Na, Na, Na, Na

On and off all summer I’ve had that song stuck in my head.

Na, na, na, na,

Na, na, na, na,

Hey, Hey, Hey,

Goodbye

That’s really the only part of the song that I know – it just repeats over and over.

There are two reasons that song keeps coming to mind.  First of all, of the seven children I currently have in care, five of them have names that end in ‘na’.  All summer it has been so confusing with conversations like this;

NA! Come here please. No, not you Na, I was talking to that Na.  

Where did you put Na’s hat?  Yes, I know Na’s hat is on her head but I was looking for this Na’s hat – have you seen it?   Na picked it up but she said she gave it to you. 

What? You think you saw Na put it in the bin? Which bin?  The bin over there where Na is or the one behind that Na?

It’s been driving me crazy!

Of course it has its plus side too.  It is usually fairly easy to get the attention of most of the group with just one syllable. 🙂

The second reason the song keeps running through my mind is the ‘Goodbye’.  Although it is the ‘Na’s’ that begin the verse, it ends with ‘Goodbye’.

I’ve been thinking about the goodbye all summer. You see, today is the last day here for two of my children.  Their family has been part of my home for nearly eight years – half of the total time I’ve been a family childcare provider.

I’ve been working on the book.  Going through all my photos and choosing some to print and include in an album for them to take with them.

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Now that all the pictures are in place we’ve had a chance to go through the album together.  We’ll spend some more time looking at it today and we will write down some of our comments for the photos.

I can barely remember what it was like here before they arrived.  It’s going to be very different here without them.  They’ll come back to visit.  They might even come back next summer or occasionally on non-school days when daycare space allows.  Yeah, going to have to work on making sure I can accommodate that so it is not really a forever…goodbye.

Entertainment

Yesterday we spent the day at Kildonan Park.  We’ve been there before – many times – and I wrote a post about their playground here.  This time however, we didn’t spend any time at the playground  – we were otherwise entertained.

We began our outing by going for a hike. Stopping for snack along the way – cheese quesadillas, applesauce and water — plenty of water.  The scorching temperatures and high humidity meant many breaks for water and rest in the shade.

Some people had to work outdoors in the heat.  We noticed some workers on the other side of the road were preparing to take down a tree in the park.  The children were fascinated as we watched from a distance.  First they cut some notches;

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Then they brought the tractor;

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To push the tree;

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Down to the ground;

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We continued on our hike and then stopped to rest and play a little soccer;

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We continued on to our lunch time shelter and were thrilled to have more tree falling entertainment right beside our table!  First the notches again;

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We were waiting for the tractor to move closer but then we noticed the rope. This time the tree was pulled down instead of being pushed;

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When it landed it was VERY loud;

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One of the children didn’t notice – sleeping through the whole show.  After lunch we took some time to draw pictures of the flowers;

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The gardens were pretty but I prefer the ‘natural’ look the coneflowers we saw by the creek on the way back to the van;

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It was a great day at the park with plenty of entertainment.

What a Mess

I love messy play but prefer to keep our really messy activities outdoors – easier to clean up and sometimes Mother Nature sends rain to help out.  Last week we tried to make a different type of play dough.

First we sorted fruity O cereal according to colour – some got eaten.  Then the children tried to crush the cereal using hammers, blocks of wood, and rolling pins.  Sorry, no pictures of this part as the children were working in various areas of the yard and I was busy trying to keep little hands from grabbing about-to-be-crushed-cereal.

The cereal proved to be much more difficult to crush than we had anticipated.  Certainly I could have tossed it in the food processor and made a fine powder but this was supposed to be an activitiy for the children.  They were content with the somewhat lumpy texture of partially crushed cereal.

Now we added some baking soda and water and mixed;

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At this point I thought it looked like the stuff I clean off the floor after my cat eats her food too quickly.  Judging by the comments the children were making they were thinking the same thing;

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From this point on I left it up to them what to do with their concoctions.

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Interestingly, the toddlers were reluctant to participate.  The would occationally gently poke the gooey mess but then spend several minutes trying to remove the sticky goop from their finger.

I had just cut the grass the evening before so there was plenty of loose grass which I picked up and put on a tray.  The toddlers liked this;

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The older children then began adding the grass to their goo – and the little ones were hooked;

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This activity had the children engaged for nearly two hours and the results are still visible in my yard.  Seems the recent hot dry weather has baked the sugary creations into some sort of concrete.  Our own form of Oobleck coating the yard.

Now we have to experiment to discover how to get rid of this mess.

 

Prairie Explorers

Last week we went on a field trip to Fort Whyte Alive – one of our favourite places!  The older children are all seasoned hikers – they’ve been with me for years.  However, we haven’t acutally done much hiking this year.  I’ll admit that with three infants/toddlers in our group I was a little apprehensive.

I know – the older children in the group were here as toddlers and they went hiking then.  I was confident that all of the children in the group would be able to spend the full day outdoors.  If anyone was going to complain it would be the older ones – I think school (and bus transportaion) has made them a little lazy.

My concern was taking three toddlers – if they didn’t want to walk I did have strollers – if they did want to walk I would have empty strollers to haul.  Luckily there was a combination of both hiking and riding toddlers.  One 19 month old actually walked the entire 5 hour hike only stopping to sit for meals!

We checked out all the wildflowers and priarie plants – even recognized some that we have in our garden;

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This white/beige plant created a lot of interest – we don’t know what it is;

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It is very fine and from a distance it looks a little like fog – if you know what it is please leave a comment;

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It was a beautiful day and the scenery was amazing;

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We met some new friends;

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It was an awesome day.  We hope to do some more outings next week too.  Sadly we will be unable to visit Wild Earth Farms where some of our vegetables come from but I’m certain there will be other outdoor adventures before school starts again.

Cooling Off

My favourite summer temperatures range from 18 to 24 degrees Celcius.  Normally I would consider the recent 30+ degree weather to be uncomfortably hot but after a long spell of below normal temps it was quite welcome.

Last weekend I was able to get the deck painted – and dry before it rained.  The children love the new deck space and the slip resistent paint is wonderful;

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Yesterday I added several water play stations around the yard.  Of course for the toddlers water and sponges meant – time to do some cleaning;

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We finally got a chance to try out the new mist sprayer that I bought from Rona – love it!!  The children were thrilled that it also creates rainbows (which I couldn’t capture in the picture).

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With several water stations there was plenty of opportunity to move toys – and water – from one area to another;

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There was a brief issue when one of the containers sprung a leak;

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After several attempts to block the hole with rocks and twigs the children came up with this solution;

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When the pot filled up it was dumped back into the bin – aptly displaying the ‘We Recycle’ label. 🙂

Water play is such a great way to cool off on a hot summer day.

 

Bees and More

We have many insects in our yard.  Our garden has several plants chosen specifically because they attract insects.  The bees love the giant hyssop and we love watching the bees;

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This butterfly was outside the yard when the children first saw it.  They called it repeatedly and finally it obliged and flew into our garden so we could see it better.

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Earlier this spring we had a nest of baby spiders by the bench;

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Those baby spiders entertained us for several days before they left to find homes elsewhere.  The children were very protective of the baby spiders and ensured no one sat on the bench and damaged the web.

Some of the children are afraid of bugs – especially spiders and wasps.  I believe that learning about the insects we encounter will help the children overcome any fear of them. When we know what these insect do we begin to understand how they can benefit us.

Even wasps are welcome to visit our yard – they have a job to do in the garden too.  We don’t let them build their nests where we play though.  When they are near we give them the respect they deserve.

Daily I am summoned to various parts of the yard by a child asking “What kind of bug is this?” That question is followed by many more.  I don’t always have the answers but we do research to find out more.

I always try to remain calm even when we discover insects that I don’t like – such as these aphids we just found on the oats in our garden;

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Where are the lady bugs – we need them now!  A strong negative reaction may instil unnecessary fear.  I’ll explain why I dislike certain insects and what we can do to avoid contact with those that we don’t like.

Earlier this week two of the girls were sitting in the garden smelling the herbs and flowers.  They were conversing quietly and I overheard one say “Ok, it’s your turn to pet him now – he’s really soft.”

I moved closer to see what they had found.  It was a bee – possibly the biggest, fattest, fluffiest bumble bee I have ever seen.  It was busy moving from one flower to the next and every time it landed the girls would PET IT!?!?

I tried to remain calm as I said “Please don’t pet the bumble bee.” but I’m sure my voice was a much higher pitch than normal.

“But we love him” the girls replied.

“Yes, I know, but he’s busy working and we don’t want to make him angry.  Watch him but don’t interrupt what he is doing.”

Love my job 🙂

Let Me Help You – or Not

This summer I have two distinct groups of children.  Half my group is very young – infants and toddlers – eager to explore and learn but just beginning to master some basic skills.  The rest of the children are school-age – they usually prefer group activities but often become impatient when they think the pace is too slow.

The older children always seem so confused when they go to help one of the little ones and I say “No, don’t”.  Yes, I think it is absolutely wonderful that they want to offer assistance but often what they are doing is actually not helping.

Yes, sometimes the little ones do seem frustrated when they are trying to do something but that doesn’t mean they need help.  They are trying and retrying and eventually they will do it.  Maybe it won’t happen today, tomorrow or even next week but they are still trying.  If you do it for them you are taking away their opportunity to learn.

Yes, sometimes they even ask you to help them — that also doesn’t mean they need help.  They have learned that you can do it faster/better than they can and you might be willing to do it for them so they don’t have to do the work.  They know how to do it but they still need to practice before they are able to do it well.  You can assist by encouraging them to do it — cheer them on and celebrate their success.

Yes, I know she wants to climb up there but she can’t quite reach.  If you help her up there how is she going to get down?  Even when she does learn to climb up by herself she will still also need to learn to get down.  Right now she’s not ready for either one.  Holding her hand while she tries to climb actually makes it harder for her – it puts her balance off center and makes her footing unstable.

We’re halfway through the summer and I think they’re finally beginning to understand.  The older ones are learning to pause and observe — to assess the situation to determine if assistance is really necessary.  They’re learning that not helping is hard but sometimes it is the most helpful thing they can do.

Adding Parts

Years ago I began trying to eliminate much of the plastic in the program.  I’ll admit that there are still plenty of plastic items both indoors and out but whenever possible I will choose items made from wood, metal, or cloth over those made from plastic.

Our playspace contains a lot of loose parts – items that don’t have a specific purpose and can be used in a variety of ways. Sure, some of the items really do have an intended purpose according to their manufacturer but once I toss them into the playspace there’s no limit to what they can become.

The conduit pipes for example as a building supply product have a specific purpose but in a children’s play area imagination takes over.  Yes, I know that they have metal conduit too but in this case I did choose plastic instead – easier for me to cut up – safer for the children to play with;

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Notice the conduit in the top left corner of the storage shelf – it was just added this spring and has quickly become the children’s favorite.  It is more flexible than the other conduit and it has ridges which give it additional play value.  I didn’t tell the children that – they figured it out.

Of course at first they used it the same ways they used the original pipes;

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Then they discovered that when you tapped on the ends of these pipes they made a noise;

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And if you took two of the pipes and rubbed them together the resulting sound was fabulous;

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We have some other new loose parts too.  Some old bowls I found taking up space in the back of my cupboard – now are used to hold miscellaneous small items in the yard;

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We’ve had some pieces of pool noodles for years now – here they are being used with the conduit as drum sticks and boat oars;

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This week I added some more pool noodles that I cut up into small pieces.  My husband says it looks like a rainbow exploded in the yard.  The children have been collecting them sorting them and tossing them about;

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There are some new toys in the houskeeping area too.  These ones are not plastic – hooray – and I think they are the most adorable things.  I found them in the housewares department at Superstore.  I included the soup can in this picture for size comparison.

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And just in case you think these toys have a specific purpose I’ll also mention that the babies think these are the greatest musical instruments.

 

Thwarted Again

I’m not usually one to complain about the weather.  Truthfully, I love all types of weather – in moderation.  However, the recent weather has been somewhat disappointing.

Daytime high temperatures in the low 20’s (Celsius) are normally something that I would consider perfect weather for just about anything.  The problem is that we don’t reach those temperatures until late afternoon.  The bulk of our outdoor time is in the morning and lately it has been cold in the morning.  Very cold.

Of course, sometimes we don’t dress properly for the weather – stubbornly wearing shorts and T-shirts because it’s supposed to be SUMMER.  Shivering and trying to find a small patch of sunlight to sit in (the sun shades are set up to protect us from the intense rays of the sun).  Even when we wear sweaters or jackets we want to find a sunny spot to sit.

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As part of this summer’s yard reno we moved my husband’s workshop/shed to the side yard to open up more play space on the deck.  The remaining portion of the back yard shed now houses daycare supplies such as all the water toys which I can now access easily even when the children are here.  Unfortunately it hasn’t been warm enough to take advantage of this and have a full blown water day event.

After my vacation the shed/deck/garden area still looked like this;

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The following weekend we cut out the garden window and built the new bridge over the sweet grass;

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The children call it ‘the dock’ even though there’s no water under it.  It connects the new deck area to the garden path;

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This past long weekend I had planned to paint the somewhat ugly deck with a new type of paint that I found at Home Depot.  It’s called Behr Deck Over and I was really excited by the prospect.  The product needs 72 hours to fully cure so I figured the long weekend would be the perfect chance to complete this project.  Wrong.  Cloudy, cold and even a little rain.  The deck is still ugly.  I did however use some of the paint on the shed.

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I love the results.  The old OSB normally tends to flake off but this paint seems to have sealed the surface very well with only one coat;

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I love the texture – wish it was warm enough to do the deck.