Children’s Alley families,

We hope you're staying healthy and sane during this challenging time. Many of us are facing difficulties and uncertainty, and all with kids at home for longer periods than normal with the closure of schools and child care centers. We are here to help with inspiration, activity ideas and parenting tips, and hope this bi-weekly email can provide a brief time to come together and uplift our neighbors, friends, and community!

We'll look forward to staying connected with health and wellness inspirations, recipes, and activities to get your family and yourself moving. Let’s stay present and stay positive!
YWCA Virtual Activities
YWCA Boulder County is dedicated to supporting parents and families. As we all deal with the Coronavirus pandemic, the YWCA will begin providing virtual activities and learning opportunities from our Children's Alley teachers.

Join us for our Early Childhood Education Curriculum Director Griffin McKeague reading " The Gruffalo".
Mental Health Corner
8 Mindfulness Activities for Busy Parents

1. Mindful Eating and/or Drinking: Try this while you eat dinner or when enjoying your favorite cup of tea or piece of chocolate. 

As you take a bite/sip notice the texture; is it smooth, crunchy, creamy? Notice the taste; is it tangy, salty, sweet? Notice the temperature. Even notice the sound of your teeth/ mouth chewing/drinking. 

2. Mindful in Nature: This can be done while sitting, walking, running, etc. 

Bring awareness to your surroundings and the sensations you feel. Notice the air on your skin, the colors around you, the noises you hear, the way your feet feel on the surface beneath them. 

3. One Minute Vacation: Take one minute (or longer) and envision a place that brings you a sense of joy, beauty and/ or safety. It can be real or imaginary, a place you have or have not been to. 

Paint the picture of this place in detail. What surrounds you? Are the colors vibrant or muted? What is the weather like? Is there sun or a breeze? What do you smell: salty sea air, fields of flowers? What are the sounds you hear: lapping water, salsa music?

4. Guided Meditation: There are many guided meditation apps and websites including Headspace, Omvana and Meditation Oasis

5. Body Scan: Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Bring awareness to your breath. Spend a few moments intentionally noticing each region of your body including your feet, legs, hips, torso, stomach, arms, hands, neck, face (including pressure points), and scalp. As you go through each region notice what sensations you feel. 

6. Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Bring awareness to your breath. Using the muscle regions listed above you will tense then relax each muscle group. Start with your feet. Tense them. Squeeze harder, without straining. Then release the tension, let that muscle region go limp. Repeat with each muscle region, ending with tensing and releasing your whole body. 

Try this with kids by adding helpful analogies for each muscle region e.g. pretend you are squeezing lemons, pull your shoulders up high and go into your turtle shell, become a wet noodle…

Mindfulness Activities with Young Children 

7. Bumble Bee Breathing: With the children, find a comfortable place to sit or lie down. Guide them in breathing in through their nose while covering their ears. Then have everyone breath out through their mouth saying “buzzzzz” for as long as possible. Repeat. You can try different sounds such as “hummmmm” or “ohhhhh.”


8. Wishing Well: Have each child think of three people that are very special to them. Sit comfortably together and guide the children in envisioning each of their three people surrounded by the child’s favorite color while they silently wish them love and happiness.

(Taken with permission from the Kid Connects weekly newsletter, May 11, 2020) 

FOR ADDITIONAL SUPPORT: Contact Kid Connects at (303) 245-4418 to talk directly to an Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant, or reach out directly to the YWCA's Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant, Beth Garrett-Myers, at (303) 903-1179 or by email at bgarrett@mhpcolorado.org
Tip of the Week
Does your child have a lot of questions about the Coronavirus, or are you looking for child-friendly ways to explain why everyone has spent so much time at home or why everyone is wearing masks now? Read these wonderful stories together for simple explanations that young children can understand.


Infant Activity
The teachers in our Infant Development Center were thrilled to see our first few infants and their families return this past week, and we are looking forward to seeing a few more families next week! As we come back to school our infants will notice that their teachers are wearing masks and may be curious about the change. 

Babies and young children are right brain dominant, meaning they rely strongly on nonverbal communication to determine how people are feeling and whether a person or situation is safe. The development of this emotional communication is referred to as social referencing and occurs between infancy and the early preschool years.

With the "new norm" of parents wearing masks while out of the house and teachers wearing masks at school it can be more challenging for infants and young children to read these important non-verbal cues. When we wear a mask half of our face is covered, limiting our facial expressions. Without smiling or frowning, children are left questioning whether you are happy or sad. This may cause unease and strain our communication with young children. 

A great way to help infants and young children learn to read the emotions of caregivers who are wearing a mask is to practice in a fun way! While at home try using a mask to play a version of peek-a-boo, holding the mask over your mouth and then removing it to reveal a big smile! You can also play a game of "guess how I'm feeling" by putting on a mask and using your eyes and eyebrows to express a feeling (try happy, sad, surprised, confused, or excited) ask your child "how do you think I'm feeling?" before making the face, and then after a moment remove the mask so they can see your whole face and label the feeling you were showing. It can also be helpful, if you are out of the house with your baby and wearing a mask, to narrate to them how you are feeling. 

(Adapted with permission from the Kid Connects weekly newsletter, May 11, 2020)
Toddler Activity
Balancing! 

Toddlers can learn a lot through experimenting with balance. By balancing objects children are learning scientific concepts such as spatial awareness, problem solving, cause and effect, and the concept of gravity. By balancing their own bodies, they are developing important gross motor skills and learning to control their movements more intentionally.

Here are three fun activities that involve balance! 

1. Find objects around the house of different sizes that can be stacked/ balanced on top of each other. 
Examples include boxes, blocks, plastic wear, plastic cups, really anything that can stand by itself. Find a safe space (items will fall) where your child can experiment with stacking/ balancing objects. Trying big items on bottom, small items on bottom, and all variations. After they have experimented, bring in other objects that are soft or round such as balls, blankets, etc. and let them continue experimenting. This helps children build schemas of how things fit together, as well as an understanding of the weight and shapes of objects.  

2. Encourage your child to try balancing with their body in different ways.
Examples of this are balancing on one foot, leaning with one hand against a wall, leaning with their head against wall, or balancing on their hands. You could also try putting a ribbon, string, or piece of masking tape on the floor to walk across. 

3. For a challenge have your child try balancing objects on their body!
Examples include balancing a ball on their hand or balancing a container or box on their foot. It is also a lot of fun to try to balance an object on your head! Try a book, stuffed animal, or a small toy. 
Preschool Activity
Exploring bugs and insects!

It's the time of year when all of our little insect friends are back out and moving around. Many children find bugs fascinating and most children have at least a few insects that they enjoy seeing (like butterflies and ladybugs). Here are a few fun and educational activities involving bugs and insects. 


Go for a bug walk! Bring your child for a walk through the neighborhood (or even just around the yard) and look closely to see how many bugs you can find. Try looking for ants, flies, butterflies, bees, caterpillars, ladybugs, or any other insects you see crawling or flying around. You could bring a piece of paper and a pencil for your child to draw pictures of what they see, write down the names of the bugs for your child, or use your phone to take close-up pictures of the insects you find. 

Make a bug house! 

Children often enjoy observing insects up close, but it can be hard to hold them without hurting them. The next time you're playing outside bring a small clear plastic jar (with a few small holes in the lid) with you. You can put a leaf or few pieces of grass inside if you like. Help your child to gently move an insect into the jar so you can look at it up close. Ask your child questions about what they notice (Does it have wings? How many legs does it have? What colors do you see? Etc.) When you are done observing, let your child know that your new friend is ready to go back home and let the bug out in the same area where you found it. 

Visit https://www.ywcabocoprek.com/   for even more great inspiration!
Fruit & Veggie of the Week
Vegetable of the Week:

Bell Peppers

Fruit of the Week:

Watermelon

Both bell peppers and watermelon are mainly composed of water, so they provide extra hydration as well as good nutrition.

Bell peppers are exceptionally rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. It also has smaller amounts of other vitamins and minerals.

Watermelon has a bit of natural sugar in it making it higher in calories, but it gives a decent amount of vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B5, and Vitamin A.
Recipe of the Week
Confetti Stuffed Bell Peppers

Pairing fresh bell peppers with a frozen vegetable blend allows you to enjoy a bounty of nutrients while keeping the prep work manageable. Kids will love mixing up the filling and sprinkling the stuffed peppers with cheese. This recipe comes to us from our friends at Birds Eye.

Serves 4

Food for Thought: Did you know that frozen vegetables are both convenient and nutritious? Although fresh vegetables are always a healthy choice, the nutrients they contain start to deteriorate as the item is transported and stored. Freezing vegetables shortly after picking locks in these nutrients, so that by the time you eat them they are nearly as nutritious they were the moment they were harvested.

Ingredients: 
  • 4 large bell peppers, cut in half lengthwise and seeded
  • 1 bag (12 oz.) frozen mixed vegetables, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 bag (10 oz.) frozen whole grain brown rice, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 cup shredded part skim mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper

Directions:

Adult: Preheat oven to 350°F.

Kid: Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch shallow baking dish with nonstick cooking spray

Kid: Combine prepared mixed vegetables, brown rice, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, tomato sauce and black pepper in a large bowl.

Together: Arrange peppers in prepared pan and spoon mixture into peppers.

Together: Pour 1/4 cup water into pan around the peppers. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes, until peppers are tender.

Together: Remove foil and evenly sprinkle peppers with remaining cheeses. Bake uncovered 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Additional Resources
Growing Gardens Education Team has created additional virtual farm programming for students! 

NEW this week:

Vermicomposting: Students will learn about vermicomposting, the life cycle of the worm, the role of decomposers in an ecosystem, and be able to explore live red wiggler worms from our worm bin.

No Food Left Behind: Students will learn about different edible parts of the plant and how to reduce food waste in their homes. Students will be able to make a tasty snack using not-often-eaten parts of the plant.

Previously Released Videos:

Edible Rainbow for Health: Students will learn about the health benefits of different colored foods and why it is important to "eat the rainbow" through a fun drawing, scavenger hunt in their kitchen and additional supportive materials.

Colorado Soils: Students will learn about the materials that make up soil and learn how to conduct an easy soil test in your own backyard.

Environmental Art: Students will learn about repeating patterns found in nature, the artistic work of Andy Goldsworthy, then will be encouraged to make their own environmental from materials found in yards or the places they explore. 
Domestic Violence Resources
For some in our community, staying home is also not safe.

This is a stressful time for all of us. The uncertainty created by the COVID-19 public health emergency combined with social isolation, reduced access to employment and food, and in some cases lack of child care, is difficult for many families and individuals to endure. Please reach out to your family, friends, and neighbors by phone or video during this time, and help ensure they feel supported. 

We also recognize that for some families and individuals, the difficulties are too much to handle. The Boulder County Abuse and Neglect Hotline is available 24 hours a day, every day, at 303-441-1309.

Boulder County responds to concerns around potential abuse and neglect by working with families and individuals to understand their challenges and -in many cases- connecting them with supports they may need. The safety of children and at-risk adults is a top priority. Anyone witnessing a child or at-risk adult in a life-threatening situation should call 911 immediately.


Here are some tips from SPAN: Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence: 

If a friend or a neighbor is in trouble, what can you do?

  • Help them plan where they (and the children), could go in an emergency or if they decide to leave.
  • Agree on a code word or signal they can use to let you know they need help.
  • Help them prepare an excuse so they can leave quickly if they feel threatened.
  • Find out about how the police can protect them, and if calling the police is an option.
  • Help them prepare an "escape bag" and hide it in a safe place. If they leave, they will need money, keys, clothes, bank cards, driver's licence, social security documents, property deeds, medication, birth certificates, passport and any other important documents.
  • Think if it is safe to help interrupt an episode of violence, create a code so you can knock on the door.
  • If they decide to stay they may need to think about other ways to protect themselves and the children from further violence.

***Be careful. Don't place yourself in a position where the person who is being abusive could harm or manipulate you. Don't try to intervene directly if you witness a person being assaulted - call the police instead.***

24-Hour Crisis Line: 303-444-2424
We want to hear from YOU!
If you have questions or concerns and/or would like to request specific topics or recommend ideas, please contact Tori Anderson at Tori@ywcaboulder.org.

We are here to help!

You can also submit questions or feedback anonymously through the signup form (do not enter your name or email in order to make it anonymous).
Thank YOU for your support!
As a nonprofit, our work would not be possible without the support of passionate individuals and businesses like you, who support our programs and services.

If you can, please consider making a donation in whatever amount you are able . Your donation is tax-deductible and eligible for the Colorado Childcare Contribution Tax Credit. Together, we will weather these difficult times and continue our work to provide affordable, high-quality child care for our community.
YWCA Boulder County | ywcaboulder.org