Tag Archives: Family Childcare

Fluffy Rain

One of my fellow family childcare committee members coined the term ‘fluffy rain’ in reference to the white stuff falling from the sky during our meeting last Thursday.  Maybe it was positive thinking or maybe it was just denial – none of us wanted to believe that it was snowing again at the end of April.

There was no school on Friday and although not all the children were here we still had a larger than normal group.  The ‘fluffy rain’ did not dampen anyone’s mood – outdoor play in any type of weather is still preferred over being stuck in a classroom all day.

Most of the morning there was an elaborate dramatic play activity involving an eccentric designer, an art exhibit, and various other characters.  I was assigned the role of ‘photographer’ to document the event – perfect because I was taking pictures already.

There was artwork everywhere;

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Then someone discovered the steady stream of water running out of the rain barrel overflow spout;

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Eventually we had to go back inside because it was too cold for soaking wet toddlers (my decision, not theirs).  Before that though we still had some more time to play with wet fluffy rain – on the plexiglass;

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One toddler was super excited to discover ‘flowers’;

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Hmmm, those ones might be remnants from last summer.  However, the pasture sage has been eager to get growing this year.  It has been active for a couple weeks already.

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Hopefully it won’t be deterred by a little fluffy rain – after all, it is a hardy native prairie plant.  It, like the rest of us Manitoba prairie dwellers, should be used to this by now.

Done – Mostly

I am mostly done the big renovation.  There are still a few things I want to modify or update but I won’t be doing them yet so today is the day I show you the new spaces.  This is the main playroom;

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The most noticeable change here is the relocation of the stairs to the library loft.  This was done to increase the usable space both in the loft and in the block area below.  This is the new larger block area;

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This additional space will definitely come in handy when there is a big construction project.

The children (even the bigger ones) used to worm their way under the bottom step of the staircase at the end of the block area.  By turning the staircase there is now a tunnel here that they (and I) can use as a secondary entrance/exit between the block area and the workshop/music area;

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The entrance to the library loft is now located off the nature area.  This is due in part because the library loft and the nature area are now also the two areas that the older children use for quiet time when all of the little ones are napping.  The nature area is now larger too;

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There are two ‘grass’ areas, the ‘water’ area, and a bridge.  The nine little themed shelves are still on the left (not visible) side of this photo.  Revamping those shelves is one of the planned projects that are not yet complete so there will be photos of them after completion.

Back in the playroom this is the view of the housekeeping area which is also larger than before and the laundry/dress-up area is now located where my desk used to be.

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Look, no wall 🙂 just a gate to separate the play area from the office/art/dining area.  I can now supervise both the art area and the play room at the same time!  Some of the older children are unimpressed by the lack of unsupervised space – no more inappropriate behaviour.

This is our new art/dining space;

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There are several different table/seating arrangements that can be used depending on the activity and how many children are participating.  I love having the art area adjacent to the play area – convenient when someone wants to make something for their dramatic play activity.

All equipment and supplies are stored on shelves in this room or in the nature area so I can set up/clean up activities without leaving the children unsupervised or making them sit & wait.

The playpens are located behind these moveable dividers;

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The infants can nap as needed throughout the day without limiting access to the play areas.  I forgot to set up the highchairs before I took the photo but they would normally be in front of the dividers.

This arrangement is more flexible than before and allows me to accommodate varying schedules according to the infants’ needs while still allowing the other children to continue with their chosen activity.

There’s one other space too.  The sunroom used to be the art/quiet time area that was difficult for me to supervise.  Now it is something we didn’t have before – a living room/dining room area for my family.  Private space not used by the children.

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So, what do you think of the new spaces?

Tearing Down the Wall

Before the first stage of our big renovation began I wrote the post ‘Alternatives‘ to give a little history about how we have used the spaces in my childcare home. I was planning to wait until our main floor renovation was complete before writing about the new arrangement but because this renovation affects so many areas I think that it may be too much for just one post.

So, today I’m going to start by describing a little bit about the biggest change we made to the floor plan and why I chose to do it. To begin, here again is the basic floor plan of my home;

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What this floor plan picture doesn’t show you is that there is not really a full wall separating Room One and Room Two.

I had to go to my old photo albums – back before digital cameras – to find a picture of the rooms before we added the wall to create two separate rooms. This picture was taken just two months after I first opened my childcare home. The child in the front is one of my now-adult sons.

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I didn’t scan any of the older pictures showing the wall that we originally built but the pictures below are the earliest digital pictures I have.  The wall here is several years old and has already been modified a few times. This is the view from Room One (the living room side at the time);

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and these are the views from Room Two (then used as the playroom);

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In 2008 we switched the uses of these rooms and Room One became the play room and Room Two became the living room/dining room.  However, there was still a wall between those two spaces. Room Three – the sunroom – became the art area/quiet time area.

As much as I loved the idea of having a dedicated art space it was so far from the play area that I could not supervise both spaces at the same time. Consequently the art area was mostly used only for whole group activities – usually only a couple of times each month. Spontaneous art was nearly impossible and scheduled art does not allow creativity to flourish.

Currently we have another problem too. The children in my present group have vastly different schedules. Between parental pick-up and drop-off times as well as school schedules I regularly have children coming in or going out at 6:45am, 7:00, 8:00, 8:30, 8:40, 9:00, noon, 1:20, 2:30, 4:00, 4:20, 5:00 and 5:30pm. Our largest uninterrupted time period is between 9:00am and noon – our outdoor time.

Somewhere in between all those comings and goings I have to squeeze in two snacks, lunch, and naps for the infants and toddlers. When you consider that some of those little ones are already here for the day while other ones are still snuggled in their beds at home you realize that their nap times are not going to be anywhere near the same time.

So, in phase one of the main floor renovation we took down the wall. In the past few weeks we’ve slowly rearranged the spaces to allow for napping, eating, art and playing all at the same time and all within my direct supervision. Sounds amazing doesn’t it?

Over the last two weeks we’ve been adjusting to the new spaces. I won’t even use the word ‘schedule’ because it has been different almost every day. There have been a few periods of confusion but mostly because the renovation isn’t completely finished yet.

The single best word I can use to describe it is ‘flexible’. I can’t believe I never considered doing it before. It all became possible when I took down a wall – a wall I put up in the beginning because I thought we needed it.

Coming Together

In the post ‘Alternatives‘ I wrote a little history about how I have used the various rooms in my home. I was planning a BIG renovation – so big it had to be broken down into several phases.

Phase one of the BIG renovation took place on the weekend of March 22nd and was predominantly a demolition and construction phase. Some of the built in playroom components were moved, removed, or modified.

 
On the weekend of March 29th my husband and I worked on phase two of the renovation. We began on Friday after the last of the children had left but this phase took longer than expected. In fact, by suppertime on Sunday I was feeling a little panicked – what if it wasn’t going to be ready before the children arrived on Monday?

 
To be honest, I didn’t finish everything I planned to do in phase two. It took nearly 28 hours for this construction phase but there were a lot of loose things that got buried in corners and hidden away and most of the sorting and organizing stuff didn’t get done. Still, the space was usable.

 
It made spring break ‘interesting’ – kind of like playing hide & seek all day, every day. The first time one of the children went to do crafts they asked for the pencil crayons. I replied “All the craft supplies are easy for you to get right here on these shelves …. except the pencil crayons.” Grrr.

 
I’m sure some people would wonder why I’d choose to start such a major project before spring break. Spring break is a notoriously hectic time. Everyone is here for the full day and although the weather is improving we still spend more time indoors than out.

 

There were difficult periods, not everything went as planned but this was a good thing too. We got a chance to discover the flaws in the design before the project was complete.  Both the children and I had time to evaluated the space and recommend changes.

 

This past weekend was spent making some layout adjustments and finishing a few of the incomplete phase two projects.  I began some sorting and organizing and by Sunday afternoon the playroom looked like this;

 
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As for the ‘finished’ project….we’re not there yet so I won’t include any other pictures. The plan is nearing completion. One more weekend to complete a couple of smaller components and some painting etc. We will have spent approximately 112 hours over 10 days working on the project.

 
Paper work is piling up on my desk. I’m neglecting the laundry and other household chores. Everything is coming together, slowly, and the big main floor renovation is nearing completion.  Then, over Easter I’ll have a four day weekend to recuperate and catch up on all that other stuff.

Upgrading Spaces

Back in August I mentioned that I had spent the weekend working on ‘phase one’ of a playroom  remodel and that I would show it to you when it was completed.  There are still a few bits and pieces that I want to add but both of the big weekend projects have been completed so here goes:

The old music/workshop area was working well;

My problem with this space was that it was a little cramped if the children decided to form a music group and dance.  Now, I can’t perform miracles and create a bigger room but I could reorganize the shelving to increase the usable floor space like this;

One thing you can’t see in the picture above is the mirror that is on the wall on the right hand side — the children love dancing in front of a mirror but the old music area had no available wall space.  This part of the project was phase one – phase two involved the old housekeeping area and the walkway;

The walkway (area with grey coloured mats) was necessary to get to the nature area but if children were building in the block area they often blocked the walkway.  In such a small room having a dedicated walkway was a waste of 12 square feet of playspace.  I began working on a plan to combine the walkway with the block area – more building space – and in the process we got a new housekeeping area too;

On the left side of the above photo you can see the music area mirror.  The block storage is in the area where the walkway used to be and the entire floor space under the library loft is now open for building;

The clear plastic panel on the back of the block shelf allows a viewpoint between housekeeping and block areas.  Also, because the counter area is combined with the block shelf there is more floor space in the houskeeping area too – bonus!

When the new housekeeping area was built we used a bigger bowl to make the sink – and my husband put in a drain too – thank-you 🙂

We left space under the sink to add a drain pipe and a water line (non functioning) but they haven’t been added yet.  In this photo you can see the space under the sink counter and the view into the block area;

The stovetop and oven were not included in the counter area and instead they have been relocated over to the area by the refrigerator and laundry centre;

Now I want to get some silver paint to upgrade to ‘stainless steel’ appliances 🙂

Bringing Outdoors In

It was back on November 4th that I tweeted “Guess who’s making plans to renovate something again”.  I didn’t give anyone any details other than admitting that it was the nature area that was going to be refurbished.

I planned to complete the remodel last weekend but the detail work was more time consuming than I anticipated and there is still more to do.  Shopping trips and errands took up big chunks of time too – 14 stores over three days – yuck!  I hate shopping but there were things I needed and of course couldn’t find, hence the delay in completing the project.

I’ll give you a brief description of what has been done so far.  We started with some ‘landscaping’ – my husband helped when I needed extra muscle and power tools.  The trees were relocated and the ‘river’ was diverted to the other side of the room.  Then we built some shelves.

It was the shelves that required the most time and effort.  You see, the last time I revamped the nature area I ‘planted’ the trees close together with the intention of someday building a tree house in the space between the trees – this never came to fruition mostly because I could never devise a plan that would meet our needs. The new shelves will.

There are three shelves under the window.  Each shelf is divided into three sections so in total there are nine sections.  They are the forest, the garden, the beach, the mountain, the winter scene, the desert, the bedroom, the kitchen and the living room. Not all of these sections are complete and knowing me they never will be.  Seriously – nine ‘rooms’ to plan and arrange and rearrange and remodel and rebuild…. Depending on when and if I find the supplies I want some of the sections may be changed in the future because there were others I considered like the farm and the jungle/rainforest.

Here are a few pictures of the current – not yet complete – nature area;

The ‘grass’ was really popular — so fluffy and soft;

There is space on each shelf for little people and animals to live and play;

I’ll give more detail on each individual shelf in a future post when they have all been completed and I can add details of how the children use them.  For now it is still a work in progress.

Changing Times

We have a written schedule that provides a very basic outline of our day. Essentially the schedule is just a chronological list of the events of the day.  It looks something like this;

  • Arrival
  • Free Play
  • AM snack
  • Circle/Calendar/Planned Activity
  • Outdoor Time
  • Lunch
  • Nap/Quiet time
  • Free Play (short)
  • PM Snack
  • Free Play
  • Home Time

The posted schedule does list actual times for each event but these are just a formality.  In reality the timing is very flexible.  For example, outdoor time is scheduled for two hours from 9:30 – 11:30 am but it can be as short as 30 minutes or as long as 4 hours if we move other events like circle and meals outdoors too.

It is the order of the events that remains consistent. Times are adjusted as needed to accommodate individual schedules, moods and interests.

Naptime probably has the biggest influence on the timing of our schedule because during naptime the cots and playpens are set up in the playroom – so there is no ‘free play’ room.  During naptime activities are limited to the sunroom – crafts, board games, puzzles, books and some small toys — quiet activities.

Currently, the baby’s nap is affecting our schedule.  You see, he simply cannot stay awake until the scheduled afternoon nap time.  He can sometimes be persuaded to have a short morning nap in the stroller while we are outdoors – but then he doesn’t want his real nap until after 2 pm and he will sleep until 4:30.

That means ‘naptime/quiet time’ has been extended from 1:00 to 4:30 as various children sleep at different times. It means that for nearly half the day there can be no free play in the playroom which is normally considered the main play space. It means that the baby is in the sunroom for part of quiet time – the sunroom is intended as a place where older children can use small stuff independently without interference.

It is not a good schedule.

Now, since the baby doesn’t really need two naps – and sometimes even argues about having that morning nap – the simple answer seems to be to just skip the morning nap.  The problem then is that he ‘crashes’ before lunch and he wakes to eat at 1:30 pm.  Essentially this results in the same issues as the late nap but at a different time.  The playroom is off limits due to naptime from 11:30 to 3:00 and I have a bored baby awake in the sunroom while the others nap.

So last week I tried something different.  I moved naptime ahead one hour so the preschoolers nap from noon to 2:00pm.  It means we have lunch early – something that is possible because this year I don’t have any school-age children returning here for lunch from 12:15-12:45pm.

I changed something else too.  For the first time ever, I made a change to the order of the events in our schedule. Now it looks like this;

  • Arrival
  • Free Play
  • AM snack
  • Circle/Calendar/Planned Activity
  • Free Play (short)
  • Lunch
  • Nap/Quiet time
  • Outdoor Time
  • PM Snack
  • Free Play
  • Home Time

All the children nap at approximately the same time again.  Outdoor time is now scheduled for after naptime and the two preschoolers who attend ½ day school programs in the morning are now able to engage in some active outdoor play in the afternoons instead of only quiet time activities.

It seems to be working well.  Even on Friday when there was a school inservice day and all the children were here for the full day this new schedule worked.  I don’t intend for this to be a permanent change.  I’m certain that by Spring/Summer we’ll want to be outdoors all morning again.  For winter though, an early lunch and naptime and an outdoor time that takes advantage of warmer afternoon temperatures may just be the perfect solution.