Red Peppers, Tomatoes and Apples

It is quiet — I watch them play.  Indeed ‘quiet’ probably isn’t the best word to use since there is a lot of noise and movement in the play room.  The children are deeply engaged in activities of interest to them so by ‘quiet’ what I mean is they need very little from me.

Sometimes I feel like maybe I should be teaching something instead of just observing.  I have a list of planned activities that I could be doing with them.  I have boxes of stuff that I could bring out for them but they don’t need it.  They are busy, I check my email to distract myself and avoid interfering in their play.

Then I hear the question – actually first there was a correction as one child informed the other that he had made a mistake.

‘Those two don’t belong together’ he said.

‘They are red’ the other child replies as he takes the pieces apart and looks at them.

Together they spread out all the pieces and compare all the pieces.  ‘The bumps look different’ one says as they group the similar pieces together.

They combine the pairs to form all three toy fruits correctly.  Then the first child takes them apart again — one at a time to examine them more closely – like he’s not sure what the difference is.

I understand the problem – after all, these are just toys. Real fruit has more impact – it engages all the senses.  I disrupt their play and tell them to clean up for snack.  They wash up and arrive at the table to see this;

Which they quickly rearranged like this;

They were very excited.  They were also quick to point out that they don’t like tomatoes – except the green part on the top feels nice.

We examined the inside too – comparing real to imitation.  ‘The apple should be white inside’

I gave them each a bowl with some of each of the fruits and a plastic knife.  They both asked me to not give them any tomato but were reassured when I told them they didn’t have to eat it.  They practiced cutting bite size pieces.

And they both told me that red peppers are their favourite so I learned something new too.

Fantastic!

I couldn’t think of a better title than that for this blog post.

My head is so full – millions of excited thoughts and ideas looking for a way out.  Things that had me pacing the floor last evening.  Things that kept me awake through the night.  So many things I want to do RIGHT NOW! 

I’m trying to do what she said…..b-r-e-a-t-h-e.

So why am I feeling like this and who is she?

Yesterday I attended an all day workshop presented by Lisa Murphy – the Ooey Gooey Lady.

I’ve known about her for a long time – I follow her on Twitter – and yesterday I got to see her in person.  She also has a Facebook page and a YouTube channel.

I have never laughed so hard or had so much fun at any workshop ever!  Her presentation could rival any comedy club performance but it also contained a serious message.  A message that everyone there already knew because she was “preaching to the choir – the people who needed to be there were also the people who were not willing to give up their Saturday to be there.”

Those people would be the ‘resident poopyfaces’ – the rule makers — the ones who constantly say ‘No!’ in response to developmentally appropriate behaviour.

She reminded us that we don’t have children with behaviour problems – we have environments with expectation problems.  Instead of trying to get the children to come to our programs we need to create environments for them to be who they are. We can’t control their behaviour but we can control the environment.

“Never underestimate the power of what you do – good or bad – crystallizing moments happen in the ‘right’ environment…..You can’t build the house of academics if there is no foundation and the foundation is built through PLAY……Facilitate don’t instigate.”

So we played.  We sang songs.  We created things.  We played with messy stuff.  We had FUN!

There were 140+ of us in a hotel conference room.  If we can do it there our children should be able to do it in our programs – if we provide the right environment.

So I am re-energized and ready to provide ‘organic enthusiasm’. Thank-you Lisa!

Investigation

Last week the temperature was mild — not quite warm enough to melt all the ice but comfortable for playing in the snow without getting soaked.

The children were curious, probing,  questioning and making discoveries.  It had not been cold enough to freeze the slush in the wok so it was still ‘soup’.

They wanted to add more ‘broth’ but the cool, cloudy conditions were not conducive to producing large volumes of liquid.  They searched, checking containers and valleys and anywhere else they thought water might accumulate.

Suddenly they noticed the slow drip of water from the downspout over the rain barrel and sprang into action.  First they tried using the big hose to channel the water from the spout to the wok but that idea was quickly abandoned as ‘too slow’.

Instead, they decided that it would be better to place a shallow container in the small space below the downspout.

I was not optomistic — watching the slow drip I was certain it would take a long time to fill their container.  A few minutes later they excitedly called me over to see the ripples that formed when the droplets landed in the container.

I was surprised that the container was nearly half full already!  They thought it was funny that I had doubted their method.  The next step was to get the water over to the wok.

They added the water to the soup and collected a little more before it was time to go in for snack.  Instead of adding the second batch they decided to leave it beside the wok as an ‘experiment’ for tomorrow.  Hmmm, what do you think might happen?

Is this what you expected?

There is still some water it the wok but there is only ice in the shallow container.  They broke it up so they could add it to the soup.

Now they wanted to add some ‘air’ to the soup too — I wondered how they intended to do this.  They had a plan.

Can you see the bubbles?  There were a lot of them but they were hard to capture with my camera.

It was a wonderful week full of “I wonder”…”what if”… and “let’s try”.  Investigating and collaborating.

Ice & Snow

We love playing in the snow.  We climb up and slide down mountains of snow.  We sculpt and build with chunks of snow.  We dig tunnels and dens as homes for all sorts of creatures.  There is no end to the things we can do with snow – when we have some.

This winter we have had far too little snow.  Just look at this picture, taken last year, of the pathway through the garden;

It was one of our favourite hiding places.  This year it looks like this;

Last year the snow was piled high on the deck.  To get from one side to the other the children had to scale mountains that were taller than they were;

This year the snow pile poses little challenge other than making sure you lift your feet so you don’t trip as you cross the deck;

It is pointless to bring out the shovels since the temperature fluctuations have caused the snow to melt and freeze so often that it is now mostly ice.

There are some benefits too – for example, last winter we couldn’t even find the stumps but this winter we can still use them for balance games and follow the leader;

Did you notice the layer of ice on the top of the stumps? The children have.  In fact, in many of their games they have ‘safety inspectors’ whose role it is to point out hazards to the others.

Interestingly a ‘hazard’ doesn’t mean the area is off limits.  It simply means that when one child begins to jump across the stumps another child will stand on the ground beside them to ‘catch them if they slip’.  I guess this could result in two injuries instead of just one but they have also modified the speed and other factors in this familiar activity.  I think many drivers on the road today could learn from these children and modify their driving habits based on road conditions.

The children have also created some new activities with the abundance of ice instead of snow.  One of my favourites is the ‘music’ activity where they throw ice chunks against the gong.

Notice the skill it takes to pick-up/release ice chunks and hit the centre of the target while wearing bulky mitts.  I’d also like to point out the incredible photography skill, um, amazing reaction time, unbelievable luck it took for me to capture this picture. 🙂

Whatever the conditions are there is always something to do outdoors so get outside and play!

Cheeseburger Bites

When making changes to our menu I usually try a new recipe once or twice before deciding whether or not to add it as a regular menu item.  There are several factors that I use to determine which recipes to add.  They include;

  1. Can it be made ahead so it does not interfere with our pre-lunch program?
  2. Is it something that at least a majority of the children will eat?
  3. Does it use ingredients that are readily available?
  4. Can the recipe be adjusted depending on the ages and number of children in attendance that particular day?

Cheeseburger bites is one of those recipes that almost didn’t make the cut due to item #2.  There were several children who were very slow to warm up to this new menu item.  I was persistent though.  I didn’t believe that they didn’t like the taste since at first many of them refused to actually take a bite of one.  They made their judgement based on the fact that they did not recognise the food.

We’ve had it several times now and most of the children have grown to love it so, here is the recipe.

Cheeseburger Bites

  •  1½ cups flour
  • 2 tsp seasoning*
  • 1½ cup water
  • ¾ cup hard margarine
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 lb scramble-fried ground beef
  • 1½ cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 4 diced green onions

Combine flour and seasoning in a small cup.  Heat and stir water and margarine in a heavy saucepan on high until boiling and the margarine is melted.  Reduce heat to medium.  Add flour mixture all at once.  Stir vigorously for about one minute until mixture pulls away from side of saucepan to form soft dough.  Remove from heat. Let stand for a few minutes.

Add eggs one at a time to dough, beating after each addition until well combined.  Dough will be thick and glossy.  Add beef, cheese and onions.  Mix well.  Drop by spoonfuls onto greased baking sheets.  Bake in 425* F oven for 15–17 minutes until golden.  Let stand 5 minutes before moving to wire rack to cool. Makes about 60 pieces.

Note: For seasoning I use a mix of dried, ground onions, peppers etc – you could use garlic powder, seasoning salt or whatever seasoning you like.

Cheeseburger Bites

I serve them with salad and some sort of dipping sauce (the children usually choose ketchup).

I will admit that this is one of the few recipes that I make the evening before instead of in the morning before the children arrive because it is a little more time consuming than some of the other recipes that I make.  It warms up easily in either the oven or microwave.

Winter Science

Yesterday was February 1st and according to the weather station in my back yard it was +2 degrees Celsius. Not officially spring yet and but most of the surfaces looked like this;

The baby and I were watching some of the children ‘digging for worms’;

Apparently the springlike weather has them itching to get into the garden.  On the other side of the yard the children were singing a made up song about ‘doing science’ so I went to check it out.

After asking them a few questions I determined that they had removed a large chunk of ice from the wok and discovered that there had been water below it.  They had added some snow to the water — I assumed it was the beginning of their familiar ‘soup making’ activity — but I was wrong.

They explained that they were doing science — trying to ‘fix the ice’.  They moved the wok to the bench area and sat down.  Then they waited, staring silently at the wok;

I mistakingly assumed that they were trying to melt the slush that they had created so that they would again have water in the bottom of the wok.  I asked if they had moved it into the sunny spot to make it melt faster.

The snort and accompanying look of exasperation led me to believe that I was way off the mark so I asked her what she was trying to do.

‘Make more ice’ was her answer.  ‘Maybe it needs more snow’ she sighed and began adding some more.

The frustration was obvious as she watched the snow transform to more slush.  She declared the experiment to be a failure and went to play tag instead.

Sometimes even in winter you cannot make ice but the experiment is not necessarily over.  We left the slush in the wok — there may be a part two to winter science.