Every day, Carrie Ann McAlpine makes a conscious decision to ignore the news. “I check the weather,” she says, and that’s it. Although even the weather forecast is prone to be ignored. “No matter what the meteorologist says, the outlook is always sunny.”
Don’t worry: Carrie Ann – who has run a licensed home child care program with Today’s Family since 2017 – knows the difference between clear skies and rain. Spend any amount of time with her and you will realize that her ability to see the sun shine in every situation is a result of perpetual, powerful, positive thinking.
It’s this attitude that has created a positive learning environment for the children of her program. Carrie Ann believes in the power of positive affirmation, with lots of high-fives and words of support whenever her children need it. “Every child is a seed,” Carrie Ann explains. “They need loving attention and nurturing in order to blossom.”
Even when children are, well, children, Carrie Ann is always sure to be encouraging. It’s a strategy that has been incredibly effective, especially when she has worked with children in need of extra support.
Part of this positive environment is making sure that children understand that “it’s okay to colour outside the lines.” After all, everybody makes mistakes. Carrie Ann takes care to create a safe environment for children to make mistakes – and learn from them. She is always quick to own up to her own errors. “I say ‘whoops, I made a mistake,’” Carrie Ann says. “If we show that we’re not perfect, the kids learn from that.” With a chuckle, she adds, “perfection is a flaw and I’m flawless; I make mistakes all the time!”
Carrie Ann’s approach to child care has paid dividends, especially for Stephen, an infant who was delayed when he came to her program. “He couldn’t turn over, he didn’t even understand how to roll over at 13 months,” recounts Carrie Ann. As Carrie Ann spent time with Stephen, she noticed other issues: he didn’t recognize his own name, he couldn’t pick up food off of his tray, and he didn’t know how to feed himself from a bottle.
Even in infants, a positive environment can have a profound impact. In this case, Carrie Ann’s efforts to help teach Stephen these basic skills were helped by the other children in her program. “I made it a game,” Carrie Ann explains. She encouraged the other children to help Stephen learn how to crawl, offering their own words of encouragement as the infant began to move around on his own.
“The girls in my care were all little moms!” Carrie Ann remembers, laughing. The girls, who were 3 and 4 years old at the time, helped Stephen learn how to hold his own bottle.
Over the course of a year, Carrie Ann saw the effect that her positive environment was having on Stephen. By the time he turned 2, Stephen had begun walking, talking, and feeding himself. He could recognize colours and his own name. He was also playing with the older children, mimicking them as they moved from activity to activity. Stephen’s play was a sign that he was developing his gross motor skills as well.
But the story does not end there.
When Stephen returned to her program after being away for a year, Carrie Ann was determined to overcome another huge obstacle. “As soon as I started, he knew I meant business,” Carrie Ann recalls with a smile. “Eight weeks later, he was toilet trained!”
How did she do it? Again, it was by constantly drawing on positive reinforcement at every stage of the process. “I kept telling him, ‘You are awesome!’” Carrie Ann says. “‘I’m so proud of you!’”
Now that he’s four, Carrie Ann believes that Stephen is ready for the next step in life. “He should do really well in Big-Boy School.”
Before working with Today’s Family, Carrie Ann operated a home child care program for many years both privately and with another agency. (She came to Today’s Family because our organization makes everything streamlined for home child care providers and offers support for families that’s second to none). Over the years, Carrie Ann says has cared for countless children, all of whom have been positively impacted by the power of positive reinforcement. When asked about her approach, she shrugs and shares her secret: “I make all children feel special; we all need to feel that way!”
With words of encouragement that shine like the sun, it’s true,‘the future’s so bright; you gotta wear shades!’
Download the complete Today’s Family 2020 Annual Report by clicking here.