Participation in outdoor activities during colder weather is possible. Outdoor play can be enjoyable when children and staff dress appropriately. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers this advice:
Adults and children should wear:
   •  a hat
   •  a scarf or knit mask to cover face and mouth
   •  sleeves that are snug at the wrist
   •  mittens (they are warmer than gloves)
   •  water-resistant coat and boots
   •  several layers of loose-fitting clothing

   •  Inner Layer: Wear fabrics that will hold more body heat and don’t absorb moisture. Wool, silk, or polypropylene will hold more body heat than cotton.
   •  Insulation Layer: An insulation layer will help you retain heat by trapping air close to your body. Natural fibers, like wool, goose down, or a fleece work best.
   •  Outer Layer: The outermost layer helps protect you from wind, rain, and snow. It should be tightly woven, and preferably water and wind resistant, to reduce loss of body heat. accessed 1/27/2021

Beware of signs of frostbite and hypothermia (abnormally low body temperature). Click here for the infographic Avoid, Spot, and Treat: Frostbite & Hypothermia.
For additional cold-weather related information see Stay Safe Outdoors in Cold Weather: Important Information, PA Regulations, & Position Statements. 2/1/21


Did you know that February is American Heart Month?
• Heart Disease can happen at any age. Nearly half of all Americans have at least one of the top three risk factors for developing heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking.
• Due to higher rates of obesity and high blood pressure today our younger generation is now at risk for developing heart disease at any even earlier age.

What can families do to keep both their heart and their child’s heart healthy?
• Stay physically active and encourage your children to do the same.
• Be positive and be a good role model to your children.
• Manage your stress.
• Limit screen time all around.
• Keep all scheduled check-ups.
• Grocery shop/meal plan and prepare together.
• Avoid processed food when you can and eat more fruits and vegetables! 
• Set small but realistic, SMART goals together as a family!

o  A SMART goal is one that is:

-  Specific (Eliminating soda and juice from your diet.)         
-  Measurable (make it a goal you can easily measure “Walk 3 times per week for 30 minutes.”)         
-  Attainable (make sure you can achieve it)         
-  Realistic (setting realistic goals will help you to keep moving forward)         
-  Trackable (tracking your progress over time is a great way to see just how far you’ve come!)

The American Heart Association is working to help kids and families live heart-healthy lives. Use these resources to help your family live longer, healthier lives.

February is National Children’s Dental Health month! This national health observance, sponsored by the American Dental Association (ADA), promotes the benefits of good oral health to children. This year's theme is "Water, Nature's Drink!” Check out free resources from the ADA and others:
     – Posters and activity sheets for kids here from the American Dental Association. 
     – Video and handouts (language- free format) here from The Campaign for Dental Health for those working with children and families with limited English proficiency. 
     – Potter the Otter: A Tale About Water – an animated storybook from FIRST 5 Santa Clara County, where Potter the Otter teaches his friends about the importance of drinking water! (Also available as a bilingual ebook.) 
     – Office of Head Start Resources:
           o “Coronavirus Disease and Oral Health: Information for Parents About Promoting Good Oral Health at Home” handout for families describing simple things parents can do at home to keep their children’s mouths healthy during the coronavirus pandemic.  
          o Resources to promote drinking water 
          o Healthy Habits for Happy Smiles” handouts provide simple tips on oral health issues to share with families to promote good oral health. The handouts are available in English and Spanish.   2/11/21

Do you know someone buying a car seat? Want to know the best one?


The best car seat is the one that fits the child, fits the vehicle, and the caregiver can use it correctly every time. See details in the "Gift Giving Guide for Car Seats." The many products sold as car seat accessories that are non-approved products, which are not recommended by car seat manufacturers, are addressed. Counterfeit car seats are being advertised and sold online and are found on many ecommerce platforms. These car seats do not meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213 (FMVSS 213) and are potentially dangerous for children. For more information, read “Counterfeit Car Seats."


The holiday season is a fun-filled time of year. Don’t let an injury dampen your holiday spirit. Check out three resources to choose safe toys to help keep kids safe.

1. No matter what the season…check for recalls:

  • Check for recalled products you may own or are thinking of purchasing.
  • Report an unsafe product or an incident where someone was injured by a product to CPSC at
  • Register your new products on the firms’ website so that companies know how to contact you if there is a recall.

2. Learn what to look for when buying toys and how a few simple ideas for safe use can often prevent injuries. How to Buy Safe Toys at the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) website for parents and caregivers,, provides these guidelines:

Right toys for right age based on the:

  • Safety of the toy (for example, if there any possible choking hazards)
  • Ability of a child to play with the toy
  • Ability of a child to understand how to use a toy
  • Needs and interests at various levels of a child's development

Areas of concern addressed include - choking hazards, eye injuries, hearing injury, lacerations from broken toys, toxic materials, crib toys, and the need to buy “UL approved” electric toys. Some reasons toys are recalled include unsafe lead levelschoking or fire hazard.

3. The 35th annual Trouble in Toyland highlights nine categories of dangerous toys and gives tips for caregivers on how to keep their children safer. Hazards discussed include - mislabeled choking hazards, flocked animal figures, recalled toys available for purchase online, noisy toys, and items not advisable for children (strong magnets). Beware of products which permit in-app purchases.

Cooler weather in Pennsylvania is here. Monitoring children’s temperatures during the health screening procedure may need to be adjusted if using a non-contact infrared thermometer (NCIT). The FDA describes the following pros and cons to using these devices. The benefits to using a non-contact infrared thermometer include: the reduction of risk of spreading disease since there is no contact between the person and the device, it is easy to use and disinfect, and it is a quick way to measure a person’s temperature. Improper use of NCITs may lead to inaccurate measurements.

The drawbacks to using a non-contact infrared thermometer include that the environment, placement, and clothing may affect the reading. Strictly follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and instructions for use for the specific thermometer. Typical use is to monitor the temperature of the forehead by holding the non-contact infrared thermometer perpendicular to the forehead at the distance and time specified in the manufacturer’s instructions. The environment should be draft-free and out of direct sun or heat sources. Environmental temperature should be within the range specified by manufacturer, usually around 60.8-104⁰F (16-40⁰C) and relative humidity below 85 percent. The person being screened should have a clean, dry forehead. Excessive clothing or head covers (headbands, hats, bandanas) could increase the temperature reading and should be removed with ample time to permit the temperature of the forehead to stabilize.

In a recent survey, early childhood education (ECE) providers offered suggestions to address possible issues with the cold weather affecting temperature screening, including:

Storage and Use:

-Store and use thermometer in area that is a constant temperature within manufacturer’s suggested range.

-Carry thermometer in and out when bringing the child to their classroom via the aprons that program provides. 

-Use other different types of thermometers, such as an ear thermometer with probe cover or a digital thermometer with disposable plastic covers, if the non-contact infrared thermometer doesn’t work. (Note that additional disinfection procedures of device may be necessary).

-Some manufacturers suggest aiming the thermometer at the area behind the child’s ear if forehead readings are inaccurate. 

Screening Variations:

-Screen students as they remain in their vehicles for temperature checks and screening questions during daily check-in. Parents exit vehicles and walk child to the entrance after all temperatures are taken for that drop-off group. Drop off times are assigned 10 minutes apart to allow time for this process.

-Take temperatures at the door and then again in the timeframe recommended in the manufacturer’s guidelines. Continue with mid-day scans of the children and staff to monitor temperatures throughout the day and at the end of the day.

-Perform the temperature screening indoors:

-Keep the thermometers inside and allow children to enter a small area that is indoors but outside of the center (i.e. a foyer or empty side room). Permit the children to remove their hat and coat.

-Screen children indoors while parents are still present at drop off. If temperature appears to be off, take temperature again 15 minutes later. The child should remain socially distant and wearing mask during this waiting period.

-Install a double door entry foyer.
Example: During a prior renovation, a program installed a double door entry foyer with a sink just inside the second door. Family members enter the first door, then check the student’s temperature. The adult shows the temperature recorded to the staff member through the glass wall of the second door. Staff member asks the health questions through the glass wall of the second door. Staff member determines whether child can be admitted. If yes, the adult uses the computer pad in between the two glass doors to clock in their student. This triggers door to open and student is admitted to center. The foyer entryway is heated via a small built-in-the-wall, heating unit.

Additional information can be found in "Are infrared thermometers safe?” by Elizabeth Murray, DO, FAAP at, the American Academy of Pediatrics’ website for parents

Remember to update your COVID-19 Health and Safety plan if you modify screening practices.

Are you looking for tips and tools to address the unique challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has created for early childhood education (ECE) programs? The Pennsylvania Key offers a list of resources to help ECE professionals navigate new guidelines and requirements while continuing to prioritize children’s learning, growth, and development. Resources include announcements from the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL), webinar recordings, and other key COVID-19 information. Click on The Pennsylvania Key Resource for Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for current updates or visit the PA Key website to view additional resources.

Nebulizers, Asthma and COVID-19

Do you have children in your care with asthma? Parents/caregivers of children with asthma who use nebulizers should contact their child’s health care provider about using a metered dose inhaler (MDI) instead of a nebulizer. Use of inhalers with spacers instead of nebulizers involves decreased close exposure time during the medication administration. According to The Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC), people with asthma should use inhalers with spacers (with or without a face mask, according to each student’s personal treatment plan) instead of nebulizer treatments whenever possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. Children’s medical records/care plans should be reviewed to see who may require nebulizer treatments. Care plans should be updated as per the health care provider’s recommendations. Guidance for Operating a Childcare Center, Group Home or Family Child Care During the Coronavirus Pandemic in Pennsylvania - The Pennsylvania Key Resource for Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) pages 16-17 offers important guidance to consider and precautions to take.

Increased cleaning and disinfecting is necessary because of the pandemic. Disinfecting products maybe a trigger for some children so care should be taken to prevent exposure to them:

If you have asthma:
    •  Ask an adult without asthma to clean and disinfect surfaces and objects for you.
    •  Stay in another room when cleaners or disinfectants are being used and right after their use.
    •  Use only cleaning products you must use. Some surfaces and objects that are seldom touched may need to be cleaned only with soap and water.
    •  Make a list of the urgent care or health facilities near you that provide nebulizer/asthma treatments. Keep it close to your phone.
    •  If you have an asthma attack, move away from the trigger such as the disinfectant or the area that was disinfected. Follow your Asthma Action Plan. Call 911 for medical emergencies. 10-27-20

 The Pennsylvania Key Infant Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (IECMHC) Program Consultants worked collaboratively to create the social story and tips and resources to support re-entering into Early Education Centers after COVID-19. The social story, We are back in school!, can be used by early childhood education staff as a resource for support social and emotional as children and staff start the process of re-entering the child care setting. Each page in this social story contains Teacher Tips, Prompts, Resources and Activities which can help with discussions with children in child care. There are clickable links and even spots where staff can jot down their own notes! The Tip and Resource Guide provides additional information.

The American Academy of Pediatrics Parenting website has many COVID-19 resources to support families.  These include: Parenting in a Pandemic; Working and Learning; Getting Outside; Masks for Kids; New Baby Challenges; Disinfectant Safety and Breastfeeding.  

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. As scheduled recognition activities and regular life has shifted due to COVID-19, Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller, in an April 15, 2020 press release, implores all Pennsylvanians to learn signs of potential abuse or neglect. Mandated reporters are encouraged to use the self-service portal on the Keep Kids Safe website, to avoid long hotline wait times. Other Pennsylvanians seeking to report suspect abuse should make the call to ChildLine. DHS’ ChildLine, a 24/7 hotline for reporting concerns of child abuse or neglect, is available 24/7 to anyone wishing to report child abuse and general child well- being concerns at 1-800-932-0313 and at

An excellent resource with pertinent information to support families and care givers is the "2019/2020 Prevention Resource Guide". This entirely online updated guide on the federally supported Child Welfare Information Gateway supports working with parents, caregivers and children to prevent child abuse and neglect. The guide describes protective factors that reduce the risk of child maltreatment, as well as strategies and practices for supporting families.

The “2019/2020 Prevention Resource Guide” is designed to help individuals and organizations in every community strengthen families and prevent child abuse and neglect. The Resource Guide focuses on protective factors that build on family strengths to foster healthy child and youth development. It can be used along with the Protective Factors in Practice scenarios and the activity calendars to implement prevention strategies in your community. It includes a directory of national organizations. Access resource guides from previous years to learn how prevention strategies have changed over time.

Download a copy of the “2019/2020 Prevention Resource Guide” today. Share “Tip Sheets for Parents and Caregivers” (in English and in Spanish) -– strength-based tip sheets on specific parenting topics such as page 71, “Dealing with Temper Tantrums”. They can be used in discussions or visits with caregivers, and calendars of activities to help programs, parents, and community partners celebrate Child Abuse Prevention Month. 4-22-20

Learn about strategies to manage children with challenging behaviors. Complete ECELS Managing Challenging Behaviors in Young Children Self Learning Module (SLM). This updated online module will help you promote mental health in young children. Explore risk factors for challenging behaviors and use tools to review behaviors related to development. Share resources to help children with challenging behaviors and their families. Identify policies to help prevent suspension and expulsion of children. The per person fee is $15.00 for each module submitted. Addresses Pennsylvania’s Pre-Kindergarten Learning Standards for Early Childhood Standard Areas 16.1-3

To view OCDEL's "Guidance for Child Care Providers Caring for Children of Essential Personnel During COVID-19" 3-25-20 click here.

Use the following to share facts, credible information and updates from the Pennsylvania Department of Health Website

Human coronaviruses are a family of viruses that commonly cause mild to moderate illness like the common cold.  A new human coronavirus, called the 2019 Novel Coronavirus was discovered in Wuhan City, China in December 2019.  Symptoms of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus can include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Use these additional credentialed sources to share information and updates with families and staff:

Stay vigilant about infection control practices in your program to reduce spread of all common illnesses. Implement the daily health check recommended in Caring for Our Children Standard

ECELS Webinar - Immunization Strategies for Success in Early Care and Education Programs - January 16, 2020. View the recording and submit the evaluation form for professional development credit.  Click here for details.