4-C Literacy Backpack Series: “Literature as a Way to Support Social Emotional Growth”

When Supporting Families Together Association (SFTA) funded 20 staff from their member agencies to attend the “Training of Facilitators for Positive Solutions for Families” in April, 4-C Referral Specialist Ruth DeNure from Madison was one of them. The training, a 6 to 8-week parenting curriculum, guided attendees in how to support children’s social emotional growth, and provided free social emotional themed children’s books to participants. Ruth left with the books, but also with an idea to use them in guiding parents at 4-C Play & Learns to better support their children’s social emotional growth.

“I wanted to use literature as a way to support social emotional growth, and to not just think of a book all by itself but as an avenue to start discussions,” said Ruth. “A book can actually be a conduit for that.”

With the ideas and materials from the training, and support from the SFTA Family Literacy Backpacks1Engagement Specialist, Ruth created a series of Literacy Backpacks that parents participating in 4-C Play & Learns can check out and take home to use with their children. Each backpack contains activities and ideas focused around a children’s book that addresses social emotional issues. The handout included in each backpack reads,

“Parents/caregivers who read to their children every day and talk about what they are reading together promote a joy of reading and literacy achievement. Literacy Backpacks encourage reading at home and support the role of parents as educators.”

Ruth has currently completed eight literacy backpacks, so that the program can officially kick off in September with four backpacks for each of the two teams of teachers at the 11 different 4-C Play & Learn sites. Creating the backpacks and their content has proven fairly cost-effective, since Ruth primarily used the books from the training and materials from the 4-C Resource Room and Play & Learns. As the program moves forward Ruth plans on evaluating and expanding the program based on its reach and feedback from participants.

What’s Inside a Literacy Backpack?

Each backpack contains a book, 4-5 story extender ideas for parents/caregivers to do with their child, and a folder with additional story extender ideas and materials explaining the importance of early literacy and the purpose of the Literacy Backpacks.

David Gets in Trouble Backpack

Sample story extender activities from the “David Gets in Trouble” Backpack:

  • “How does David feel?” activity: Pictures of David from the book are provided with different facial expressions. Children can match his expressions to the correct emotion, then parents can ask children questions about that emotion in their life (a.k.a. When was a time you felt happy? How do you feel today?)
  • Feelings Bingo: Bingo cards offer children different situations where children have to guess what emotions that situation would cause. For example, how might a girl getting a surprise party feel? Children can place a Bingo piece on the emotion listed on their game card that they think fits the situation.
  • “The things I can do” activity: Children work with their parents to identify ways they can help around the house. For instance, feeding the fish or putting away their things.
  • “Faces show feelings” activity: The object of this game is to have fun while learning about feelings and facial expressions. The child and parent each choose a marker.  Each player rolls the die and the person with the largest number goes first.  For younger children:  When the child lands on a face, they must make a face like the one they land on and tell about what makes them feel that way.  For older children:  When the child lands on a face, they must tell about a specific time when they felt that way.  The first person to the finish line is the winner.
  • Auditory Discrimination: Parents can read the book in a happy, sad or other emotionally charged tone. Children can share the differences in how they felt about the story when it was read through different emotions. Parents and children can talk about how our tone can reflect our feelings, and how that can affect others.

Stay tuned to the 4-C website for more information on this program and other services that 4-C provides.


Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation in Wisconsin Best Practice Guidelines

Check out this great resource for Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (IECMHC); an effective intervention strategy for building parent/caregiver capacity to support young children’s social and emotional development and to address challenging behaviors. Click here for the printable PDF.

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The 2016 My Feelings Matter Youth Poster Contest is Here!

Source: The 2016 My Feelings Matter Youth Poster Contest is Here!

Walking in a Winter Wonderland…and Other Exercise for Kids! (Includes WMELS domains for Child Care Providers)


When the winter chill hits and little ones are quite literally up to their ears in snow, your first instinct might be to run back inside, fire up the hot chocolate, and pop in a movie. While that might be great once in a while, winter doesn’t mean that children (or you!) stop needing exercise. If anything, little bodies are especially restless in winter being cooped up more frequently, and they need the energy and caloric release of physical activity. According to the Physical Activity Recommendations from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, infants need daily physical activity, while toddlers need at least 60 to 90 minutes of physical activity per day, and preschool aged children need 120. The amount of exercise that children require only increases with age. Fortunately, there are a ton of winter activities that you can do indoors, and with these winter safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics, there is no reason that you can’t go outside on some of those milder winter days. As a reminder for child care providers, the licensing requirements define inclement weather, when children should not go outside as “stormy or severe weather such as any of the following:

(a) Heavy rain.
(b) Temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
(c) Wind chills of 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below for children age 2 and above.
(d) Wind chills of 20 degrees Fahrenheit or below for children under age 2.”

Luckily the activities below account for outside and inside days, so no matter the weather, you are set! Not only do these winter activities incorporate some physical movement into the day, these activities naturally integrate important pieces of child developmental support from the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards (WMELS), which is noted beneath each activity or collection of activities. Just remember to keep Developmentally Appropriate Practices in mind, and tailor these activities to your children’s age and developmental stage.

So what are you waiting for? Parent or provider, don’t let a little cold weather stop you and your children from being healthy and happy! Check out these top ten great ideas and lists from around the web to keep children, and the adults who care for them, active through the winter.


  1. Getting Little Bodies Moving When It’s Too Cold (or Hot) Outdoors
    (WMELS Developmental Sub-Domains: Physical Health and Development)LittleBodiesMoving
  2. Wax Paper “Ice Skating”
    (WMELS Developmental Sub-Domains: Physical Health and Development, Motor Development)
  3. Winter Olympics Yoga
    (WMELS Developmental Sub-Domains: Physical Health and Development, Emotional Development, Self-Concept)
  4. Roll Some Brain Breaks
    (WMELS Developmental Sub-Domains: Physical Health and Development, Listening and Understanding, Early Literacy, Exploration, Discovery, and Problem Solving)
  5. Pompom Hockey
    (WMELS Developmental Sub-Domains: Physical Health and Development, Mathematical Thinking (count the pompoms!), Motor Development, Sensory Organization)


  1. Winter Activities To Help Your Child With Gross Motor Coordination
    (WMELS Developmental Sub-Domains: Physical Health and Development, Motor Development, Sensory Organization) GrossMotor
  2. Top 10 Wintertime Neighborhood Games
    (WMELS Developmental Sub-Domains: Physical Health and Development, Social Competence, Speaking and Communicating, Listening and Understanding, Curiosity, Engagement and Persistence, Creativity and Imagination)
  3.  20+ Fun Activities to Do in the Snow
    (WMELS Developmental Sub-Domains: Physical Health and Development, Sensory Organization, Curiosity, Engagement and Persistence, Creativity and Imagination)
  4. FUN Ideas to Play in the Snow
    (WMELS Developmental Sub-Domains: Physical Health and Development, Sensory Organization, Curiosity, Engagement and Persistence, Scientific Thinking, Creativity and Imagination)
    FUNIdeastoPlay5. Winter Nature Walk Ideas
    (WMELS Developmental Sub-Domains: Physical Health and Development, Sensory Organization, Curiosity, Engagement and Persistence, Scientific Thinking, Diversity in Learning)
    WinterNatureWalkHave FUN, stay active, stay warm, and SHARE your favorite winter activities for kids!

Make ‘Em Laugh Campaign

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The ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’ Campaign
“Laughter is the language of the soul.” — Pablo Neruda

Supporting Families Together Association (SFTA) strives for every child to grow up in a place where they feel safe and loved. This means that their basic needs are met and they feel free to learn and explore, to ask questions, to make messes and mistakes, and, of course, to laugh. It doesn’t take much. SFTA asks you to help us give more children the chance to chuckle, giggle, guffaw, shriek, snort, and cackle with our “Make ‘em Laugh’ Campaign.

The goal of the ‘Make ‘em Laugh’ Campaign is to highlight how important each moment of a child’s early stages are in developing the person they will become. Early childhood is a time of rapid brain development, where every experience, interaction, and relationship adds up to shape who you are. The simple act of making a child laugh fires off signals in their brain and body that over time, and even in that one moment, can make that child a happier, healthier, more emotionally centered person. And it’s great for adults too! How can you not laugh along? So, let’s ‘Make ‘em Laugh!’ Please share photos and videos of your child, niece, nephew, grandchild, the kid next door, your student—any child who is a part of your life—laughing. You can be in the video too, or just in the background making silly faces, sounds, or songs to make the magic happen. We welcome videos/photos from anyone—you don’t have to be a Wisconsin resident to share! Videos can be posted to the SFTA Facebook page, or shared by contacting us through GoFundMe. Once you post your video (or photo), make a donation of your choosing to our “Make ‘Em Laugh” Campaign so that SFTA can continue supplying supports that keep young children and their families learning and laughing. You don’t have to post a video or photo to donate!

Please visit our Campaign page for more information!