Tag Archives: Family Childcare

Potatoes

I love potatoes.  As a child I ate potatoes as a side dish in most meals and no matter how they are prepared I include potatoes on my list of ‘comfort foods’. 

As a parent with four picky eaters, potatoes were the one constant that I could be certain that everyone would eat.  In fact, five pounds of potatoes was the absolute minimum I’d prepare for any meal and often it was more.

I’ve never served potatoes as the vegetable portion of a meal – nutritionally I’ve used it in place of pasta, rice or bread.  When I first opened my childcare home I created a 4 week menu for lunches and snacks.  On that menu I ensured that each weekly lunch menu contained;

  • one rice dish
  • one cold sandwich meal
  • one pasta dish
  • one potato dish
  • one hot, bread based meal

This method offered the children a variety of meal types that would appeal to most of the children – you can never please them all with every meal.  Yet, year after year, group after group, potatoes seemed to be the least favourite food.  I was perplexed.

I tried serving them mashed, roasted or scalloped – all refused by the majority of the children.  I added them to homemade soups and stews and watched as the children picked out their preferred items and left the potatoes behind.  Even the Au Gratin Potatoes got dubbed ‘Rotten Potatoes’.  Seriously, how can you go wrong with cheese & potatoes?

Over the years there were more children that would eat salad than there were those who would eat potatoes.  Broccoli has been counted as a ‘treat’ by at least two preschoolers who also refused to eat potatoes in any form.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining that they prefer their salad & veggies – I just can’t fathom why the versatile potato consistently gets refused.

I have considered that it could be a learned behaviour from an anti-carb culture but ALL these children will eat vast amounts of pasta and bread so that’s not it.  According to their parents, a few of these potato haters will eat potatoes at home but the majority don’t.

I won’t force anyone to eat something they don’t like but I also want our menu to contain a variety of foods and I do think potatoes should be included.   Currently, of our 20 lunches, only three have potatoes.  Two of them are usually refused by all and need to be replaced because I dislike wasting food.  The other one is french fries which are only sometimes eaten by half of the current group.

So, it has been a year since I last changed our menu and it is time for a revamp.  I’m looking for new recipes and there will be some that have potatoes.  They all look so good to me, I hope to find some that the children will enjoy too.

Fishy 1 & 2

We often pass by the Kildonan Pet Centre when we are out for a walk and sometimes we go in and look at all the fish.  I’d love to have a big, beautiful fish tank for the children but we don’t have enough space for one here – at least not anywhere that the children would be able to see it easily.  I do have a small tank that I thought would be suitable for a single Betta Fish.

Before we got a fish we set up the little tank on the table where everyone could see it.  I had planned to pick up the fish on the weekend when I could use the car to bring it home.  However, on that Friday only two of the four-year-olds were here so I decided it would be OK to take them and walk over to the store to get the fish.  Without the toddlers we could walk much quicker and we could have a late lunch without worrying about little ones falling asleep before they finished eating (the store doesn’t open until Noon of Fridays).

We picked out the most beautiful Betta – he loved looking at himself in the mirror we gave him LOL

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We tried to name him – everyone had suggestions.  The list of possible names included;

  • Pumpkin
  • Pickno
  • Leaf
  • Heat Monster
  • Crystal
  • Coral
  • Magic
  • Waterbead
  • Ladybug
  • J.J.
  • Gingerbread
  • Red Dragon
  • Santa
  • Wave Rider
  • Finnegan
  • Freddy
  • Franklin

For every suggestion made by one of the preschooler, there was another preschooler that was vehemently opposed.  We tried on several occasions but ‘discussions’ often became so heated we had to move on to a different activity.   The babies and I just called him ‘Fishy’

All the children (and I) enjoyed watching him swim around in his tank.

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Sadly, just two weeks after we got him there was an incident.  When I turned on the light in the morning I noticed that Fishy was motionless at the bottom of the tank.  He was wedged in the little space between the pinkish ornament (bottom right) and the glass.  We believe that sometime overnight he swam in there and couldn’t get out.  Since Bettas need to get to the surface for air he probably drowned. 😦

We buried him in the corner of the garden.

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Every time the children walk past the garden as they are playing they call out “Bye Fishy”.

This weekend I bought another Betta.  I also moved the tank ornaments so there were no tight spaces.  I’ve been calling him ‘Buddy’ – he is much more sociable than Fishy 1.  He comes to the glass and stares back whenever anyone looks in the tank. He also seems fearless – the tank thermometer keeps falling to the bottom of the tank and every time I fix it he has to come and see what I’m doing.  Maybe he’s territorial – he has been building a lovely bubble nest.

Today we’ll see what the children think of this new fish – and what they might call him.

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Probably simply ‘Fishy 2’.

Tiles

When one of my childcare parents asked me if I wanted some tile samples from her workplace I of course said yes – I wasn’t certain what I would use them for but I knew I’d find something.  Removing all the tiles from the sample boards/books was a very long and difficult task but sorting and organizing them by size and colour was much more fun.  If the tiles were not so breakable they would make wonderful loose parts just like that but with a mixed age group that includes infants and toddlers there are some safety concerns.

My first project didn’t involve the children – I glued some of the tiles on an old spool to create a table for our outdoor play space.  This was done during my vacation as part of my most recent outdoor play space renovation.

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Still, I also wanted to find a way that the children could use the tiles too.  I decided that mosaic pictures or stepping stones for the garden would probably be the best choice.  The majority of the tile samples were too large to use whole so I thought the children would like to help break them up.  For a few hours on two consecutive summer days I sat in the yard breaking tiles while the children ran around fully engaged in other activities.  I was a little surprised my invitation to smash stuff got no interest but I certainly wasn’t going to insist they stop what they were doing and join me.

Initially I planned to use cardboard trays as forms for cement ‘stones’ and let the children decorate them with the broken tile pieces – with direct supervision I thought even the youngest ones could do this.  However, after reading cement making directions and calculating the amount of cement needed to fill each tray, I had doubts about being able to make enough cement to fill all the cardboard trays I had collected AND supervise children too.

I thought about how I had glued the tiles to the old wooden spool and decided that would be an easier way to do it.  I cut cedar fence boards into squares to use as the base.  Using cedar the finished ‘stones’ could be used outdoors for garden decorations or indoors if they preferred. Also, because the cedar squares were much smaller than the cardboard forms I originally planned to use there was a better chance the children would complete at least one.

There were many steps for this project so this allowed us to work on it over a long period of time.  Not all the children worked on their creations at the same time but most of the work was done at quiet time when babies were sleeping.  Ultimately, due to the sharp edges of the broken tiles and the toxicity of some of the supplies, I felt  it was not a developmentally appropriate activity for the littlest ones even with direct supervision.

For the first step I provided each child with a cardboard base the same size as the cedar squares.  They used this to dry fit the tile pieces taking as much time as they needed to choose and arrange tiles to create their designs.

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When they were happy with their design I mixed floor leveler cement to use as an adhesive for the tiles.  I had considered several adhesive options but decided on the floor leveler because;

  1. I had a bag of it already because I’ve used it on my home floors
  2. I pretested it on the cedar & tiles and it worked very well
  3. I can mix it in small batches as needed
  4. It dries quickly (maybe a little too quick)
  5. Cleanup is fairly easy

The next step was to put the cement on the cedar boards – the children enjoyed watching the wet cement flow across the board.  No pictures of this as we had to work quickly at this point.  Each child then had to transfer their pattern from the cardboard template to the cedar board before the cement dried.

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Interestingly all three of the four-year-olds managed to complete this step with only a couple ‘extra’ pieces that didn’t fit on their boards.  The school-age children were much slower, overthinking the process and trying to change their patterns. They ended up with many leftover pieces and some spaces where the cement dried before they could get any tiles on.

Now, when I originally planned this activity this would have been the finished product but although the floor leveler cement worked well to adhere the tiles to the boards, it wasn’t thick enough to cover the sharp edges of the broken tiles.  If we had used thick concrete in cardboard forms we could have pushed the tile pieces in far enough that they would have been flush with the concrete surface.  Alternatively, if the tiles had all had straight edges and been arranged close together then there wouldn’t have been large gaps.

However, we did have large gaps and sharp edges and my solution was to use grout.  Luckily, I had plenty on hand leftover from when I tiled the back splash in my kitchen.  I mixed it in small batches and let the children spoon it into the gaps – I know, not proper grouting technique but it worked.

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Then came the final step – washing off the extra grout.  This proved to be everyone’s favourite step.  In fact, now that I know how much these children LOVE using warm soapy water and sponges I have many more ‘projects’ planned for them 😉

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This was a very long project – nearly six weeks from the time I first broke the tiles until the last child completed their mosaic board.  Probably wouldn’t have take that long if we didn’t work on it only in small groups at quiet time and didn’t have to wait for things to dry between steps. Yet, those were some of the ‘special’ things about this project too.

Here are a few of the finished products;

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Vacation 2018

As usual I spent my two week ‘vacation’ working on projects and as usual I didn’t manage to complete ALL the things I had hoped to.  However, this year I DID spend my entire vacation outdoors because I was working on the backyard play space. It was wonderful!

I’m back to work today and the children should be arriving soon so here’s a very quick post about the mostly completed yard.  First, the view to the SW corner as you leave the house;

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Down the stairs and looking to the SE corner;

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From the SE corner looking to the NW corner;

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From the SW corner looking to the NE corner;

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This is one of my favourite areas – my little hideaway under the cedars;

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Here is the old tipi with newly added storage areas and camouflage cover;

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I added ‘castle battlements’ to the wall between the gravel area and the garden and attached the drums here too. The table was made from a spool and some tile samples – supplies that were donated by parents;

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The stump circle containing the ‘digging area’ was moved to one edge of the gravel area to make room for a ‘construction zone’.  All the building supplies are now stored conveniently under the willow;

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The fence panel between the bark area and the car port is now the ‘art wall’ – although not quite complete yet – the planters will hold art supplies and paper etc can be clipped to the fence;

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I also have a large hammock that hangs in this area when we want to relax 🙂

The biggest part of this project is not visible –  the removal of the old deck and walkway – there were sections of it that were rotting and unsafe, it was 18 years old.  I couldn’t just trash the whole thing though, any sections of wood that were still good were of course salvaged and reused.

Total monetary cost of this entire project was $350 (mulch, stone, sunshade etc) and a few hundred hours of labour in 30 degree Celsius weather.  Perfect vacation.

Mud Day 2018

The problem with having Mud Day on the Friday before my vacation begins is that then I’m too busy working on my vacation projects to write about anything.  So, since my ‘vacation’ is nearly over and my projects are almost complete here’s a very quick post about June 29, 2018.

The weather forecast said there was a chance of rain and there was a tiny bit of rain before we got outside – we wouldn’t have minded if it had continued.  Once outside, the children immediately ran to check out the pool full of semi-dry soil;

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Some were curious why it was only dirt but then I asked them if they were certain it was only dirt.  They dug deeper…

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Surprise!

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It took much longer than I expected for them to find all the ‘dinosaur bones‘ hidden in the dirt so I didn’t bother bringing out the new activity cards – today the mud play was their main focus – I’ll introduce the card activities another day.

The children were becoming less interested in playing in the pool of dirt and seemed to prefer playing in the bins of water meant for washing the dirt off the bones.

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So, I changed it up a bit…

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Some of the children liked this much better;

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Later we added some corn flour to the mud to make mud dough which the older children enjoyed playing with all afternoon while the littles napped;

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As I watched the children engaged in their mud day activities I was already making plans for Mud Day 2019.  I knew that one of my vacation projects was removing the old deck – where we were currently playing with mud – but I also knew that there would still be space for mud play and so much more.

You though, will have to wait until after my vacation is over and I’ve finished all my projects before you get to see the new outdoor play space. 😉

The Birdhouse

We have this birdhouse in the corner of the yard near the carport.  It was built many years ago – at least ten, probably more – as a project to use up some scrap building supplies.  Initially there was hope that it would get used for nesting but I’ve never seen a bird even land on it so really it is just a decoration.

Over the years of exposure to extreme weather conditions it has begun to decay.  There are now many cracks and gaps for ‘ventilation’ and a few small pieces have fallen off. Last year  the main support post started to weaken and the whole thing tilted over at an odd angle away from the carport. The ‘decoration’ was becoming much less decorative.

A little more than a week ago I was sitting our in the yard taking advantage of the lovely spring weather.  I watched a little black capped chickadee fly in the yard and perch on the old birdhouse.  Then, to my surprise I saw it go inside!  For the next hour I watched it come and go, in and out, a busy little bird.  I believe it was only one bird – at least I only ever saw one at any given time.

Later, when there was no activity around the birdhouse I took a peek inside.  It was very dark and hard to see much but it is full of bits of things.  We tied the post over to straighten the house and give it some extra support ‘just in case’.

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I’ve seen the bird(s) on and off over the past week – mostly in the evening.  I’ve never mentioned it to the children – I know they’d be excited and it wouldn’t take much to knock that little house down.  For now I just watch…and imagine the little birdie conversations;

Bird 1: Check out this house.

Bird 2: It needs a lot of work.

Bird 1: There’s a nice herb garden in the front yard.

Bird 2: But it is so drafty inside and that perch looks like it may fall off any moment.

Bird 1: It’s a great neighbourhood and it is within our budget.

Bird 2: There’s a lot of traffic and it’s noisy – so many children, constant construction, maybe we should keep looking.

Maybe I shouldn’t watch so much HGTV

I Spy 2

Many years ago I wrote about a group of preschoolers who enjoyed playing their version of I Spy.  My current group of preschoolers has also developed their own adaptation of the game but for them it is location/time specific – they will only play it when they are sitting at the table before, during or after meals.

In my schedule as meal time approaches I take the infants/toddlers out of the playroom one at a time so I can change diapers, wash hands, and get them seated before I do the final food prep.  I expect that the three and four-year-old children will want to continue playing during this time so I don’t request that they start cleaning.  However, they anticipate the routine and rush to put their toys away so they can come to the table.

Children: “The toys are cleaned up, can we come to the table now?”

Me: “The food is not ready and I still have diapers to change. You have more time to play if you want to”.

Children: “We want to come to the table and play I Spy”.

Me: “You could play I Spy in the playroom too”.

Children: “We like to play at the table”.

So, I send them to wash their hands and then play I Spy as they wait for me to finish preparing snack/lunch.  It goes something like this;

Child 1: I spy something that is Cheryl’s chair.

Child 2: CHERYL’S CHAIR!

Child 1: That’s right! Now it is your turn.

Child 3: Cheryl’s chair is black, you were supposed to say ‘I spy something black’.

Child 1: There are lots of black things, I spied Cheryl’s chair.

Child 2: My turn, my turn, MY TURN!  I spy something that is brown and pink and blue, and green, and gold.

Child 3: AWWCK! That’s too many colours!

Child 2: No it’s not, look at that pillow – it is brown and pink and blue, and green, and gold – see.

Child 3: OK fine, my turn.  I spy something that is on that shelf.

Child 1: The shelf by the window?

Child 3: No, not that shelf, the one that is over there by that other thing – beside the curtain.

Child 2: The birdhouse, the pencil, the phone, the book, the paper, the candle, the…

Child 3: That’s right!

Child 1: Which one was it?

Child 3: Umm, the book I think.

I don’t actually think there are any ‘wrong’ answers when they play this game – the turn taking seems to be their main goal.  Their language and communication skills are what interest me.  Inevitably, no matter how quickly I try to get lunch ready, the excitement level will become far to high and I will have to intervene to remind them about volume and activity level before I can put food on the table.  Even once the food is ready the I Spy game usually continues.

Occasionally when the school-age children are here they join in, and sometimes they manage to briefly follow the preschoolers directions.  Often they try to enforce alternate rules but the preschoolers just dismiss the new rules and carry on. The little ones enjoy having the older children play along but it is ultimately ‘their’ game and they are not interested in changing it.  Just take your turn and carry on.

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