Practical Strategies for Supporting Young Children and Staff with Masking
Gail Joseph: Hi, everyone, and welcome to Teacher Time. We are so excited that you're joining us for our special addition that we've called One Mask, Two Mask, Red Mask, Blue Mask: Practical Mask Strategies for Health and Safety. You're probably already noticing that my usual cohost, Dawn Williams, is not with us today, and I'm going to get to that in a second because we have some very special guests with us. But for those of you that are in the Dawn fan club like me, don't worry, she'll be back with our next episode, but you'll be so excited to see our new special guests for today.
With that, let me tell you that we have two special guests from Health, Behavioral Health and Safety joining us to talk about practical mask strategies for health and safety. We have Neal Horen and Nancy Topping-Tailby with us. I am going to have Neal introduce yourself.
Neal Horen: Well, they call me the poor excuse for Dawn, but I'll just go by Neal Horen. I'm the codirector of the National Center on Health, Behavioral Health and Safety. I'm super excited. I both like fish, masks, Dr. Seuss, and a wise young man once said, "Let's just do our best and work together.” I'm super excited, Gail. I'm going to let my friend Nancy from our center introduce herself.
Nancy Topping-Tailby: Hi, everybody. I'm the co-director and co-principal investigator with Neal, so you get two for one here in terms of us joining you, and we're thrilled to be able to be here. I always love when the National Centers get to talk together, so you can hear integrated messages from our centers. We're going to be spending the next hour with you, and we really look forward to it and appreciate the opportunity to join you today.
Gail: We're just so excited that you're here. Now, the Viewer's Guide – if you haven't seen it before, you know this is one of our very special features of Teacher Time. The Viewer's Guide is really a terrific resource for you. I would say download it, you can download it and follow along with the episode. It's a great place to jot down notes or things that come to you while you're listening, that you might want to try out in your practice. There's also some terrific ideas and classroom visuals today in the Viewer's Guide, so be sure to download it now. We're really excited about some of the things that are in there.
I think that that might be it for some of the logistics. Let's talk about what some of our learning objectives are for today's Teacher Time – we have a few key learning objectives that we hope you take away after watching this episode – we want to increase your understanding of the importance of wearing masks in early childhood programs during the pandemic. Now, we know that a lot of you that view Teacher Time are Head Start teachers or Early Head Start teachers, home visitors, family childcare providers, other early childhood center teachers – really anyone working with young children, we think that these tips and strategies are going to be relevant to you, so we're glad that you're all tuning in today.
Another objective is to learn and share practical strategies to promote and support mask-wearing. There will be times that we might ask you to enter in your ideas. Feel free to always do that, and we'll push them out to the Q&A. We also want you to learn some practical strategies for fostering emotional literacy in young children. We often hear that people are concerned about that when young children are wearing masks and adults are wearing masks, so we want to make sure that we give you some tried and true tips for supporting emotional literacy. That's another reason why we're so excited about our special guests today.
On that topic of emotional literacy, and before we dig in, let's check in with ourselves and check in with how we are feeling. We have a new special feature today on Teacher Time – this is our feeling creature tree. These little things are crawling all over our Teacher Time tree, and they all have numbers on them. Take a look and just think, check in with yourself, which one is how you're feeling right now? I'm going to ask our guests, actually, to tell us how they're feeling right now. Neal, which one are you feeling most like?
Neal: Well, I'm no Dawn, but I'm feeling pretty – I always feel pretty good about myself. Probably 15 or 20. I'm out there. We're out in the pool and out in the sun and going fishing, so I'm feeling pretty good.
Neal: I'm liking it, yeah.
Gail: That's awesome. That's great. Nancy, how are you feeling?
Nancy: I was going to say 15, because Neal and I tend to channel each other, but I'll take a risk here and say 16. I've got a big smile on my face. I'm happy to be here with you, I'm next to my friends. Here's the three of us on the little leaf together, so I'll say 16.
Gail: I love it. I love that you say that, because I was looking at this too, and I was thinking, “I feel so supported by the two of you with helping us think through all the content for today.” I was thinking, "Oh, there I am, 17.” I'm standing on the shoulders of these two giants that we have on Teacher Time today, so I love that. But I've definitely felt a lot of these things recently, so if you're listening today, why don't you type into the Q&A, which number are you and why? We'll push some of those out too. Note that this is in our Viewer's Guide, so if this is something that you want to use to have either your teaching teams check in with each other or even with children, you can use that in your rooms as well or in your practice.
Now, before we dive in, we also have a special note from our colleagues at the Office of Head Start, and we're going to play that for you now.
Amanda Bryans: Hello. Welcome, everyone, to this very special Teacher Time episode. Today's topic is practical strategies for supporting your children and staff wearing masks. My name is Amanda Bryans, and I work for the Office of Head Start, where my focus is primarily education services and research to practice. I'm very happy to be here with you today.
When this pandemic started – remember that, it seems both like yesterday and a lifetime ago – there was a lot of confusion about masks. No one was sure if they could help protect us, and many of us believed that children couldn't or wouldn't wear them. Well, that has changed since then. Since March of 2020, we understand how the COVID-19 virus is transmitted. Scientists and public health experts have proven that masks limit spread of the disease and keep both the wearer and other people safer. The Office of Head Start follows the CDC guidance on masks, which is that people aged 2 and up should wear them indoors, except when they are eating or napping. We have also learned that most young children can successfully wear masks. You're about to learn some concrete strategies you can use to help your children and staff to be as safe as possible. Sit back and enjoy the rest of the show.
Gail: Always great to hear directly from the Office of Head Start. That was a special treat for us on Teacher Time. Neal, I'm going to turn it over to you to talk a little bit about this slide here.
Neal: I'll start, but this is really – As much as I like cheese, it's a really good example, Gail. I like that you've turned it to me, because this is – instead of me panicking and saying I know mental health, this is something that I've learned over the last couple of years, and we certainly practice this in our center, is really the integration of health and behavioral health. I'm going to have Nancy really walk through all this, but one of the things that I've really learned is about mitigation strategies. I'll probably spend most of the time today talking about mitigation strategies as they relate to, what can we do in a classroom related to children, their behavior, their emotions, and things like that? This is a great example, I think, of – I love that you turned it to me. I'm going to turn to Nancy because I'm starting to panic, but Nancy will get – I'll get something wrong, but I think it's a great – a great piece for folks to really pay attention to, because that mitigation is really what we talk about when we talk about use of masks. Nancy?
Nancy: Thanks, Neal, we love this particular model we call the Swiss Cheese COVID-19 Risk Reduction Model. That's quite a mouthful, right? Because even though the focus of this special Teacher Time today is about the importance of wearing masks, which is very important in terms of protecting yourself and the people around you, really what our center has been saying since the beginning of the pandemic is that the best way to protect yourself and reduce the risk of those respiratory droplets and aerosols with COVID-19 for making someone ill, yourself or someone else, is to use multiple risk reduction strategies at the same time.
Each of the slices of cheese represents one of those strategies: wearing a mask, staying home when sick, distancing, et cetera. Some viruses may pass through the holes in each slice, but when you stack them all together, you get a layered approach, which offers the best protection. Because you can see, on the far right, that each time the droplets go through a slice, fewer and fewer make it through, and the person on the other side is going to be better protected. That's why we really advocate that you use this layered approach, because it offers the best protection.
Now, I'm going to talk a little bit about mask wearing for adults. We always talk about putting on your own mask and then putting on other people’s, so we're going to start with wearing a mask yourself. Here, you can see that the most important message is that you wear the mask correctly, and you wear it all the time. When you do that, you're going to protect yourself, and you're going to protect the people around you. You've heard that we want to wear a mask when we're indoors, in public spaces, and when we talk about wearing a mask correctly, what it means is that it covers your mouth, it covers your nose, and it covers your chin. And it fits snugly against the sides of your face, so it doesn't have gaps, and nothing is going to be able to get through. That really is the best protection, so it only works if you wear it. You need to be able to make sure that you're covering your mouth, nose, and chin, that it's snug and it fits properly, and you wear it as much of the time as possible, hopefully all the time, because that offers the best protection.
That's what we talk about for adults, and here is what we talk about for children. Children older than 2 wear a mask when they're in any Head Start setting. Again, the most important thing for kids is that the masks fit properly. We have heard that some people say, "Well, I don't know how to find a mask small enough for small kids' faces," but there are resources. You can look at your resource guide for some of the ones that we've provided, which – there's a really great resource, Project N95, that's a clearinghouse for where to find masks. Check that out when you get a chance. Just like with adults, you want to make sure, for children, that the mask fits snugly over a child's nose and mouth and under the chin, and that there are no gaps around the sides. We know that it's never appropriate to put a mask on children younger than age 2, because they're not designed for young children, for whom a mask would be possibly a suffocation hazard.
When do you not wear a mask? Not when children are eating, drinking, napping or, goes without saying, right, brushing teeth. There are a few children who may have a special health care need, and their health care provider may advise the family, and the family then would advise you that their child should use an alternative face covering. If there are any children, and this is actually true for adults too, who cannot safely wear a mask because of a disability, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, those are the exceptions for when not to wear a mask.
I think maybe this is you, Gail?
Gail: Yeah, we're just going to watch – we asked some of our Teacher Time viewers to tell us how they support young children wearing masks, so we're just going to watch a quick little video of them doing that.
Marla Evans: We're just going to reteach mask-wearing with pictures and stories and encouragement and having masks for kids to play with the baby dolls or whatnot. My classroom, I had lots of visuals of young people wearing masks. I had a story that I would read to them, here is an example of it. We just – I got us "Wearing a Mask to School," and I read this to them. Throughout the day, we would do a lot of thumbs-up for wearing a mask and "Good job.” And we would earn – we always would earn warm fuzzies or stars as a class, always as a team.
Pam Keenan: We made a schedule. So we had a schedule – when you came in the door, you had to put on your mask while you put away your coat. And you wore your mask until it was breakfast. And you could eat breakfast, and then you'd put your mask on after you washed your hands and face. We really – we had specific times. We really were schedule-driven.
Ryan Barbee: A tool that my team used was a book about why monsters wear masks. It was a really cute little monster that was on each page. It would have the monster wearing a mask in some inappropriate ways, so it got the children really engaged, but it was able to allow us to start the conversation about why we might need to wear masks and how to wear a mask properly.
Lauren Pittis: During the summer, I developed this funny physical reminder, where I would just be like [Gestures raising mask] when kids' masks fall down, because they have a hard time keeping them over their nose. We would just be like, "Oh, nose," or [Gestures raising mask again] so that they can remember to slide it back on. I find myself talking with my eyebrows a lot, and really opening my eyes and using my voice in the most expressive way possible!
Gail: Those were great strategies. It's hard to follow that teacher. She's so dynamic. I'm trying to think of special noises and things we can do right now. Some of those strategies that she talked about, we're going – we're going to take some of those, and we're going to talk about them a little bit more here. X We're going to – in this section, we want to talk about some practical strategies for preparing children to wear masks. For some of you, you have been wearing masks for almost 2 years now, but we know that for some of our viewers, they might just now be starting to wear some masks in their programs and support children to wear masks in their program. We hope that we have some tips that are good reminders. For some of you that are new to this, we're hoping that these are some new strategies that you might find helpful for continued and correct mask wearing or introducing mask wearing. I'm going to – we're going to talk about all these things – explanation, modeling, visual supports, video-based instruction, rules, schedules. To get us started, I'm going to send it over to you, Neal.
Neal: Whoopa. I'm just trying to think of noises to make, Gail.
Gail: I know. You're going to be all the hour.
Neal: It's the best I can do. Although, I will say, just to – as sort of an opener to all this, when she was talking, it reminded me of some work that I've done with certain cultures that don't talk very much in meetings. They use their eyebrows all the time, and when I would do phone calls with them, it was very challenging. But in person, you really could see that while the mask may make it more challenging, potentially, for some, as she explained, she uses her eyes a lot more now, and I thought it was great.
Speaking of explaining, when we talk to children about this, a couple things that I always think about is about honesty. I mean, I won't tell anybody Peter Parker is Spider-Man, but in general, I think being honest with children is really important. I think that as it relates to explaining to children, it's really something we want to keep positive. I love, as those teachers explained, we just incorporated it. Their explanations were with visuals, with social stories, with [Gestures raising mask] kinds of things. I think that might be a new noise, Gail. Making a positive. We are wearing our masks to keep ourselves and other people safe. That's great. If you want to get into some of this, some children really want to know. They want that explanation. “Why do we have to wear a mask?” It seems young children sometimes ask lots of questions. Let's be honest. Let's answer those questions. Perhaps that explanation can help to put everybody on the same level of, "Oh, OK, that makes sense.” That's one thing that we want to think about as we talk about this.
Let's talk about modeling. You want to take this one?
Gail: [Indistinct] . You keep – or Nancy. Sure, jump in.
Neal: Nancy’s good at this.
Nancy: This is not going to surprise anyone, to hear me say that it's easier for children to learn new behaviors, such as wearing a mask, when the adults who care for them model the behavior that they want children to learn, right? It's no different for masks than for anything else that you're trying to teach young children. That's why we think, Neal and I think about mask wearing very much as an emerging skill, which is probably how you think about it too. You can help children learn how to wear a mask consistently, because that keeps you healthy and safe, by showing them that you wear your mask and show them how to position it properly so it fits in the ways that we've described. Really, that's one of the ways – that's the best way for adults to make sure that we're modeling the behavior we want to teach. When Amanda said we know that children can learn how to wear masks successfully, that's a big part of the strategy, I think, to help kids be successful.
I love these pictures, because here you can see that children are learning with their friends, whether it's a snowman friend, or it's a cute little teddy bear, or some other kind of special comforting friend. Kids can learn by watching you, but they can also learn by playing, right, and having the kids have an opportunity to play. It's playful, so you're making it fun.
The most important thing we've learned for children, and I would say for adults too, is that the mask needs to be comfortable. No one wants to wear something that doesn't fit and feels yucky on your face. If you can help families to pick out a mask that is most comfortable for a child, that's the mask that they're going to be more likely to wear all of the time. Then, when they do it, keep it playful and give them positive feedback about what a good job they're doing. Play is a great time to practice and pretend and learn new skills.
Who's going to take this one?
Gail: I think Neal's going to talk about visual support.
Neal: What's interesting to me is, I don't know that anything we're talking about yet is anything different than you all have talked about on Teacher Time forever. We explain things to children.
Neal: We do modeling. We use visual supports. This is a great example of just sort of tuning that to a particular learning opportunity within your – within your – visiting within your classrooms and your programs. Those visual supports, as you see here, are things like the picture that shows a young child with that explanation, incorporating that explanation. Having these good visuals – and Nancy certainly will tell you about the difference between when you're going to put your mask in that brown bag with your name on it, perhaps during one of those times where you fold it over and you put it in the bag and then you have your meal, versus at the end when you may throw away a mask, particularly if we are talking about disposable masks versus masks that we can wash. Again, this is all incorporated into the kinds of things that you are likely doing, as faithful viewers of [inaudible] likely doing all the time, and you just get to incorporate it. I'm going to let Gail talk about this, because I know in that other video we heard about monsters wearing masks. We might as well just use it as a segue, Gail.
Gail: That's right. Exactly, Neal, too. These are things – these are not new teaching strategies. These are the strategies we use to teach children all kinds of new skills, and they also happen to work for teaching young children how to wear masks. We have those visuals, the static visuals we might put up around the room. People can find some of those in the Viewer's Guide, that's exciting. But also, video-based instruction. We know that children can learn new skills from watching some videos and having an adult there to help re-emphasize and pick out what's important there. There is a link in your Viewer's Guide to some of the Sesame in Community videos that are there to help support young children with mask wearing, and I think that is very exciting and fun.
Now, we're going to talk about rules, and I'm going to talk about this one too. Same thing. Not anything new in terms of things that we've presented on Teacher Time before, but here you see that we are incorporating mask wearing as one of the classroom rules. Rules are there to help keep ourselves safe, help keep others safe, help keep our materials safe so that we can all learn together. And we know that when we're posting rules in a positive way – showing what we want children to do and to continue doing versus what we don't want them to do – we always want to make sure that rules are posted, that they're clear, that they're stated positively, and that we also encourage and reinforce and reward. We never ever punish children, especially around – well ever, but especially around – not mask wearing. We just wanted to make sure to say that, because we know that we – a lot of people we have heard from are very concerned about what would happen if there was a monitoring visit, or their supervisor was in their room, and a young child was not wearing a mask or not wearing it correctly. Some people are really concerned about that. We want everyone to know that monitors know, that supervisors know that learning to wear a mask correctly and continuously is a learned skill, and no one is going to be surprised if a child is having difficulty with wearing a mask correctly and continuously. We want to see that some of these strategies are in place to help teach children to wear masks and support children to wear masks and reinforce them to wear masks. Again, posting the classroom rules and incorporating mask-wearing as one of the classroom rules might be one of those supportive strategies.
Neal, do you want to talk about schedules?
Neal: Sure. Again, I think if you are running the kind of classroom or program that we hope you are, you have a schedule. You're incorporating this into what you're doing, and we know that for young children – and quite honestly for anyone, for me, knowing when we were going to do this was helpful – a predictable schedule is always helpful, and super helpful to support young children. In our schedule, can we add something in there that says, “This is when masks need to be on, when they need to be off?” We have our visual supports that we talked about, that you have in that Resource Guide. If we can look in your Viewer's Guide about those visual supports, when they can be on and off, incorporate that into your schedule. Great opportunity to just make this part of the routine so that children come to view it as, “Oh, we have our mask on.” “Oh, we're eating, we take them off. Here is what we do when we take them off.” This is what is going to make the day go so much smoother.
Gail: I love it. And, Nancy, please tell us how – tell us about mask hygiene.
Nancy: I get all the fun parts.
Neal: Things I never thought I'd have to say, "Nancy, please tell me about mask hygiene.”
Nancy: Well, here I am to grant your every wish, right? We want – we know that COVID-19 is spread by respiratory droplets, but we also know that it's important for masks to be clean, which is why we need to talk about hygiene. This is not a surprise, but it starts with washing your hands, or if you're outside where you don't have running water, then you would use a hand sanitizer before taking off or putting on your mask. This is one that we get lots of comments about – try not to touch the mask when wearing it, because the more times you touch your mask, the more times you have an opportunity to unsettle it, so it's not fitting properly Although, you should adjust it if you feel like it's slipping down. And not touch the inside of the mask, the part that's closest to your face. If you're wearing a cloth mask, you should launder it and wear a clean one. If you're wearing disposable, get a new mask every day. If you are wearing a mask that is wet or dirty – people sneeze, people cough – if it gets wet or soiled in any way, you should not wear it. You should get rid of it and get a clean one. Just like we have extra diapers around, we're going to need an extra supply of masks, so that we can change them when we need to.
Same thing for children. Often, children will want you, as an adult, to help them, but they also may be comfortable putting the mask on themselves, so we want their hands to be clean as well. We do encourage children not to touch the mask when wearing it, but let's be real, children are going to touch their masks. Just like Gail said, you don't want to reprimand a child for not wanting to wear a mask. I want to be clear that we're not expecting you to tell children, "Don't touch your mask. Don't touch your mask," because they're going touch their mask. But I think, in general, we're trying to give the message that it's better not to touch the mask. Then when children get comfortable with wearing a mask, and it becomes part of what they're wearing, I think it may work out that they're less likely to touch it. Same – same rules. You'll see that the rules for kids and the rules for adults are pretty similar. You want to use a clean or new mask every day and have extra masks available, so if a mask gets soiled, children don't have to wear it.
There is a strategy for how to handle masks. Depending on how it's secured, you want to untie the strings behind a child's head. You can stretch the ear loops, so it fits over the ears easily. It's – the best way to handle a mask is trying to touch the ear loops or the ties rather than the mask itself. Then, when – Neal or Gail, I can't remember now who talked about this, you take – I think it was Neal – you take the mask off, you want to fold it, so you're not touching the inside of the mask that was closest to the child's face. Especially not to touch a child's eyes, nose or mouth when you're taking off their mask, if you're helping them. Before and after handling masks, always wash your hands or, again, use a hand sanitizer if you're outside or don't have access to running water.
If you are using cloth masks, then they are washable, and that's the advantage to them as long as there are multiple layers, not a single layer of cloth. You can wash them, and hopefully you have a washer/dryer in your program, so that it makes it easier to wash a cloth mask, just like you do children's bedding. If the mask is wet or dirty, then keep it in a sealed plastic bag until you can wash it. If you need to temporarily store a mask, then we recommend, at the Health, Behavioral Health and Safety Center, that you keep it in a dry, breathable bag to keep it clean between uses, and that you label the bag, so you know which mask belongs to which person. Those are the best practices.
Neal, let's talk about sensitivity around the ears.
Neal: Why are you saying that to me? I'm just joking. I'm not that sensitive. I think this is a great example of where we want to start to think about that, just because we've done such a nice job of laying it all out, doesn't mean that every child or adult is not going to want to say, "I don't like the way this feels," need some accommodations, may actually have sensory issues, things like that. If somebody's bothered by those, let's look at some of the accommodations. You can see here in these photos, both sort of practical, but also really creative solutions, which I love. Special tools. There's headbands, there's hats, buttons for the mask to loop onto. I love the one here from Barrel of Monkeys. Barrel of Monkeys? Monkey in a barrel? Now I don't even remember what it's called. I just know it has monkeys involved, which has to make it fun, and it's a barrel of fun. I'm going to say Barrel of Monkeys. I love the creativity of this, in which we take that as the way to loop this onto, so as to avoid that ear sensitivity. It'd be great to hear some of your suggestions. You can throw them in the Q&A about adaptations you've made, that you've seen people make.
Nancy: Neal, one of the other things I was thinking about that I didn't say when I was talking about children touching masks is, if a child is really touching a mask a lot, maybe it doesn't feel good on their face and it doesn't fit properly. Maybe a different mask made out of different material, or a slightly different cut might fit better. That's something that you can talk to families about, or if you have a supply of masks. I don't know whether programs are stocking up or asking families to have different kinds of masks that children wear at home that'd work best for them, but that might be a factor in children touching. That would be something you could figure out by chatting with families.
Neal: Awesome. I'm going to keep going, Nancy, because I know that we've gotten lots of questions about serving meals safely.
Nancy: We have indeed. Here we go. When we're eating – and it is OK to eat now family-style – we get the table ready and keep masks on until children are adults are seated and they're ready to eat. We want to set – set up everything ahead of time with the dishes, and the pitchers and the utensils, so when we're having people start to eat and take, that's the time to take their masks off. That's because we really want to maximize mask use, except for when children are eating, drinking, or brushing teeth. One of the strategies in thinking about physical distancing, which is one of those layered strategies we were talking about when we looked at the Swiss cheese, is sitting children farther apart, or having children facing one direction. It's actually better if children are sitting next to each other than across from each other in terms of inhalation. Provide as much fresh air as possible. If it's possible, and you're in a really nice climate, you can eat outside, which is also a possibility. We're having a blizzard here where I am today, so that would not be an option. Again, washing hands prior to and immediately after eating, and then cleaning and sanitizing food surfaces before and after meals.
Gail, I think they're all common-sense strategies, and they are incorporating what we know from that risk reduction model in serving meals safely. It shouldn't be a concern for folks, that it's not going to be unsafe for folks…
Nancy: …During the time they serve meals.
Gail: I love that. We know that you get a lot of questions about this, so questions are coming in right now about that. Just for all of our viewers to know, we will be answering these questions as quickly as we can today, and if we don't get to them, we will be sure to answer them in MyPeers. Nancy, you also have a little place where people can e-mail some questions if they come to those questions afterwards. Can you tell us what that e-mail is? We're going to also put it in the Q&A for folks.
Nancy: I would love to do that, and we have a wonderful guy who prides himself on answering right away.
Gail: I love that.
Nancy: There isn't a long wait. It's firstname.lastname@example.org, and we're happy to answer your questions.
Nancy: We have a lot to talk about today, but if you have a question, jot it down. If it's a question that's better suited for us than for DTL, then please write to us, we're happy to answer.
Gail: I love that. I just wanted to say that right then, because I know that so many questions around the mealtime piece, so wanted to get that in. We're going to keep going along. So much information we're trying to pack in our one session today. In addition to the support strategies that we talked about that are meant to prepare children for mask-wearing, like the visual supports, the explanations, modeling, schedules, I love that Nancy talked about involving families and helping find the right mask that a child would feel comfortable wearing. I can even imagine programs, that if they have stocked up on some different types of masks, maybe they send a few home before a child starts for a family to try on and say, "Oh, yeah, this is the one that works best for this child.” All those things to help prepare children to wear.
We also have some tried and true teaching practices that can help children who are having, maybe, some difficulty following the mask-wearing rules. Again, we know that this is a learned behavior, and that it will take some time to help young children learn to wear masks correctly and continuously. We're going to go over some of these teaching practices, such as choice-making, first-then, redirection, reinforcing types of behaviors strategies. I'm going to start by saying, Neal, do you want to cover choice-making, or do you want me to cover choice-making?
Neal: I will cover choice-making.
Gail: Wise choice.
Neal: I'm so honored that I got the choice. The reason I want to is because it talks about superheroes, so it's the closest I'm ever going to get.
Gail: Of course.
Neal: I think there's – as we've been saying, a lot of this is just the kinds of things that you do as part of your good practice, but giving children choices lets them have some control. It may even help for those children who are experiencing some anxiety. We quell that just a little bit by giving them a choice. Do you want to wear Miles Morales or the Black Panther? We have – in the next piece here, you see an adult providing a child with a choice menu, so we have a way of doing that visually. Those choices are always super important. “Do you want to put your mask on by yourself, or would you like for me to help you?” Great example of a simple statement. We're not saying we're going to get in a long, protracted discussion. We're just giving that choice, which is a great teaching strategy.
Gail: I love it.
Neal: Gail, would you like to take first-then?
Gail: I would.
Neal: There you go.
Gail: I already was jumping there. I didn't even wait for the choice.
Neal: There you go. Good choice.
Gail: I'm going to talk about first-then. It's another really helpful teaching practice that we use for lots of things. Here we could say things like, first mask, then play. First mask, then school. But we also have some visual supports here that can help us with the first-then, we call these first-then charts. We have some of those in the Viewer's Guide for you today. Maybe it is, “First we have to wait, then we get our COVID test, then we get a treat.” I know a lot of children and families are needing to get those tests done, and if a child is having a difficult time following that routine, it might be helpful visually to see that. “First, we're going to wait, then we're going to get a test, then we're going to get a treat.”
Then, you see it on the other one, that it is just like we were talking about for mealtime. “First, you're going to put your mask away to save for next time, then you're going to eat the food.” That first-then part, it's just a really helpful strategy, and it's always very helpful to have it in a visual format, too, for a child that might be not processing the language piece as easily. I also want to say that I actually like – just my personal preference here, I really like first-then boards that go left to right, because it models that early reading too, so I like that. Just a little tip from me.
How about redirection? You want me to do that? You want to do it?
Neal: I got you.
Neal: I think this is a good one, because we're talking about the idea of, we don't want to make this into a struggle or big thing. That doesn't mean that we don't want to give some sort of direction, and sometimes some redirection here. Sometimes, children do need a little bit of redirection, and I think it can be a gentle reminder, little verbal reminder, or you could use proximal attention. You can say – those children close to the child, who you maybe are trying to get redirected, "I really like Sheely has her mask on. Jake has his mask on.” Cause the other child to look around and go, "Oh, yeah. I need to put my mask on.” We could certainly use some of these sorts of strategies, and having lots of different strategies would be super helpful for you.
I'll keep going, or you –
Gail: Take it away.
Neal: I'll keep going.
Gail: Take it away.
Neal: It might be a new skill for some children, so we want to reinforce it. Here we have our punch cards. We can have a safe lanyard on string, so it's not a choking hazard, or we can have it on a table for children. A little punch card, so every time that they're doing that, as they're learning, we can help remind them, "Great job.” We have that nice visual reminder of how often they're doing the skill that we're trying to help them learn. Then when they get it completely punched, when all those are filled out, maybe they get a turn for a special treat. That treat menu, as you all know, can be simple things. Extra play, those kinds of things. Maybe there's a certificate. We've got some superhero theme that I'm not sure that I was supposed to make into a superhero theme, but I love it. But here is “Superheroes Wear Masks.” We have a little visual jar we can put – all different kinds of ways in which you're reinforcing a skill, which can be super helpful as children are learning that new skill. Gail, I will this time actually not give you a choice and just turn it to you.
Gail: I'm going to turn it to Nancy, because we're going to talk about preparing for home visiting and mask-wearing.
Neal: Oh, right. Yeah, good.
Gail: I know she's got some things to say.
Nancy: We want to think about all program options, including home visiting and mask wearing. When you're going to go out for your home visit, it's great to check in with the family ahead of time. You may be doing that anyway about other things, but now it's an opportunity to include mask-wearing as part of your conversation. You would want to contact the family in their preferred language in advance of the visit and talk about what to expect, that you're going to be wearing a mask, you would like them to be wearing a mask. Maybe they don't have a mask, and you might want to bring them a mask, so that you have a supply of new, clean masks on every visit for adults and children, so that you're modeling, again, not just for children now, but for families, that you're keeping yourself safe and you're keeping them safe. You may need to explain, depending upon what their own practices and orientation are, why it's so important to wear a mask. You can show them the Swiss cheese. I don't think I told you before that it's available in English and Spanish, although I know families in Head Start and Early Head Start speak many languages, but it is available. It's even a visual you can take with you if you wanted to print it and bring it to a home visit. You can wear an unmasked and smiling photo as a button or on a lanyard. Again, the visual cueing that we do.
I'm just going to put in a plug here, Gail, for saying it's also important, I think, when you call and check in with the family, to ask if anyone – how are they feeling? Thinking about that layered risk reduction approach, has anyone been ill? You want to check for the symptoms of COVID. Do they have a known exposure? Because if so, then it's best practice to – and safest to reschedule that home visit.
Gail: I love that. I love the Swiss cheese model because it's also really – it's so visual. I know you've translated it into – it’s in English and in Spanish, but I love – it's so visual. It seems like just providing it as a visual is supportive for families. Also, if people have some great ideas of how they have been thinking about supporting mask-wearing during home visiting, we want you to enter those in the Q&A. When you enter it in, our Q&A staff are working right now behind-the-scenes, and they'll start sending some of those out too when you're entering an idea, so we can start sharing some ideas.
Now, like we said, in our session today, we're also going to get to fostering emotional literacy. We have had many people express concerns about how to teach social-emotional skills while mask-wearing. In a lot of ways – I mean, I know it feels like a big change, but in a lot of ways, we can do some of the same strategies we've done before to teach emotional literacy. We just want to remind people of what those tips and tricks are. We're going to talk today about teaching and building emotional vocabulary, some specific ways to do that throughout the day. We're going to talk about the ways we can use gestures, signs, sign language, pictures. We're going to teach children how to be feeling detectives and all the multiple cues that they can pick up on, that they might need to use extra cues today when people are all covered in masks. Then we're also going to remind people of a tried and true strategy for teaching children to handle some of the big feelings that they might be having. Neal and Nancy and I are going to tag team this.
I'm going to start off by just reminding us how important it is for young children to be taught emotional vocabulary, to get a name for how it is that they're feeling. Because that's one of the first steps to being able to regulate those big feelings, is being able to name it. Some people say you've got to name it to tame it. We really want to build young children's emotional vocabulary, and we can teach that with masks on too. We're talking about building more words for expressing the way that they're feeling. You can do that in a really – a direct way. You can take circle time every day to introduce a new feeling word. You can show pictures of how somebody might be feeling, that's some of the photos here. The little drawings here talk about how that person might be feeling. Talk about how a time they might have felt that way. We can label our own feelings throughout the day, very important. We can have – we can talk about times that we think children might be feeling different ways. Throughout the day, adding up all those feeling words. And I have to say that I think that – I know I did as a teacher – I thought I was just using emotion words all day long. I thought that was my thing. I know that I teach a lot of teachers, and they also feel like they're using a lot of emotion words during the day. Sometimes I have them do a little experiment and watch a video of themselves teaching, and they see that, wow, they don't use as many as they thought that they were using. I think some of the visual cues we talk about are also really helpful for teachers, to remind teachers throughout the day to be building that emotional vocabulary.
We want to teach emotion words. One way is taking a different word every day or every week, and showing children a picture of it, asking them how they feel that way, making sure that we're labeling our emotions throughout the day. But we can also use books, so, Neal, why don't you talk about that?
Neal: I think, Gail, it just – it was interesting, I just put my hand up on the screen to cover the face of those feeling faces, and I thought, "Well, that'd be a fun game to play with children. If I just cover the bottom, could they still start to talk about those different emotions?” I figured it out, so I'm sure they can too.
Gail: OK, great. We're going to talk about some of those games later on, so I love that you were already there doing that.
Neal: I'm just keeping myself entertained.
Gail: I was wondering what you were doing. That's great.
Neal: Keeping myself entertained. I also think that we often times, and we talk a lot about literacy, these are all kinds of books that folks could be using to be talking about – directly talking about – obviously, any book that you read, you can bring in the emotional piece, but these are very directly talking about those. These are just a few, these are not an [Inaudible] list, but here is some good examples for you to use if you want to with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers about emotion, so a great strategy for you to use.
Gail: Yes, we –
Neal: Go ahead.
Gail: That's great. People, write in your favorite feeling books you're reading right now. Put those in the Q&A, and we'll make sure to send those out. In particular, we're really wanting to grow a resource list of feeling books that are by diverse authors, in multiple languages. Please send those in. Fill us up, so that we can send those back out to you.
Another great way to teach and build children's emotional vocabulary is by having them check in, in the day, about their feelings. This becomes even more important when we have children that are coming in with masks on their face, and we might not be able to tell, and parents that are coming in with masks. We might need to be our feeling detectives to find out. But if we have children come in, and they check in and tell us how they're feeling. Maybe they're moving their name next to a feeling word or feeling face. You can see on the right-hand side, there's quadrants of feelings, like the red feelings, yellow feelings, blue feelings, green feelings. Children are sorting into that by just – it's a felt board, they're putting their little Velcro names on there. We have the feeling photo booth. That's always a fun little activity to do, and children just hold up either a picture or the word of how they're feeling that day. I love that little youngster doing that. We see some emojis that are written in different languages underneath. That's just a reminder, I think, a really important reminder that when you're building up children's emotional vocabulary, you want to be building it in multiple languages – in English, in their home language that they're using – so that they're not just learning emotional vocabulary words in one language, but in multiple.
Here are some other examples of how children can check in. Maybe there's a chart, and they just point to it in the morning. Again, I love the picture on the right that has multiple languages written for different feeling faces. You can always use children in your classroom as great visual props for how they're feeling, too, in terms of their pictures. I really love this next one – so it's both about checking in, but it's also about building emotional literacy along the way. This teacher has a check-in that says, "Which of these children look excited?” When children come in, they're actually – they're putting a little marker next to which child they think looks excited. She's working on the emotional ID when children are checking in, but then she also asks a question, “What makes you feel excited?” And either the family is dictating that for the child as they're checking in, or that teacher is doing that, and I love that.
Now, we're going to talk about being a feeling detective – paying attention to how someone looks, how someone sounds, what happens. I'm just going to – along the lines of that game, Neal, I'm going to take this one step further. I'm going to say that when we're teaching children to be feeling detectives, we're teaching them to pay attention to how somebody looks. And often times, if you say, "How you do know how someone's feeling? What cues do you look for in someone's face?” Most everyone first says the mouth, right? Whether the mouth is turning up or turning down, and that is absolutely one of the really good cues. But there's another great cue for how somebody might look, and it might be that people say their eyes, right? We hear a lot about smizing, about eyes, but I'm going to say there's one other thing, so this is a little interactive part.
Teacher Time viewers, if you have a piece of paper in front of you, I want you to draw some faces that look just like this on a piece of paper. Two smiley faces and two frowny faces, that mouth is being turned down. As you can see, the eyes might not be giving us as much of a cue here, but now what I want you to do is draw on some eyebrows. I think on that first one, you can draw some eyebrows that go out. And on the next smiley one – let's see if I can do this even. And then on the next smiley one – let's see if I drew some eyebrows that went out. And on the next smiley one, draw some eyebrows that go in. That really changes how that face might be feeling. I think we're not feeling so happy anymore. You can do the same thing. I want to do this all day long. You can do the same one down below.
Wow, that really changes what that feeling might be. Neal, what do you think that feeling face might be?
Gail: It's a test. Yeah, good. Oh, uh-oh, what face is this?
Neal: I’m nervous.
Gail: That's pretty fun, but that's all to say that paying attention to eyebrows is the other place that we want children to cue into. What a great natural experiment we have going, because children might have a mask on, and we can get them to be really great feeling detectives looking at those eyebrows.
You want to take this part away, paying attention to how someone looks and sounds?
Neal: Sure. I think in addition to those – I'm still freaked out that I might have gotten the answer wrong about the eyebrows, and now I'm just – all I'm doing is I'm watching your eyebrows to see if they're up, like "Good job, Neal.” In addition –
Gail: You're good.
Neal: I also think that we want to listen to how people sound, right? We talked a little bit about we can teach this with a mask on. We can talk about not looking at the mouth but look at the eyebrows. But also, is somebody laughing? What do you thinking laughing means versus if somebody is crying? What does crying mean? Helping those burgeoning detective skills start to pull together lots of different things about the scene, and say, "Oh, well, their eyebrows sort of indicate this. I'm hearing this. I'm going to put this together and say I think the person is feeling X.” This is all about building that emotional literacy, so I think it's a great opportunity for children.
Gail: I love it. We're going to pay attention to how someone looks, we're going to pay attention to how someone sounds.
I'm just looking at our time, we got to go pretty quickly. This is another really fun thing to do to help children pay attention to how – to pay attention to situational cues as another way to build emotional literacy. These are called Feeling Detective Storyboards, and I'm going to say that there is information about these in your Viewer's Guide. It's a really cool way, it's paper dolls that don't have the faces on them, and you have two of them. You tell a story, and then have children put the faces on that they think are going to happen. It's a great way to build perspective taking and empathy. We actually have some of these available for you in the Viewer's Guide, some links to where you can find them. It's a great activity to do with children, but we really want to get to how we can help children handle those big feelings.
Take it away, Neal, Turtle Technique.
Neal: I just noticed that Tucker actually has eyebrows, which makes me be able to read his emotions in this instance.
We talk a lot about this. With your mask on, you can still be talking about the Turtle Technique: about something happens, it causes to feel a certain way, you stop, you go inside your shell, you count to three, you think of a more positive, you know, positive solution that you can do. You can be doing this with your mask on as well, as you see here. Breathe, one, two, three. I can calm down. That's the idea that Tucker has got. Mask on, mask off, you're still using the same problem-solving technique.
Gail: I feel like – I've got –
Neal: Oh, perfect.
Gail: I've got Tucker here with a mask on, not properly fitting, but we do need to get some little turtle-sized masks, I think.
Neal: I like that idea.
Gail: We're going to move really quickly. Thanks, everyone, for hanging with us. We want to talk about, in our segment today, small change, big impact, about how we can support children who might not be able to wear masks or are having some difficulty wearing some masks. Not that they're not able to wear masks, but they are having some difficulty wearing masks. I'm going to tell you that one of our strategies is using social stories, and I'm going to tell you that that we have a great video that our colleague Jennifer Fung videotaped. It's over in MyPeers, so make sure to go watch it. Six minutes long, takes you through all you need to know about how to use social stories to help support a child wearing a mask. Here is some social stories that are for an individual child. You can do a fun social story for the whole classroom. Here is one that we've seen a teacher use, called "If You Give a Mouse a Mask,” it's really great. Make sure you go to MyPeers and watch how you do that social stories intervention.
I'm going to quickly go through our bookcase today. We always have a bookcase section, and it is filled with books that can help support and reinforce the strategies that we're talking about in Teacher Time today. When we talk about the bookcase, we like to make the case for the books – that is that we want to select books really intentionally and think about, how does that book connect to the learning? How does that book give increased advanced vocabulary for a young child? How can we think about how to support active engagement while we're reading it, and how can we extend some learning beyond the book when we're done with the book? Here are so many books. There are – it's incredible how many books have already been written about young children wearing masks. You can check all of those out in the Viewer's Guide, and in particular, we wanted to highlight and make the case for Elmo. He's getting so much attention right now. If you're on TikTok, you know that Elmo is all over there. This is "Heroes Wear Masks: Elmo's Super Adventure.” You want to talk a little about it, Neal?
Neal: I think there's a great piece here, as we talked about earlier, in terms of Sesame Street in Communities, a great partner for us in our Head Start work for all of us. This particular piece – what we love about it is really about the belly breathing, about this idea that it's about heroes – again, we're back to superheroes. I think this is a great example of that – using that literature to really drive home the point that we've been talking about for all the other strategies.
Gail: I love this book, it is great. Has so many great vocabulary words. I highly encourage people to check it out.
And before we end today, we also – it's all about you. We do our best teaching and supporting young children when we are feeling healthy and well and supported ourselves, and we know that people can be really stressed out during this time. Teaching young children is always sometimes a stressful event, so we want to give you some tips and tricks to help support you.
Do you want to talk about this, Neal, or do you want me to talk about this? Your choice.
Neal: I'm going to let you talk about it, because I can feel us driving towards the end, and I know you want to take it all home, so you go ahead, Gail.
Gail: Thank you so much. We just want to say that wearing a mask all day can be challenging. You're having to talk a little bit louder, you're having to be a little bit more expressive, so we know that you could use a break when you're wearing masks. We always want you to be safe, so when you're around others in your Head Start program, in your Early Head Start program, we want you to be wearing your masks, but we also want you to think about how can you intentionally build in breaks. Here is an example of a staff schedule, and a staff schedule can be very helpful for a lot of reasons. We have some Viewer's Guide support for you to think about building your own schedule. But the point we want to make here is that it might be helpful if you think of a staff schedule, what each teacher is going to do, what the teacher assistant is going to do during the day, and maybe what that volunteer/aide/floater/support person is going to do. If you only have two people in your room, what does that look like? What does it look like if you're a family childcare provider? We have some examples of things like that, that you can find over in MyPeers. But the idea here is that when – is for you to identify, when are you going to get a break, take your mask off for a little while? Here, you see we've written the breaks in red, so you're going to get a break when you're eating with young children, and we have all of those strategies that Nancy told us about. Remember to also write in questions that you have about that. But we also want you to be able to see, here is the outside time, so teacher A is going to stay inside, sanitize tables, prep for their circle time, small group tables, all of that stuff. If they are in the room alone, nobody else is in there, they could maybe take a break with their mask for a little bit. Then, during circle time, teacher B is going to take a break. If you are going outside, if you're not with another – not in the vicinity of adults or children, take a break, take your mask off. We just want you to think about, when can you build those breaks in, in a safe way, in accordance to the best guidance. Just making sure that you see a break, and that will help you.
We've had lots of questions, lots of answers throughout our time. We've been seeing them flying in, we've been seeing some answers going out. If you didn't get your question answered, you're going to find it over in MyPeers. Remember we're going to also put in the chat right now, or in the Q&A, that e-mail that Nancy told you about, where you can get some additional answers answered. If you missed a webinar, don't worry. If you want to watch this one again – I know you will want to. That's just – there's no question that this is going to be on repeat. If you want to watch it again, you can find all of our Teacher Time episodes in Push Play DTL On Demand. We want to make sure that you get your certificate of attendance, but more importantly, we want you to complete the session evaluation, so you can give us some feedback here. Finally, join our next episode March 3rd. We're going to be talking about Initiative and Curiosity for Preschoolers. You can see all the future things here. Maybe we'll get Nancy and Neal back for any one of those because it's been so fabulous. I just want to take this time to thank our producer Ryan and Craig Corbin, who wrote our Teacher Time jingle people heard in the wait room.
Nancy and Neal, thank you so much for being here with us.
Nancy: Thanks for having us, it was a lot of fun. We'll be back anytime you want to extend an invitation.
Neal: I can't come back, because I'm going to be watching this over and over again.
Gail: Thanks to everyone, and we'll – stay safe, and we'll see you again.
Nancy: Take care, everybody.Close
Join us for a special episode of Teacher Time to support the masking requirement in the Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS). This episode focuses on strategies you can use to promote mask-wearing among children and adults in your programs.
Note: The evaluation, certificate, and engagement tools mentioned in the video were for the participants of the live webinar and are no longer available. For information about webinars that will be broadcast live soon, visit the Upcoming Events section.