/Helen Andresen

About Helen Andresen

Helen has devoted over 50 years to the education of Colorado’s children. After teaching secondary science in Adams County she took ownership of Iliff Play School…and founded Iliff Preschool, Kindergarten, and School-Age Summer Camp. She is an advocate for Early Childhood Education as well as an educational trainer and business consultant. Her center is celebrating over 50 years of service to the SE Denver community. Helen’s interests center on advocating for professional development in Early Childhood Education. As past NECPA Commissioner for the State of Colorado, she promoted high quality programs by serving as a verifier and trainer for an independent accreditation program. As a Child Care Professional Field Counselor, she mentored educators who were seeking National training and credentialing. Her board experience includes Vice President of Professional Development, Past President, and Board Emeritus of the Early Childhood Association of Colorado. Her efforts at the State level have included work on the Child Care Licensing Review Task Force, the Governor’s Early Childhood Professional Standards Task Force, and the Office of Child Care Service Advisory Committee. She has presented management and marketing seminars at conferences and workshops, advocating for Early Childhood Education in legislation, and publishing articles in trade magazines and on the web. Her hobbies include traveling, scuba diving, and skiing. “Working hand in hand with families to ensure quality care and education for young children is the key to building a nation with the greatest future.”

Watch for these plants when on outings with the family!

Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac are the big three when it comes to poisonous plants when you’re out on family outings! All three plants cause rashes with a chemical known as urushiol. After touching the plant, oils from the leaves can be transferred everywhere. This makes it easy to spread the rash to other parts of your body, or even other people, before you’ve even realized you’ve touched a poisonous plant.

Poison ivy is usually found as a vine or shrub growing close to the ground, and it can grow in urban and rural areas throughout much of North America, excluding deserts, Hawaii and Alaska. The plant has leaves arranged in groups of three hence the saying, “leaves of three, leave them be” and can have light-colored berries or small flowers.

Poison oak is very similar to poison ivy, although while poison ivy will typically have leaves with jagged edges, poison oak tends to have leaves with smooth, curved edges, much like actual oak leaves.

Poison sumac is the hardest to recognize of these three, because it tends to just look like a shrub or small tree. Each branch will have about 13 leaves, arranged in pairs. Poison sumac is found mainly in the Southeast United States, along riverbanks and other very wet areas. It has the potential to cause a more severe rash than either poison ivy or poison oak.

Anyone who comes into contact with these plants can develop a rash, and if the rash is severe enough, it can also cause fever, swelling and blisters. Some people might develop an anaphylactic reaction.  Those individuals should immediately seek medical care. Once a person has rinsed the poisonous resin from their skin, they can no longer spread the rash.

When […]

Summer is around the bend…time to think about ways to save you and your child’s skin.

Look for broad-spectrum products rated at SPF15 or higher. Slightly greater ratings may be needed for children who tend to have longer exposure times.
Apply sunscreen at least 30 mins. before sun exposure…or you may wish to consider products with titanium dioxide. Use generous amounts and re-apply often. (Always apply sunscreen to your child before sending your child to his/her educational or camp setting Check with the caregiver or counselor as to when they reapply the sunscreen.)
Avoid intense sun between 10:00AM and 4:00PM. Stay in the shade when possible.
Wear a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses. Long sleeves with a tight knit should be worn by those who are in high altitudes and/or fair skinned.
Use lip balm rated SPF 15 or higher.
Routinely examine your skin (don’t forget hairline areas) and remember sunburn blisters are second degree burns…see a doctor.

Have Kids Changed?

“Kids have changed.”
Over the last years we have heard this statement repeatedly from educators, parents, and the media. But have children really changed? In reality, it is society, parents, and schools that have changed. These changes have transformed the way our children play, interact, and learn. This has created issues beyond poor behavior.

“The United States faces an epidemic of unparalleled proportions,” write Gina Fontana and Ralph Barrett in this provocative call-to-action. “We have raised a generation of socially, cognitively, and physically underdeveloped children, leaving parents and teachers struggling to find solutions.”

What is one thing early childhood educators can do to ensure that children are equipped with the skills they need to succeed in today’s society? Bring back the creative arts! Music, art, and dancing “allow children to be creative, take risks, and express themselves in innovative ways.” The whole body of a child must be involved in learning, not just their brain, for the child to develop into a productive, well-rounded citizen. Read more here.

Prevent Bullying

Bullying happens among people throughout their life span. As adult caregivers/educators, we cannot hear everything or be present to intervene in all that is said or done among groups or pairs of children in our care. I believe that the impulse to enjoy being mean to others in all its forms is innate to human nature. If we cannot prevent bullying from happening, then what can be done? I feel we must help children to understand what constitutes bullying so they can recognize it at once. We must help children make the effort to stand up for themselves, speak out (this can be practiced with puppets), tell the teacher, or walk away.

Individualized Programs in Preschool

Good programs in preschool should be individualized so that each child’s experiences match his or her developmental abilities. Developmentally appropriate programs emphasize the following:
1. Active exploration of the environment.
2. Self-directed, hands-on learning activities.
3. A balance between individual and group activities/active movement and quiet activities.
4. Positive and supportive interaction with teachers and peers.
5. Encouragement to be social, confident, and independent thinkers.

Help Your Child Play

Decades of research have demonstrated that play is more than just fun and games.  Through play, children learn to interact with others, develop language skills, recognize and solve problems, and discover their potential.  What can you do to help your child play?

Reduce screen time. They may be bored at first…but you can make suggestions to inspire their creativity.
Don’t overschedule them in adult-organized activities. This leaves little time for play.
Get them outdoors to clean, rake, wash the car…it really does inspire play.
Choose a toy that is 90% child, like wood, boxes, balls, dolls, and dirt/ sand. Let them create their own scenes to play in.
Lobby for safe parks. Organize with other parents to monitor play areas.
If your child receives care and education outside of your home, ask how much time your child gets outdoor play every day. Look at the outdoor facilities…is it shaded by trees in addition to canopies?  Does it have access to water, mud, sand, grass, loose materials for building, knocking over, and pretend play?  Is their plenty of space to run, climb, find secret hiding places and dream up dramas?

The benefits of play are so impressive that every day of childhood

should be a day for play.

Help Your Child Become A Problem Solver

Preschoolers who can solve their own problems feel confident and enjoy learning. They are willing to make mistakes and learn from them. You can help by:

Pointing out that it takes time to learn something new. Explain that learning takes a while and practice will make it better.
Remind your child that problems help “grow brains”. Remind your child that he or she knows how to do lots of thing by practicing.
Work with your child to think of three ways TO SOLVE A PROBLEM. Talk about each one and then have your child pick one to try out.
Let you child know that you believe in him or her. Say “Do you think you can solve that problem on your own? I think you can. What do you want to do first?”
Point out your own mistakes as part of life and learning. “Uh-oh, I spilled my water. Spills happen. Next time I won’t put my glass where my elbow can bump it”

Preschool vs. Daycare

I just received another call asking me if Iliff is a preschool or a day care. Why do we as a society try to separate early education and care? After all the best programs are all carefully designed to encourage children’s cognitive, social/emotional, and physical development.

Maybe part of the reason for the separation is that parents see staff sitting on the floor to teach or holding children when they are having a hard time separating from their parents. While staff keep children safe and clean…perhaps parents neglect to recognize these moments as teaching and learning moments…..that teachers are practicing observing, listening, being present, following the child’s lead, and scaffolding on their development. With this practice of caring I believe we become artful teachers.

Caring and early education cannot be separated. Whether we care for children well, or not so well, children are learning.

Kindergarten Art Walk

A big thanks to Christine and Maureen from the REACH OUT AND READ COLORAD team,, for helping us sort and count donations collected from our 4th annual First Friday Art Walk. With the help of the kindergarten class, we counted 728 books to be distributed to hundreds of distribution points including Denver Health Montebello, Denver Health School-Based Clinics, Stout Street Health Clinic, Inner City Health, Clinica Colorado, Rocky Mt. Youth Clinics, Salud in Commerce City, etc.
Miss Colorado World 2015, Angelica Cromwell, accompanied Christin and Maureen, reading books to the Kindergarten and also helping with counting and sorting.
Congratulations once again to Iliff Preschool’s outstanding community of parents, students, staff, and friends. Your efforts and donations will help Colorado’s youngest children to succeed in school by partnering with doctors who prescribe books and encourage families to read together.

Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood

“Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul.” Friedrich Froebel

Over 175 years ago, Froebel asserted that children learn best through play and hands –on exploration in a nurturing and carefully planned environment. He believed that a child naturally loves discovery in nature, music, and movement and that rhymes and stories should be the basis of letter and number skills. He stressed that children, like plants in nature, grow at their own pace and must be nurtured by family and society.   Many early learning programs and kindergartens today have lost sight of what Froebel intended. What is found now are teachers working out of a government determined script driven by testing and funding. When looking for quality early learning centers and kindergartens, look for those who are reinvesting in loving and nurturing environments where children can again learn through play and hands-on exploration and discovery.