The List

At The Daily Post the topic suggestion from February 25th was “What keeps you up at night?”  My answer to that is;

The ‘To Do’ List.

This list contains a wide variety of household chores, errands, paperwork, program planning, and major projects. Occasionally this list keeps me up at night because it is stressful – too many items and not enough time or there is something on the list that I really do not want to do.

Most often though, as I lie awake contemplating the list, it is excitement that keeps me from falling asleep.  Planning the steps of a project, picturing the finished project, making changes to my plan, wondering if I should get up and write something down so I don’t forget, or maybe I should forget about sleeping and just start the project now…..

My most recent project was a little of both.  The sunroom is a multipurpose room used mainly as art space for both the preschool and school age children and as a storage area. We also use this area for various group activities and as a play area during quiet time for the children who do not nap.

It had become unorganised, was not functioning well and was causing a great deal of frustration — it was time for a major overhaul.

Knowing this was not going to be a quick fix I planned this project for the February 19-21 long weekend – and didn’t complete it.  In fact, for most of that weekend the sunroom looked like this;

Work continued this weekend and finally I think the room is beginning to resemble my vision.  As usual many of the items have been repurposed from other projects. There are still a few finishing touches – like paint and trim – that I will not be able to complete yet but the major work is done.

There are art areas that are easily accessible throughout the day and stored items are organized and out of the way of any messy art activities.

Within minutes the room can be transformed to allow for a wide variety of quiet time activities.

And I can cross another item off the list – while adding ‘paint and trim work’ and trying not to read the rest of the list.

Winter Games

It has been eleven days since my last post – it seems that blog writing has succumbed to the same fate as many of my other tasks.  This is the time of year that I find it the most difficult to get things done.  Mounds of paperwork are piling up and there are many items on my ‘to do’ list that are demanding attention.

Winter has lost its thrill and spring is still so far away I can’t get excited about it.  It takes far too many cups of coffee to get me moving in the morning especially considering that I am a morning person this is my peak time of day.

I watch the children for inspiration but many of them are showing signs of cabin fever.  Outdoors remains the only place where there is no bickering, whining or complaining.

The recent balmy weather followed by a frigid cold blast has resulted in a had ice layer everywhere.  I don’t even bother getting out the shovels any more since they cannot penetrated the surface of the snow and since I haven’t been brave enough to supply ice picks for the children so they can no longer dig.  They have managed to find some interesting ice formations to play with;

This is a leaf blower
Something we don't want to break

One of their favourite activities is playing Hide and Seek. Four children can fit in the tunnel at the same time;

And the garden is another favourite hiding place although snowsuits don’t provide the best camouflage in winter.

You may notice that the children are the ones doing the hiding and I am the one seeking.  This is due to the fact that the reason they are hiding is so they can eat chunks of ice and I keep telling them not to. Sigh. Ok, so there is one person who is whining and complaining.

Show & Tell

I discourage the children from bringing toys from home to play with here. We already have a wide variety of toys and equipment for the children to use and because we have a mixed age group I have to ensure that all toys in the playroom are suitable for all ages. I don’t like being the ‘border patrol’ standing at the entrance saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to each child that asks if they can take bring an item in to play with.  So, I keep the rules simple;

  • Stuffed animals and dolls are OK if they have no accessories.
  • Anyone can play with the toy when it is in the playroom – if you don’t want others to touch it, put it in your bin.
  • Anything else can be shared with the group at circle time.

I sometimes refer to it as ‘Show and Tell’ but I don’t really include it as a structured part of the daily schedule. I remember the reactions my own children had with show and tell or whatever the individual teacher called it in their class. Throughout elementary school they had many opportunities to share things from home with their friends at school.  For most it was something that they looked forward to but often it was stressful.

Sometimes there was something they really wanted to bring but it wasn’t their day.  Sometimes it was their day and they couldn’t decide what to bring and there was a mad scramble to find something.  The worst days were the ones when we forgot it was their day, they didn’t bring anything, and there was no second chance – in some classes each student only got one chance each year.

In my childcare home we have always have an opportunity for the children to share things during circle time.  As we gather around the table to discuss the weather and calendar the children are all welcome to share stories about what they did over the weekend or upcoming plans.  If they have props to accompany the story or just an item they want to show the others they are encouraged to.

Anyone is welcome to share, no one is forced to share, and no one is excluded from sharing.

I leave the format up to the individual child who is sharing. If they want to pass the item around the circle they may.  If they prefer that others do not touch it then they can just hold it and tell us about it.  They can allow the others to ask questions or request that they not interrupt.  They are in charge of the program planning for their sharing session.

I love to watch the interaction between the children as they engage in these activities.  Whether they are leading or observing I gain insight into their interests and personalities.  They gain experience participating in various roles within the group, leaning new skills and planning their own curriculum.

Writing Frenzy

There have been several interesting Post A Day topic suggestions listed at The Daily Post.  I had added some of them to my already long list of post ideas but as usual time to write is the biggest issue.  So, in an effort to slim down my list of ideas I’m going to quickly provide a brief answer for some of their post suggestions.

Topic #41 Describe your dream vacation.

Exploring nature – preferably on horseback and hiking.  No beaches, boats or deep water – I don’t swim and waves are scary.  Sea creatures are interesting if there is glass between us. I’d like to stay in a cabin or cottage — not camping or in a fancy hotel.  Definitely no spa like setting – hate being ‘pampered’ but someone else must cook the meals. Can’t be too remote (see topic #37).

Topic #38 Describe the worst teacher you ever had.

Easily my Junior High gym teacher who seemed to believe that there was no excuse for not participating in gym class.  Once I stepped on a metal tent peg which pierced my running shoe and severely cut my foot.  The note my mother sent about the injury was not sufficient for this teacher and she insisted that I remove the bandage so she could see the wound herself.  She then concluded that it may be difficult to run so I could walk for the fitness test that day.  She also gave me a “0” for the entire basketball unit when I failed to sink any balls during the final test which took place when I had a sprained wrist.

Topic #37 Could you live without the internet for a week?  For a month?

Nope.  Not even a day – sometimes have trouble managing for an hour or two.

Topic #35 When teleportation is finally possible, where will you beam yourself first?

I’d only use teleportation to go to those mundane places like doctor/dentist appointments and errands.  For real outings and vacations the trip there is part of the adventure.  It’s a chance to explore and you’d miss that if you just teleported to your destination.

Topic #33 If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?

I already have it.  I want to be a Family Childcare provider forever.  A bigger house and yard in an urban setting that allows chickens, ducks and goats would be wonderful though.

Topic #31-2 If you had your own reality show, what would it be called? What would it be about? Who would the main characters be?

Life in a childcare is already a combination of every reality show ever made.

Topic #31 What’s one piece of technology you can’t live without?

Only one?  It would probably have to be my laptop but the digital camera is a close second.  I’d really miss the PVR too.

Bonus topic:  What technology do you wish would disappear from the world?

Everything weapon related.

OK, so that helps to shorten my list of posts to write and counts as a Post A Week entry too.  Now my weekend is free to do other paperwork and housework – yeah!

Why I Hate Spinach

People who know me are now saying “Huh what? I thought you loved spinach.”

Yes, I love to eat spinach.  It is one of my favourite vegetables – possibly my most desired vegetable.  I love it raw or cooked, in a salad, casserole or sauce.  Since the first time I had spinach (and bacon) on pizza there was no going back to any other pizza toppings.

For our daycare menu it is just used in salads and there is only one child who will not eat spinach salad.  The reason the children refuse to eat it in other meals is mostly due to the ‘cooked’ aspect – they refuse most vegetables that have been cooked.

So now, because there really is one serious reason to despise the stuff, let me get back to the topic of ‘Why I Hate Spinach’.

Spinach is nearly impossible to clean off of plates, bowls, the table, the floor, or anything else.  Try wiping it off while it is still fresh and it simply rolls along the surface to another location and stays there.  I used to think that rice was hard to clean up but I discovered that when rice dries up it can easily be flaked or swept off surfaces.  This is not possible with spinach.

As spinach dries it forms a bond with the surface it is on.  Spinach would make fantastic glue if it wasn’t dark green. Dried on Spinach can be soaked until it becomes wet spinach but then it goes back to rolling across the surface again.

You can’t rinse spinach off a plate.  As cheese, egg or other foods get dissolved by running water spinach leaves just flatten out on the surface increasing their grasp.  They stay there taunting you until you increase the volume of water hoping the extra pressure will work.  Combined with a slight twist of the wrist and this extra water pressure rebounding off the plate can be used to wash your walls/ceiling/face/hair but the spinach will remain.

Giving up on rinsing and putting the dishes in the dishwasher will not help.  Dishwashers only ensure that spinach leaves become permanent features on glassware.  This is why all my dishes have pictures and green ‘patterns’.  Think the plate I served your food on is dirty?  Go ahead and try to clean it – I dare you!

We had spinach salad with our sandwiches yesterday and I am afraid to empty the dishwasher because I hate spinach.

Sorting, Organizing & Cleaning

When people visit my childcare home the most common comments centre on organization and cleaning up.  Many are amazed by how well the children demonstrate responsibility for putting away the toys and equipment.

How do I get them to do that?  Well, to be honest, my own obsessive compulsive tendencies may have something to do with it.  Most importantly though — I have consistent expectations, the children know them, they apply to everyone and I set the example.

Cleaning up can be fun – counting, matching, stacking, and sorting are all activities that the children willingly engage in throughout free play time.  I use these activities for cleaning too.

I’ve traced the tools hanging on the pegboard and the outlines let the children know when something is missing and what belongs there. Putting away the tools becomes like completing a puzzle. I have taken pictures of the shelves and taped the picture to the wall by each shelf.  These pictures are a guide for what belongs on that particular shelf.  The children use these pictures as a reference for a matching game.  The blocks and small toys in bins are sorted according to color, size or shape – more games!

Did you notice all the learning opportunities without any need for a worksheet?

Probably the most significant ‘rule’ is that throughout play time we put away things that are not being used. We don’t wait until clean-up time. If there is a toy on the floor – pick it up.  If you are switching to another activity – put it away the toys you don’t need anymore.  If the clutter doesn’t get out of control we don’t get overwhelmed by the prospect of cleaning it up.

There are no excuses — everyone is responsible for cleaning up. Saying “I didn’t use it” is simply an acknowledgement that you know a toy needs to be put away. Being bossy or tattling on others get responses like “Hmm, maybe they don’t know how – you could demonstrate.” or “Oh, you noticed a toy that isn’t where it belongs – where should you put it?”

Cleaning up is not a competition there are no rewards for ‘best, fastest or most’ – cooperation and collaboration are valued. ‘Missing’ toys provide an opportunity to discuss the importance of putting things away.  Items that are put where they belong will be easy to find when you need them.

At clean up time I guide and assist the youngest children. I follow them and prompt them to put away a few specific items and then accompany them out of the room.  The youngest are always the first to leave at clean-up partially so they don’t continue play/make a mess and partially so the oldest do more work. Growing up requires more responsibility – another learning opportunity.

Visitors

Yesterday we had a visitor.

The competency based assessment program through which I earned my ECE II classification requires participants to tour and observe several other childcare facilities.  Now that I have completed the program I have the opportunity to assist other providers as they further their learning.

Our visitor was here to see what a typical day here is like.  She was here to get ideas for room arrangements, to learn about our program, and to observe how we handle any issues that we may face.

I had prepared the children in advance.  As with any special event it was marked on our calendar and we discussed it as part of our daily circle time.  We’ve had visitors before and because most of the children have been in my care for years they know the routine and were eager to assist.

Not all the children were present when our visitor first arrived but those that were enthusiastically began the tour.  They showed her the play areas and explained what each area was for.  They demonstrated how to use the toys and described in detail some of their favourite activities.  As other children arrived, introductions were made and they joined the tour.

The CBA manual instructs participants not to interfere in the regular program – they are there to observe.  They are encouraged to stay out of the way and simply monitor and take notes.  The children made our visitor a part of the program.  She had no choice but to be involved.

I’m sure our visitor gained some insight into what goes on in a typical day here.  She made several comments about things she could take back to use in her own program.  Sometimes it is hard to tell who is the teacher, student, or observer.