Machines

It has been nearly two weeks since I added the pipes to soften the corners of the items attached to the loft.  These pipes have been very popular – the children usually refer to them as some type of ‘machine’.

It has been somewhat difficult to get pictures of the machine ‘in action’ because there are usually so many children crowded around.  I have managed to get a few – here they are using the pipes as a ‘drink machine’;

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Which was expanded to include the tubes under the loft too;

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We discovered that some of the milk containers are too tall to fit in the space between the floor and the bottom of the vertical pipe.  There was a bit of panic when they realized they couldn’t get the container out of the bottom of the pipe and none of us could reach it from the top either.

After some trial and error we learned that if several smaller containers are inserted into the bottom of the pipe the ‘too tall’ container is  eventually pushed all the way out the top of the pipe.  This was how the ‘elevator’ was invented.  Since then many of the little people toys have taken a ride in the elevator.

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Add a bin at the lower end of the diagonal pipe and you’ve got ‘the clean-up machine’;

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Sometimes one child will look through the upper end of the diagonal pipe while another child sits under the loft and places various items under the lower end of the pipe.  This creates a microscope/telescope/I Spy game.

It has also been used as a x-ray machine or laser to diagnose and treat injured stuffed animals.  So far I’ve been unable to get a decent picture of the children engaged in this activity – threre is no room for reporters in the emergency room.

Two simple pipes and plenty of open ended creative play 🙂

 

 

Remember When…

Friday was an inservice day so the school-age children were here for the whole day.  I decided it might be a good day to bring out ‘the bin’.

I had filled the bin months ago when I collected some of the leftovers from the garden.  I had intended to use it as a sensory bin for the toddlers.  Now, with a good layer of snow on the ground I thought the bin might also assist the older children to remember our past gardening adventures.

As the children gathered at the table in the sunroom I opened the bin – the aroma was amazing;

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MMmmm, sweetgrass smells so wonderful.  There were other things in the bin too but the scent of the herbs was overpowered by the sweetgrass.  The children spent some time exploring the items and were able to identify both the wheat and the oats;

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They selected items they wanted to include in a little sachet to take home.  They cut up the bigger pieces to fit;

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And created their own sweet smelling little bundle;

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The sunlight streaming through the sunroom window was so bright one of the children wished he had sunglasses – and suggested that we could use the craft supplies on the table to make some.  Good idea 🙂

He selected items from the craft bin that could be used to make sunglasses – egg carton pieces and colored transparent film.  Then the construction began;

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As I assisted a toddler to put glue on the front of the egg carton the older child suggested it might be better to glue the film onto the inside of the egg carton – good idea.

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He also suggested that if we attached a stick on the side of the glasses they would be easier to hold instead of trying to tie a string around your head – so creative.  The finished products may not have worked as well as we would have liked but the process was amazing to watch.

Do you remember when the product was your major concern and ‘I can’t’ was a common complaint?  I do.

Added Features

Last week I wrote about how I renovated the playroom to improve the walkway issues.   As always, no renovation is ever truely complete so now I want to tell you about some newly added  features.

First, I was a little concerned about the corners of the items attached to the loft post;

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This photo angle may show it better;

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It didn’t cause any problems the first week after the renovation but I was concerned that it may at some point in the future.  To address the possible problem I added some pieces of pipe;

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One is there to soften the pointed corners but both of them are used for play.  The words ‘vertical’ and ‘diagonal’ have been used often in our daily conversations this week.  The toddlers have been experimenting with what toys slide best through the tubes;

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I used some pieces of the leftover pipe to create some more tool storage in the workshop area too;

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A mesh curtain was also added at the entrance to the block area;

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Which I have been informed now makes it a pirate ship 🙂

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That’s just a few of the added features – there will be more.

Using the List

When I first started writing this post there had been some talk in the news about the Online Childcare Registry.  I got sidetracked by my playroom renovation but still want to finish this post – better late than never.

Some parents complain that they have had their names on the registry for years and never get called because childcare facilities do not use the list.  I can’t speak for all facilities but I can say that I definitely do use the list.

In fact, recently I’ve used it a lot.  I’ve had a couple families that have moved away and so I’ve had some open childcare spaces – actually I’ve had more open spaces in the last six months than in the three years prior to that.

So yes, the online childcare registry works but it is complicated.  The most recent space I had was actually empty for two whole weeks!  That is a really long time for a space to be empty especially considering that I had more than a month’s notice as to when the family was moving.  Why did it take six weeks for me to find someone for that space?

Was I being picky?  I know providers who interview several families for a single childcare space – like an employer seeking a new employee.  They contact everyone on their list and set up interviews to narrow the list down to a few preferred applicants.  Some families get called back for a second interview or even a meeting at the family’s home.  Eventually the provider chooses the family whose child they believe will be the ‘best fit’ for their program.

I can’t do that.  I simply can’t make the call to say that I decided another child was a better fit for my program and you didn’t make the cut so you’ll have to keep looking.  Yes, it would be easier for me to enrol a child whose family shared all my values and beliefs but what about the families that are not so easy?

I’d love to fill all my spaces with outdoorsy children whose families would never complain about their child getting dirty or going out to play on cold or wet days.  Does that mean that I shouldn’t take the child that hates is afraid to be outside – the one that doesn’t even have proper outdoor clothing because they never get to play outside – the family that will require me to spend a lot of time explaining the reasoning behind and the benefits of unstructured time outdoors?

No, it took me so long to fill that space partly because I did use the childcare registry. There were 137 children on my waitlist on the registry.  I chose to sort by ‘space type’ because I had an infant space available. Then I started at the top of the list – families whose ‘required for’ date had already passed.

This is where the problems begin.  I click on the name of the first child on the list – the family’s info is  displayed on six tabs; ‘Child’ including name, age, # of siblings etc, ‘Requirements’ including date applied and preferred start date, ‘Hours’ including FT, PT, evenings, weekends, etc, ‘Notes’, ‘Main Contact’ name, address, phone #’s, email etc, and ‘Other Contact’.  I have to click through the tabs to get all the information I need – and write it down on paper.

It would be easier if all the information was on one page and I could just copy/paste what I need to contact the parent.  I can’t just leave the information open on my computer screen – the system will time out before I finish the phone call/email.  I’m also going to want all that information again later if I do manage to arrange a meeting – assuming all the family’s information is up to date.

Being unable to contact the parents on the list is another issue if they haven’t updated their contact information.  I’ve had parents call me and explain that they are already on the registry but have a new ‘required for’ date or other information and the system wouldn’t let them log in or change their information.  I’ve encountered problems logging in too – once the login button had mysteriously vanished – the rest of the page displayed fine but there was a blank space where the login button should have been.

When I am logged in I usually write down the information for several prospective families just in case I can’t contact any of them and I am unable to login again.  Each time I view a family’s information and then return to the main list I have to redo my ‘sort by’ selection because it automatically reset.

I know, this probably is beginning to sound like a rant against the registry but it is just frustration.  I really do prefer the online registry over my old paper list but I just wish the registry was a little more user friendly.  I shouldn’t have to set aside a large portion of a day just to create a list from a list.

But I did, and from that list I eliminated several who had already found care, and there were some I couldn’t reach.  Yes, I did have an empty space for two whole weeks before I managed to fill it – with  a child from the online registry.

I know there are many parents desperately seeking childcare – they call and interrupt my online search.  So, I ask them – ‘Are you on the childcare registry?’  It might be quicker to just to set up an interview with the caller but I’m stubborn.  There are others who have been waiting longer I just have to find them. I want the online childcare registry to work.

Flipped

I was working on a post last week but didn’t get it finished before the weekend arrived – and the beginning of the playroom reno.  The other post will have to wait so I can show you the new and improved playroom.

The main problem with old arrangement was the entrance/walkway area – I wrote about it here.  I devised a plan to solve the congestion by ‘flipping’ the play areas.  It took three days – half a day for demo, one and a half for the rebuild, and the final day for painting and finish work.

This was one view of the playroom before the flip;

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And this is what it looks like now;

Flip02-afterThis is the North East corner of the playroom before;

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It was the housekeeping area – now it is the music/workshop area;

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The South West area before;

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Is now the new houskeeping area;

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Here’s another view of the houskeeping area;

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And this is the new – uncongested – entrance to the playroom;

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Now I’m waiting for the children to arrive so I can see what they think of the new space…

 

 

 

Alligator Hunt

I went to Ikea last weekend and picked up some new stuffed animals;

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Back at home I put away the toys from the loose parts bin – they’ve been out for several weeks and it was time for a change.  I replaced them with some miscellaneous toddler toys.  These are odds and ends that don’t fit with other toy sets so I grouped them together;

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This was an unintentional set-up.

The Duplo blocks have been available in the block bin for almost two months – I won’t change the blocks until the children start losing interest in playing with them.   One of the toddlers found an alligator in the loose parts bin and decided it belonged in the block area with the Duplo alligator;

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We then decided to go on an alligator hunt to see if we could find any more alligators.  They found the new stuffie and put him in the ‘water’ area so he could ‘swim’;

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I found an alligator in one of the November/December books but the toddlers were more interested in the other ones – the ones they discovered.

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Going on an alligator hunt may have resulted because I had all the ‘right’ items available but maybe….it was a connection the toddlers made during free play and I just noticed what they did.

State of Flux

I like things to be organized – if you look at my desk or my filing cabinet you might disagree.  That’s because I also tend to lack focus for mundane tasks like paperwork. When it comes to my childcare program I am a little conflicted regarding organization.

Some synonyms for organized include ‘ordered, controlled, structured’ – none of those words reflect my view of activities in a flexible childcare program.  However, other synonyms like ‘prepared’, and ‘well thought-out’ would be appropriate.

According to Dictionary.com ‘Organized’ is defined as “having a formal organization or structure, especially to coordinate or carry out for widespread activities: organized medicine; organized crime.”  To ‘Organize’ is “to form as or into a whole consisting of interdependent or coordinated parts, especially for united action”.

I like these definitions because in order for any of our daily activities to be successful we need to be able to function as a group.  We need to find a balance between our unique individual needs and the needs of the others in the group.  We need to get to know each other and that takes time.

We’ve been in a state of flux for what seems like a very long time – two whole months. We have not had a ‘normal’ schedule for two months and it has been frustrating at times.  It began with the start of the new school year where the little ones go through a period of ‘loss’ and sometimes struggle with missing their mentors who are now away much of the day.

We’ve had many other adjustments too.  Some parents have had changes in their work schedules which resulted in altered pick-up and drop-off times.  The little ones get used to a routine where certain children regularly go home first or last and variations can be confusing.

We’ve said some good-byes and enrolled two new babies.  There have been some necessary adjustments to nap times, meal times, seating and sleeping arrangements.  We’re trying to accommodate each individual without being too disruptive to the group.

It has been challenging.  Only once in the past two months has attendance been ‘normal’ – by that I mean no one was absent and everyone was dropped off and picked up on time.  It’s hard to call it ‘normal’ when it has only happened once but on paper that’s the way it should be.

It’s impossible for anyone – especially young children – to feel part of a group when you don’t understand what that group is.  We can’t focus on learning and growing until we find our place.  We need to get organized because this state of flux has been hard on us all.