As usual I spent my two week ‘vacation’ working on projects and as usual I didn’t manage to complete ALL the things I had hoped to. However, this year I DID spend my entire vacation outdoorsbecause I was working on the backyard play space. It was wonderful!
I’m back to work today and the children should be arriving soon so here’s a very quick post about the mostly completed yard. First, the view to the SW corner as you leave the house;
Down the stairs and looking to the SE corner;
From the SE corner looking to the NW corner;
From the SW corner looking to the NE corner;
This is one of my favourite areas – my little hideaway under the cedars;
Here is the old tipi with newly added storage areas and camouflage cover;
I added ‘castle battlements’ to the wall between the gravel area and the garden and attached the drums here too. The table was made from a spool and some tile samples – supplies that were donated by parents;
The stump circle containing the ‘digging area’ was moved to one edge of the gravel area to make room for a ‘construction zone’. All the building supplies are now stored conveniently under the willow;
The fence panel between the bark area and the car port is now the ‘art wall’ – although not quite complete yet – the planters will hold art supplies and paper etc can be clipped to the fence;
I also have a large hammock that hangs in this area when we want to relax
The biggest part of this project is not visible – the removal of the old deck and walkway – there were sections of it that were rotting and unsafe, it was 18 years old. I couldn’t just trash the whole thing though, any sections of wood that were still good were of course salvaged and reused.
Total monetary cost of this entire project was $350 (mulch, stone, sunshade etc) and a few hundred hours of labour in 30 degree Celsius weather. Perfect vacation.
The problem with having Mud Day on the Friday before my vacation begins is that then I’m too busy working on my vacation projects to write about anything. So, since my ‘vacation’ is nearly over and my projects are almost complete here’s a very quick post about June 29, 2018.
The weather forecast said there was a chance of rain and there was a tiny bit of rain before we got outside – we wouldn’t have minded if it had continued. Once outside, the children immediately ran to check out the pool full of semi-dry soil;
Some were curious why it was only dirt but then I asked them if they were certain it was only dirt. They dug deeper…
It took much longer than I expected for them to find all the ‘dinosaur bones‘ hidden in the dirt so I didn’t bother bringing out the new activity cards – today the mud play was their main focus – I’ll introduce the card activities another day.
The children were becoming less interested in playing in the pool of dirt and seemed to prefer playing in the bins of water meant for washing the dirt off the bones.
So, I changed it up a bit…
Some of the children liked this much better;
Later we added some corn flour to the mud to make mud dough which the older children enjoyed playing with all afternoon while the littles napped;
As I watched the children engaged in their mud day activities I was already making plans for Mud Day 2019. I knew that one of my vacation projects was removing the old deck – where we were currently playing with mud – but I also knew that there would still be space for mud play and so much more.
You though, will have to wait until after my vacation is over and I’ve finished all my projects before you get to see the new outdoor play space.
We have this birdhouse in the corner of the yard near the carport. It was built many years ago – at least ten, probably more – as a project to use up some scrap building supplies. Initially there was hope that it would get used for nesting but I’ve never seen a bird even land on it so really it is just a decoration.
Over the years of exposure to extreme weather conditions it has begun to decay. There are now many cracks and gaps for ‘ventilation’ and a few small pieces have fallen off. Last year the main support post started to weaken and the whole thing tilted over at an odd angle away from the carport. The ‘decoration’ was becoming much less decorative.
A little more than a week ago I was sitting our in the yard taking advantage of the lovely spring weather. I watched a little black capped chickadee fly in the yard and perch on the old birdhouse. Then, to my surprise I saw it go inside! For the next hour I watched it come and go, in and out, a busy little bird. I believe it was only one bird – at least I only ever saw one at any given time.
Later, when there was no activity around the birdhouse I took a peek inside. It was very dark and hard to see much but it is full of bits of things. We tied the post over to straighten the house and give it some extra support ‘just in case’.
I’ve seen the bird(s) on and off over the past week – mostly in the evening. I’ve never mentioned it to the children – I know they’d be excited and it wouldn’t take much to knock that little house down. For now I just watch…and imagine the little birdie conversations;
Bird 1: Check out this house.
Bird 2: It needs a lot of work.
Bird 1: There’s a nice herb garden in the front yard.
Bird 2: But it is so drafty inside and that perch looks like it may fall off any moment.
Bird 1: It’s a great neighbourhood and it is within our budget.
Bird 2: There’s a lot of traffic and it’s noisy – so many children, constant construction, maybe we should keep looking.
Many years ago I wrote about a group of preschoolers who enjoyed playing their version of I Spy. My current group of preschoolers has also developed their own adaptation of the game but for them it is location/time specific – they will only play it when they are sitting at the table before, during or after meals.
In my schedule as meal time approaches I take the infants/toddlers out of the playroom one at a time so I can change diapers, wash hands, and get them seated before I do the final food prep. I expect that the three and four-year-old children will want to continue playing during this time so I don’t request that they start cleaning. However, they anticipate the routine and rush to put their toys away so they can come to the table.
Children: “The toys are cleaned up, can we come to the table now?”
Me: “The food is not ready and I still have diapers to change. You have more time to play if you want to”.
Children: “We want to come to the table and play I Spy”.
Me: “You could play I Spy in the playroom too”.
Children: “We like to play at the table”.
So, I send them to wash their hands and then play I Spy as they wait for me to finish preparing snack/lunch. It goes something like this;
Child 1: I spy something that is Cheryl’s chair.
Child 2: CHERYL’S CHAIR!
Child 1: That’s right! Now it is your turn.
Child 3: Cheryl’s chair is black, you were supposed to say ‘I spy something black’.
Child 1: There are lots of black things, I spied Cheryl’s chair.
Child 2: My turn, my turn, MY TURN! I spy something that is brown and pink and blue, and green, and gold.
Child 3: AWWCK! That’s too many colours!
Child 2: No it’s not, look at that pillow – it is brown and pink and blue, and green, and gold – see.
Child 3: OK fine, my turn. I spy something that is on that shelf.
Child 1: The shelf by the window?
Child 3: No, not that shelf, the one that is over there by that other thing – beside the curtain.
Child 2: The birdhouse, the pencil, the phone, the book, the paper, the candle, the…
Child 3: That’s right!
Child 1: Which one was it?
Child 3: Umm, the book I think.
I don’t actually think there are any ‘wrong’ answers when they play this game – the turn taking seems to be their main goal. Their language and communication skills are what interest me. Inevitably, no matter how quickly I try to get lunch ready, the excitement level will become far to high and I will have to intervene to remind them about volume and activity level before I can put food on the table. Even once the food is ready the I Spy game usually continues.
Occasionally when the school-age children are here they join in, and sometimes they manage to briefly follow the preschoolers directions. Often they try to enforce alternate rules but the preschoolers just dismiss the new rules and carry on. The little ones enjoy having the older children play along but it is ultimately ‘their’ game and they are not interested in changing it. Just take your turn and carry on.
Sometimes I can be a hoarder – buying and hiding supplies for ‘later’. It could be that I think it may be a fun activity but not interesting for the group currently in care. It may be that the time or space is not yet appropriate and the activity will be offered when the conditions are right. Yes, admittedly there have been times I’ve forgotten about some supplies and then re-discovered them while looking for something else.
Last summer I set aside supplies for two sensory play activities that I wanted to do in the winter. Usually I like to do messy play activities outside so summer would be best but for these activities I thought a ‘cleaner’, indoor environment would be better. Besides sometimes in the winter we can’t be outside as much as we’d like to and we need something different to do when we are cooped up inside.
So, earlier this month when it was bitterly cold outside, we tried a new play dough recipe. Yes, we’ve made and played with play dough many, many times but this recipe claimed to make ‘stretchy’ play dough. It used one part hair conditioner and two parts corn flour. I let the children each mix their own batch.
There was a lot of trial and error – too wet, add more flour – too dry, add more conditioner. Maybe it was the quality of the dollar store conditioner but the mixture never did become stretchy however the ‘coconut’ scent was a pleasant break from winter. Later the children added the paint colour of their choice and when done we bagged each one separately so we could play with them again on other days too. Not exactly the result I envisioned but still enjoyable.
The second activity I offered was water beads. I’ll admit that when I first got them I doubted that teeny tiny bag of wee little dry beads would be enough for all the children and thought maybe I should have ordered two bags. I put the package in my desk drawer to save for a week when it was really cold outside.
Last week I filled two bins with nice warm water and added some dry water beads – at first they were barely noticeable in all that water so I also added some pipettes and other water toys too. The children enjoyed the water play and eventually the beads soaked up enough water that we could see them better but they were still almost impossible to pick up.
Later that afternoon we checked and they had soaked up all the water – this was really exciting! This is what HALF a teeny, tiny bag of water beads looks like when they are all wet;
I love the way the water beads feel – they may be one of myfavourite sensory bin items and the children really like them too. I don’t even mind when the occasional one bounces out of the bin – even when I accidentally step on one it doesn’t break. Picking up strays is a whole additional activity.
The instructions say the beads are reusable so we experimented by putting a few in a smaller container and letting them dry out. It took just two days for them to dehydrate back to their original size. If I had taken a ‘before’ picture you would see that when wet these beads had filled the whole bottom of this container – magic
I’m certain this is an activity we will enjoy many more times to come. In fact, I’m wondering if we might even try putting some in a container on the light panel…
It is December 31st and I have not written a post yet this month. *sigh* When I first started blogging (seven and a half years ago) I intended to write every day. I soon realized that once or twice a week was sufficient. Lately it has been only once or twice each month. I really want to write more. I plan to write more. When I’m working out at the gym, outside hiking, or enjoying a hot steamy shower I create fantastic posts in my mind. Sit down at the computer and….nope, got nothing now. Today I am adamant – I will write something to end the year.
I hosted our family Christmas dinner for nine on Christmas Eve. The schedule was perfect – I had one full day for prep and cleaning before dinner day. Stores were open so I didn’t fret about ‘what if I forgot something’. Of course I didn’t actually need to run out and get anything – that only happen’s when the stores are closed. I made three vegetable dishes, two potato dishes, turkey, gravy, and a HUGE batch of stuffing. Everyone loves stuffing so I make a separate roaster full of stuffing – used seven loaves of bread!
There were also the little extra snacky things like pickles and cheese and cranberry sauce etc that don’t require cooking. I had done all my baking in the weeks before Christmas so dessert was covered (even now we still have dainties waiting to be eaten). The whole dinner was completely stress free. I had plenty of helpers available for the last minute ‘get everything on the table while it is hot’ rush and then everyone got to eat.
I ran three full loads through the dishwasher that day and washed four sink-fulls of bulky items but the kitchen was clean by 9 pm. All the leftovers were packed up and frozen for future meals. There was nothing left to do on Christmas day except sit and relax. I suppose I could have written this post then, but I didn’t. The other thing I didn’t do was take ANY Christmas dinner photos.
So instead, I’ll include this one of the team that pulled our sleigh on MCCA’s Dashing Through the Snow event earlier this month;
I had a great time playing outdoors with other amazing ECE’s that day but didn’t manage to write a blog post about it either.
So now, as 2017 nears its end, I’ll begin making some plans for what I want to do in 2018. I’m not one for making ‘resolutions’ but maybe, if I reorganized my office space I’d be more inclined to sit at my desk and be productive…