Sprouts

We’ve been trapped indoors all week because it is too cold to play outside.  If I had magic powers winter would be gone and we’d be out in the garden.  Instead, I brought the garden in to us.

We haven’t had much success with our indoor gardening in the past.  Indoor ornamental plants do OK but our attempts to grow edible plants indoors have usually failed.  I decided that this time we would try growing sprouts.

First the toddlers checked out the sprouting supplies that I purchased from Sage Garden Herbs;

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We had two different types of seeds, an Ancient Eastern Blend, and a Crunchy Bean Mix. We put one type in each of the two sections of our sprouter;

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Then we rinsed them with water.  We used the little toddler sink so everyone could stand and watch the seeds and water mix;

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Then, we put on the cover and placed it on the counter until the next day.  At morning snack time we checked the sprouter.  Starting to grow already!

Sprouts - Day One
Sprouts – Day One

We rinsed them again and by Wednesday there were even more sprouts;

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Sprouts – Day Two

More water and Thursday – Wow!

Sprouts - Day three
Sprouts – Day Three

Time to taste them.  Baby one just wanted to play with them;

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Baby two was unimpressed;

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Both the two-year-olds ate theirs.  One claimed they were ‘delicious’ but shuddered after every bite.  The other ate them by the handful and wanted more.

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I absolutely loved this gardening project which we could see from seed to harvest in under a week.

Sixteen Days & Counting

Page G4 of the Best Practices Licensing Manual For Family And Group Child Care Homes  contains licensing regulations and guidelines regarding outdoor play.

The Regulations state:

regulations

The Guidelines include;

Guidelines

This has been an extremely harsh winter.  So far there have been sixteen days that were too cold for us to go outside to play.  That is well above the two days we had to stay indoors last year and this year isn’t even over yet. Still, I know providers who have only been outside a handful of times this year – probably due to the source of their weather information.

The chart below shows a small excerpt of data I’ve been collecting to compare the conditions at three different sites – the Winnipeg Airport, The Forks, and the weather station in my back yard.  All of the conditions were recorded at the same time on the specific day during a two week period.  The ‘Feels Like’ temperature is the wind chill effect – a combination of temperature and wind.

16dayschart

As you can see here of the six dates shown there were four days that would have been too cold to play outside at the airport or The Forks but only two days that were too cold in my yard.  I even have my weather station mounted in the windiest part of my yard – high on the pergola, above the height of the shed or garage where there is the the most wind and the least amount of shelter.

16days

Yes, if your yard is a wide open field with no shelter from the wind then the weather conditions at the airport would be similar and therefore a good source of weather information.  If you don’t have your own weather station there are many other options available besides the airport or the Forks.  Weather Underground lists 26 weather stations in the Winnipeg area – just click on the ‘station select’ button and find one near you that has a similar environment to where you go to play.

That way the children have the opportunity to learn from experience. They can notice that it feels warmer when they stand in the sunny area than in the shade.  They can discover what objects offer the best protection from the wind.  They can experiment and instead of standing at the window ‘looking’ at the cold they get a chance to ‘feel’ it.  Even if it is only a few minutes before they determine it is too cold to be fun and we head back inside.  It is still a better learning opportunity than using a screen to tell you it is cold outside.

We’ll continue to play outside whenever possible because we certainly don’t want to be stuck indoors all day every day. However, there is one thing we don’t miss this year – waiting for the school bus.  Luckily I don’t have to walk any children down to the school bus stop this year.  Standing at the corner waiting for the school bus is a totally different experience than playing outside and we don’t enjoy it much.   They don’t cancel the school bus until the wind chill reaches -45°C.  There are a lot of cold days that the buses are running – they’re just late so we have longer to wait outside.

Replacing Crackers

I was at a meeting with other childcare providers and the subject of crackers came up.  Conversation centered around the use of crackers as the ‘grain’ portion of meals and snacks.  There was a brief moment of silence after I commented that I didn’t think the children liked crackers all that much so we rarely have them here.

Then I had to clarify my statement;  The children don’t like the crackers that I am willing to buy.  I have searched through the cracker aisle in the grocery store and read every label.  My husband has been near meltdown stage begging me to just pick a box and move on. I sigh and choose a variety that is somewhat (barely) acceptable.  I won’t advertise the brand but this is the nutrition label;

crackers01

The sodium level is still too high but it is less than some of the other types and at least it has some fibre.  Most crackers have none – even many of the ones that claim to be multigrain or wholegrain.  The only ‘benefit’ to this purchase is that this 200g box will be in my pantry for at least two months.

Yes, you read that correctly.  Even with eight children in care it will take about that long to finish a single box of crackers.  There are some types of crackers that the children really do like and will consume more of but the nutrition labels for them are nearly identical to that of a bag of chips.

Our four week menu has two snacks per day, five days per week for a total of 40 snacks.  Each snack has a serving of each of these food groups – fruit, dairy and grain.  Currently I only use packaged crackers for two of those 40 snacks.  So what are the other 38 you ask?

  • Oatmeal – the steel cut kind – I refuse to buy/make the overly processed varieties.
  • Store bought breads & bagels – always whole wheat or multigrain – the heavier the better.  We haven’t had any type of white bread here in the last 10 years.
  • Homemade breads etc – apple bread, raisin bread, pumpkin loaf, biscuits, and more.  I use only whole wheat flour even when the recipe calls for all purpose.
  • Breakfast cereals – high fibre with limited sugar – a processed item that I think is acceptable when only offered once per week.
  • Quinoa Pudding
  • Quesadillas made with multigrain tortillas
  • Homemade cookies and bars – all contain wholegrain flour and old fashioned oats

There are also a few snack items that I am considering eliminating.  Things like rice crispy squares and store bought waffles, and graham wafers. A total of six items in the four week menu that I’d like to replace – eight items if I replace those crackers too.

These items might be considered ‘treats’ but are certainly not necessities.  I’d even question the use of the term ‘convenience’ in reference to these items.  Healthier options are not a lot more work.  A big batch of biscuits or scones takes less than an hour to prepare, bake and clean up after.  They freeze well so they can be prepared in advance and used a required.

What about the cost of homemade snacks verses the cost of store bought items? Financially I think it varies but most of the homemade items are less expensive.  Time wise homemade items may cost more unless you are like me and spend hours in the store reading labels before you buy.  Nutritionally there is no contest – homemade always beats processed.

So, I’m off to find some new recipes.  I’ve got a long weekend ahead and a half empty freezer.  First up I think I’ll try something I’ve never made before – biscotti.  Maybe I’ll find a way to use all that pumpkin puree I have left from last fall…

Introductions & Outcomes

I think of a ‘Lesson’ as a planned activity with an expected outcome – structured and defined.  An adult led activity with a predefined goal that upon completion is either right or wrong.  Any activity that requires me to constantly ‘correct’ or ‘redirect’ what a child is doing with the supplies is not a learning activity – it is an obedience activity with the goal of conformity to rules and following directions.

Learning through play is all about exploration, experimentation and observation.  Unstructured play offers opportunities for learning without a predefined result – no right or wrong conclusion – no pass or fail.  I consider the majority of our activities to be unstructured.  ‘Planned’ activities are generally just activities that require some type of advance preparation rather than a specific outcome.

Last week I introduced the infants and toddlers to a new sensory bin.

IO-01

You might think that the bin has a Valentine theme but that was not intentional.  I wanted the flower petals and the dollar store only had red ones in stock.  If they had had other colors I would have used more than one color.  The foam hearts were chosen for their texture not their color or shape.

The various pieces of green wool were also added for their texture – I have many different colors and types of wool but these ones were left over from another craft and already cut into small pieces so I used them.  The metal trays, paint brushes and water were ‘extra’ textures outside the bin.

Throughout the activity I didn’t instruct the children but I did describe and comment on what they did.  The baby insisted on sitting in a chair;

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Normally the smaller children just use these chairs when they are sitting at the little table because it is difficult for them to reach items on the table when they are sitting on the floor. The sensory bin was on the floor so it was easier to access without the chair but he wanted to sit in it.  His preferred activity didn’t involve the bin anyway.  He enjoyed using the water to paint his hair;

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That’s still a sensory activity using the supplies provided.  It also helps to develop motor skills and coordination.

Some painted individual hearts;

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And arranged them – sorted by colour – on a tray.  Wet foam pieces stick to the metal trays but dry ones slide off;

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Others enjoyed a more physical approach diving into the bin – stirring, tossing, and squishing the items at the same time as another child was meticulously balancing the white hearts around the edge of the bin;

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And the baby moved on to pushing the hearts and petals through the little hole in the top of his paint container and down into the water.

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All of them are learning and developing new skills. The learning outcome is not their ability to copy what I asked them do.  It is their demonstration of what they have discovered and how they put it to use.

We’ll use this bin again in the coming week(s) and I’ll add some other items too.  Maybe the children will continue to pursue these same activities.  Maybe additional equipment will enable them to expand on these activities.  Maybe they will try something completely new.  I’ll make the introduction but we’ll have to wait and see what the outcome will be.

Inspired to Write

I’ve started to fret about writing a blog entry.  A lot has happened recently and I feel like I should be documenting it. I often have several posts ‘in progress’ – not all will be published but my goal is a minimum of one per week. It has been less than a week since my last entry but currently I have absolutely no posts ideas.  Hence the concern.

My biggest problem is the lack of photos.  So many of the observations I make about the children at play are difficult to explain without pictures.  You know the phrase, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’.  Well, in my case probably far more than a thousand because I’m a visual person and the words are harder for me – almost impossible until they are on paper where I can see them.

So, why don’t I have any pictures to share?  Several reasons really – four of them are toddlers. Four toddlers in care means I’m already short at least a couple of hands even without the camera to hold.  Then there are their reactions when I do pick up the camera.  Two of them stop what they are doing and ‘pose’.  The other two run to my side of the camera to watch ‘TV’.  Even when I try to hide the camera from their view they recognize the beep it makes when I turn it on.  Sigh.

It is usually easier to take pictures of the children when we are outside because they are more deeply engaged in their activities and don’t notice the camera as much.  Unfortunately, my camera hates the cold and this has been a particularly harsh winter. Even on days like Monday, which was a balmy -14C when we were outside, my camera would probably refuse to take more than one or two photos before becoming completely useless.

Monday was an inservice day too so it was super busy and exciting when we were outside.  The older children were thrilled to be able to spend much of the morning outside instead of in an indoor classroom.  The little ones were overjoyed to have their mentors here for the whole day.  There were plenty of photo opportunities but sadly, no camera.

So, instead of looking through photos for inspiration I now look through my notes from last Saturday when I attended the M-Blog conference.  It was an amazing event – the pace was so much faster than what I am used to at Nature Summit.  Talk about information overload!  I’m still trying to process much of it.

Here are a few (not all) of my favourite quotes from the presentations;

Ian McCausland said;

  • Write about something old, something new, something borrowed or something blue.
  • Use at least two mediums – text/pictures/video

Maybe these quotes count as something borrowed. As for a picture, since I was too busy to take any pictures at M-Blog, here is one I took after I got home and checked out the items from the goodie bag;

M-Blog14 goodies

Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, said;

  • If no one hates what you write, no one will love it either.
  • Pretend you’re good at it and one day you will be able to scratch off the pretend.

Thank you Jenny, without your tweet about coming to Winnipeg I never would have heard about this conference.  You are amazing.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. I learned so much from all the presenters at M-Blog. I’m still feeling a little overwhelmed but I hope to put at least some of this new information into practice soon.

To start, I think I’ll head on over to my Pinterest page and follow the advice from Cynthia Sanchez and ‘organize my boards in order of importance’.  I’ll probably end up killing a huge chunk of time there but maybe I’ll find something inspirational to write about too.