The Fall Challenge for School-Age Parents by Heather Lang-Heaven

So many parents didn’t think we would be here again: our kids back in school with a remote setup looking similar to how we wrapped up last Spring! The pandemic lasting longer than originally thought has meant distance learning has kicked off again for Bay Area kids this Fall. For parents who work out of the home it poses an even greater challenge and concern: what are the safe options for school-age children who need supervision during school hours, as well as distance learning technical assistance and support? Here is an overview of the current, various daytime options for school-age children:

Licensed providers continue to be a reliable option and referrals of licensed providers in Northern Alameda County can be obtained by contacting the BANANAS Referral Service at 510-658-0381,, or visiting our Referrals webpage HERE

These programs consist of:

Licensed family child care providers: programs that operate out of a provider’s home, and

Licensed child care centers: facilities that operate in non-home settings.

Once getting referrals, it is important to contact as many licensed programs as possible in order to compare and determine the quality of care. This can feel challenging now and BANANAS referral staff can discuss with you about best practices when looking for care during the pandemic. These practices should include: 

  • Thoroughly interviewing the primary caregiver over the phone.
  • Calling references; people who have used the caregiver. These you can get from the provider.
  • Making arrangements to see the program, and maybe observe the provider working with children. This is tricky these days. See if the provider would allow you to look through windows, over a fence or, at the very least, give you a tour on their phone. 
  • Checking their licensing history. These programs have earned their license from Community Care Licensing (Department of Social Services), and parents can contact or 844-538-8766 to get more information about a program’s licensing history. 

Alameda County Department of Public Health’s Reopening & Recovery health and safety resource for child care programs and schools has very useful information and can be found here: Recovery | COVID-19 | Alameda County Public Health 

When looking for an environment for a school-age child, ask questions of providers in order to help verify the quality of care and determine best-fit of child care programs such as:

  • What activities and arrangements do they have for school-age children?
  • How many children are in care and how are different age groups managed?
  • Are student workstations setup, and is there high-speed Wifi that supports distance learning?
  • What is the outdoor physical setting like, and how flexible is the schedule to accommodate the important play needs of children?

The state’s child care licensing agency recently issued an official notice regarding an application process for a temporary waiver. If an application is approved, this would allow a licensed program (or license-exempt program) to operate without a license, or “beyond the current conditions for licensure or exemption” – in order to expand capacity to serve primarily school-age children during this time. So, for instance, after-school programs or summer camps would be able to create full day, full week, school year option. It remains to be seen how many programs will be granted this expansion option. BANANAS is in communication with Community Care Licensing to make sure we are notified when and if these programs become available. 

Even though licensed child care settings are a good option for families, during the pandemic it can be harder to find available programs with spaces for children. Therefore, here are some other creative solutions families are using:

Shared caregiver arrangements: parent-created child care situations where one caregiver is hired to care for the children from two or more families. The care can take place in one parent’s home or it can rotate among the homes of the participating families. Shared caregiver situations are completely managed by the participating parents and there is no license for this type of care, as long as it is happening in the parents’ homes. All the responsibility for screening and contacting references is upon the parents who are the employers of a domestic worker. This means there are tax, minimum wage, and overtime pay implications. Parents interested in hiring this type of care can contact BANANAS for more information and visit BANANAS Community Jobs Listings to post the job announcement.

Parents can also create care pods in each other’s homes, rotating responsibility for supervising the group (instead of hiring a nanny or tutor) and parents simply exchange their time and support. The key is that no one is being paid. Parents can also use BANANAS Community Jobs Listings at to post their interest in forming a care pod and to look for others who would like to join. 

This is proving to be a unique academic year during a difficult time for parents, teachers, child care providers, and school-age kids! But take heart, and remember that children remain resilient while caring adults ensure their safety and success.


Labor Day Family Fun

Labor Day marks the end of summer, but it doesn’t have to mean the end of fun! While many children are already back in school, this three-day weekend gives us one last chance to celebrate before school really kicks into gear. We have some fun family ideas that you can do with your child that will make this long weekend a memorable one.

Thank a worker– Labor Day celebrates the economic and social legacy of hard-working people, so why not take this opportunity to thank a few people who make your life a little easier? Bust out the glitter glue and make thank you cards for the mailman, a firefighter, or a librarian. Try out some cute and easy thank you card ideas. Foster a child’s creativity and fine motor skills with an activity that you will enjoy together.

Scoop it up– Spend quality time with your child by learning how to make your favorite ice cream at home. Check out these mouthwatering recipes! Did you know that you can help little learners practice some basic math concepts when you cook together? Help your child hone basic math skills, such as counting, sorting, and measuring. While pouring milk or cream into a measuring cup, point out fractions and say, “Let’s fill half of the cup with cream and half of the cup with milk.” Ask your child to cut the ice cream into halves and count bites with them.

Play pretend– Let children, and their friends, dress up as a nurse, a bus driver, or as someone they want to be when they grow up. Similarly, put on a backyard show and get children in the Labor Day spirit. It is no secret that pretend play is an essential part of a child’s development. Encouraging children to role play supports their social-emotional development and enhances creativity. Let their imaginations run wild with this fun activity.

Talk and read– Talk to them about all the different jobs that people do. Help them understand how everyone in the community has an important job. Check out the list of community helper books for your preschooler. Ask your child questions like, “What do you think a construction worker does” or “What is the job of a lifeguard?” By reading to children and talking about what you’ve read, you’re introducing new words that increase vocabulary and promote literacy. Furthermore, you are helping children get academically ready for school by talking and reading to them every day.

Play, learn, and grow together– As a parent, and a caregiver, you are the biggest supporter of your child’s learning. Make time for play to promote their physical, social-emotional, language, and thinking skills. Explore lots of fun arts and crafts ideas on our Pinterest board, such as handprint strawberry craft, condensed milk painting, bathtub crayons, and more that support the philosophy that children learn best through play.

These family fun activities allow you to talk, read, and play with children. And, it is never too early to start providing experiences that will help your child enter school ready to succeed. We hope you have an amazing weekend. Don’t forget to make a little time to kick back and relax. You deserve it!




The ABC’s of School Readiness

At the start of a new school year, it’s natural for parents to feel anxious about sending their child off to kindergarten. You want to make sure that your preschooler is completely ready for their first-ever experience in a classroom. But what does school readiness really mean for a child? School readiness is much more than just learning a set of facts and skills. Getting children ready for school is a process that starts as soon as the child is born. It requires you to spend time reading, talking, and playing with your child.

Here are some tips to help you prepare your child for kindergarten.

Read aloud to your child– Take visits to the library. Check out books, attend a storytime, and be sure to read to them every day. Point to pictures in a book and say the words together. Make reading fun and perhaps create different character voices to make it interesting for your child.

Engage your child in language and literacy activities– Encourage your preschooler to write their name. Let a toddler scribble, draw, and write. Sing nursery rhymes and do fingerplay to stimulate their understanding and use of language. Appreciate their attempts and watch their skills develop with practice. Praise them for trying new things.

Develop and follow routines– Daily routines such as cleaning up after play, taking baths, packing their own bag for an outing offer rich opportunities to support your child’s learning and development. Have regular routines for mealtime and bedtime. Furthermore, getting up around the same time every day will get them used to a school schedule and prevent lack of sleep that can lead to behavioral issues.

Teach them independence– Children feel a great sense of pride when they are able to complete self-care tasks such as dressing themselves, tying their shoes, and using the bathroom without assistance. Let your child do simple chores like setting the table at mealtimes.

Nurture social and emotional learning– The ability to get along with other children, follow directions, and say “goodbye” to parents are skills that are essential for success in school and overall child development. Young children learn these skills through interactions with parents, teachers, and friends. Don’t forget to hug and kiss your child several times a day.

Enhance their thinking skills– In their every day experiences, children use and develop an understanding of math concepts, such as counting, sorting, and problem-solving skills that they will need for school. Give your child puzzles, blocks, and board games. Even better, get on the floor and play with them. Take your child to the zoo, grocery store, and post office. Talk to them about all the animals they saw at the zoo and what sounds they make. Make a list of all the items you want to buy at the grocery store—counting them as you place them in your basket. You can also point out the numbers and wording on the aisle signage by pointing up and saying “Let’s look for aisle 4, we need to find juice”. On the ride home, talk about the colors of the trees, the sky, and cars.

Play, play, and more play- Play is the centerpiece of learning. High-quality play experiences help improve children’s memory, language abilities, and social-emotional skills. Children learn by playing with every day objects and by pretending. The most effective ways for kids to learn about the physical and social world are by testing out new materials, playing with sand, water, and mixing bowls while engaging themselves in pretend play. Encourage your child to use their imagination.

Because kindergarten has more structure, it’s important to prepare your little one for the new environment. The best way to prepare is to talk about it. Before school starts, talk to them about what things will be like at school, how they’ll meet new people, learn new things, and make new friends. Visit the school and walk your new kinder down the halls and to their classroom. Encouraging your child to talk about how they feel is important, and how they should feel comfortable expressing their feelings to their new friend, their teacher. This is definitely a milestone to celebrate, even though your baby is growing up.





Raise a Reader with ‘The Berkeley Baby Book Project’

What could the amazing City of Berkeley have in common with the vibrant music legend Dolly Parton? They both love giving books to young children. And so does BANANAS! Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has teamed up with The Berkeley Baby Book Project to distribute free books to kids in Berkeley, ages 0-5. BANANAS is proud to help spread the word about this wonderful program.

Calling it the “gift of literacy,” Dolly Parton began the Imagination Library in 1995 in her home state of Tennessee. Since then, the program has expanded to other states and recently it distributed its 100 millionth book. The milestone was celebrated in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. where Dolly Parton read books to a group of children.

The benefits of reading early to children are huge. It is never too early to build that close connection with your infant, toddler, or preschooler while stimulating their brains and love for learning. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library helps make this possible with its 60 volume sets of books that include classics such as The Little Engine That Could, Last Stop on Market StreetHooray a Pinata, and many more.

To be a part of this program, a child needs to register for The Berkeley Baby Book Project. Each month, new books are mailed to the child’s home. Books are chosen based on each child’s age and will be sent until the child turns five or the family moves out of Berkeley. The books are a gift and there is no cost to families for being a part of the Imagination Library. Children get the opportunity to create an amazing personal library before they enter Kindergarten.

BANANAS is cultivating the importance of reading in a child’s early development by helping families register for the Berkeley Baby Book Project. Berkeley parents can register in-person or contact our referral line at 510-658-0381. Families are also welcome to pick up gently used children’s books from our Boutique. These books are accepted through generous donations from our community.

Share the wonderful world of books with your children and promote the importance of literacy. For more information on The Berkeley Baby Book Project, visit their website.

Become a Member of The California Early Care and Education Workforce Registry!

What is CA ECE Workforce Registry?

The California Early Care and Education Workforce Registry is an efficient, web-based system designed to verify and securely store and track the employment, training, and education accomplishments of early childhood care and education (ECE) teachers and providers. Participation in the California Early Care and Education Workforce Registry provides you and your staff the opportunity to be part of this statewide data system for all early care and education professionals.

Click here to learn more about the California Early Care and Education Workforce Registry.

What are the benefits to being a member of the Registry?

As a participant in the Registry, participants will be able to:

  • Build a professional profile that can be securely accessed and updated anytime.
  • Electronically store education, training, and employment and professional growth accomplishments.
  • Search and sign up for training workshops and professional development opportunities which are automatically stored on your Registry profile.
  • Create a resume and share professional qualifications.
  • Search for jobs using the Registry Job Board.
  • Be recognized as an Early Care and Education professional.

How to Create a Profile on the CA ECE Workforce Registry?

Creating a profile is easy. Click here for a step by step guide on creating your profile. Visit to create your account today!