Tag Archives: Family Childcare

Bread

I’ll admit I have a bit of an addiction to bread. I always try to eat a balanced diet but bread is the one thing that I could eat way too much of. I have ‘comfort foods’ in all food groups and there are only a few foods – like seafood and olives – that I absolutely refuse to eat. Other foods in the ‘grains’ food group don’t entice me like a good piece of bread. I like pasta or rice but I could turn them down if I wasn’t hungry. A good piece of bread however I will never say no to.

I should clarify though that I don’t consider ‘white’ bread to be ‘real’ bread. White bread is like marshmallow fluff and doesn’t belong alongside good bread. Good bread has texture, weight and flavour. I haven’t bought white bread or buns for more than twenty years. I don’t even buy all purpose flour for anything other than Christmas Shortbread cookies. I modify all my recipes – sweet or savory – to use only 100% whole wheat flour, oatmeal and seeds.

I buy packaged whole wheat and seed bread for our everyday sandwiches and toast but many of our fancy snack and specialty breads are made from scratch. I have, long ago, done the whole mix, knead, let rise, repeat, bread making by hand thing but that was before I got my first bread maker. I can’t even remember how long ago that was but I do know I just killed my third bread maker.

As usual, in the morning before the children arrived, I had measured and added the ingredients to the bread pan, started the program and walked away. About an hour later there was an awful noise in the kitchen and the bread maker was dead. I had a brief moment of panic about the unmixed raisin bread we were supposed to be having for afternoon snack – then I decided I could finish it myself.

I scraped what I could get from the bread maker pan into a bowl, mixed it and hoped it was enough of the important ingredients. For the next few hours whenever I had a chance in between activities with the children I’d knead the dough a little and cover it again. I didn’t time anything – I wasn’t even sure how long or how often each knead/rest cycle should be – the bread maker always took care of that.

At lunch time I climbed up on a step stool to find an old loaf pan from the top shelf of my cupboard. The five-year-old commented “Geez Cheryl, why are you so short?” My “I am taller than you” reply may or may not have been out loud. I put the dough in the loaf pan to rise a bit more during lunch and planned to bake it at nap time. If I had been using the bread maker it would have been done already. *sigh*

While the children napped and the bread baked I read reviews and researched bread makers online. There were some really fancy ones but I wasn’t sure they would be worth the higher cost. My research was cut short as two of the children woke earlier than expected. Apparently baking bread works like a toddler alarm clock – I can relate.

The raisin bread was beautiful. The loaf pan makes a much nicer shaped loaf than any of the bread makers that I have owned. There were no holes in the loaf from the mixing paddles. The crust was so much nicer too – even on the ‘light’ cycle I find the bread makers create a very thick, tough crust.

I was beginning to wonder if I really needed to buy another bread maker. Could I make all my bread maker recipes by hand? Do I really have time for that? What if instead of buying a bread maker I bought some better loaf pans – maybe even some cute mini loaf pans? What if that just made me want to add more bread to the menu? How much more time would that require? I don’t have much spare time as it is.

I think for now I’m just going to leave the menu as is and see if I can make all the current breads without a bread maker. Then I’ll decide if I need to add/remove bread recipes or buy a bread maker or pans. The experiment begins…

Easter Eggs

Easter egg hunts and other types of hide & seek games are always popular activities – previously I’ve written about them here (2011) and here (2017). A few weeks ago I hid twelve large plastic eggs around the playroom before any of the children arrived. Then, throughout the day the children discovered eggs as they were playing – it was always an exciting surprise.

The children enjoyed the activity so much that I have hidden the eggs every day since then. When they arrive the first thing they ask is ‘How many eggs have been found?’ So far they have never found all twelve eggs. Usually they manage to find 10 or 11 but some days a few less.

Some of the children actively search for eggs almost the entire time they are in the playroom. Others just play as usual but are equally thrilled when they find an egg. I’ve run out of original hiding spots and am now repeating past ones. The children don’t seem to mind – they still expect the egg hunts to continue.

There is no competition about who finds more eggs nor any reward for finding one. It is the search that they enjoy. Easter my be over now but they still want to search for eggs so I will still continue to hide them. Maybe today will be the day they find all twelve…

With or Without

It is no secret that I enjoy walking. There are so many great reasons to go for a walk. It could just be a means of transportation to get from point A to point B. Maybe you want to spend some time outdoors exploring , getting fresh air and/or exercise. Walking could be a social activity you do with your friends or a solitary activity you use to reflect, rejuvenate, and unwind.

For me, walking is all of those things. Below I have my Fitbit data from some of my recent walks. The route and distance for the the first two walks is the same but the difference is whether I am walking with or without children.

This first one is one of my 4:30 am ‘perfect-way-to-start-the-day’ brisk walk without children. This is an exercise walk – I wear my weighted vest and sometimes ankle and/or wrist weights too. I walk quickly and throughout the walk my mind is busy too. I make mental lists of what I need to do that day, what food needs to be prepped before the children arrive and what supplies I need to gather for the day’s activities. Sometimes I even ‘write’ drafts of blog posts during these walks. I was actually surprised that this ‘exercise’ walk didn’t have a much higher heart rate – probably because it was a lovely spring morning – my -30 C winter morning walks are more strenuous.

This second walk is with six children – three of which are toddlers. Two of the children in group were enrolled during this past winter – they are not yet familiar with our long hikes but have gone on a few shorter walks with us. Even though the route is exactly the same as my morning walk, this second walk is slower – taking almost twice as long to cover the same distance. Notice my step count is also higher – I take smaller steps when holding toddler hands. Although the time is doubled on my walk WITH children, my ‘active’ minutes are not because we do stop to look at things periodically. I don’t set the pace for these walk – usually the older children do but occasionally I have to remind them that the toddlers have very short legs.

Now this third walk is a different, much shorter route with children. This walk is half the distance of the first two but it takes us through a park where we stop to play. The step count is about the same as my early morning exercise walk but this walk with children is half the distance and takes more time.

Both my walks with children averaged 4 calories per minute and my exercise walk was 5 calories per minute – not as big a difference as I would have expected. I guess that even though my walks with children are much more relaxed than my walks without, they are still good exercise. Also, there is so much more talking during my walks with children – talking burns calories too. These conversations are one of my favourite parts about walking with children – here you can read more about walking and talking.

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.