Tag Archives: ECE

Trees

It started as a competition.  The school-age children were making pyramids with blocks.  The five of them were each building their own structure and they began bickering and complaining that there were not going to be enough blocks.

The arguing began to escalate and then one of the children suggested that they should combine all the blocks and work  together.  A few minutes later they announced that they had made a ‘tree’;

Later in the day, during quiet time there was another tree;

I was informed that this one was from ‘The Lorax’.  A detailed description and re-enactment of the story followed.

All this tree talk reminded me of the funky yellow thing we found at the park this past summer – I assumed it was some typed of fungi. It was growning on a tree and the children were fascinated;

Yesterday at circle time we looked at the trees in the nature guide, discussed their simalarities and differences and picked our favourites;

Then I read ‘Signs Along the River‘ by Kayo Robertson.  The children were getting restless so we went outside to run around and of course look at trees;

Later we looked through the items in our nature treasure box;

And sorted the items into two groups – ‘Parts of trees’ and ‘Not from trees’.

Trees (and children) are amazing.

Writing Time

It has been very difficult to find time to write — we have been so busy.  My morning writing time has been shortened due to the early arrival of several of the children.  My weekend writing time has been eliminated due to some major projects — I’ll write about them soon but for now you’ll just have to wait.

Today all I have time to write is a little snippet of some of last week’s  observations.  First, I’m very pleased with the progress of the plants in the garden.  Last year the cucumbers made it only part way up the trellis but the children still enjoyed relaxing there;

This year the beans have grown to the top of the trellis and beyond;

Most of the herbs are growing well too but sadly many of the children enrolled this year seem to have little interest in exploring the garden.  They do like to water it though.

I’m quite interested in some of the plants that are growing in the bare spots that we never got around to planting anything in.  I wish I was able to identify some of them – I assume they are weeds.  I pull the thistles but others I think are pretty so I leave them to grow.  Maybe someday I’ll find out what they are – do you know?

The baby loves the gravel area — I’m glad I no longer restrict the little ones access to this area.  Some day I’ll write a post about my transition from keeping babies ‘as safe as possible’ outdoors vs ‘as safe as necessary’.  One of the babies favorite activities has been to slide her feet back and forth until she buries them completely;

Then she picks all the little gravel pieces out of her sandals – without asking me to help 🙂

Finger knitting has become the favorite quiet time activity for the school-age boys – the girls have little patience for it;

But everyone loves painting on the plexiglass outdoors;

Moving the plexiglass easel was part of the major project this past long weekend.  Stay tuned for more of the project details when I find some time to write….

Cloud Dough

‘Make Cloud Dough’ is an item that has been on my list of ‘Activity Ideas’ for a long time but we’ve never managed to try it. In fact, it was about two months ago that I bought baby oil for the project and I didn’t even put it away — it has been sitting on my counter taunting me every day.

After attending the Day with Lisa Murphy workshop I vowed not to put it off any longer.  I had played with the cloud dough there;

Cloud Dough at OGL workshop

So, last week I gathered the supplies we needed.  I couldn’t find the bin I usually use for sensory activities — I probably used it for something else and then forgot about it but I’ve decided to blame someone else for ‘stealing’ it.  ‘They’ also neatly packaged up the birdseed and toys that I had stored in the bin too. 🙂

Anyway, I found a different container that worked — maybe even better.  So we started with just flour.

They thought it was 'so soft' and may have been just as happy if we didn't add anything else.

I had put some of the ‘found’ bird seed in the centre section just for additional texture.

It felt 'different' but they liked the flour better.

Next I added the baby oil and they mixed — somewhat hesitantly at first;

No need to measure

Once they became accustomed to the new sensation they really got into it.

We added more baby oil as needed until the texture was 'just right'

Then we added some toys and even some of the birdseed

The animals played an impromptu game of ‘hide and seek’

'Help! I can't see.' says the sheep.

This container even has a lid so when we finished playing we covered it up and used it the next day…and the day after that too – becasue they asked again.

On a personal note — cloud dough is so much better than salt dough when you have dry skin.

To Water or Not

I have two water barrels that collect rainwater to use for our garden and planters.  Filling watering cans to water the plants is one of the children’s favourite outdoor activities;

The rain barrel that is located in the gravel area has also been used to fill containers with water for play and experiments;

The hot dry summer has taken its toll on our water supply and, even with some restrictions on the amount of water we could use each day, our rain barrels are now empty.  My husband asked if I wanted him to use the hose from the house and fill the rain barrels.  I said no.  Empty rain barrels is part of the lesson.

So yesterday the weather forecast predicted rain and the dark clouds looked promising.  We went outside to play.  One of my ‘newest’ children said “I thought we wouldn’t play outside if it was going to rain.” I laughed.  “But we love the rain, why would we stay inside?”

Then it started, slowly;

And the dust began to turn to mud;

The rocks look really pretty when they are wet;

And the children noticed all the droplets of water;

And they were quick to react;

Sharing and working together;

But sadly the rain lasted barely five minutes — not nearly enough to produce the results we wanted;

But that too is part of the lesson.

An Extraordinary Summer

According to my WordPress stats this is my 100th post – Yippee!  It has been just over a year since I started this blog too – I missed the actual anniversary since there was no reminder for that and I need reminders.  So I thought an exceptional event deserved a post about something special or unique and this has been an extraordinary summer.

After the soggy late spring this hot dry summer has definitely been unusual – mosquito free too!  Enrolment has been atypical as well.  With several of our regular children away for the summer I was able to accommodate many school-age ‘summer care only’ children.  Nap time is still needed for some of the younger children but with no infants or toddlers here it is not as crucial and it is OK if we skip nap time occasionally.  Hence, we’ve been able to schedule full day field trips – an extremely rare occurrence.

Last week we spent a day at Fort Whyte Alive.  I started the morning by packing a picnic lunch for all;

We loaded up the van and set off for our adventure.  Once we arrived our first stop was at the Interpretive Centre where we got to get really close to some indigenous animals;

Much closer than would be possible if they were alive;

Then we visited the Aquarium of the Prairies which captivated the children for a very long time.

I was amazed by how interested the children were in watching the fish.  It made me wonder if I should invest in an aquarium for our own but I think it may have been the size of the fish that intrigued the children so much.  Unfortunately none of the pictures I took were able to capture the detail of this exhibit.

After we left the Interpretive Centre we strolled along the floating boardwalks – my favourite area;

The slight movement of the boardwalk made some a little nervous so we didn’t get too close to the edge even when we stopped to watch the topsy-turvy ducks;

And the green algae covered water which we almost mistook for a grassy meadow;

After lunch we visited the sod house and then took another hike.  No one could resist a side trip to do this;

We ended our adventure with a visit to the Fort Whyte farm where the chickens seemed eager for some company and ran over to greet us but stayed just out of reach.

As for skipping nap time – this day everyone napped on the way home, except the driver who wishes the van had auto pilot so she could have napped too.

The History of Our Yard

Fourteen years ago when I first opened my childcare home this was what the backyard play area looked like;

There was also a ‘deck’ area – old pallets covered in plywood – that is not visible in the above photo.  You may also notice the lack of soft surface under the play structure but the cribbing is there because adding pea gravel under the play structure was something I had to do for licensing.

Back then my view of outdoor play was essentially unstructured, high energy, physical activity.  My own children had played here – two of them are in this picture.  They usually played outside by themselves for hours.  I rarely ventured out with them until ‘supervised outdoor play’ became part of my childcare program.  Then I regularly watched the children play – and I was afraid.

Seven years ago my yard looked like this;

There was a large deck area with riding toys and space to play organized games.  There were no toys in the gravel area – just the climbers. After all, someone might trip over a toy if it was buried in the gravel.  It was here in this playground that we had the only injury that required medical attention.  I pondered over the question on the incident report “Was there anything you could have done to prevent this injury?”   I had been three feet from the child that fell from a two foot high platform onto twelve inches of pea gravel.  Maybe I shouldn’t let them play outside.

Actually, the children probably wouldn’t have argued if I had decided to ban outdoor play from the program.  They didn’t like to play out here for long.  Often it took only about 15 minutes before someone asked if it was time to go inside yet.  I took a long look at the outdoor play space and started to see everything that was ‘missing’.  All the things they liked to do inside that they couldn’t do outside – and I’m not talking about TV and video games.

This is my yard today;

Places to climb and crawl;

Places to balance, jump and explore;

Places for science experiments and imagination;

Places for art, music, and sharing stories with friends;

And so much more.  It is a lot like indoors – only better.  Now we can’t wait to go outside.

Water Play

Without a regular water supply the childrens’ free play with water has been limited to  whatever water they can find in the yard after (or during) a rainfall.

Every summer we have at least one ‘Water Day’ where there are various water stations set up but these are somewhat structured water activities.  It has been one of my goals to incorporate water as a permanent feature of the loose parts area and by moving the rain barrel, phase one has finally been completed;

Water has become the ultimate ‘loose part’ and the children have been busy experimenting with it.  There was the familiar ‘soup’ which sometimes becames a swimming pool;

My son tried an experiment with sound and water;

One of the children expanded on it;

Those plastic jars with lids became very useful — shaking makes bubbles!

The jars also provide a way to transport the water to where you want to use it;

And you can ‘pour’ water down the slide without loosing the water;

Water and tubes and soup together — there were some issues with using dirty outdoor toys to blow bubbles (some of us were more concerned than others);

We practiced the ‘scoop and fill’ technique;

And experimented with obstacles in the path of water;

Taking turns trying both roles;

Since I was just wandering around taking pictures I got enlisted to hold the hose so it could be filled with water — I had to follow very specific instructions;

So the water ultimately got from jar to hose and then to another jar;

And of course ‘clean-up’ time has a whole new meaning now;

We have to make sure there is enough time to dry the toys too;

Good thing it was warm and sunny.