Tag Archives: Family Childcare

Creative Summertime Freeplay

This has been a quiet summer.  Quiet meaning the children have needed very little direction from me.  This year’s group is very independent which has left me plenty of time for observation.

Indoors the trains have been neatly organized in the tubes instead of the block bin with the train tracks.  It was not my idea but I like it 🙂

0-parking

That is the only indoor picture that I have because we’ve been playing outside most of the time.

All the loose parts have provided endless opportunities for creativity and symbolic play.  These ‘eggs’ are neatly arranged by size;

1-eggs

Of course there were many picnics and restaurants;

2-picnic

The little tree cookies were used to create paths between and around the larger stumps;

3-steps

There was an ice cream shop with a wide variety of menu choices;

4-icecream shop

A grand pony expedition – I love that these children can use action figures creatively without following a movie script;

5-ponies

There was also an elaborate dramatic play activity involving the whole group.  The main characters were ‘sabre tooth grizzly birds’ and since I had trouble envisioning what they would look like I asked for a picture of one;

6-STGBird

This picture was made possible thanks to an accessible outdoor art area.

I also asked them to make a list of art items they’d like to have available.  There is plenty of paper so I was a little surprised by the size of the list they made;

7-list

Even our outdoor snack time has been a creative activity;

8-ODsnack

And finally, this little pine cone family has been waiting patiently all weekend.

10-pinecones

I wonder what they will be doing when the children return…

Exploration

The bees love the giant hyssop in the garden and the children love to watch the busy bees.  Yesterday we were excited to have a new visitor who stayed for most of the morning;

exploration00

The children have been busy too, there are so many new spaces to explore in our yard.  The toys and loose parts are now spread out around the yard so the storage area isn’t so congested.

One of my vacation projects was to re-purpose our old rain barrels into loose parts storage bins. The two that cracked this past winter are now located in the North-East corner of the gravel area;

exploration02

The oldest water barrel – which has been waiting for years to get a new purpose – now stores all the larger pieces of scrap lumber.  It is located in the South-West corner of the yard by the tipi.

 

This ‘new yard space’ was created in what used to be the parking area and is now the children’s favourite space.

Exploration01

 

The toy bin is in the South-East part of the gravel area.  I’ve trimmed the lower branches off the cedars and this is where the babies like to play.

exploration03

I took some close-up pictures of various objects in the yard and used them to create ‘Where-Am-I’ cards.  The children enjoyed searching the new spaces to locate each item on their card.

exploration04

These are also useful for learning to recognize our plants by the shape/colour of their leaves or the texture of their bark.

Most recently the upper deck has been transformed into a outdoor art area.  Yesterday was the first time the older children got to use it during quiet time when the little ones were napping.

exploration05

We’ve enjoyed exploring all the new spaces and are looking forward to many more adventures.

Looking Back

It is Monday morning and as I await the arrival of the first child I am reviewing on the things we were able to accomplish over the past two weeks.  First, I must admit that my ‘vacation’ actually felt very long. I think that is due in part to the fact that we didn’t just have one major project that took up a huge chunk of time.

This year we had several small/medium sized projects to tackle over the summer and chose to start with the biggest ones during my two week vacation.  The remaining items can be done on evenings and weekends.

We started by moving the fence to rearrange the parking and play areas.  This was the biggest job but it took only three days.  Really, it could have been done on a single long weekend.  I will write a separate post about the new outdoor space so for now there are no pictures.

The second largest job was the outdoor art area.  It is not entirely complete yet but the major work is done.  There will be no pictures until the finishes are complete.

We also planned to re-insulate the drafty basement wall.  This is a project we have wanted to tackle since we moved in here more than 17 years ago.  It meant moving all my toy storage so it was also the perfect time to re-organize the bins.  For all of the past two weeks the playroom and basement have looked like this;

DSCN0252

This is the task that I disliked but it had to be done.  I didn’t get everything back in place until 9:30 pm last evening.  Now I’m eager for winter to arrive but only so I can feel how much warmer it will be down there.  I am happy that all the toys are organized now – just have to make new bin labels;

DSCN0258

All the 25 of the quiet time and table toys mini bins are organized now too.  It was an ongoing project throughout the past two weeks.  I had planned to work on it only on rainy/cold days when we couldn’t work outside.  However, the weather was fabulous for almost all of my vacation so I had to ‘waste’ some time indoors.

Some of the smaller projects included rebuilding the library book shelves and the music/workshop area shelves.  There are still a few playroom modifications that I hope to complete in the next few weeks yet.  The biggest one will be the nature area mini scenes.

My vacation wasn’t all work though – in fact, I did absolutely no paperwork at all.  I still have plenty of paperwork to do.  My desk is covered in it but I didn’t do any of it.  Malta claimed my empty chair as her favorite kitty napping spot but I couldn’t persuade her to finish my work for me.

We replaced the two old cracked rain barrels with new ones from Fort Whyte Alive – which of course meant we had to go on a nature hike while we were out there.  I also got to spend some time working in the garden but I must admit that my native prairie plants really don’t need much work.

DSCN0254b

There are a few bare spots because the Fringed Brome and the Gaillardia didn’t come up this spring and the sawflies destroyed the Wild Columbine.  I missed the plant sales at Living Prairie Museum earlier this year and had hoped to make the trek out to Prairie Flora during my vacation but that was one of the things I didn’t manage to do.

Sadly I didn’t get out to Quality Classrooms either – they are not open Saturdays so I can only go there during my vacation.  I did make a trip out to Carman for a day.  It was for my Aunt’s funeral but it was nice to see all my cousins and reminisce about spending my childhood summers on their farm.

Also managed to get my hair cut – twice – so it is now shorter than it has been for the last 40+ years.  I had lunch with my mom and she loves my new hairstyle – it is similar to the pixie cuts she used to make me get when I was little.

Old Hairstyle

That’s enough looking back for now.  It is time to go watch the children explore the new spaces and make discoveries.

Nap Time

Wow, it has been almost four weeks since I’ve written a blog post — bad blogger. I’ve been super busy – full days with the children, practicum student visiting, conference, presentations, and several evening meetings every week. There has been plenty to write about but no time to write. I started this post more than a month ago so I better finish it before I move on to other topics.

Nap time. When my own children were young we sometimes struggled over nap time. The ones who I felt most needed naps were the ones who were reluctant to take them. There were battles. So, when I first opened my childcare home I was a little apprehensive about being able to get so many little ones to nap.

At first I had used the second floor bedrooms as nap areas – infants in playpens, toddlers on beds. The daily set-up and take-down process was arduous but generally everyone was cooperative. There were, of course, a few exceptions. My frequent trips upstairs to check on the (non)nappers were sometimes disruptive to those that were actually sleeping.

Before the end of my first year in childcare I relocated the toddler/preschooler nap area to the main floor using cots and the living room couches where I could supervise more easily. I continued to use playpens in the second floor bedrooms for the infants to nap. There was still a lot of time required for daily set-up and take-down and many trips up and down the stairs.

I found it interesting that the older children napping on the main floor often slept longer than the infants who were napping upstairs. Many parents seemed surprised too – most of these older children resisted napping when they were at home yet here they actually enjoyed helping with the nap time set-up, fell asleep quickly, and were often difficult to wake after nap.

There came a time when I began to question the safety aspect of having the infants napping upstairs. Yes, we did practice emergency evacuations monthly and sometimes even at nap time. The evacuation times were considerably longer at nap time and although the older children were cooperative during drills – waiting patiently while I ran upstairs to get babies – I wondered if they would do so if there was a real emergency.

It wasn’t something I wanted to risk. I relocated the playpens to the main floor – giving up a little play space but giving my family back the privacy of their own bedrooms. I chose to leave the playpens set up – losing a small amount of space vs. a large amount of time. I detest setting up playpens.

In my most recent renovation I expanded the space allocated to the playpens. My intention was to eventually replace the playpens with cribs. Eventually came earlier than I anticipated because I found some affordable – compact – cribs at Quality Classrooms. In all my year of perusing equipment catalogues I had never noticed that some of the cribs were compact – taking up no more space than a playpen – and on wheels too.

CCC-nap03

The extra space is now used to store the preschooler’s cots so they too are out of the way when not in use. Nap time set-up and take down now takes less than five minutes and all the children are visible while I complete the task. When not in use the cribs and cots are out of sight behind these rolling room dividers.

CCC-nap02

My intention is to use these dividers as easels for art activities but we haven’t tried that yet.

The best part is that all the napping children are within 12 feet of my centrally located desk and within 20 feet of an emergency exit. I’ve come to another conclusion too. As I’ve observed the children as they settle down for nap time I’ve noticed that there are no arguments when they can see me. They lay happily in their beds, talking or singing quietly, occasionally smiling and waving at me until they fall asleep.

I wonder if nap time struggles are not really caused by resistance to napping but rather by the feeling of being left alone in a ‘quiet’ space where the children may actually feel abandoned. Or, maybe these children sleep so well because they’ve been busy playing all morning and getting plenty of outdoor time too.

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;

FR01

FR02

FR03

FR04

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

FR05

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;

FR06

One toddler was super excited to discover ‘flowers’;

FR07

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.

FR08

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;

NW00

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;

NW02

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;

NW03

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;

NW04

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.

NW05

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;

NW06

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;

NW07

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.

NW08

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;

Floorplan

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.

CCC-no wall

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);

ccc-wall-lr

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

ccc-wall-pr1

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.