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…
I was just a toddler when I got my first cat and officially became a ‘cat person’. Since then there has been a cat in our home except for a few brief periods when circumstances did not allow us to have pets. Like humans, each of the 16 cats that have been a part of my family has had a unique personality. For me, of all those cats, Mali is probably the most memorable.
Yes, she did eventually grow into those ears!
She was always a very easy going cat – she didn’t just ‘tolerate’ the attention she received from the children – she really seemed to enjoy it. Dramatic play was fun, especially if she got to ‘nap’.
She also enjoyed chasing games;
And Hide & Seek;
Even screen time got her attention;
But above all else she loved to snuggle;
After all the children had gone home she would follow me around waiting for me to sit down so she could curl up on my lap. She could be a bit demanding – impatiently sitting by my chair, meowing to let me know I was taking to long to get there. She forced me to sit and relax and she even made doing paperwork enjoyable.
At the end of every day she would follow me upstairs, burrow under the blankets and snuggle up against me as close as she could. The sound of her purring would lull me to sleep. However, this past summer she stopped coming to bed at night – instead she would stand guard at the bottom of the stairs to prevent Button (aka Monkey-Butt) from following.
Malta had begun to accept Button’s presence in the house and at times even seemed to enjoy their chasing games. Mali’s dislike for the interloper had only increased and was sometimes almost an obsession – hunting and attacking the little cat whenever she could.
Mali continued to run to sit on my lap when I sat down but she often struggled to get comfortable. She was unusually tense and rarely able to fully relax. Every noise or movement startled her – even sometimes when I would pet her. The vet prescribed some anxiety medication but it didn’t seem to help.
Then Mali began having seizures – most were very small but a couple of them rendered her unable to walk for half an hour. Her mournful howl at the onset of each seizure was heart-wrenching. The vet prescribed more medication but warned me that if the seizures were caused by a brain tumor the medication wouldn’t help. The brain tumor could only be confirmed with an MRI and if we wanted that we would have to take her to the veterinary college in Saskatchewan.
The seizure meds made her drowsy – I had to wake her to give them to her and then she would sleep again. She had to be coaxed to eat even a few pieces of food and rarely moved on her own. I decided that I should make one last vet appointment for her Sadly, before I could take her to her to that appointment she had another seizure and we rushed her to the emergency veterinary hospital. She lay on my lap for the entire 40 minute trip – no noise or movement other than her laboured breathing. RIP Mali, I will miss you.
October felt like such a quiet month but as November brings much cooler weather I took some time to review my observations and pictures from the past month.
This has intrigued me;
At first it was only one of the boys that arranged these items around the circle on the table. He did this on several days with these same toys but then left them and went to play with other toys until cleanup time when he would then put them away. If at any point someone moved one of the circle toys he would return it to its place in the circle.
Since the room was rearranged these toys have not been put on the table…but other toys have been. Nothing has been left here for long so I haven’t managed to get a picture but several times a day there are toys place around the circle. Sometimes cars, sometimes tools, often plates of food. What is most interesting is that now ALL of the boys are doing this. I will keep observing.
Hills have also been popular. There are two hills we pass frequently on our walks and we have made a point to stop and play on them. The boys love to roll down, up and across the hills. They’ve even started rolling down the rock slope in the back yard. I can’t imagine that would feel as nice as the leaves and grass but the boys seem to enjoy it.
One day watched this boy attempt to attach a piece of twine he found to a stick and use it to pull his ‘stuck’ tractor. He was so persistent even when the twine kept breaking. He was was fully engaged in this activity for over half an hour oblivious to anything the others were doing. I didn’t interfere either.
Inside there was a popular game developed and enjoyed by all the boys. They used the coloured fabric squares as ‘ghost traps’ and put the white scarves over their heads to pretend to be ghosts. They then walked around the room and if their foot touched a ghost trap they fell to the ground which resulted in fits of laughter from everyone.
The doll house in the new loft has been surprisingly popular too – even more than the blocks up there;
And of course we had to paint those funny little white ‘garlic’ pumpkins too.
About eight years ago I replaced my old basic dishwasher with a fancy new one. It didn’t take long to find out that all those extra features also meant there were more things to break and the first ‘on warranty’ repair was made within a couple months. Luckily I had also purchased the extended warranty because there were other necessary repairs after the original warranty ended. The most severe one required a six week wait for parts. Considering that I often run two full loads of dishes each day, six weeks is a really long time to go without a dishwasher.
Early this spring the old, no longer on warranty, dishwasher started making unusual noises and gave occasional error codes. So, I decided to begin a search for a new dishwasher before the old one actually died. It took a while to find one that met both my ‘features’ and ‘price’ criteria. The old dishwasher kept working but it did get so loud that it was difficult to hear anything else on the main floor if the dishwasher was on. Last weekend we finally installed the new one and with every load I find myself wondering ‘Is it working? The lights are on but I can’t hear anything.’ The dishes come out beautifully clean and sanitized so yes, it is working.
None of this really matters to the children except for one thing… a new dishwasher comes in a big box. Cats like boxes too, but only when there are no children;
This big box even has a window;
All week, this has been the children’s favourite toy. It has been a camper, cave, spaceship and more but no matter what it is being used as there is one common issue – it is always in need of some type of repair.
Maybe I should have asked the boys to take a look at the old dishwasher. The old one is still sitting in the porch – I’m trying to figure our if we can use any parts from it – after all, we haven’t got a dishwasher in our play kitchen…
About six weeks ago that I sketched a playroom arrangement on a scrap piece of paper. It was the my response to yet another dispute over someone knocking down someone else’s block tower which was built in a walkway – a result of a small room with multiple play areas.
This was the old room arrangement with the shelves splitting the room in half – it allowed some separation between play areas but was difficult for me to interact with young infants/toddlers on both sides of the room or quickly intervene when necessary;
I wanted the room to have better flow and more open space but still have defined spaces for various types of play. I thought again about all the wasted space above us with our nine foot ceilings and took inspiration from tiny house design to create a new loft space – just for building with blocks, out of all walkways and the reach of infants/toddlers who prefer to destroy instead of create.
Construction took a total of six full 14 hour days over four weekends. Some of the pieces were assembled and stored, installation was done in two phases. The result is a completely new, more functional play space.
A brand new kitchen design is located in the SW corner of the play room. The cupboards and appliances were created by stacking and attaching wooden boxes. The old block bin now contains food and other items that can be used in the kitchen/restaurant/store areas. The table is in the center of the room and has multiple uses.
The music/dance area was slightly reorganized but remains in the SE corner;
The workshop area remains in the NE corner along with some blocks;
And the mini-scenes and entrance to the nature area remain in the NW corner but the dress-up clothes and ‘car’/steering wheel (not visible in this picture) were moved to the space across from the scenes, beside the mirror, adjacent to the kitchen area.
The new 21 square foot loft is over the kitchen area. It is 5 1/2 feet off the ground so the children and I can walk/stand under it. Inside the loft there are bins of blocks and the dollhouse shelf is on the back wall. I still have to find all the dollhouse furniture and people – most of them were removed from the playroom long ago because they were too small or delicate to have out when babies were present. Only older children go in the loft so these toys can be there.
The kitchen area shelves and appliances form a series of platforms that create an enclosed staircase along the side and back of the loft;
Here’s another view of the new kitchen area and staircase. For perspective, the counter height is 24 inches and the fridge is 36 inches tall.
I also added some new storage features inside the fridge but haven’t yet finished painting the inside white.
There’s more new storage under, on, and beside the counter now too;
The children are thrilled with the new play space. From the loft they can ‘see everything‘ – makes me laugh when they include their house, favourite store, and the zoo in their list of things they can see from the loft. Good imagination
Yet, of all the changes, the one that still excites them the most is the addition of this bell by the cash register.
I don’t consider juice to be a replacement for a serving of fruits or vegetables yet I have always had juice on our menu as an occasional ‘treat’. Milk is always served with lunch but once or twice a week I do serve juice with snack (water for those whose parents don’t allow juice). I have never served fruit flavoured ‘beverages’, any type of powdered beverage mix or soft drinks even for special occasions.
Sometimes I have had children who don’t like milk but they will eventually drink it or water if juice is not an option. Sugar sweetened beverages can become a battle ground (I’ve never even served chocolate or other flavored milk). In the 20 years that I have been providing childcare, children refusing to drink anything except juice has never been a problem – until this summer.
I actually found it funny at first – none of the children in this group are new here – they all like milk but they love juice. Their juice chant following every meal/snack had reached riot level. The day they started throwing cups of milk and demanding juice instead was the end of my amusement.
However, I didn’t actually remove juice from the menu. Instead, I now only buy/serve one type of juice – tomato based, eight vegetable juice. It took just two weeks – no one demands juice anymore. In fact, when offered juice or water they all choose water. No one complains about milk anymore either.