ECA Blog

Discover The Power of A Picture

If you’re like me, nothing tells a story better than a picture.  Photographs can inform, entertain, invoke emotion, take you to another place, and more.    As a child I loved the thrill of capturing just the right image with the camera, waiting to finish the roll so that I could get it developed, discovering the joy (or heartbreak depending on how the photo came out) again when viewing the photo for the first time, and then sharing it with others.  As I grew older, I also developed an appreciation for the “storytellers” behind the images.  Parents and teachers alike are storytellers, documenting the milestones in life: first step, first lost tooth, first day of school, learning how to share with others, completing a puzzle, reading a book independently.  There are multiple ways that people document momentous occasions in life – through writing, in a memory, on a Facebook Timeline, in a video, etc.  Through it all photography can be a wonderful tool to help document all of these wonderful accomplishments.

Last fall, Shelly Meredith, our Infant/Toddler Specialist presented a workshop about Making Learning Visible – Using Photographs to Showcase the Learning Process in Your Classroom.  To further explore the topic of photo documentation in the classroom setting, here is a synopsis of her presentation.  Enjoy!

Have a Great Week!




What is Documentation?

“Documentation is the process of gathering evidence and artifacts of what happen in the classroom. Documentation is not only the process of gathering evidence and artifacts, but also a physical collection of evidence and artifacts, the reflection of that collection or part of it, in a way that makes children’s learning visible to the children, to the teachers, and to the other adults, including families and visitors.”

-Carla Rinaldi (1994)



For Children, photos help them:

  • Recall and reflect upon learning experiences by seeing photos on display
  • Revisit their experiences  with others and tell the story of their learning
  • See and connect with the work of their peers

For Families photos can:

  • Open the door to a classroom for families
  • Mean better appreciation for what is happening in the classroom
  • Initiate meaningful conversations between parents and children

For Teachers photos:

  • Are used as a tool to review and reflect on activities during planning
  • Give a strong visual support for anecdotes (“Attach Portfolio Item”)
  • Are a resource for other teachers



What can be documented with Photos?

  • Process
  • Progress
  • Skills
  • Interactions
  • Influences
  • Remember – Every activity provides multiple possibilities!


Ideas for Using Photos in the Classroom

  • Displayed alongside children’s work- Inside/outside of the classroom
  • On display with only photos and captions
  • Emails to parents
  • Classroom newsletter
  • Photo albums/ handmade books for class reading area
  • To support anecdotal notes
  • Room area labels and daily schedule


Captions Are Important!

Don’t forget to use Strong Photo Captions. If you spend the time writing a caption, make it say more than the photo already does!

  • Recreate the moment with words
  • Include quotes from the child
  • Be specific
  • Use descriptive terminology- “Power Verbs”



Strategies for Taking Quality Photos

1. Establish a focal point

2. Move in close (proximity or with zoom function)

3. Vary the angle

4. Keep your “subjects” busy



Shelly Meredith is our Infant/Toddler Specialist and has been with ECA since 2012. She earned her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Ball State University. Shelly loves the way children view their world and the hilarious things they say.



I loved this suggestion From Make Learning Visible:


Take Pictures!

Photograph your child playing at home, helping you cook, during a trip, or doing anything! After the pictures are printed, discuss the photos with your child. Ask questions like, “Tell me about this.” “How did you feel about doing this?” and “Why did you choose to do this?” Document what s/he says during the reflection time.


Resource Links

The Power of Documentation in the Early Childhood Classroom from NAEYC

Picture This!  Using Photography in the Early Childhood Classroom from Earlychildhood News

School Readiness for ESL Families

Child care providers and other early childhood professionals know why early education is so important. With 85% of a child’s capacity for learning determined by age 5, making positive early learning experiences is critical for lifelong learning. So the impact of early education is significant for not only children, but also their families and communities.

Now imagine how those facts come into play for families in a new community where neither parent nor children speak the language or understand the culture. How would a parent ensure children’s success, especially in school? A correlation of how children’s play translates to school readiness can be difficult for people outside the field to understand, but even more so for families of different cultures with different languages as they move to new communities for jobs and schooling.

Understanding the challenges of families learning English as a second language and a different culture is the first step. The second is providing quality early learning experiences to meet the needs of bilingual, bi-cultural children. So how can child care providers help?

  • Know that children will learn languages naturally through interactions with English speakers, and banning the use of the first language can be harmful for young children.
  • Gain an understanding of families’ cultures and expectations and how they are different from yours. Try to incorporate some things from other cultures into your program.
  • Incorporate books, songs and speakers representing different languages into your program.
  • Evaluate children’s progress and talk with parents about it.
  • Plan learning experiences that can be used at home as well as in child care, and show those ideas to parents.
  • Help parents make a connection to the school system before it’s time to enroll so they feel more comfortable making decisions and asking questions.
  • Reassure parents that throughout the process of learning, they continue to be their children’s best and most important teachers.

123 – Read

We all know the benefits of reading with children.  Why not use your reading time to explore math as well?  In fact, books are frequently used as a way to introduce/reinforce mathematical concepts with children.   Books explore endless math concepts like Counting,Division and fractions, Geometry, Multiplication, Ordinal numbers, Size, Addition,Subtraction, Time, and more.

There are numerous children’s books with math-related themes and content.  Pick a topic – most likely there is a math related book to go with it.  There are even books that you can use crayons, dominoes, jelly beans, M&M’s©, candy bars, Cheerios®, and other items to play (and learn) right along with the story.  So next time you are at the library or book store, look to see what math you can read!

For some inspiration, here are my kids’ top 12 favorites (a dozen favorites to read) – so far.

Have a Great Week!




  • Duck & Goose 123 By Tad Hill
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar By Eric Carle
  • Hoot: A Hide-and-Seek Book of Counting (My Little World) By Jonathan Litton
  • John Deere Farm 123 By Parachute Press
  • Five Tumbling Tigers By Debbie Tarbett
  • 10 Trick or Treaters By Janet Schulman (also 10 Valentine Friends, 10 Easter Egg Hunters, & Trim-The-Tree’ers)
  • Five Little Monkeys Sitting In A Tree (A Five Little Monkeys Story) By Eileen Christelow (many more books in this series)
  • Who Sank the Boat By Pamela Allen
  • I’m Dirty By Kate McMullan
  • 1-2-3 Va-Va-Vroom! A Counting Book By Sarah Lynn
  • 100 Animals on Parade By Masayuki Sebe
  • 1-2-3 Peas (The Peas Series) By Keith Baker



Want to extend your story time even further?  Here is a great resource for Math Activities inspired by books from Inspiration Laboratories.


The Outdoors with Infants and Toddlers

With plenty of warm weather still to enjoy this summer, what better way to take advantage of it than by spending time outdoors!  Earlier this summer our school age specialist shared ideas about enjoying the outdoors with older children.  But what about sharing the outdoors with infants and toddlers?



Take it outside!

The outdoors is a natural place of wonder for young children.  The learning possibilities are endless.  Going outdoors with infants and toddlers provides a wonderful opportunity for them to explore the world using their senses:

  • The feel of the wind
  • The warmth of the sun
  • The smell of the grass
  • The sound of birds chirping
  • The exhilarating feeling from walking or running outdoors that we don’t feel when we are inside

The outdoors can provide children and adults with an opportunity to release stress, not to mention the fresh air and physical play in the outdoor environment that promotes the health and wellbeing of young children.

Creating a safe outdoor environment for infants and toddlers is very important.  Active supervision is key to avoiding accidents and injury while outdoors, so parents/caregivers need to be standing in sight of children as they are playing.   Parents/caregivers also need to be sure that the environment and equipment are free of any hazards or debris that could be dangerous, and be sure children are protected from overexposure to the sun or colder temperatures and hydrated in warm weather.



Here are 5 resources about outdoor play with infants and toddlers.

Incorporating School Age Fun!

School age programs provide activities that encourage independence, social skills and cooperation.  It is also important to offer a variety of activities to choose from in a safe structured environment, allowing fun independent learning.

ECA’s school age specialist, Karin Gilbert, suggested you might want to create a Y.O.T Box, (pronounced “yacht” and stands for “Your Own Time”) for each child. This is where kids can store and work on individual hobbies and projects – such as collections, scrap books, journals, sketch books, craft projects, etc.  Although the intent is for individual work, one child’s interest often sparks a similar interest in others, and they then become co-creators of special projects together.

Karin also emphasized that even if you create a Y.O.T. Box, it is important to remember that in quality school-age child care, many activities are happening at the same time in an organized way so that kids with different interests, abilities, needs can choose different ways to use their time. School-agers who help to shape their out-of-school time experiences will stay engaged, longer; so give them a say on what they do, when they do it, and with whom. Choice, flexibility, and wide-variety are key. Find out what they’re interested in by observing and asking them.  You can ask them through child interest surveys, point out ideas in magazines and books, or make a trip to the local hobby store. Or, just ask them!

  • What are your favorite things to do?
  • What do you want to know more about?
  • What makes you happy?
  • What have you always wanted to try?
  • What are you really good at? What would you like to be better at?
  • What do you want to do when you grow up?

She encourages you have a variety of areas and materials that promote exploring, learning, and creating. Your areas might include: creative art; blocks and building; dramatic play; cooking; games; music and movement; sensory play; quiet social area; media and technology, math, literacy and science; and homework assistance.

Materials for these areas might include;

  • Variety of art materials that school-agers can choose between, get out and put away on their own
  • Variety of blocks and boxes of all kinds and sizes
  • Legos, Lincoln Logs, K’Nex
  • Vehicles: cars, boats, planes, trucks and trains
  • Animals and dinosaurs
  • Variety of dramatic play themes, such as: camping, castle, pet shop, veterinarian’s clinic, restaurant, mall, grocery store, flower shop, etc.
  • Variety of dramatic play materials, such as: aprons, computer keyboards, costumes, dress up clothes and uniforms, mirror, etc.
  • Cooking tools and utensils, for supervised cooking projects
  • Board games, card games, dice games and game tables (air-hockey, pool, fooseball, and table tennis)  Here are some sample resources:
  • CD Player, MP3 player, headphones, karaoke machine, and musical instruments
  • Playdough, sand, weaving loom, fuzebeads, jewelry-making, bubble liquid and bubble wands, etc.
  • Age-appropriate books, magazines, journals and writing tools
  • Computer, iPads, camera, printer, scanner, video camera, tripod, etc.
  • Magnets, magnifying glasses, microscope and slides, tangrams, compass, protractor, ruler, measuring tape, play money, prisms, etc.

Karin also recommended the book, Great Afterschool Programs and Spaces That Wow! by Linda J. Armstrong and Christine A. Schmidt – a great resource for quality school-age spaces and materials that includes child-interest surveys.

If you have questions about setting up a great learning environment to include school age children, contact Karin at or call her at 574-360-3070.

Have a Great Week!