New Chapters

It has been less than a week since my last post but it feels like much longer than that.  There is a lot going on around here.  The school year is nearly over and new adventures are on the horizon.  We are saying good-bye to several of the children – some will be returning in the fall but two will not.

For some of the younger children this will be a big change since some of these familiar faces have been here as long as they can remember.  It will be very different without them here. We are also meeting some new friends who will be joining our group for the summer.

Some of the children have already been on various summer excursions with their families so attendance has been sporadic.  Occasionally we’ve had only two children here – it seems so quiet.  My teen-age son and one of the school-age children spent one of these quiet mornings perfecting their hoop tossing skills.  First they practiced spinning the hoola hoops as they threw them away which results in the hoops rolling back to them.

Then they increased the game difficulty by using two different sized hoops and intricate timing so that when the two hoops met one passed through the other.  It looked like this;

 

 

 

My photgraphy skills do not fully capture the magnitude of this feat. The preschooler and I had neither the patience nor expertise to compete but we provided the cheers to encourage the game players.

My ‘vacation’ begins in just a few days and I will miss observing activities like these.  My list of things I want to accomplish on my ‘time off’ is much longer than the two weeks I have allotted.  I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to write but I hope to keep you informed about some of the projects as I work on them.

Looking forward to new faces, new spaces, and new adventures.

 

Water Play

Without a regular water supply the childrens’ free play with water has been limited to  whatever water they can find in the yard after (or during) a rainfall.

Every summer we have at least one ‘Water Day’ where there are various water stations set up but these are somewhat structured water activities.  It has been one of my goals to incorporate water as a permanent feature of the loose parts area and by moving the rain barrel, phase one has finally been completed;

Water has become the ultimate ‘loose part’ and the children have been busy experimenting with it.  There was the familiar ‘soup’ which sometimes becames a swimming pool;

My son tried an experiment with sound and water;

One of the children expanded on it;

Those plastic jars with lids became very useful — shaking makes bubbles!

The jars also provide a way to transport the water to where you want to use it;

And you can ‘pour’ water down the slide without loosing the water;

Water and tubes and soup together — there were some issues with using dirty outdoor toys to blow bubbles (some of us were more concerned than others);

We practiced the ‘scoop and fill’ technique;

And experimented with obstacles in the path of water;

Taking turns trying both roles;

Since I was just wandering around taking pictures I got enlisted to hold the hose so it could be filled with water — I had to follow very specific instructions;

So the water ultimately got from jar to hose and then to another jar;

And of course ‘clean-up’ time has a whole new meaning now;

We have to make sure there is enough time to dry the toys too;

Good thing it was warm and sunny.

Patience

Impulse control and the ability to delay gratification are often difficult for young children.  One thing that gardening has shown me is that I may have some issues in this area as well.

In the past we have started our seeds indoors and then moved the seedlings to the garden once the weather was better and there was little chance of frost.  Last year we started our seeds far too early—twice — and they outgrew their containers.  Many of the seedlings  died before we could plant them outside.

With our unpredictable weather this year I was hesitant to start planting so we only did our grain seed experiment indoors. When the outdoor garden beds were ready we planted our grain seeds;

and some bean seeds and sunflower seeds were put in the planters around the yard.

Then we got busy with other projects until suddenly I realized that we had no vegetable plants or seeds to put in the garden!  Well, at least I can’t complain that we started them too early. Besides, Dave over at Sage Garden Herbs says that in our climate early June is the best time to start planting outdoors.

I made a quick trip to the store for some of our favourites – tomato plants and seeds for corn, peas, cucumbers and zucchini.  We finally start planting our vegetable seeds directly into the garden.

We used toilet paper tubes to mark the spots where we placed seeds so we wouldn’t accidentally pull the sprouts thinking they were weeds.  Hopefully the tubes would also help to prevent the cutworm damage we have experienced in previous years.

It rained for the next few days so we started some herbs indoors.  Since these were leftover seeds from last year or from our winter indoor garden project we were not sure how well they would grow.  So far they seem to be doing well.

I guess I shouldn’t always be using the term ‘vegetables’ since our tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers and green beans are actually fruits.  We’ve also learned that the soybeans are also considered to be fruits even though we have included them with our grains.

Now comes the really difficult part for me – waiting.  Every day, when we go outside the children and I head to the garden first.  We marvel at the progress the grains are making – getting taller every day.

Then we check for any signs of other sprouts.  The children seem unconcerned when there are no visible signs of growth and they go off to play elsewhere.  I stay in the garden, waiting and wondering.  Were the seeds not good? Did we plant them too deep and the sprouts can’t reach the surface? I (barely) resist the urge to go poking around in the soil looking for them. I consider secretly planting more seeds in the same spots – more is better – right?

Why are they taking so long?  I know the seed packages say ‘7-14 days’ but the beans sprouted in just 4 days and a week later they looked like this;

Then finally, near the end of the advertised germination period we find the first zucchini sprouts.  By 2 ½ weeks we have corn, several cucumber and zucchini plants and just one of the peas.  You have to look very closely but they are there peeking out of the tubes.

The children are thrilled – they looked, cheered and went off to play again.  I inspect each new plant and then stare at the empty spots.  Why don’t you grow?  I notice all the vacant spots seem to be in the shadier parts of the garden.  That could definitely be a factor but still; it has been nearly three weeks now.

The children are content to wait.  They enjoy the whole process. I expect instant results.  I want to plant seeds one day and be eating fresh veggies by the end of the week.  I am an impatient gardener.

Just the Highlights

This weekend I planned to write a post about our recent gardening adventures but since I was enlisted to help with sheeting and shingling the porch roof I didn’t have enough time left to write.  Suffice it to say I will never take on roofing as a career and this week’s post will simply be a few pictures of some of the children’s activities last week.

Early in the week the bugs from the nature area were the toy of choice — I don’t know exactly what they were doing, sometimes I think it is better that I don’t ask.

The children also initiated a storytime session in the nature area;

Outside they helped my son create a unique sculpture;

They called the finished product a “Northern Branch Turtle”

It rained overnight which meant there were some more activity options;

And there was water for our soup but when too much ‘stuff’ was added we had to try to get it out without losing any of the precious broth;

In the past they have just dumped it all out but we are learning to conserve water since it isn’t always available.

We played in the tunnels;

And found a dead dragonfly in the garden;

We love dragonflies and hope this one didn’t die as a result of the city spraying to kill cankerworms.

We ended the week with more water fun when we got to clean the old plant pots;

It was a very productive week.

Birds

During calendar/circle time each day I include various poems related to something the children are currently interested in.  A couple of weeks ago one of our featured poems was ‘We’re Crows’ from ‘A Rumpus of Rhymes: A Book of Noisy Poems’ by Bobbi Katz.

I originally chose the poems for the ‘noisy’ aspect since making sound effects – usually very loud ones – has been particularly popular around here.  At this point I’d like to apologize to my neighbours.

Of all the noisy poems we’ve read the ‘Caw, caw, caw’ of ‘We’re Crows’ has become the favourite sound.  It resonates throughout the neighbourhood daily as we walk to and from the school and the children call out to the crows.

Watching and listening for crows has also allowed us to be more observant while we are outside.  The children have become perceptive to the sounds and activities of all the birds in the area.  They are asking questions and trying to identify the various birds we see. My favourite conversation went something like this;

  • ‘Look, that bird is eating worms from the ground’
  • ‘Is it a crow?’
  • ‘No, I think it is a robin – it has red on it’
  • ‘Oh look! I see an eagle.’
  • ‘Where!?’
  • ‘It is over there with that group of other birds.  It is just a little eagle and it is hiding.’

What a great imagination. 🙂

Since the children are so interested in birds I thought it would be a great opportunity to check out the CBC Falcon Cams.  For the last two weeks I have had my laptop in the playroom tuned to the live video streams and the children check on the birds when they take breaks from their other activities. The children have asked many questions and the forums have been very useful in answering the ones I couldn’t.

Yesterday we were sad to discover that one of the Brandon chicks had died.  It rained all day in Brandon on Tuesday and although Hurricane (the mom) did a great job of trying to keep her babies warm and dry she also had to feed them which meant they briefly got cold and wet.  Too young to regulate their own body temperature the cold wet weather was too much for one of the chicks.

Sad as this event was it is part of nature. Just like the death of the other birds and mice is necessary for the parents to provide food for their chicks. We will continue to watch the remaining chicks and their parents.  Nature can be harsh but it also brings us great joy, understanding and compassion.

Cake!

Last week the children  made a cake.  First they mixed the ingredients together;

Then they decorated it

Then they moved it to the oven to bake — it was very heavy so they really had to work together to accomplish this;

After baking they put it in the back of the car to take it to the party;

It took more combined effort to…Hey – why are you dumping the cake on the slide?

I guess if it is not really and edible cake your best option is to smash through it;

What fun!

Now I think I’m going to use these pictures to make a set of sequence cards.

Program Planning

The weekend has arrived and the weather is fine. Sometimes that is a bad thing since it can distract me from doing necessary cleaning and paperwork.  Today however I had outdoor ‘work’ to do so good weather was a bonus.  I started the day by doing a few errands to pick up some gardening supplies and other items for next week.  A trip to Costco resulted in a couple of really cool new books – Survival Wisdom and Know How and the Saskatchewan and Manitoba Nature Guide.  Both look like they will be really useful.

Then my son and I went hiking.  Today was national trails day and to celebrate The Winnipeg Trails association held several special events.  There was free food (always a good thing) and plenty of great entertainment.

I often take the children on hiking adventures but it is important that I be at least somewhat familiar with the trail.  Exploring is fun but getting lost is not so my son and I scout the area to get familiar with the trail before I plan a hiking trip for the children.  This is my favourite part of program planning.

We have explored some parts of the Seine River Greenway in the past but we haven’t seen it all – there are so many great hiking trails in the city.  Today we checked out the Bois-des-Esprit section of the trail to see what it had to offer.

The wide gravel part of the main trail would be great if I had a very young group or if we needed to bring strollers or wagons.

There are also many smaller side trails and these are the ones that the boy and I were drawn to.  It is here on the lesser travelled trails that we find things like big rocks

Fallen trees

And cool bridges

There are places to practice going over

And under

Around

And through (which I’m certain will be a favourite).

This is one of many tree carvings of owls and wood spirits cleverly located along the trail

I wonder how many more we can find.  This promises to be one of many great summer adventures for us.

Conference

Last week I attended the Manitoba Child Care Association’s 34th annual conference.  I eagerly anticipate this conference every year.  Originally I just went on Saturday but I soon added Friday and then Thursday as well.  I know many providers believe it is too expensive to pay for three days of conference and lose two days of income as well.  The cost adds up to nearly $600 and it cuts my weekend ‘down time’ in half but there are so many benefits as well.

Conference is an incredible learning opportunity with keynote speakers and workshop presenters from near and far.  This year I enjoyed a wide variety of workshops with topics including art, science, music, outdoor play, physical activity, fear and much more.  I got to paint pictures, play in dirt, engage in conversations, and use my imagination. I got to dance and I was introduced to my new favourite song – “Beep, Beep” – which is actually an old song but it is new to me and what a wonderful way to teach rhythm and tempo.

Certainly there was a lot of information that I already knew but conference offers more than just information. There is another very meaningful aspect; networking.  I believe that for family childcare providers in particular networking is an invaluable tool.  We work alone and even though some providers regularly connect with others in their area many still continue to work in isolation.  Family childcare providers don’t have a lot of opportunity to problem solve with or bounce ideas off coworkers the same way those who work in centres can.

Conference allows us to connect with not only others who work in similar positions but also with people who work in other areas of the childcare field.  Play and collaboration with peers is just as important for us as it is for the children that we care for.  It is how we learn, how we reach the elusive ‘Ah Hah’ moment.

In between presentations on the final day of conference I had the opportunity to reconnect with a colleague whom I hadn’t talked to in a long time.  We did some reminiscing and discussed how things had changed since we last met.  I told her how I was looking forward to some new adventures this summer since I will have on of the oldest groups I have ever had.  She shared some stories about the antics of one of her school–age children.

Our conversation progressed as we contemplated why the school-age children seem so different now.  We weren’t complaining but we have noticed a shift in the mood of most of the older children that have been attending our programs. They seem to really enjoy being a part of our mixed age groups.  They willingly participate in activities with the younger children instead of demanding separate more ‘grown-up’ activities.

We wondered if it was because we are seeing more ‘only children’ with little experience with young children.  Do they miss having younger siblings?  Then I asked if maybe it was because we let them play….There was a moment of silence as we let this fact sink in.  Yes, I think that is what it is.

We know that play is essential for learning to take place and it doesn’t matter how old you are.  Play is just as important for us as it is for the children we care for. Play and learning together – that is what conference is.