Saturday, March 26, 2011

Active Play

I consider most of the children in my current group to be ‘active’. Now you’d think that, with so many news reports about childhood obesity and sedentary lifestyles, I would consider it good that these children are so active.  In reality though, there is a part of me that is so very tired of saying ‘walk in the house’, ‘keep your feet on the floor’, ‘that’s not meant for swinging on’, etc thousands of times every day.

You see, I prefer indirect guidance – using the environment to influence the behaviour of the children. During CBA observations and evaluations my understanding and use of indirect guidance was identified as one of my greatest strengths. I detest having to interrupt play to redirect behaviour.

I have the playroom arranged into five well defined areas with specific purpose for each area.  There are no long pathways that encourage running – the main play space is less than 200 square feet and there are plenty of obstacles.  I’m beginning to think the children view these obstacles as a challenge to be overcome – like in a video game where the goal is to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ in the least amount of time preferably without touching the ground.

Have I inadvertently encouraged these behaviours by providing activities like parkour?  We’ve discussed safety in detail and differentiated between appropriate indoor and outdoor activities. We have plenty of outdoor time every day.  Yesterday we were outside for two hours and they spent most of that time running and jumping.

I rotate the toys often so the children have new choices and don’t easily get bored.  I provide a mix of adult led and free play activities so they have the opportunity to participate in organized group activities and also to engage in activities that they initiate.  I schedule downtime for relaxing and enjoying quiet activities so they don’t become over stimulated.

I briefly – very briefly – considered turning on the TV because I know that would work.  There are several children in the group that I’m certain would become almost comatose in front of a TV screen but the ‘professional’ side of me can’t allow me to resort to that.

This has been such a long winter and I know I can’t wait for the opportunity to work in the garden.  I have absolutely no desire to do any paperwork no matter how important it is.  (Please note: if my coordinator is reading this – I am no where near ready for re-licensing).  The recent freeze, thaw, freeze cycle has created a glacier in my yard that threatens to never melt even if the weather does ever really warm up.

But we can smell it.

Spring break is here and summer is on the horizon.  We are excited and that excitement is so hard to contain in any environment.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Water & Rainbows & Dreaming of Green

Today is officially the first day of Spring.

At circle/calendar time last Friday the children cheered when I told them that.  I think they believe that the snow will miraculously disappear and we won’t need to bundle up to go outdoors.

I’m sorry to say that is not correct. In the fourteen years that I have been providing childcare only twice have we been snow free by the end of March.

This year there is no chance that the snow will be gone any time soon.  There have been a few warmer days – enough to create ‘Lake 108’ as we kindly refer to the puddle in our back lane.

This picture was taken early last week when the lake first formed and we stopped parking in the driveway because we didn’t have a boat.  By yesterday evening it was 18 inches deep in the centre, extended past two houses on either side of us and was on the verge of breaching the mini dike we had built along our fence line.

Thankfully some city workers stopped by this morning to steam open the frozen drain and we no longer have beach front property.  We do still have plenty of snow – and ice.

Last week we also got to celebrate St Patrick’s Day – one of my favourite events.  I’m not Irish, I think for me the appeal of St Patrick’s Day is really the promise of spring. Rainbows and green things and magic.

I didn’t make an all green lunch as I have in the past.  The children do seem to think that it is fun but they simply will not eat artificial green food. I do miss not having ‘rainbow bread’.

Sandwiches with rainbow bread were a St Patrick’s Day tradition here until the local bakery upgraded their bread makers and the new machines can’t create the swirl effect.

We recite our favourite poems like ‘Rainbow Colors’ by Sharon MacDonald

“So, wave your arms above you
Cast your colors high
And, try to make a rainbow
Across a cloudy sky”

And dream of grass and green things to come.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Our stick bugs have begun laying eggs.

Our original stick bug – Twiggy – had died before ever laying eggs so this is a new experience for all of us.  Each new question the children come up with results in a trip to Google to find out.  I am definitely not a stick bug expert so I don’t know the answers either.

I’m amazed by the amount of stick insect info on the net and especially astounded by the number of youtube videos of hatching insects!  This has been an incredible learning experience for all of us.

The first important fact we’ve discovered is that it will be many months before they begin to hatch and some could take years.  This is a calming fact for me since my first reaction was mild panic as I envisioned a sudden stick bug population explosion.

The children however may loose interest quickly which is why I consider the internet to be such an important learning tool.  In true emergent curriculum fashion we can find the answers to our questions when the children are actively engaged in the activity instead of waiting for a trip to the library or a scheduled “insect theme” week.

So now the dilemma for me is what to do to keep the children engaged in learning with the ‘event’ so far away.  I could just wait, let the initial interest die off and them reignite it in a few months when (and if) hatching begins.

I could also guide the children towards another similar topic – but what?  The answer to that came from the five year old who asked ‘Why aren’t they white?”  After a brief discussion I discovered that he knew some eggs could be brown but most were white.  Up until now his only experience with eggs has been with the ones he’s seen in the grocery store or on the farm.

I quickly grabbed my bird book and we checked out the amazing variety of eggs. Now we have a topic.  Eggs.  Oh, the things we can do with eggs….

My mind is spinning with ideas.  It’s time to start an idea web about eggs.  This is emergent curriculum in action.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Last evening when my teenage son asked if we had any TV shows to watch, I replied “Tons”.   He then questioned how I could measure TV viewing by weight? I told him that was the relative amount of paperwork I could get done in the length of time it would take to watch all the programs I had recorded on the PVR.

In addition to my regular 55 hour work week I also had meetings and other obligations every evening last week so there was no time to keep up with regular bookkeeping chores let alone ‘down time’ to watch TV.  Add to that the fast approaching deadlines for compiling and editing the next childcare resource calendar, income tax preparations and re-licensing my childcare home the paperwork is daunting.

With that in mind I’m fighting the urge to play Angry Birds or some other equally useless waste of time.  I’ve decided to write a blog entry and, although it may not be high on the paperwork priority list, I have pledged to post at least once a week.

I’ve got several topic ideas that I desperately want to write about – particularly yesterday’s Daily Post suggestion Name a book that changed your life. What influence did it have on your thoughts, attitudes, and actions?’ However, that will take more time than I have right now so I’ll stick with something less intensive.

I want to provide a brief update on our indoor gardening adventure.

All of the herbs we had imported from our outdoor garden and most of our new seedlings succumbed to the white fly devastation.  Only the Bolivian Rainbow Pepper seedlings survived the infestation unscathed.  In fact, they seemed to flourish and had been transplanted into larger pots and were now flowering too!

In January we planted some more seeds to attempt to provide additional plants for our scant little garden.  In a month or two we’ll need to plant some so we have seedlings available for our outdoor garden when (if) the snow ever melts.

Then, yesterday as we were checking out the plants I noticed the markings on some of the leaves of our beautiful pepper plants – white fly eggs!!!  I wanted to cry.  I suspect the newly planted basil is the source of this latest invasion since they have not seemed healthy from the moment they sprouted and they are deteriorating quickly. Can seeds or soil be the infection source?  I don’t know.

It is hard to keep the children interested in gardening with so many setbacks.  Maybe growing our own food isn’t the lesson.  Teaching resiliency, determination and perseverance is.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Magic Trees

Yesterday’s topic suggestion at The Daily Post was “You’ve got a magic tree: what does it grow?”
I believe all trees are magic.

They provide shelter and serenity when we need it.


They demonstrate resiliency and determination helping us to overcome adversity.


They possess the power to inspire — creating awe and wonder and urging us to dream.


Young children know this – too many adults have forgotten.

Slow down, take a stroll through a forest and feel the magic.


Note: All these photos show trees the children and I have connected with while on nature walks in our area.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Lacing is an activity that the children enjoy and it is great for hand/eye coordination and fine motor skills. I’ve never purchased commercial lacing cards but over the years I’ve made a variety of different ones.  Most cardboard or paper ones don’t last long but they’re cheap and easy to make.

I have some plastic ones that I made from old lids that have lasted for many years and the children don’t seem to mind that they are all yellow circles.  There are some that I made from foam stars and cardboard tubes too.  During my recent sunroom reorganization I found some saved items that I had forgotten about and I decided they might be good for lacing.

Intricate detail demonstrates exceptional dexterity even from the youngest child.

But it is more than just developing motor skills – as always there is also some drama

Dancing with the stars

  An Electrician doing wiring

Even when they are not particularly interested in lacing they are still engaged – sorting and counting laces and shapes.  Stacking and balancing

an experiment that led to the creation of a wind mill when they discovered that they could blow on the stack and the top piece would spin.

Math and science!

Wonderful initiative that couldn’t have occurred if I had insisted that lacing toys be used ‘correctly’.  So much learning packed into one simple activity.