Mud Day 2012

My vacation has officially begun so for the next two weeks it will be very quiet around here – except for the sounds of power tools and the odd bit of ‘language’ that occurs during renovations.  🙂 However, I wanted to first share a few of the highlights of our celebration of International Mud Day.

Of course being the last day before the holidays also meant that 75% of the children were absent but that didn’t stop the rest of us from playing with mud.  First we had a discussion about what ‘international’ means and then we started with dirt — feeling the texture and breaking up lumps;

Then we added the water and mixed;

It is during experiences like this that I miss having an area with lawn to run around on.  Mud and water makes the deck very slippery and we would loose all the mud in the gravel area.  We added a few toys to the mud bin;

And tried shaping and moulding the mud;

There were some cool hand prints;

The water table was originally going to be another mud station but with so few children we didn’t need the extra space so I just filled it with water which ultimately became more popular than the mud bin.  They love playing with water more than anything else.   The first bit of mud introduced to one side of the water table instantly turn the water black which prompted a half hour of “Come to the dark side” play.

In the end the dark side prevailed;

It was a fantastic way to spend our last day before vacation and we topped it off with a special snack – homemade frozen yogurt (plain yogurt + frozen fruit + blender);

Garden Visitor

Yesterday we discovered a visitor in our garden.  It was crawling on the patch of earth where our milkweed plant should be — our milkweed did not appear this spring, I suspect the unusual winter confused or killed it.

I hoped our visitor wasn’t too dissappointed that we didn’t have any milkweed.  We watched as he/she travelled over to the sweet grass instead;

Some of the children were concerened for the caterpillar’s safety and suggested that we should put it in a jar.  Instead, we discussed what the caterpillar needed to survive and eventually become a butterfly.  Somewhat reluctantly the children agreed that the garden was a better place for our visitor to stay.

Our native prairie plants have been attraching an abundant array of interesting visitors including ladybug nymphs and huge fuzzy bumble bees.  Now we can add monarchs to the list of visitors to our garden.  🙂

Sand Dough

I’ve had this recipe for sand dough for quite a while – can’t remember where I got it from or I’d give them credit for it.  When I first found it I thought making sand dough sculptures would be a great outdoor art activity.  I finally remembered to make the sand dough.

I started with 3 cups of cornstarch and 6 cups of sand;

Mixed them together in a large pot and added 4.5 cups of water;

Then I heated it – the recipe said to use low heat, I used setting #4 on my stove which is just below medium.  It took a very long time, stirring often, before it started to thicken.  I think this was my favourite part.  I liked watching the thick globs fall back into the liquidy part;

Once it started to thicken it didn’t take long for the whole mixture to solidify but the entire process had taken nearly an hour!  Luckily, like all new recipes, I was trying this one on the weekend when there were no children here.

The recipe said to put the mixture on wax paper to kneed;

The dough was very hot and the wax paper melted and tore apart into tiny pieces which I then picked out of the dough as I was kneeding it on an old cookie sheet.  I had a mini panic attack because at first the dough was very sticky (and hot) and I definitely do not like clumps of dough sticking to my hands.  Eventually it became less sticky and more like gritty playdough.  I put it in a big freezer bag to keep it ‘fresh’ for the next day.  It was still very warm so I didn’t seal the bag until it cooled more;

The next day when we were outside – no school so everyone was here – I divided the dough into eight pieces and placed the pieces on trays.  Each child took a tray and chose a place in the yard to work on their scupltures.  Many chose to add other nature items too. 🙂

The recipe said it would take three days to dry — most of ours were rock hard within about four hours.  Maybe because they were sitting outside in the sun.

I haven’t yet tried to move any of them off the trays.  I’m a little concerned that they may crumble apart. The bigger pieces appear to be more solid.  Many of the added decoration may not be well attached either.

I’m thinking that maybe next time we’ll use cornbread dough — it has the same gritty texture and it is much easier to make.  It too causes panic attacks when I try spreading it in a pan.

Sun and Rain

Spring has turned to summer.  The weather throughout Spring was extreme at times – periods of blistering heat followed by long stretches of cold, wet weather.  Some days it was difficult to choose appropriate outdoor clothing.  This weekend the forecast is warm and sunny — I hope it continues next week too.

The past week we returned to our mix of indoor and outdoor play.  Indoor  nap times have been shorter.  The children would like to have more meals outdoors — I’ll have to work that into our schedule more often.  It will be easier once school is out and we have fewer time restraints.

We continue to spend the majority of our playtime outdoors.  One of the changes I made to the back yard this year was adding the sun shade;

Unlike the tarp I used last year, this sun shade is made from mesh so I can leave it up even when it is windy or raining;

The children have discovered that although the sunshade does not provide a dry area to play it does slow the rain down — allowing the water to pool together and then form streams which make collecting rain drops so much easier;

In light drizzle it took about 15 minutes of cooperation under the sunshade for them to collect this container full of rain.

It is a multipurpose sunshade/raincollector – perfect for our unpredictable weather.

Our Week Outdoors – The End

The last day of our week outdoors started with me making the ‘trail mix macaroni salad’ – pasta, bacon, raisins, grated carrot, sunflower seeds, and salad dressing (I used ranch).

The flavour was good but I’m still not a fan of pasta salads — it is the texture of cold pasta that I don’t like.  The children all ate it but no one begged for more.

I received some gifts from the children when they arrived;

When we got outside I set up the tunnels.  There were several items I had handy just in case the children got bored – they rarely get bored outside so most of the items didn’t get used.  I wanted to get the tunnels out because we haven’t used them for a long time.  The children cheered;

I left them out all day and they were used for a variety of activities but the favorite one involved the balls – of course;

We also did some crafts — these children prefer active play so getting them interested in crafts is sometimes a challenge — messy crafts are the best.  I suggested that these might make good Father’s day gifts but left the decision up to them;

Later in the afternoon I noticed that there were pieces of bark neatly arranged in the tipi;

When I asked what the bark was for they informed me that it was ‘jail’ and they continued playing.  Some arrests were made, there was an attempted jailbreak – involving a pinecone ‘knife’ – everything ended peacefully.

So, here’s the evaluation of spending one whole week outdoors;

  • Nap time outdoors is AWESOME even (especially) in the rain.
  • Eating meals outdoors is ok occaisionally but eating every meal for a week outdoors is tiresome.
  • No one complains about being bored.  No one misses the indoor toys.
  • I discovered that I would not survive if I had to work any place that required me to wear shoes all day.
  • All the ‘little things’ I normally do in spare minutes throughout the day – loading/unloading the dishwasher, checking/responding to email, miscellaneous paperwork, prepwork and cleaning-up etc don’t get done during the day.  They add an hour or two to my workday after the children leave — I normally only work 12 hours a day, this week it was closer to 14 hours per day.
  • I miss my coffee pot.
  • I have absolutely no trouble falling asleep at night.

I highly recommend it! 🙂

Our Week Outdoors – Day Four

Two days this week we have had a guest visiting us.  A student from the Red River College Early Childhood Education program has been here to do her final Practicum.  On day four of our all week outdoors she brought some stuff to play with.  She started by letting the children examine the cornstarch;

Then they added some water;

The children were a little unsure about the texture at first but after a few minutes they really got into it;

They played for a long time and experimented by adding more cornstarch or water and mixing and squishing;

Then we tried a game of bowling;

Which also included some counting, sorting and matching activities;

The baby has been a little unsure about having someone new around and has stayed very close to me.  Choosing to play with the basket of balls and cones he watches our visitor from a comfortable distance;

However she did get a few smiles from him when she played his favorite game — setting up the cones for him to knock down – just had to make sure she stayed on the opposite side of the beam;

In the afternoon there was a brief thunderstorm — the three youngest children slept through it. 🙂 The rest of us played in the rain.

Our Week Outdoors – Day Three

The children have settled into a comfortable ‘all day outside’ routine.  Day three was very similar to the other days — chalk drawing, ball games, tag, a walk through the neighbourhood, gardening, digging in gravel etc.

The baby has surprised me.  He has absolutely no difficulty being outdoors all day.  The biggest difference has been nap time.  He actually stays up a little longer – not falling asleep earlier but definitely sleeping longer.  His naps have been about 3 hours each day.  Even though I have his playpen set up in a high traffic area between the back door/upper deck and the lower deck/yard he is not disturbed by our passing by or by the various sounds in the neighbourhood – including lawnmowers and sirens!

Probably the biggest change for me has been the lunch menu.  Tuesdays are always sandwich days so nothing had to be modified for that day.  Many of the other days had lunch items that required cooking and since I don’t have access to the stove I had to modify the menu this week.

Monday should have been ‘French Fries and Meatloaf’ but instead we had ‘Potato Salad and Garlic Sausage’.  Wednesday would have been ‘Mexican Chicken with Rice’ but in the morning I made ‘Chicken and Cheese Quesadillas’ before the children arrived.  They were served cold and the children have declared that they would like them added to the regular menu.

Today would regularly be ‘Ham and Mozza Biscuit Bake’ but instead I will be baking biscuits this morning and add cheese and ham when I serve lunch.  Tomorrow would be ‘Sausages and Parmesan Pasta’ but I have a pasta salad recipe that I am going to try.  We’ve never had a pasta salad on the menu – mostly because I don’t like cold pasta – so this will be a new experience.  I’m very curious to see how it goes over with the group.  Maybe we will be making some permanent menu changes. 🙂

Our Week Outdoors – Day Two

The weather was perfect.  There is however, at least one thing that I don’t like about spending all day outside — my sunroom looks like this;

Crammed full of all the things we need for the day.  Now I remember why I don’t go camping – I detest setting up and taking down the campsite.

We have fun once we get outside.  The younger preschoolers favorite toys are the balls – we have 14 so they count sort and organize them into ‘teams’;

And have wild ball games;

We spent some time in the garden learning about the native plants we have that are waiting to be planted in the front yard;

And checked out some of the herbs – mmmm they smell so good;

They like the way the sage leaves feel;

We found a cutworm — ewww — I didn’t have to tell them what to do, we’ve had cutworms in the garden before and we’ve seen the damage they can do.  This one was squished, stabbed and stomped on;

They dug a hole in the gravel – as usual;

They found an earthworm in the gravel too, and moved it to the garden – unlike cutworms, earthworms are welcome in our garden;

She poked a hole in the soil so the earthworm would have an easy route to take home — it appreciated the assistance;

When we went back indoors at the end of the day a very cuddly Mali cat told us she missed having us indoors.  She soaked up all the hugs and kisses;

Our Week Outdoors – Day One

This is our first ‘week outdoors’.  I call this our practice week because attendance will be lower due to the fact that several children in school for all or most of the day.  We are also not spending the entire day outdoors – just the period from 9:00 am until 3:30 pm.  The ‘practice’ part is my ability to coordinate meals and nap time outdoors.  In July, when all the children are in attendance we will be spending all day from drop-off until pick-up outdoors.

So, last week was blazingly hot and humid and I made sure that I got all the sun shades up for this week.  Of course that means it will rain all week.  The rain itself doesn’t concern me but when I read the forecasted high of just 9 degrees Celsius I almost cancelled the event.  One of the children would have been pleased — the rest would have been devastated.  We continued as planned and even though it was cloudy and damp it did not rain much at all.

Now for the highlights of day one – Chalk and water;

‘Driving’;

Lunch;

On the covered deck – nap time for the youngest;

The older ones continued with the chalk;

Creating impressive artwork;

But even they couldn’t resist an outdoor nap;

Today is supposed to be warmer and maybe there will even be some sun 🙂