Tag Archives: Family Childcare

Apple Burgers

One of my childcare families asked for this recipe recently and I replied that it was ‘on the list of future posts’. I actually have a list of blog posts waiting to be written…lack of post ideas is not the reason for the long periods of time between posts. Sometimes I just need a a nudge to move a post to the top of the list and get busy writing.

As I mentioned in my last post, this past summer we didn’t follow our regular four-week-revolving menu. Instead, I had made a list – yes, another list – of new recipes I would like to try without necessarily adding them to our regular menu. Apple Burgers were one of the new recipes that the children requested multiple times over the summer and asked to have added to the regular menu permanently.

In the spring, when I first started going through my recipe books to make the ‘new recipes’ list, I almost skipped reading the Apple Burger recipe…again. I say ‘again’ because all my recipe books are more than 20 years old, some may even be older than me. There are no pages in any of my recipe books that I have never looked at but there are definitely recipes that I have not read past the title.

Apple Burgers fell into the ‘skipped’ list because I don’t generally like apples. I mean, I won’t entirely refuse to eat them – like seafood (gag) – but anything apple would be near the bottom of a list. Like on my ‘pie list’ all other fruit pies and most meat/veggie pies would be ahead of apple pie. So, my initial response to reading the title ‘Apple Burgers’ would be ‘eww, why wreck a burger by putting apple on it’ and I would turn the page.

However, this time I read it – after all, I was looking for recipes for lunches for the children and even most of the picky eaters will eat apples. I discovered that ‘Apple Burgers’ are really just chicken/turkey burgers with applesauce in them. MMmmm, chicken and turkey are pretty high up on my list so Apple Burgers got added to the summer recipes to try list.

Now, I will first post the recipe ingredient list as it was originally written with the usual disclaimer that I have NEVER followed a recipe without modifying it. Then I’ll try to guess at what I really did since I don’t measure ingredients.

Apple Burgers
  • 1 lb ground chicken (or turkey)
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 2 tbsp chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp chopped red pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper

After reading the original recipe my first thoughts were; 1) the children will not even try these if they see a piece of onion or red pepper, 2) there is not nearly enough seasoning/flavor, and 3) why is there no egg or breadcrumbs?

So, when I made them I added the things I thought were missing – and I have done it differently each time I have made them so I don’t really have a ‘recipe’. Seriously, I just play with food like the children mixing potions with loose parts…as long as it is edible I’ll consider throwing it in a ‘recipe’. Also note, I am cooking for a big group so I usually start with double the above recipe. These are some of the other modifications I have made.

First, I add a lot more seasoning. I have dried vegetable seasoning (onion, peppers, garlic) that I add to things like scrambled eggs or herb bread etc when I want the flavour but not the chunks or moisture from chopped or pureed onions and peppers. I have used the dried vegetable seasoning in these burgers and I have also used oregano, thyme, rosemary – total of probably at least two or more tablespoons of various dried seasonings. Sometimes I add bacon bits, soya sauce, BBQ sauce, or Thai sweet chili sauce.

Second, I add an egg and some cornmeal/oatmeal/breadcrumbs. Actually, never breadcrumbs, I don’t buy or make breadcrumbs but they would work too. I usually add cornmeal to all my ground meat loaves/balls/burgers. Sometimes I use oatmeal though I put it in the food processor first because I only buy whole oats and they would make the burgers chunky if I didn’t grind up a bit it first. If I am adding pureed onions and peppers I will put the oatmeal in the food processor at the same time.

How much cornmeal/oatmeal? I have no idea, I just dump it in straight from the bag, maybe a cup? Normally I would add enough to enable me to handle the mixture and form patties but honestly every time I have made these I feel like I’m adding way too much filler and they have still been too wet to handle. I have spooned the mixture onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet like a drop cookie, shaped them a bit and then baked them. I usually get 16 smallish patties out of a recipe starting with 2 lbs ground chicken.

The original recipe says to broil them 8 minutes per side until no longer pink. Hmpf – too wet to put on my broiler pan – would make rippled burgers LOL. I bake them for about 25-30 minutes at 375 F on my oven’s convection roast setting (400F on regular setting) flipping after about 15-20 minutes so they brown a bit on both sides. I always use a thermometer to ensure min internal temp of 165F/74C. They always set up very solid, never crumble so I don’t know why they are too wet to handle raw.

AAannnd – no picture. That is probably why I kept putting off writing this post. I have never remembered to take a picture of the Apple Burgers – too busy eating them. I let the children choose the condiments they want on their burgers. For me, it is mayonnaise and Thai sweet chili sauce for extra flavour 🙂

In lieu of an apple burger pic – here are some barbecued beef patties my husband cooked for me (I’m a little fearful of the gas BBQ thingy). I’m always sad when he doesn’t BBQ beef burgers ‘crispy’ enough for me so he cooked these ones special just the way I like them…

A Variation

I didn’t manage to write any posts about our activities this summer. Additional screen time from virtual meetings may have been a factor that deterred me from computer related activities like paper work and post writing. My preference for spending time outdoors over indoors was definitely a factor too, but that is nothing new. Probably the main reason I didn’t find time to write was due to our schedule and some of the changes I made to it.

This summer was different than usual because I had a much older group of children. All my part time ‘inservice day only’ school-age children needed summer care and with some juggling of family vacation times I was able to accommodate everyone. I also chose to wait until fall to fill a vacant infant spot so, for the summer, that space could be used for a school-age child.

This unusual grouping meant that only one of my children was under four years old. It also meant I was busier than usual and there is oh so much TALKING. Transitions between indoors and out, play and meals, etc take soooo loonngg. Honestly, dressing five toddlers for winter play takes less time than getting seven 4-9 year olds to stay focused on what they need to do to get ready. So much time discussing/planning what they are going to do – please just do it!

I was expecting this – I had witnessed it on inservice days even when ALL of them were not here. The older ones tend to arrive later than the little ones – maybe because they are used to the later start of school classes or maybe because their parents face similar delays getting the out the door at home. I decided to make a few changes to our daily routine to lessen the delays.

Usually the little ones have been here for an hour or more already and it is almost morning snack time when the older children arrive. If I let them go play ‘for a few minutes’ until snack then we have a transition from arrival to playroom, a transition from playroom to snack, a transition to get ready to go outside – which will also require a bathroom break because the first two transitions and snack took an incredibly long time. It will be at least 10:00AM before we manage to get everyone out the door – no way I’m waiting that long before going outside to play in the summer!

So, I decided to make some adjustments to our (my) schedule and in order to do that I’d have to modify the menu. In past summers we have occasionally packed snack to take with us to have on a hike or at the park. On our regular menu not many of the morning snacks are portable so I created a special ‘summer’ menu in which all the morning snacks were portable. Our picnic bag was packed and ready before the older children arrived. The younger ones who arrived early had some indoor play time, bathroom break and were getting ready to go outside when the older ones arrived – also ready to go because they hadn’t actually come in.

That one schedule change meant we were heading out about 30 minutes ahead of our ‘normal’ schedule when I have only preschool children but up to 2 hours earlier than if I had let the older ones play indoors and have snack before going out. It also meant we got our walk, picnic snack and active play/tag/game time in the park early in the day before it got too hot. We still had time for lower energy, outdoor constructive and creative activities in the yard under the sunshade before lunch.

active play in the park

Since that schedule change required a modified morning snack menu, I decided to do a completely different ‘summer’ menu for lunches and afternoon snacks too. Even though I intended to ‘simplify’ the menu for summer, it turned out to be a very time consuming endeavor.

I involved the children in the menu planning with discussions on what they would like to have the following week. They were not very helpful. There were the some who loved everything and couldn’t decide and others who really would prefer only marshmallows and gummy bears. We did try a lot of new recipes – some of them were very popular and have been/will be added to our regular menu. I might have time to write a post about them sometime in the future.

However, there were many weekends when I was left scrambling because I had no idea what groceries I needed for the upcoming week because I still hadn’t completed writing the menu. Meal prep was also arduous as unfamiliar recipes required more time and thought even if the recipes were ‘simple’.

Nap/quiet time in the afternoon was shorter with mostly older children. I barely had time to clean up lunch and only very occasionally got to take a ‘break’ before it was time to get nap/quiet time stuff put away and start prepping afternoon snack. We had ‘refreshing’ afternoon snacks like frozen fruit smoothies or ice cream and berries before heading outside again until home time. Some days I didn’t sit down at all between 6AM and 6PM. When I did finally sit down, writing blog posts was the last thing on my mind.

The older children have all gone to school now. Our routine is changing again. We have welcomed two new infants into our group. The four-year-olds are adapting to their new role as the ‘big kids’ setting examples for the new ones. The former ‘baby’ of the group is now suddenly the ‘middle’ child. It has been surprisingly quiet – and I’m doing a lot more sitting because if I stand there will also be an expectation that I carry one, or more, of the children.

It is another variation – a new phase – in a mixed age group in family childcare.

Vacation 2021

I didn’t take vacation time in 2020 so this year I was really looking forward to the time off to complete some much needed projects. I had a total of 19 days this year and five projects planned. Only one of the projects was an indoor project – replace foam tiles on playroom floor. It had originally been on my list for 2020 but then – no vacation, no reno.

I have replaced the interlocking foam tiles many, many times as a weekend project because removing old worn tiles and installing new ones isn’t very difficult. However, this time it was going to take longer as I was NOT planning on adding more foam tiles because Montgomery eats them and I don’t need more vet bills.

This time I went with much more durable rubber gym flooring. Like the foam, it provides traction and sound dampening over the hardwood floor and is so much nicer for sitting or crawling on.

My second project was not a play space but it improved access. The front sidewalk was just off centre of the front yard – two fence panels on the West side of the walkway and one fence panel on the East. There were stepping stones from the sidewalk to the front steps and side gate both located on the East side of the yard.

Now all three fence panels are together and the sidewalk is located on the East side of the yard and leads directly to the front steps and back yard gate. Bonus result is I could also expand the native prairie garden into the space where the sidewalk had been. The opportunity to add garden space means this project was more ‘relaxing’ than actual work even though the temps were about 30C every day! Oh, and we also added a garden bench because we had some extra wood! Only needed to buy a little soil and mulch, otherwise everything for this project was recycled/reused so total cost under $100 🙂

The remaining three mini projects were all part of the full back yard renovation. The main purpose of which was to define the spaces better and improve storage for all the loose parts.

The picture below is from 2019 and shows the deep gravel ‘digging’ area on the right surrounded by stumps and the lower ‘building’ area on the left. I tried to keep the gravel in the building area level and packed – better for building on – but the children tended to dig here too, after all it was gravel.

The full back yard now looks like this (reverse viewpoint from above photo);

The logs, stumps, table, stepping stones, composter and main garden have not changed this year. The benches have been removed from the swing area, a new herb garden space was added and the mulch was replaced with turf tiles. Though part of the ‘master plan’ this project was actually completed on a weekend in the Spring prior to my vacation.

The first of the three backyard projects during my vacation was the loose parts storage wall between the gravel digging area and the new, larger building area with recycled rubber surfacing (and a carpet in case it gets too hot to sit on – though it is fully shaded). I kept the water area adjacent to the building area because the children LOVE building bridges.

There is so much more space for storing loose parts/building supplies and it is easier to access than the previous deep bins. I used pallets for the wall so more recycled wood!

Bigger items are still stored in some of the bins.

The other side of the pallet wall has new storage for the digging area which never used to have any loose parts or storage, just a few pails, pots and digging tools. Now there are so many more options.

Backyard project two was to replace the tipi – I know, everyone loved the tipi but its shape and placement were not very functional. I used the poles and covering to form a roof over the entire corner of the yard. It makes a larger ‘house’ and the tunnel was moved here too.

This is the view of the yard from inside the house;

The third backyard project is the new messy play area. Located inside the garden wall it is separate from the other areas. Made from reclaimed wood, tile samples, and a salvaged laundry sink, the total cost for this project was $0. We have not used it yet (only been one day), I don’t think any of the children even noticed it as they were so excited to explore all the other new spaces. Besides, I’m still collecting some containers of ‘ingredients’ for the children to use here but…soon…

Traffic Woes

I get excited every time I hear mention of lowering speed limits. At the moment it is only residential streets that the city of Winnipeg is considering lowering speed limits on but if I had my way it would be ALL the streets and lanes. If I were in charge back lanes would have a max speed of 20 km/h, residential streets would be 30 km/h, undivided main streets could be 40 km/h and only divided ones could be 50 km/h. Main roads with three or more lanes in each direction could have a speed limit of 60 km/h. Major roads with absolutely no pedestrian traffic could allow speeds up to 70 km/h. No roads anywhere inside city limits require any speed over 70 km/h – if you want to drive faster, take the perimeter.

I’m sure some people may be horrified at the thought of driving that slow and it may make you angry that I also think there should be traffic cams and photo radar everywhere. There is photo radar near my home – and there is also a guy that frequently stands on the corner and holds a cardboard sign to warn drivers of the camera ahead. I once told him he should just let them get a ticket – a consequence for their actions. He probably drives a black truck…I’ll explain why later.

It is no secret that I love to walk places – I do also drive, but whenever possible I prefer to walk in all types of weather. Actually, even in very cold weather I would prefer to walk than sit still in a frigid cold vehicle. Still, sometimes even I must drive instead of walking. Those drivers (and pedestrians) that choose to defy road rules cause me angst both as a driver and a pedestrian. Though sometimes even the drivers that are trying to be ‘helpful’ are really not.

My childcare home is located in a residential area that is bordered by several major streets. Even if we were to restrict our daily walks to the sidewalks in our little neighbourhood we would not be able to avoid disrespectful drivers taking shortcuts to avoid slowing down for traffic at the busy intersections. That is one reason why, throughout all our walks, in our neighbourhood and beyond, the children and I have constant conversations about all aspects of the environment around us.

Those conversation may be observations about decorations in someone’s yard/garden, birds, plants, people, animals and most definitely vehicles. Everything is a teachable moment – an opportunity to share an interesting fact, personal likes/dislikes, and of course identifying hazards. Is it safe to pet that dog without the owner’s permission? Is that tree/fence an appropriate place to climb or does if belong to someone else? Will that driver stop for us or should we wait?

Long before we have even reached an intersection we will notice if there are stop signs and count them. We discuss which direction we are planning to cross and whether the cars should be stopping for us or if they have the right of way and we should be waiting for them. Respect for drivers and pedestrians goes both ways. That is where we sometimes meet those ‘helpful’ (not) drivers that stop where they do not have a stop sign and try to let us cross – it is confusing for the children but luckily it doesn’t happen often.

Toy cars and people

I wish our encounters with disrespectful, anti-pedestrian drivers were as infrequent. As pedestrians we always follow the road rules – many of which already strongly favour vehicles over pedestrian. For example, at all the intersections with traffic lights in my neighbourhood my little group can barely make it all the way across the intersection before the light turns red IF we start instantly when it turns green AND we hustle all the way across. If our light is already green when we reach the intersection we won’t have enough time to cross and will wait for the next green light – another opportunity to observe traffic and discuss safety rules.

We have encountered drivers who are too impatient to wait for us to cross the street before they make their left turn and will try to turn in front of us instead of waiting for us to cross first. One driver actually thought it was necessary to turn into the oncoming lanes first before crossing over to the proper lanes just so he didn’t have to wait for us to clear the lane he should have turned into. He must have actually planned this in advance considering, like us, he had been waiting at a red light prior to entering the intersection and was most certainly aware of our intention to cross.

Another one of my personal opinions is that all slip lanes should be eliminated. Even though I put reflective safety vests on all the children when we go for walks near traffic, some drivers don’t see us – or choose to ignore our attempt to cross the slip lane. Other cities have some great ideas for replacing slip lanes. I’m certain the businesses on the corner near my home would appreciate the increased pedestrian traffic if the slip lane was removed.

Back lanes are another issue. I am sure that there are drivers that think pedestrians shouldn’t use back lanes – ever. Personally I think both pedestrians and vehicles can both use back lanes if they need to access property located on that lane. The children and I DO walk down my back lane to get to my back yard but we don’t travel down back lanes when we have no purpose to go there. Whenever we see a vehicle we move off the lane, into the nearest driveway, and stand still respectfully yielding right of way to the passing vehicle. This is easy to do IF the drivers are also respectful and obeying speed limits.

I am fairly certain that only the drivers who actually live on our lane obey the speed limit – which is still too fast. The drivers using the lane as a thoroughfare or shortcut to avoid the lights drive much faster than the lane speed of 30 km/h. In fact, there have been vehicles that sped down my lane so fast that I couldn’t tell you what colour the vehicle was because all I saw was a blur as they passed my yard.

When there is no snow the lane is wide enough to allow cars to pass us even if they don’t choose to wait for us to get off the lane. In warmer seasons we do always walk on the edge of the lane but we still try to move into a driveway when a car approaches. In the winter the piles of snow along the edges of the lane make it impossible to walk there and the tire ruts are treacherous. For this reason we tend to walk in the middle of the lane in the winter.

When there is ice and snow, we move slower and have fewer spaces to get off the lane when we see a vehicle. I always remain in the centre of the lane until all the children have reached a safe spot and are standing still so there is no chance they may slip back into the lane. Consequently sometimes drivers must stop and wait for us and some of them find this very frustrating – especially the ones that are using our lane as a shortcut to avoid the traffic at the major intersections. This is where we have met the driver of the black truck…

The first time we saw this particular truck approaching, I stood in the middle of the lane as usual however, when the driver did not slow his approach I grabbed the last child and jumped to the side of the lane as he swerved slightly around us. I don’t care how great you think your steering skills are, I still expect that you will also use your brake pedal! We have encountered this truck several times now and he has never slowed down.

We haven’t been for long walks since the weather got very cold so our schedule has changed. We’ve also taken to only walking the short way down the lane just in case the driver of the black truck chooses that route. Still, one day when we were almost to my driveway, the three-year-old ahead of me yells “Ackk, it’s him again! I don’t like that guy.” and then scurries up the driveway into my yard.

The black truck had just turned onto the far end of the lane ahead of us. I find it sad that a three-year-old can recognize a disrespectful driver from almost a block away. Just slow down. Please.

Unexpected

We love playing outdoors in the winter. Compared to the warmer seasons our winter walks are shorter as is our total time outdoors but we still manage to spend 1-2 hours playing outdoors everyday.

In the winter there are no ‘toys’ in the yard – most break easily in the cold. Of course we still have sticks, pots, and the ultimate loose part – SNOW! I also routinely make various ice blocks for building, collecting and sorting. It is the perfect activity for frigid cold winters.

small coloured blocks of ice

With the addition of liquid watercolour paint to the water before freezing these blocks add a nice pop of colour to the yard. Sometimes I freeze dozens of trays full of coloured ice cubes and scatter them all over the yard. It is best done just before a snowfall because the children love hunting and digging for ‘gems’.

This year I decided to make some bigger ice blocks using both ice cream pails and square containers. I imagined the children may enjoy using them for stepping stones – they love the slippery spots in the yard. I also figured with bigger blocks they could build bigger structures than they could with small ice blocks. The gross motor skills required for manipulating the large blocks would be a bonus.

ice blocks and pails

The result was unexpected. The combination of the large containers and the above normal January temperatures meant the blocks took longer to freeze – I expected that. What I didn’t expect was that the liquid watercolour would separate from the water during freezing and even disappear completely!

green circular block of ice

Only four of the ten blocks remained intact when I removed them from the containers. The other ones were fragile because they were hollow! That was certainly unexpected and why it happened I do not know.

hollow round ice block

The centers of these hollow ice blocks were not wet and any colour that remained was a fine powdery texture. It was like, once the liquid watercolour paint separated from the tap water, the liquid part of the paint evaporated. How that was possible confuses me – the tops of all the blocks are solid thick ice – the bottoms are the thin delicate parts that shatter when touched to reveal the hollow centers.

hollow square ice block

Well that was unexpected and I still wanted some usable ice blocks so I filled all the containers with water again. I decided to not use any liquid water colour paint this time but I wanted something to make the ice blocks stand out a little in the snow. I found an old bag of potpourri and tossed a few pieces in each bucket. Interestingly, the next day the water had turned a nice shade of red,

containers full or red water

However, after four days outside, in the shade, in January, there is only a thin partial layer of ice on the surface of each bucket of water. How is it possible that in Manitoba I cannot freeze water outside in January?

That is unexpected.

Hamburger Tarts

When discussing menu items in my childcare home ‘favourites’ can be defined in many ways. It could be a meal that all of the children eat at least some of and no one refuses to eat. It could also mean that some of the children really enjoy it and consistently ask for seconds but there may be one or two children who barely eat any at all. After all, not everyone likes the same things.

Sometimes it may be defined as one of my favourite things to make because it either doesn’t require a lot of work or it can be prepared well in advance and baked for lunch. I always prefer meals that don’t add to the already busy lunch time – between returning from outdoors and getting ready for nap time there is already a lot to do without including food prep.

Hamburger Tarts are one of the items that tick a lot of boxes. They require a bit of fairly easy prep early in the morning before the children arrive and then bake a bit just before we come in from outside. Most of the children like them – some don’t – some ask for seconds. Personally I find them addictive and left unchecked I could wipe out the whole batch because seriously – bread, meat and cheese is really just like pizza which I could eat all day every day.

This is the ‘original’ recipe which of course I only use as a starting point and then modify – a lot.

First of all, I don’t fiddle with cutting crusts (best part) off bread, buttering the slices and pressing them into muffin tins to essentially make more crusts. I use yummy brioche buns, placed upside down in a 9×13 pan, and hollowed out (keep for free bread crumbs). I have also tried this step using scratch made bread dough pressed in the pan and using a cup to make 12 indents for filling – good too but it requires much more effort and time and most of the children prefer the brioche buns

For the filling I do saute the onion and lean ground beef though I use much more than half an onion – more like one very large or two medium and very well cooked before adding the beef. One lb of ground beef will fill 12 buns. I never use the yucky mushroom soup – usually tomato soup or cheddar cheese soup.

I add all the saved ‘bread crumbs’ from the buns, eggs, and ketchup as well as some mustard and BBQ sauce too. I don’t usually grate the cheddar cheese to add to the filling. To save time I most often just place a thick square slice of cheddar in the bottom of each bun cup before filling with the meat mixture. At this point I cover with foil and refrigerate until closer to lunch time then bake covered at 325F for about an hour to heat through. Uncover for the last bit of time to brown a little without drying out.

Serve with salad or coleslaw – pick them up and eat like a burger or cut them up and use a fork (not as fun) – Mmmmm good.

Catching Up

I’m spending a portion of this four day holiday weekend catching up on some of the things I never seem to have enough time for. This morning my task list included going through a multitude of photos I have taken and deciding which to delete, file, add to the entrance area slideshow or write blog posts about.

Now I have to actually write some posts – this first one is actually about TWO projects that we worked on last summer. Yes, I am that far behind which is why I’m combining two projects in one post.

Back in June I wrote about the new octagon shaped dining table. I also wanted to write about the place mats the children (aged 2-8) made to define their spaces at the table. Each child worked on their place mat design independently so each one would be unique as some of the children are prone to copying or competing with others.

When they were all complete and dry I covered the place mats with clear plastic film to protect them from spills. Only once they were all together on the table did the children get to see what the others had created.

For several weeks these place mats were the main focus of discussions around the table at meal/snack times. The conversations were amazing. So many questions. So much interest in what others had done.

Interestingly it was the work of the two-year-old that garnered the most attention – ‘Hey, how did he do that?’

The answer to that question is ‘After he added paint, he used the handle of the brush to create the textured pattern’. This was exactly why I had them all work independently. Had they all been painting at the same time then either someone would have ‘corrected’ him by telling him he was using the wrong end of his paint brush or everyone would have copied him and the place mats would have all looked the same… End of conversation.

The second project didn’t involve the children but was a space I created for the children. The ‘Nature Area’ is the small room off the main play space. It has always been a quiet space to read, relax or reflect. This post from last year show what it used to look like after the addition of the nest swing.

The babies’ cribs used to be situated on opposite sides of the room with their long side against the wall and the ‘quiet’ space in the centre of the room. There was some ‘extra’ space at the ends of the cribs – not really enough to be considered useful for storage space or play space just wasted space. Wasted space bothers me immensely.

Last summer I moved both cribs to the same side of the room with their short sides against the wall and the cot storage between them – no more wasted space. At nap time a temporary divider wall is placed between the cribs to provide a little privacy for sleeping babies now that they are much closer to each other.

The open area of the room is now considerably larger with the addition of the space on the other side of the room. I rearranged the trees and added some cushions and a wall tapestry. It is now a much more cozy, comfortable area for reading and relaxing.

There is still plenty of open space in front of the window if the children want to stand and look outside at ‘real’ nature. Of course there are still fake branches, bird and butterflies to look up at when you lay on the nest swing.

But that could change too. I did buy another tapestry that I considered hanging on the ceiling here…but I love it so much I might put it somewhere else. I just haven’t yet decided where that may be…

The compromise

More than a decade ago I wrote my first post about walking with children – since then I’ve written many more posts about the subject – search ‘walking’ or ‘hiking’ in my search bar if you want to read some of them.

We go on some very long walks though distance and time are not always relative as other factors like snack breaks, exploring, playing games and destinations like the library or store may affect the length of time but not the distance. Some of our walks are great distances – our longest has been about 10 kilometers – though these long distance walks require advance planning so they can’t be spontaneous when the children ask.

I’ve received stunned responses like “Why do you make them walk so far?” and I have to explain that I don’t ‘make’ them – I ‘let’ them. Most of the time it is the children choose the destination and/or the route. We go on a walk everyday as part of our daily routine. As soon as babies take their first steps I let them walk – they become our pace setters. At first it may just be out the front door and around the short block to the back yard. Once they become more confident we add some more distance.

Back in 2012 I wrote about adapting our walks to accommodate the abilities of children at various stages of development. Being able to understand/accept the needs of the younger children is a learning experience for the older children too. I am not opposed to carrying or putting a baby in a stroller when they don’t want to walk, however, I am opposed to assuming they can’t walk as far as the older children when given the opportunity. Please don’t underestimate their abilities!

I have had a 19 month old child that walked nearly 9 km in under 4 hours – I had the stroller available if he wanted to use it but he adamantly insisted on walking until we were almost all the way back (and it was approaching nap time). Last summer on our longest/farthest (4.5 hour 10 km) walk, every time we stopped for water/snack breaks I was the only one who chose to ‘rest’ – the children (aged 18 months-8 years) always wanted to run around and played tag instead.

Over the years there have been a few children here who were reluctant to walk anywhere – honestly most were school-age who came here only briefly and had never been required to nor given the opportunity to walk anywhere – they also struggled with the complete lack of screen time options here. With the little ones often all they need is a chance to choose their walking partner, or the destination, or even just carry a stick or leaf to make walking an enjoyable activity.

Winter tends to be the biggest obstacle that limits the distance of our walks. Even experienced walkers sometimes struggle with winter conditions. Slippery ice, deep snow, cold wind gusts and bulky winter clothing can be frustrating so we don’t often go on very long winter walks.

However, even in winter we do play outside every day so at minimum we walk around the short block from the front entrance to the back yard. The side yard and back entrance are not childcare areas and that makes them more difficult routes than the familiar walk around the block.

This past summer/fall was one of the few years that it wasn’t the weather that made walking difficult. Baby One did not like to take more than about 10, very slow, consecutive steps without being picked up and carried – but not for more than a minute before demanding to be given the opportunity to take a few more independent steps. They did like long stroller rides and that was fine until Baby Two – an accomplished hiker – decided it was not fair that Baby One got to ride. *sigh*

I do have two little strollers but I can’t push both of them at the same time or push one while carrying a baby. Some of the school-age don’t mind pushing a stroller but when they are in school they are not available to help. Besides, if the older children do not enjoy the additional responsibility it could ultimately lessen their desire to walk and we don’t want that.

I have discovered that often it is easier/quicker/better to just leave the stroller(s) and take the chance that I may have to carry TWO babies if they both decide to quit walking. Someone suggested I should get a double stroller but I am stubborn, haven’t needed a double stroller in 23 years – not going to concede defeat now. Besides, the gym is closed and I need a workout.

The short block hike from the front door to the back yard is my physical limit for carrying two babies – but with the addition of slippery snowsuits it is extremely difficult. The three older preschoolers have threatened to mutiny if we have to walk super slow baby speed – all the time. They have also lamented that they miss the longer walks.

So, I compromised and bought a sled – the heavy duty cargo kind with high sides. The babies love it. The three older ones have been so excited about not being limited by baby steps they have demanded some longer walks. In fact, with all their pent up energy their 1-2 km winter (actually fall with snow) ‘walks’ are really runs. Great – more non-gym workouts for me to keep up with energetic preschool pace-setters while pulling babies in the sled.

Sadly, most of our early snow has melted away so we are back to walking slow again until we get some more snow for the sled. Interestingly though, Baby Two has decided they don’t need to be carried any more so we’ve managed to take a couple slightly longer walks without the sled and only one baby to carry.

Maybe I didn’t need to compromise after all – I just needed to wait a little bit longer for this particular group to find a balance that works for all of them – together. I bet by Spring even Baby One will be itching to walk independently on a long walk too – they just need a little more confidence and the opportunity to discover how fun it can be.

The Scary Pumpkin

We go outside to play every day after morning snack. This is our routine in all seasons. As the children finish eating I start sending the more independent ones to begin dressing to go outside. I finish cleaning up snack dishes and then bring the little ones to get dressed.

On this particular day, as I was cleaning off the table I was listening to the three year olds chatting as they put on their coats and boots. They were discussing the ‘scary pumpkin’ – I assumed they were talking about the jack-o-lanterns we see in neighbours’ yards when we are walking around the block.

However, I was a little confused when I heard them asked each other “Why did Cheryl put the scary pumpkin up there? ”

I didn’t put up any Halloween decorations this year. I do have some autumn/fall decorations at the front entrance including a pumpkin with a face but I wouldn’t consider it ‘scary’. Besides, it has been there for almost two months already – not likely to be something new to discuss.

I finished cleaning up and took the little ones to the entrance to get dressed. I asked the three year olds why they thought that pumpkin was scary. They corrected me “Not that pumpkin, the one up there” pointing to the ceiling in the hallway.

Whoa! That is…pretty cool actually.

I can’t take any credit for putting the ‘pumpkin’ there though. All the ‘pieces’ have been there for years – the Welcome wreath hung on the front of the cats’ loft and the little red tent in the loft where Montgomery likes to sleep.

At this particular moment however, the sun beam coming in through the stairway window is shining directly into the tent behind the Welcome wreath. A combination we haven’t noticed before – or since. The location of the sun in the sky at this time of the season, following the recent time change – that is what created the conditions for this to occur at the moment we were getting ready to go outside to play.

Yes, a very cool, not-so-scary ‘pumpkin’ – and some very observant three year olds.

Paper Towels

Around here we wash our hands a lot – before and after every meal/snack, after diaper changes/bathroom breaks, after outdoor play, after crafts/sensory play activities and more. We’ve been doing this since the first day I opened my childcare home. Even before the babies can stand on their own I hold them and help them to wash their hands – teaching them all the steps until they can do it on their own. It becomes a habit – a good habit.

The children are also not allowed to share hand towels when drying their hands. Early in my career I briefly used small cloths for drying hands – single use, one per child after every hand washing and laundered daily. Even with my small group of children it was a lot of laundry. It didn’t take long for me to switch to single use paper towels.

For more than twenty years now we have used paper towels to dry our hands. They were convenient and with the dispensers they were easy for even the littlest ones to use independently. The monetary cost wasn’t unbearable but the environmentalist in me sometimes wondered if there was a better option.

As long as we used a separate bin for used paper towels I could put them in my composter but especially during the winter we would run out of room for them. Around here the only bin that never gets very full is the garbage bin – other than diapers and cat litter almost everything else gets recycled, reused or composted.

When the children crumpled their paper towel in a ball before trying to dry their hands we’d do ‘science’ experiments to show how much more effective they were when they were flat as opposed to balled up. I found it particularly frustrating when the older children would quickly yank three or four paper towels from the dispenser, fold them in half, toss them in the bin and then wipe their hands dry on their clothes. Ugh! Seriously – WHY?

Sometimes I’d see whole stacks of unused paper towels in the bin because they just fell out of the dispenser and someone decided to toss them instead of reloading. A few years ago I doubled the size of my composter but we still don’t have enough room for all those paper towels which take up more space than all our food scraps.

I contemplated going back to using cloths and doing laundry but decided against it. Instead I started researching commercial air hand dryers and discovered that there were many compact affordable options available. In fact, some were smaller than the paper towel dispensers and cost less than a one year supply of paper towels!

A month ago I bought two – one for the bathroom and one for the kitchen. I should have done this years ago! We are loving the hand dryers.

Except every once in a while when I hear a dryer running longer than necessary and find a child huddled underneath it. *sigh* ‘If you are cold we can get you a sweater.