Wednesday, May 29, 2013

If You Build It Will They Play?

It was back in November of 2011 that I renovated the nature area to include nine little themed shelves – you can read about the renovation in the original post here.

I had promised to write another post to provide more detail about these shelves and how the children used them.  This is that post.  Part of the reason it took this long for me to write it was because the children were not using the shelves.

I’ll admit that I was a little shocked and dismayed.  When I was a child, I would have played there all day.  Even as an adult I wanted to.  I don’t usually ‘demonstrate’ play activities for the children.  I prefer to follow their lead but none of the children played here at all during the first month.

I was concerned that maybe they considered the shelves to be a decorative display instead of a play area.  I had purposely not put any toys on the shelves assuming that the children would bring toys to the area and as the toys available in the playroom changed so their play would change too.

Nothing was happening so I started ‘staging’ the area with toys each day before the children arrived.

The Mountain, Winter Scene and Desert;


The Forest, the Garden, and the Beach;


Interestingly, when the children arrived I overheard comments like “Cheryl, forgot to put her toys away”.  They would then clean up for me.  Thanks?

Slowly the children began to play here for brief periods.


Occasionally they’d bring toys over from other areas;


I figured The Bedroom, Kitchen and Living Room shelves were familiar enough that the children would recognize these as a ‘doll house’.


One day some bugs moved in;


I thought maybe ‘people’ toys would entice the children to play here more.   I brought the puzzle people out of storage and into the playroom – they proved to be somewhat more popular than the animals;


Still, this play area is not used as often as I had expected.  The high-energy children never play here – that doesn’t surprise me.  There are a few children who will play here independently if they want ‘alone time’ – they’ll get annoyed if others try to join – I get that too.  Sometimes two or three will agree to play together but even then the shelves are mainly a place to just ‘visit’ briefly during an activity that is based elsewhere in the room.

On further reflection I think the natural lighting in this area is a big factor.  This area tends to be poorly lit early in the morning and later in the afternoon – the two times of the day that the children are most likely to play here.

Huh.  Not what I was expecting.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Baby's Lunchtime Pattern

‘It’s time for lunch. Patience please. I’m getting your food just as fast as I can.’

I have no words but my actions say, I’m hungry so hurry I want to eat right away.

‘Today I’ve got some green beans for you to try.  Here’s the first bite so open wide.’

Ewww I don’t like them. I won’t open my mouth. If you try to give me more I’ll baulk and I’ll cry. 

‘Would you like some strawberries instead of the beans? I have some right here; just try them you’ll see.”

I’m not sure what is on that spoon that you have, but I’m still very hungry, I might try a little.

‘A small bite to try and find that it’s true, there are strawberries here on this spoon just for you.’

Yes, strawberries, I love them. I want some more please.

‘OK, here’s a big bite of strawberries, so tasty and sweet.’

Oh thank-you, I can’t get enough of those succulent berries.  I’m eager to get on with this meal right this moment.

‘Another big spoonful is headed your way, to fill your tummy at lunch time today.’

Hey wait; there is something that is not right. There were beans on that spoon – beans I wasn’t expecting.

I see you’re disappointed those were not what you wanted, have some more strawberries to wash down that taste.

And so it continues all through the meal.  A pattern of color – first green and then red.  A pattern of emotion both happy and mad.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013


I’ve got plans for six or seven projects that I hope to have completed this spring/summer.  Some of them are minor changes that may be completed in a single weekend.  The bigger projects will have to wait until my vacation or at least a long weekend.

Some of these projects will involve changes to the daycare spaces.  As I make the plans and supply lists for these projects I always consider safety.  What types of materials will I use?  Where will I need a gate or door to restrict access to off limit areas?  What latches or locks will work best?  I try to envision all the things the children may do in the space.

As I consider the various options I briefly reminisced about an entry I wrote for my CBA portfolio.  My advisor had suggested that I create a safety checklist for my home. I used a variety of sample checklists to develop my own safety checklists.  I considered many of the items on these sample lists to be somewhat ridiculous. Items like ‘make sure stairs are free of clutter’ and ‘turn pot handles inward when cooking’ – not because I didn’t think they were unsafe but they were things that I considered to be common sense and certainly didn’t require a checklist to ensure I did them. In fact, even the items that I did include in my checklists would take less time to correct than the time required for me to complete the checklists.

In my evaluation of the checklists in this CBA portfolio entry I stated; I can see the benefit of having a simplified safety checklist for substitute providers who are not family members.  If a substitute is unfamiliar with my home and our procedures a checklist may be helpful to remind them to keep baby gates and doors closed’.

Possibly the director of a large childcare centre would find safety checklists to be helpful.  If there are many staff members there may be confusion as to who is responsible for safety checks and a completed checklist could provide evidence that staff were doing regular safety inspections.  Even then, I still think that safety checks should be a regular habit for everyone and you shouldn’t need a checklist to tell you what is dangerous and when to fix it.

Then I recalled an occasion a while back when I was visiting the home of an acquaintance.  Although we spent some time sitting in her living room she periodically went to the kitchen to check on the progress of the meal she was preparing.  Every time she stirred the food in the pots she would leave the pot handles sticking out past the front of the stove.  Each time I entered the kitchen I would automatically turn the pot handles inwards.  After doing this several times it occurred to me that maybe this was not a hazard that she recognized.

This brings me back to my original topic.  I do not ensure that my childcare home is as safe as possible.  If the environment was as safe as possible there would be no need for the children to think about safety.  I want them to learn to assess possible hazards and take reasonable risks.

There are some uneven surfaces.  Certainly there are gates to prevent infants and toddlers from climbing up or falling down an entire flight of steps.  However, there is also an unprotected single step at the entrance to the nature area.  Occasionally a child will trip on it if they forget it is there or they are not paying attention.  Sometimes a crawling baby will tumble off the step – I show them how to turn around and back off the edge safely.  I teach unsteady toddlers to hold on to the wall when then step down – don’t rely on me to hold your hand, I may not always be near enough. This single step is an acceptable risk – the opportunity for learning outweighs the chance of injury.

Before the children arrive I don’t walk around with a safety checklist and check off boxes.  During the day, if I notice something unsafe I don’t block off the area or make a note to deal with it later.  In fact, I often point out unsafe situations to the children and enlist their help to determine what should be done about it.  Rain or frost will make the deck and other surfaces in the yard very slippery.  This doesn’t mean that we cannot play outside – we just need to be aware of situation and adjust our activities to suit the conditions.

I don’t allow running or jumping indoors – there are too many obstacles so the risk is not an acceptable one.  Out in the yard we do run and jump.  As a child climbs onto a stump and prepares to jump I ask them ‘what do you see?’  They check for any objects that may be in their path and pose a hazard to them or others – I assist if necessary.  They are taking acceptable risks – they are learning.  Learning about textures.  Learning about space and distance.  Learning about force and speed.  Learning about responsibility.

If we live in a ‘safe as possible’ bubble we never learn to be aware of our surroundings, observing the environment, assessing possible dangers and taking necessary precautions.  Learning safety is a process and it requires practice – practice requires taking risks.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

In Transition

I’m still here.

It feels like a really long time since I’ve posted anything.  I have started a couple of posts but they aren’t finished yet.  I’ve been busy and blogging wasn’t as time sensitive as other things so it got postponed.

It seems that spring has finally arrived.  There are plans for many changes around here and some things have changed already.  We’ve said good bye to some of our friends – we wish them well as they move on to new adventures – we’ll miss them.

Last week TWO new babies began attending.  I didn’t originally plan it that way and admittedly there have been a few times I looked in the mirror and silently screamed “What were you thinking?”

We’ve all been getting to know each other.  The ‘old’ baby – who’s not really a baby anymore – has had a little difficulty adjusting to not being the youngest one anymore.  Otherwise everyone is getting along very well.

Naptime has been the big issue.

I had already moved the ‘old’ baby to a cot for naptime so she had time to adapt to the new nap routine before the ‘new’ babies arrived.  That went quite smoothly at first but now she sometimes takes advantage of the times I’m preoccupied with the younger ones – creating disruptions when the others are trying to fall asleep.

There was one day last week that for the five hour period from 10:00 am until 3:00 pm  there was at least one child sleeping but never all of them at once.  Everyone is out of sync and some barely sleep at all.

None of them are cranky when they are up – so many fun things to do, they just don’t want to miss any of the action.  Sometimes I think it might be easier to just keep them up instead of trying to persuade them they need a nap.  However, it’s their parents that suffer when the babies are exhausted and inconsolable by supper time.

It’s only been a week – I know it takes time, we’ll get better.  We’re still in transition and once we get better acquainted we’ll work out a schedule that works for all of us.