Category Archives: Communication

Lunchtime Democracy

I have a short story from lunch time today.  I don’t usually write blog posts when the children are here but they are all napping so I have a few ‘spare’ minutes.

The scene begins as we come inside after spending the morning playing out in the yard.  There are three children here – two are nearly two years old, the other is three.  Coats and shoes are put away, diapers are changed and hands are washed.  They sit down for lunch.  I am getting the food ready.

The 3 year old asks “What are we having for lunch today?”

I answer “Ham sandwiches and salad with cucumbers and tomatoes”

The 3 year old sighs, leans across the table and whispers to the nearly 2 year old “Do you like spaghetti?”

“Yes!” he replies

The 3 year old repeats the question for the other toddler and gets another affirmative answer.

Then the 3 year old asks the other two “Do you like meatballs?”

Both of them giggle and yell “YES!”

The three year old looks at me and says “WE would like spaghetti and meatballs.”

I reply “I don’t have any spaghetti.  I have ham sandwiches and salad.”

She leans across the table and whispers “Do you like sandwiches?”

“Yes!” he answers

She looks at the other toddler “Do you like sandwiches?”

“Yes.” the answer is muffled as the toddler takes a bite of her sandwich.

I place the plate in front of the three year old.  She looks at her ham sandwich and salad.  She sighs, picks up a sandwich triangle and says “Fine then, I guess I will eat my sandwich.”



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.

Let’s Be Fair

Every day begins the same.  As the children arrive they agree on an activity to play together and begin the process of making sure everything is ‘fair’.  This is a very, very, long process.  In fact, often the actual game never even begins because they can’t agree on what is ‘fair’ so they switch to another activity instead – another activity with another set of toys and another lengthy period of deliberation over what will be ‘fair’.

The problem is that each has a different definition of ‘fair’.


The ‘quantity’ child believes that it is fair if everyone involved has the exact same number of toys.  ‘Quantity’ maintains that everyone must have the same number of characters, blocks etc. before play can begin.  Even if the other children involved only want one or two toys this child delays the game until everyone has an equal number of the toys to use.  “That’s not fair!” is often heard.

‘Ruler’ insists that all the biggest, most powerful toys belong to their personal group of toys.  ‘Ruler’ often tries to use ‘Quantity’ as an ally by pointing out that each of them has the same number of toys so it is fair.  In essence it is not fair because although the number of items is equal, the quality is not. ‘Ruler’ is a very competitive child for whom ‘fair’ means they are in charge and their team always wins.

‘Cluster’ doesn’t really care how many toys are on their team as long as they all match.  ‘Cluster’ wants all the members of a family group and doesn’t worry if someone else has more toys or better toys. ‘Cluster’ believes it is fair when everything matches and gets frustrated when ‘Quantity’ insists on assigning additional dissimilar members to ‘Cluster’s’ families.  Another conflict occurs because all the ‘fathers’ of the family groups tend to also be the power toys that ‘Ruler’ has already claimed thereby leaving ‘Cluster’s’ families incomplete.

‘CoOp’ will happily accept any toys the others don’t want to use.  CoOp has favourite toys but they don’t mind if others use them and will wait patiently while the others choose and set up the activity.  ‘CoOp’ will never complain nor be assertive.  ‘CoOp’ believes it is fair when everyone is able to participate harmoniously – conflict is their greatest fear.  ‘CoOp’ often ends up playing alone either because they felt overwhelmed by the negotiations or the others failed to invite them to play.

‘Tyrant’ is impulsive – recklessly stumbling through block structures and grabbing any toys that appear interesting at the moment.  It doesn’t matter if the toy is in a bin, on the floor or in someone else’s hand, the moment ‘Tyrant’ wants it ‘Tyrant’ takes it.  Thankfully ‘Tyrant’ tends to have a short attention span so the toy is usually soon returned to its original user. Sometimes ‘Tyrant’s’ behaviour is fuelled by the reaction so it is important not to overreact to because it will intensify the conflict.  “Tyrant’ is usually a toddler so the behaviour is a ‘normal’.

Actually, all these children are ‘normal’.  They represent the children of various ages, temperaments and developmental levels who co-exist in a family childcare setting.  The conflicts don’t mean the children need to be separated or that an adult needs to intervene.  The conflicts mean that the children are learning to get along with others who have a different point of view.

Fair is not always equal.  Fair is not always the same.  Fair is not always without conflict.  Accepting the conflict is difficult but it is part of the process – the process of learning to be fair.

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,


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.


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.


I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately – reflecting and evaluating are powerful problem solving tools.  My current dilemma is that, in a recent meeting with a couple seeking childcare, I was asked for references.

Now, the problem isn’t that I don’t have references.  Many of the parents who contact me begin the conversation by saying “I have a friend/neighbour/co-worker who has had or currently has a child in your care”.  They already have the reference and don’t ask for more.

I will also say that I do believe that all parents should want references before leaving their child in the care of anyone they don’t personally know.  Employers check references before hiring new employees.  Homeowners get references from contractors before getting renovations done on their homes.

My concern lies in the sharing of personal information – phone numbers, email addresses, etc – of parents with children in my care.  Both the Privacy Act and the Provincial childcare licensing regulations restrict the sharing of personal information.

I am diligent in maintaining confidentiality for past and present families.  Even with families that I know spend time together outside of my childcare home I ensure I get permission before sharing any information.  So, it makes me very uncomfortable to ask them for permission to share their contact information with someone I just met and know very little about.

Over the sixteen years I’ve been a licensed childcare provider there have been occasional difficult families that caused problems for me, the school and other families with children in my care.  In those sixteen years I have had to dismiss three families due to the behaviour of a parent.  All of them seemed nice enough when I first interviewed them but it didn’t take long for it to become apparent that their conduct was not respectful to me or the families with children in my care.

I have occasionally reversed the request and asked a prospective parent to allow me to share their contact info with my currently enrolled parents.  That way the parents I already know and trust can contact the prospective parent without divulging any of their personal information.  However, this too bothers me because the prospective parent is seeking a reference and their first experience with me involves me asking to share their contact information with others.

I have considered and occasionally asked a parent to provide me with a letter of reference which does not have any contact info and can be shown to a prospective parent – but is this really a good reference?  What if the prospective parent wants additional information other than what is covered in the letter?  There is no way for them to ask specific questions.

Sigh.  These are the kinds of things that keep me awake at night.  I still don’t have and answer.

Waiting for the Bus

Several of the children in my care take the school bus to school and normally the bus stops to pick-up and drop off the children directly in front of my house.  Due to some major road work in the area the bus can no longer turn onto my street during the morning rush hour so the stop has been moved to the end of the street.

If the lunchtime or after school drop offs had been moved I would probably be annoyed – those are hectic times of the day and a change like that would be very disruptive to our schedule.  The morning walk to the bus stop is actually quite enjoyable.  We listen to the birds, visit with the neighbourhood cats that come to greet us, and enjoy the refreshing spring weather.

There is a lot of traffic at the corner so while we wait the children count cars or play eye spy type games. Last week a police car passed by and the children waved at the officer – who waved back.  The children were ecstatic and a new game began.

The children stand side by side and wave at everyone who passes by.  They smile and wave at every pedestrian, cyclist or vehicle that goes past our location.  They also keep score: one point for everyone who smiles back, two points if they smile and wave too.  The children cheer every time they get a response from these morning commuters and there is a collective groan when there is a surly unresponsive one.  The children could hardly contain their excitement when one driver smiled, waved and honked the horn – THREE points!

So, if you see a group of children standing on the corner smiling and waving make their day and wave back.  Hopefully they will make your day a little brighter too. 🙂

Favorite Fingerplay

We have circle time every morning.  In other posts like Telling Stories and Show & Tell I’ve covered some additional aspects of our circle time but we regularly do a calendar activity followed by poems.  I designed a calendar template that can be modified for each month allowing to opportunity to include all our special events.

Every month I print six copies of the calendar and place them in sheet protectors.  At circle time each child is given a copy of the calendar so they can follow along and they are encouraged to add personal information to the conversations.

Alphabet tapes have been placed along the bottom of the sheet protectors – A to M on the calendar side and N to Z on the poem side.  As we recite the alphabet together we include a word beginning with each letter and the names of anyone in the house as well – A for apple, B for Ball, C for car and Cheryl and Curtis, D for duck and Dylan and so on.

The current poems are placed on the reverse side of the calendar.  I choose the poems based on the season or other interests of the children. Sometimes the children learn them quickly and then get bored.  Occasionally they don’t connect with the poem and loose interest in participating in circle time.  I usually change the poems several times each month so this doesn’t happen.  I also like to include pictures alongside the poems and at least one of the selected poems will have actions.

It was about seven or eight years ago that I first used the Tommy Thumb poem for circle time.  It was one of the favourite finger plays for that group of children and they continued to recite it throughout the days long after new poems were introduced.

 Tommy Thumb

Tommy Thumbs up (Point thumbs up)

Tommy Thumbs down (Point thumbs down)

Tommy Thumbs dancing (Bounce them to the left)

All around the town (Bounce them to the right)

Dance them on your shoulders (Bounce on your shoulders)

Dance them on your head (Bounce on your head)

Dance them on your knees (Bounce on your knees)

Tuck them into bed. (Fold arms hiding hands)

Peter Pointer… Baby Finger…

Finger Family…

This finger play has continued to be a favourite with subsequent groups of children.  I brought it back for circle time at the beginning of this month and the children are still excited about it so we have had the same poems for almost four weeks now.

I tried to take some pictures of them but their enthusiasm made this quite difficult.  This is the best I was able to do;

Ok, so I was holding the camera with only one hand — I had to do the actions too!