Mirrors

There are mirrors all over my house – I counted them and let’s just say there are a lot of them. Some of the mirrors serve a useful purpose but many of them are simply part of the décor. It is the mirrors in the play room that I want to talk about today.  There are currently five mirrors in the play room.  There is the big one under the loft;

There is another one by the dress-up clothes in the housekeeping area;

I put a little mirror near the floor in the music area.  I thought the baby might enjoy having this one here when he was getting some tummy time on the floor.  However, I noticed that he never really paid much attention to it but several of the older children spent time laying on the floor and checking out this new perspective.

On the sensory wall there are two mirrors – one set on a diagonal and one convex mirror for a special effect;

I had several other mirrors in the nature area before I began renovating it.  They were removed during demolition and most will be put back eventually when I decide where the best place for them will be.  Right now I’m still observing how the children are using the space first.

The big mirror under the loft is the most popular.  Often the children use this mirror to watch themselves play.  They sit or stand in front of it and experiment by making various facial expressions. Of course singing and dancing in front of the mirror is also very appealing. This fellow is pretending that the loft is a ‘shower’;

This mirror isn’t only used for dramatic play though.  Having the blocks under the loft allows the children to use the mirror to add another dimension to building projects too.

The thing I find most interesting though is how often the big mirror is used as ‘screen time’.  We never really watch TV or play video games here but the children like to pretend to.  Here one of the children has been using the mirror as the screen for a computer;

This group of children is playing a ‘video game’.  There are actually dozens of different items that the children use as ‘controllers’ but in this case these three children are playing a ‘two player game’ and instead of getting a third controller they have opted to take turns.

Whether they are pretending to play a video game or watching a movie they narrate what they are ‘seeing’ since no one really sees anything other than their own reflection.  It demonstrates their imagination, vocabulary and story telling skills.  There is the occasional argument when one child uses a remote to ‘change the channel’ and another child yells “Hey, I was watching that!”

I love mirrors 🙂

What is the Problem With Lunch?

Our current menu has been in place for less than a year but I think there are too many items that the children do not eat.  Many of the menu items had brought rave reviews when they were first introduced last year but lately the children have been eating very little.  I will admit that I am a little perplexed by their lack of interest in eating lunch.

I’ve never had much trouble getting these preschoolers to eat in the past.  It was usually the school-age children that were the pickiest eaters. Often they had not been here as preschoolers and they were very finicky about what they would and would not eat.  For them, fruits and vegetables were usually the most contentious items – sometimes limited to apples and carrots or none at all.  The preschooler’s enthusiasm over all food groups could sometimes entice the older children to try something new.

This year I have no school-age children here for lunch on school days and the preschoolers seem to have become apathetic about almost every lunch menu item.  Recently I’ve been trying out some new recipes to see if I can inspire them to eat lunch regularly.  I haven’t been very successful.

Soup and rice were items that these preschool children specifically requested yet they don’t eat them — ever. Potatoes of any kind have never been popular with this group.  So far pasta dishes are proving to be unpopular. They usually like spaghetti but lately even that is just barely acceptable.

Tuesday’s have traditionally been ‘sandwich day’ here and this is the one day of the week that everyone will eat lunch. The curious point here is that most of them don’t finish a whole sandwich and they used to often have seconds and they are not finishing their veggies either.

I began to think that maybe they just were not hungry so I tried moving morning snack a little earlier in hopes that this might improve their appetite.  The children who attend school in the morning have a snack there and I am unable to change the time that they eat.

Afternoon snack has now become the most popular meal of the day – I assumed that this is because they are really hungry by then. They often ask for seconds of afternoon snack even when the menu item is something that they were blasé about in the past.

I started this post with the intention of highlighting some of the lunch recipes that I have tried and would hopefully add to the regular menu.  However, as I’ve been writing I’ve also been reflecting and speculating.  I was trying to come up with an effective transition from the children’s poor appetites to the introduction of new recipes – hopefully some they really like.

Then I had an epiphany. What if the appetite problem isn’t related to the type of food or the length of time between meals? What if they are not hungry at lunch because I changed the schedule and we no longer playing outside before lunch?!?

Seriously?  I cannot believe that this didn’t occur to me before.  I know the value of outdoor play but I was so focused on the food that I didn’t even consider this.  It also explains why afternoon snack has become so popular since we now go outside for the period between nap and afternoon snack.

I’m still changing the menu.  The current menu has been in place since last January and many of the meals were chosen to accommodate our ‘we have to pick-up the kindergarten child before lunch’ schedule.  Since we are now here and inside before lunch I have more prep time available.  It may be more difficult to determine which items the children like or dislike but at least now that I have realized that the lack of outdoor time before lunch is also a factor to consider.

So, since this post is long enough already, stay tuned for a separate post about new lunch menu recipes – and don’t forget to go play outside — it is essential for a good appetite!

Favorite Fingerplay

We have circle time every morning.  In other posts like Telling Stories and Show & Tell I’ve covered some additional aspects of our circle time but we regularly do a calendar activity followed by poems.  I designed a calendar template that can be modified for each month allowing to opportunity to include all our special events.

Every month I print six copies of the calendar and place them in sheet protectors.  At circle time each child is given a copy of the calendar so they can follow along and they are encouraged to add personal information to the conversations.

Alphabet tapes have been placed along the bottom of the sheet protectors – A to M on the calendar side and N to Z on the poem side.  As we recite the alphabet together we include a word beginning with each letter and the names of anyone in the house as well – A for apple, B for Ball, C for car and Cheryl and Curtis, D for duck and Dylan and so on.

The current poems are placed on the reverse side of the calendar.  I choose the poems based on the season or other interests of the children. Sometimes the children learn them quickly and then get bored.  Occasionally they don’t connect with the poem and loose interest in participating in circle time.  I usually change the poems several times each month so this doesn’t happen.  I also like to include pictures alongside the poems and at least one of the selected poems will have actions.

It was about seven or eight years ago that I first used the Tommy Thumb poem for circle time.  It was one of the favourite finger plays for that group of children and they continued to recite it throughout the days long after new poems were introduced.

 Tommy Thumb

Tommy Thumbs up (Point thumbs up)

Tommy Thumbs down (Point thumbs down)

Tommy Thumbs dancing (Bounce them to the left)

All around the town (Bounce them to the right)

Dance them on your shoulders (Bounce on your shoulders)

Dance them on your head (Bounce on your head)

Dance them on your knees (Bounce on your knees)

Tuck them into bed. (Fold arms hiding hands)

Peter Pointer… Baby Finger…

Finger Family…

This finger play has continued to be a favourite with subsequent groups of children.  I brought it back for circle time at the beginning of this month and the children are still excited about it so we have had the same poems for almost four weeks now.

I tried to take some pictures of them but their enthusiasm made this quite difficult.  This is the best I was able to do;

Ok, so I was holding the camera with only one hand — I had to do the actions too!

Hoarding

There have been many television shows and news reports that feature people who are considered to be hoarders – they have too much ‘stuff’.  I hate those shows.  You see, for me they hit really close to home.  To hoard can also mean to save, store, amass, collect, stockpile, accumulate, gather, or put aside. I could be considered to be a hoarder.

Now, I’ll admit that some of the people on these shows are really out of control.  If you can’t walk across a room because there is loose stuff all over the place then it is definitely time to clean up.  Sometimes these shows offer really good suggestions on how to de-clutter and organize.  However, they also annoy the ‘green’ side of me.

Just because you haven’t used something in a year or more doesn’t mean it is useless and even if you could buy another one doesn’t necessarily mean you should just throw something out.  That is just wasteful.  Sometimes I even covet the stuff they throw in their ‘trash’ piles – OMG do you know what I could do with that!?!

Certainly there are days that I wish that I could move all my ‘stuff’ to a warehouse where I’d have room to properly go through it all.  I love the idea of being free of useless clutter.  I detest when I have to go to the store to buy something that I can’t find but I know I have in my house somewhere.  Whenever possible I also prefer to make things instead of buying them too.  Reuse and recycle.

I had to laugh though when I saw these bread clips on my kitchen counter…

I picked them up and tossed them in the garbage.  My husband looked confused and said “I left those there for you – I thought you saved them”.  Yes, I had saved bags full of them — eighteen years ago when our son was in Kindergarten and his teacher collected them to use as math counters in her classroom.  Can you imagine how many bread clips I would have if I had continued to save them for eighteen years!?!  Now that would be hoarding.

Last week I watched as the baby took various toys and placed them in the toolbox and then dumped them out.  It reminded me of something I had made many years ago…I had seen it again recently…where was it?  It took less than five minutes for me to find it again. Lids from frozen juice containers and a coffee can with a slot cut in the lid;

Baby still likes that tool box better;

The preschoolers like the coffee can and tried to teach the baby how to put the lids in the slot.  They call it the ‘clean-up game’ — dump them out and put them back in over and over again.

No one has used that thing in at least three years but I’m really glad I didn’t throw it out.  Next week we might try some other activities with these lids.  All fifty of them are numbered and some have stickers.  We can use them for matching, sorting and sequencing too.

I am an ECE and I walk a really fine line between hoarding junk and saving useful stuff.

Bringing Outdoors In

It was back on November 4th that I tweeted “Guess who’s making plans to renovate something again”.  I didn’t give anyone any details other than admitting that it was the nature area that was going to be refurbished.

I planned to complete the remodel last weekend but the detail work was more time consuming than I anticipated and there is still more to do.  Shopping trips and errands took up big chunks of time too – 14 stores over three days – yuck!  I hate shopping but there were things I needed and of course couldn’t find, hence the delay in completing the project.

I’ll give you a brief description of what has been done so far.  We started with some ‘landscaping’ – my husband helped when I needed extra muscle and power tools.  The trees were relocated and the ‘river’ was diverted to the other side of the room.  Then we built some shelves.

It was the shelves that required the most time and effort.  You see, the last time I revamped the nature area I ‘planted’ the trees close together with the intention of someday building a tree house in the space between the trees – this never came to fruition mostly because I could never devise a plan that would meet our needs. The new shelves will.

There are three shelves under the window.  Each shelf is divided into three sections so in total there are nine sections.  They are the forest, the garden, the beach, the mountain, the winter scene, the desert, the bedroom, the kitchen and the living room. Not all of these sections are complete and knowing me they never will be.  Seriously – nine ‘rooms’ to plan and arrange and rearrange and remodel and rebuild…. Depending on when and if I find the supplies I want some of the sections may be changed in the future because there were others I considered like the farm and the jungle/rainforest.

Here are a few pictures of the current – not yet complete – nature area;

The ‘grass’ was really popular — so fluffy and soft;

There is space on each shelf for little people and animals to live and play;

I’ll give more detail on each individual shelf in a future post when they have all been completed and I can add details of how the children use them.  For now it is still a work in progress.

Out of Time

Last week was a short week and I didn’t write a single post — first time I was unsuccessful on the postaweek2011 challenge 😦  I could write a list of excuses why I didn’t have time to post anything but I don’t have time to make the list and I don’t really have much time to write now but mybe just a few lines;

One of the preschooler’s favourite activities last week was playing the Sandwich Stacking Game.

Of course we also went outside too — there was SNOW!  Not much snow but the children gathered up all the snow from the yard and made a pile on the deck.  It wasn’t huge and in fact, it got smaller each day.

The children rarely ventured off the ‘iceberg’ — they were polar bears and they love ice and snow.  There was a quiz you had to answer before you could set foot on the iceberg.

Apparently if you can’t correctly answer questions about polar bears then you don’t belong on the iceberg because you might harm their habitat.  Mini environmentalists 🙂  We’ve checked the Polar Bear Cam a few times but haven’t yet seen one.

I must get back to real work now — even with a long weekend I’m running out of time.

Imagination

There’s an extra hour this weekend due to the time change.  Trying to make the most of the bonus time I planned so much stuff and now I’ve probably ended up with less free time than usual.  Still, I have to take a moment and share some of our adventures from the past week.

Building log houses has been a popular activity;

So was making ‘slushies’ for our friends.  What kind do you want?

Then there was this game;

I chose to ignore their re-enactment of a video game and just focus on their ability to find all the monkeys and apes in the room (grouping similar objects) and identify letters on the keyboard.

The most amazing part of the past week has to have been the weather.  It is hard to believe that it is November.  Look at the wildflowers (and weeds) in the planter!

Weather this amazing means the ice cream shop was open for business.  I ordered mint ice cream with chocolate sauce from the clerk at the window;

There was food being served on the patio too;

Some even had sushi;

Others discovered that empty plates make ‘music’:

And of course nice weather mean that construction crews are busy.  Digging holes and laying pipes;

And building hotels;

And then there was the most popular activity of all — ‘Stomping on the Alligator’ — they played it every day.  I never really understood all the rules but the goal seemed to be to sing and dance on the bridge until you woke the sleeping alligator;

Then it was your turn to be the alligator and have someone else jump on the bridge over you.  Use your imagination.

Books

Given the influx of tech gadgets books remain an integral part of child development. When I first opened my child care home we had about 200 books.  They were kept on shelves in the main play area where they were available for the children to read throughout the day.

Over the years our collection has grown and so has its need for space.  Considering how limited our space is finding an adequate location for the books has been a challenge.  Eventually I decided it was necessary to store the majority of the books and have just a small selection of books available at one time.

The predominant issue that this scenario posed was the time it took for me to choose which books to display.  Sometimes I would pick out all the books with a common theme like ‘dinosaurs’. We had a lot of dinosaur books and if I had them out then there wasn’t room for any other books so if you didn’t like dinosaurs there were no books for you to read.

Selecting books based on a theme was also a problem for emergent curriculum program since I sorted through and chose the books when the children were not here. Then when they arrived I’d discover that they had a totally different ‘theme’ in mind.

So a couple years ago I spent a weekend sorting and organizing all the books into twelve groups – one for each month. Holiday and seasonal themed books were grouped in their appropriate month.  The remaining books were distributed evenly among the months.  Each month contains a variety of books – fiction and resource, toddler to school-age, small and large, paperback and hardcover – something for everyone.

When not in use they are stored like this;

Looking up the stairs to the library loft you see a few of the books available;

Up in the loft there is space to relax alone or share a story with a few friends;

There are books outside of the loft too because we know that books are used often during dramatic play and other activities too. There is always a lot of excitement when the new books come out.  They bring back memories and ignite new interests.

It always makes me smile when the children hold their books like this;

Ensuring that everyone can see the pictures as you read the story to them and making story time a wonderful socially interactive experience.

Making Faces

Some of you may know that I am not a fan of big celebrations and Halloween is near the top of my list of annoying holidays.  However, if you like that sort of thing, great — go wild and have fun 🙂

So here, for Halloween celebrations I follow the lead of the children.  They are welcome to wear their costume to show their friends if they want to but I find they rarely leave them on for long.  This year I was a cow girl — YeeHaw!

As the children were playing they began dancing in front of the mirror and making silly faces.  They tried out many facial expressions and really seemed to enjoy this activity.

So, keeping with the ‘faces’ theme I printed some ‘face parts’ and let the preschoolers make faces on paper pumpkins;

Then they played with the potato heads;

At quiet time, the older preschoolers used face parts cut from magazines to make some faces too.  Theirs were not as ‘silly’ since they are ‘big kids’ now — in school part days you know. They were very focused on making their faces ‘correct’.

Really, all they were really interested in was talking about the candy they were going to get.  Sigh, I’m glad Halloween is over for another year.  I’m looking forward to something more interesting.  Like maybe….snow 🙂