June Family Friday

Thanks to everyone who sent pictures of your family’s favorite outdoors activities. You told us that you and your children enjoy swinging, hiking, grilling, playing baseball and softball, taking walks, bubbles, water, catching bugs and frogs, playing in the snow, gardening, sightseeing, going to the beach, and obstacle courses!

Meet our Staff: Joshua McClure

Buncombe Partnership for Children’s CCR Team is excited to introduce a new member of our staff! Joshua McClure started with BPFC in late September and is already rolling up his sleeves to meet directors and early childhood staff in our area. Joshua has been working in education for many years, most recently as a childcare program director. We are grateful to have Joshua with us, and we want to provide you all with an opportunity to learn more about him.  

COVID-19 Update from BPFC

We know  you are probably receiving many emails this week with COVID-19 in the subject line. Like many of you, Buncombe Partnership for Children is making some hard decisions aimed at protecting the health of our community. After carefully weighing our options and our responsibility to training participants, trainers, our staff, and the children and families that we all serve, we are taking the following actions starting March 16, 2020:


  • All non-health related trainings scheduled through mid-April are cancelled or postponed – check the training calendar.


  • CPR/First Aid will proceed as scheduled with reduced enrollment to allow for appropriate  distance between participants and to eliminate sharing of CPR mannequins, etc for now. We will let you know if this changes. 


  • In-person Child Care Resources staff visits are cancelled for at least the next two weeks so that staff who travel from program to program do not inadvertently carry germs with them.


  • We will closely monitor the COVID-19 situation in our community and reassess this policy at the end of the month. All BPFC’s Child Care Resources staff will be available for phone, Zoom, and email consultation.


Please do not hesitate to reach out during this stressful time.


Thank you as we work together to protect the health of our community.

Amy Barry

Executive Director

County updates 

State updates


Long Summer Days

Question: Our children are out of school and child care for the summer. What are some things I can do with them to fill these long summer days without losing my mind?

Answer: Ah, Summer days! In our minds, we envision tropical beach vacations, Pinterest-style picnics with those cute bento box lunches, and our content children, merrily catching fireflies well into dusk with their friends and siblings while we gaze at them lovingly from the porch. Wait—what? This is not a reality? Oh, your summer looks more like an endlessly empty fridge (“Didn’t I just buy groceries yesterday?!”), finding dirt and wet socks in every crevasse of your household furniture, and a lot of vocalizing from children about boredom? Well, at least we are all in this together, right? While we can’t guarantee a perfect summer, we hope these tips and ideas will help you enjoy this time of year with the children in your lives!

Visits to the local library

I don’t know about you, but some of my best childhood memories involve trips to the library. My mom would let me fill a canvas bag with books and audiobooks, and the quiet, air-conditioned building was a lovely reprieve from the southern summer heat. As an adult, I still take any opportunity to bring whatever book or magazine I’m currently reading and sit for just a few moments while my kiddo plays with puzzles, puppets, and peruses the children’s section to fill her own canvas bag. Our local library system in Asheville not only has summer reading programs and entertainment (Family Tai Chi and Intro to Herpetology), but it also offers some really neat new features for all ages. With a library card, you can access online learning courses through Lynda.com, learn a different language through Mango Languages, and download audiobooks via the Libby app. Another great reason our library rules? You can use your card to access a free ZOOM pass, which gives you the opportunity to visit AMOS, WNC Nature Center (I now understand the hype of the red pandas—they are SO cute), and even catch a production of a children’s play at Asheville Community Theater, all for free. Yes, free. In addition, this year marks Pack Memorial Library’s Centennial Celebration on July 26th, and they are celebrating with music, games, and ice cream from The Hop.

Water play

Whether you seek a waterfall, pool, or lake, Asheville is not lacking in places around town to swim. We list a few faves below, but click here  (https://smokymountains.com/asheville/blog/asheville-swimming-holes/) for even more ideas.

City pools and Splashville: Entrance to the city pools can be accessed for $3.00 per person, or you can choose from a few different package options. Free swimming lessons, float days, and $1.00 entrance days are among some of the perks of visiting our local pools. Splashville, an interactive water play fountain, is open April-September 9am-8pm seven days a week.  Find more information about location and hours here (https://www.ashevillenc.gov/service/find-a-pool-or-splashville-information/).

Lake Lure: About a half-hour drive from downtown Asheville will take you to Lake Lure, an expansive man-made lake at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. While your kids play in the shallow beach area, you and your friends can practice your dancing leaps a la Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing, where the movie was filmed.

Sliding Rock: What’s not to love about a 60 foot slip-n-slide made by Mother Nature? Save this for the hottest of days, as the water is muy frío, friends!

Lake Powhatan: Located in Bent Creek near the French Broad River, Lake Powhatan is a great campsite with a beachy lake, perfect for packing a picnic and spending the day on the sand. Entry is $4.00 per person with season pass options available.

Home: Short on time or funds? Some of the most entertaining  (and frugal!) water play days I have had with my daughter have been at home. Filling up a baby pool with scoops, funnels, and basters can entertain young children for long stretches of time. Fun night-time (or bath time with the lights off) addition: glow sticks! I’ve also seen kids spend hours (yes, hours) having an “archeology dig” by chipping away at ice, looking for small items I froze in cookie trays. (Take if from someone who now knows what it feels like to have a small shard of ice fly into my face : goggles/glasses should be used for this activity.) **As with any activity involving aquatics and small items, these should be supervised by adults.

 Get to Know Your City

While I don’t have an exact statistic at hand, based on my anecdotal observations and amount of traffic, it seems Asheville is a place where people want to be. Hardly a visit to downtown Asheville passes without me mumbling (ok, shouting) “I pay taxes here, dang it, why can’t I find a parking spot?!” The temptation is often strong to hole up in my house, but the times when I make the effort to leave and learn something about the city I’m living in are ones I rarely, if ever, regret.

Hood Huggers Hood Tours: DeWayne Barton is kind of a big deal. Born and raised in Asheville, DeWayne is an incredible resource of local historic and cultural knowledge. Whether by foot or in the Hood Huggers van, tours include visits to the murals of Triangle Park, the Stephens-Lee Recreation Center, and the Burton Street Community Peace Gardens.

Gray Line Trolley Tours: Ding ding! Any Daniel Tiger fans out there? Even if your kiddos are too young to be intrigued by the history you’ll hear about on these tours, they will be stoked to cruise through the streets of downtown on the big red trolley. The Hop on/Hop off tours are  $12.00 for children, and $31.00 for adults, with the option of purchasing a cheaper “Overview Tour” with no stops.

 Taco Tour:

Yep. I’m adding a Taco Tour here, and I believe that needs no explanation. Fellow taco lovers big and small, rejoice! Local resident Luis Martinez has created a map of Asheville marked with all of the current taco trucks and restaurants. ( http://tacomapavl.com) I’m already making plans with my kids for a Taco-tastic summer challenge: Leave no taco untasted!

Let Them be Bored

Though the temptation to plan their days away is strong, it’s exhausting for you and not always as beneficial for them as you may think.  Not to slam screen time, but I almost always regret the choice to let my kids binge on devices due to the massive case of the grumpies that inevitably follows. Similar to taking a dose of medicine, I find that though there are typically initial protests and whines of “but I’m boooooored,” those later subside to more pleasant results: a lego masterpiece, a pillow-fort, or a dance party has been birthed, all from my decision to just back off and let them be. As a coworker of mine says, boredom helps children develop a rich inner life, which is something we likely all want our kids to have!

Child Making Upset Face for blog

Upping Their Game

Question: I’m a new director at a private child care center, and I really want my staff to get on board with raising the quality we are providing children and families. Some of the staff has been there forever, and basically just acts like babysitters. We have some new staff too, but they are young, don’t have much experience, and tend to follow the lead of the old timers. In the midst of everything else I have to do each day, how can I get my staff to take their jobs more seriously and professionally, and teach them what they need to know?

Answer: Sadly, yours is not an uncommon problem in Buncombe county, where many – if not most – centers struggle with hiring and keeping qualified teachers. There are many reasons for this we won’t go into here, but many directors end up with high turnover, under-prepared teachers, or teachers with lots of experience but little recent education or professional development.

As the director, one of your jobs is to create the climate you want in your center, and that starts with teachers who are competent, knowledgeable, and share a guiding philosophy of child care. Many centers offer financial incentives for teachers going back to school to start or finish degrees – even a small raise for every course completed can provide immediate motivation. A raise at the completion of a degree is common, but can feel like a long way off for a degree that might take several years to complete. Programs like WAGE$ and T.E.A.C.H. help support both centers and teachers by providing stipends to teachers who have attained degrees, and scholarships to help pay for classes.

Although some teachers eschew pursuing higher education – “you don’t need a degree to know how to love children” is a common sentiment – you can instill a climate of professionalism that encourages and rewards continuing education. It’s true, of course, that people without much education can end up in early childhood centers and do a fine job. But if the option is there to further your education and learn new approaches and information, why not take it? Being a well-educated professional and loving children are by no means mutually exclusive: in fact, more education can provide teachers with a better understanding of children’s needs and development, leading to more effective and responsive loving relationships.

Another step you can take is to encourage or require professional development above and beyond the licensing requirements. The Partnership offers a variety of classes and trainings to help improve teachers’ practices, and many teachers benefit from going to conferences and out-of-town trainings, too. Financial help for these ventures is sometimes available, so don’t hesitate to ask if you find a training or conference you think would be perfect for some of your staff.

Many teachers also benefit from participating in a director-led Community of Practice or study group, where they meet once a month at lunchtime or in the evening to discuss a particular book or topic, and reflect on how to implement new ideas in their classrooms. If there’s a topic you feel especially passionate about, or something you think would really benefit your staff, chances are you could find books or materials to support a group discussion.

Individual goal setting can also help with staff who are uncertain about trying new things. You can meet one-on-one with teachers to go over your specific expectations – what you want to see included on a lesson plan, for example, and how you will assess whether it’s being done correctly – and then set up a schedule for weekly check-ins to make sure goals are being met. These check-in meetings don’t need to be long; even a few minutes provides an opportunity for you to connect. Teachers may need more support at first when trying out new practices, so regular check-ins allow you to assess whether they are moving in the right direction, if the goals need to be adjusted, or if the teacher needs further training to be able to implement what you are looking for.

All of these ideas do take time and work on your part, but they can pay off exponentially in the end. The more your staff can step up as independent learners who are invested in their jobs and excited about new possibilities, the better it is for everyone.


Teacher and students looking at art

Learning Language Learners

Question: I’m a Head Start teacher, and my class this year has more children than ever who don’t speak much or any English. It’s hard for them to learn the rules or even make friends, and I worry that they will still be behind once they start kindergarten. What can I do to help them learn English faster? It’s also hard to engage with their parents, because even with the ones who do speak some English there are often still communication or cultural barriers.

Answer: It’s no surprise that you’re seeing this trend in your class; a recent national survey indicates that nearly a third of children in Head Start programs across the country are dual language learners, or DLLs. Teachers (and parents) sometimes worry that children who start school – preschool or kindergarten — without knowing English will be at a social and educational disadvantage compared to their native-speaking peers. The good news is that research has shown that bilingual children end up with language skills that are as good or better than those of their single-language peers. It turns out that knowing more than one language is actually good for your brain!

And the easiest time to learn a new language, of course, is in the first few years of life. So the best way you can help your dual-language learners is to fully and consciously support their mastery of BOTH languages. Encourage them to communicate however they feel comfortable; after all, many young children are not yet truly fluent in any language, and communicate through body language, facial expression, and other nonverbal means. Demonstrate through your actions that even if you don’t speak the same language they do, you want to communicate with them, you value what they have to say and will work with them to make the process less frustrating.

This spirit of inclusiveness goes beyond having shelf labels in Spanish, or a few “multicultural” books on the shelf. Think about walking into a classroom in a foreign country. What are some things that might help you feel more comfortable, or at home? Include family pictures, as well as images, music, and food from their individual cultures. This is a great opportunity to involve families by asking them for contributions of particular items, recipes, or time. Parents can come for visits to share a story or song in their native language, or cook with the whole class. It can also go a long way to make an effort to learn a few key words in your students’ native languages, both to make communication easier and to demonstrate your commitment to an inclusive environment.

Reaching out to non-native English speaking parents can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Many programs – Head Start among them – often have bilingual teachers, administrators, and interpreters, and offer resources for parents and families to attend English classes. This is also something your local government sometimes provides, so check the web for multilingual resources. Many programs offer printed documents in multiple languages, which can help families access important information as well as help create a more inclusive, welcoming center environment.

Families and young children need to have the experience of their home language being appreciated and recognized, in order to create a real feeling of belonging in school. This will help children feel more comfortable more quickly – and, as we all know, children who feel at home and supported in classrooms will learn more easily – and help their parents begin to feel more confident navigating what might be an unfamiliar school system to advocate for their children. The contributions of culturally diverse families are hugely valuable to individual centers as well as communities as a whole. Fortunately, as early childhood professionals we are in a good position to mitigate some of the challenges of dual language learners, and help every child get a great start in school.

Teacher and children playing in dirt

Child Care By Any Other Name

Question: Can you explain the difference between daycares, child development centers, and preschools? People use all these different terms when they ask what I’m planning for my baby, and I don’t understand what they are actually referring to.

Answer: Folks are often confused about these terms, which are sometimes used interchangeably, although they do have slightly different meanings. Many early childhood professionals dislike the term “daycare,” because of its connotation of babysitting that belies the amount of hard work, preparation, and expertise that qualified teachers bring to the field. However, many families often still use this term without quite knowing what it means.

“Daycare” usually refers to a center-based or home-based setting where there is little or no expectation of much structure, or of intentional, developmentally-appropriate learning experiences provided for children. Children are usually (though not always) grouped by age, and provided with age-appropriate materials, with adult caregivers mostly there to meet children’s basic needs and provide sufficient supervision for safety.

Child development centers typically have a more structured approach, and focus on helping children reach their developmental milestones. They may do more in the way of assessment than daycares, and have an established curriculum and lesson plans to guide what teachers are doing with children. There often is more consistency between the various classrooms, so that children will be exposed to similar teaching and interaction styles from one room to the next.

Preschool usually refers to the year before kindergarten, and many preschool or pre-k programs have a more academic focus that is intended to prepare children for the skills and behaviors that will be expected of them once they start school.

All of this being said, because these are not official terms, many high-quality, developmentally-appropriate programs are sometimes referred to as daycares (either by the families that use them, or even the programs themselves), and there can certainly be child development centers and preschools that do little more than offer basic care. The best way to select a place for your child is to get recommendations from parents you trust, and visit. Talk to the director and the teachers; observe interactions in the classroom and the daily routine of the class your child would be joining. Try to visit more than once to see different times of the day, and decide whether it’s a good fit for your child and your family’s needs.

Child using shovel

Best Laid Plans

Question: I’m a toddler teacher and my director has been talking about how I need to do lesson plans for my kids. My center doesn’t have a particular curriculum we have to use, and honestly I think babies and toddlers are too young for lesson plans. By the time we get through all the diapering, feeding, changing clothes, going outside, and napping, we hardly have time for anything but just loving on them. Aren’t toddlers too young for a lot of formal lessons?

Answer: We are in whole-hearted agreement that toddlers are, indeed, too young for “formal lessons,” or any type of instruction that involves sitting and listening to teachers for long periods. Toddlers and young children are hands-on learners, and learn best through play and active engagement with materials.

That being said, when done correctly lesson plans can be very helpful, even with toddlers. This doesn’t mean you have to plan every moment of their day, or get so invested in a plan that you’re frustrated if you don’t get through it all. Lesson planning for toddlers often means just having a general idea of what you want to focus on for a day, week, or month, in order to keep offering creative experiences for them. In some ways, they’re more for the teacher than the children. It’s easy to keep pulling out the same favorite toys or sensory materials, because you have a thousand other things to think about, and the fingerpaint has worked before. But toddlers like novelty, too, and if you have a lesson plan in mind, even something as simple as “this week we’ll be talking about balls,” it can lead to new and interesting experiences for them. You might offer a box of plush balls indoors, focus on the circle puzzle, or share some books or pictures about children playing with balls. If some of your children don’t participate in any of this, it’s okay; it’s meant to be an invitation, not a requirement that they master the art & science of all things spherical by Friday.

It’s easy enough, even without a specific curriculum, to Google “toddler + ball” (or any topic) and get loads of ideas for activities, books, and songs. There are also blank lesson plan templates available online aimed at toddlers, if you don’t want to create your own. You can fill in your ideas for the week – which activities or materials you will plan to offer each day – so you’re organized and prepared, rather than frantically searching for an activity in a chaotic moment.

Having a plan in mind can also make it easier for teachers to guide young children’s play intentionally. For example, imagine a toddler playing with foam blocks on her own. She might chew on them, stack a couple, throw them, and examine them. An attentive teacher playing next to can add so much to her experience. A teacher might encourage her to notice the colors, shapes, sizes, and textures of the balls, point out and naming these qualities for her. The teacher might toss or roll the ball to the child and encourage her to roll or toss it back, both to model play and also to get important information about the child’s development – does she favor one hand or the other? Does she have the hand/eye coordination to catch or kick yet? The child is getting an experience full of new language and conceptual development, as well as just enjoying the equally important emotional connection of having fun with a caring, attentive adult. The teacher is getting to offer a new experience, and some insight into a particular child’s developmental milestones.

Child with Pacifier

Anxiety and Bleach

Question: My two-year-old son is getting ready to start child care, and my friends have told me he needs to stop using his pacifier because it won’t be allowed in the classroom. Is this true? He’s used to having it whenever he’s upset or goes to sleep, and it seems like his first few weeks in childcare will be stressful and he’ll need it more, not less.

Answer: Policies about children having pacifiers and “lovies” in classrooms vary from center to center, and are unfortunately not always child-centered. Many directors and teachers have concerns about the challenges that these items present in the face of sanitation rules they need to follow – for example, if a child with a pacifier in his mouth drops it and another child picks it up, the pacifier should be sanitized. Similarly, if a stuffed animal that a child has been holding with unwashed hands (or possibly chewed on) touches a sanitized surface, that surface would need to be re-sanitized.

Although providers have legitimate concerns about sanitation issues, many centers also understand the importance of comfort items like pacifiers and lovies in young children’s success at adjusting to being in a group care situation, and learning to self-regulate. Group care settings are stressful for young children, especially at the beginning of a school year when the teachers and other children are not yet familiar. It is the responsibility of caregivers to make this transition as smooth as possible, which means providing developmentally appropriate comfort and responsiveness based on a child’s individual needs. For some children, this would mean offering a pacifier or favorite stuffed animal or blanket until they are able to find other ways to soothe themselves.

Directors and teachers can be overly zealous in their focus on sanitation rules, sometimes due to an incomplete understanding of what the rules really are. “Caring for Our Children,” a document that outlines the rules and regulations for child care providers, addresses the procedures for children having pacifiers and lovies in care situations, and does not prohibit their use.  It does provide specific guidelines about washing and storage, as well as policies to ensure safe use. It is, of course, important to make every effort to keep a child care environment clean and free of possible contaminants. However, the emotional impact on an infant or toddler who is in a new, stressful situation and not allowed access to familiar self-soothing techniques also needs serious consideration. Caring for children’s emotional needs is not less important than attending to the cleanliness of the environment.

It will be important for your child’s well-being to find out what your specific center’s policies are around this issue, and see if it feels like a good fit based on your child’s temperament and needs. You can ask the director as well as the teachers what they do when children have trouble calming themselves down, and how they help children adjust to the classroom routine. You also can observe a class in action on a visit, and pay attention to how teachers react to children who are upset or anxious. Although your son won’t be able to use a pacifier forever, the weaning process goes best when it’s done gently and gradually, in a way that allows him to still feel safe and secure.

Shy Child

Early Intervention Worries

Question: My child’s teacher gave me a form the other day asking permission to get her evaluated for speech delays. I know my daughter is shy and doesn’t talk much in unfamiliar situations, but I don’t think she has any delays! Do I have to have her evaluated? What happens if she won’t talk to the tester either? She’s 3 years old and has only been at this center for a few months.

Answer: It’s always upsetting when someone expresses concern about your child’s development, whether or not it’s one you share. Sometimes attentive teachers can tend to err on the side of caution out of a desire to make sure all our children get what they need to be successful. Having seen so many children over so many years, though, experienced early childhood teachers usually have a pretty good sense of what is typical for a child of a given age. So if your child’s teacher has concerns, it may make sense to heed them.

But, you know your child best, and many young children do behave differently at home and at school. You are under no obligation to have your child evaluated if you feel it’s unnecessary. On the other hand, the evaluations are free and can offer you a different perspective on your child than you may have gotten before. Speech delays are quite common for young children, and are often easily ameliorated with brief intervention. If that is in fact what’s going on, your child could benefit from receiving services before she starts school. Ongoing speech and communication issues can adversely affect any child’s ability to be successful academically and socially, but the earlier they are identified, the more easily they can be addressed. Since your daughter is 3, she would be entitled to receive services through the county or city where you live, were she to qualify.

If you do decide to go ahead with an evaluation, most testers try to see children in familiar environment: they will often work with a child in her own classroom or home. It could be that your daughter needs more time to adjust to the preschool environment, and will talk more as time goes on. Some questions to consider as you decide what to do: when your daughter does speak, do most of her words make sense? Can she make most sounds correctly and clearly? Has her pediatrician ever mentioned a concern? When you’re in an environment where she’s relaxed – with family, for example, or at friends’ homes – does she speak willingly, and is she generally understood by other children or adults who don’t know her well?

It may also be worth considering expanding your daughter’s opportunities to become more comfortable in a variety of situations. Library story times, Play and Learn groups, or any informal chance to interact with other children and adults can be helpful. Many children (and adults) can become tongue-tied when they aren’t sure what to do or say in a particular social situation, so practice with her. Having a sense of what to expect from others, and what to say in response, can help increase her confidence and ease in unfamiliar settings.

And finally, whether or not your daughter ends up qualifying for services, do check in with her teacher regularly about her progress. Teachers get a different perspective than parents, and they can be a valuable source of information and insight about your child.