Strategies’ GOLD, TeachStone’s CLASS, HighScope’s COR Advantage, or a statewide Kindergarten Entry Assessment (KEA).
  • Ensuring strong instructional leaders and accountable management systems. Benefiting all children by promoting diverse and mixed-income learning environments.

Early Education News Roundup: April 3rd Edition

Happy first week of April! This week, there is a lot happening in New York in relation to Pre-K news! The articles below cover our top picks for the most important reads for this week. Enjoy!

-DOE Cuts 25 Kindergarten Seats at Brooklyn Heights School – DNAinfo

The Department of Education plans to cut 25 kindergarten seats from the overcrowded P.S. 8 in Brooklyn Heights for the 2015-16 school year.

-Negotiators Agree in Principle on State Budget The Buffalo News

Lawmakers are still deciding how to divide education funding, with Senate Republicans working to drive relatively more funding to suburban districts and Assembly Democrats looking to send more funding to lower-income districts.

-Cuomo and Lawmakers Still at Impasse Over School Deal – New York Post

Over the weekend, Gov. Cuomo blamed a lack of consensus on his education proposals on the outsized influence of teachers unions.

-Parents, Teachers Line Up to Protest Cuomo’s Education Reform Plan – CBS New York

As lawmakers hammered out details of the budget in Albany, union leaders and advocates camped out near Cuomo's offices to oppose his proposals.

-Budget Agreement Will Change Tenure Rules, Task State with Eval Overhaul – Chalkbeat NY

New York’s legislative leaders reached agreement on some thorny education issues on Sunday, but plenty remains to be decided, including how the education funding will be divvied up. Lawmakers also punted on teacher evaluations, agreeing to let the state education department make decisions about future changes.

New York Lawmakers Rush to Beat Midnight Budget Deadline – The Washington Times

Ahead of the start of the new fiscal year Wednesday, state lawmakers are set to vote on education proposals following what’s likely to be a long debate Tuesday.

-Confronted by Cuomo on Schools, de Blasio Digs in – Capital New York

Leading up to budget negotiations, Mayor Bill de Blasio has been clear of his aggressive disagreement with Gov. Cuomo on many of his education proposals, including state takeover of struggling schools, failure to permanently extend mayoral control and raising the charter-school cap.

-Education Partisans Vow to Keep Fighting on Items Excluded From Budget Deal – wNYC

Even after the budget deal comes to a close, education policy changes including teacher evaluations and extending mayoral control of city schools are likely to remain a top priority for education advocates through June.

-After Rancorous Debate, Lawmakers Pass Big Changes to Evaluations – Chalkbeat NY

The legislature passed an education portion of the state’s $142 billion budget that contained several parts of Cuomo’s agenda, including big changes to the teacher evaluation system that sparked hours of rancorous debate from lawmakers.