Tag Archives: Family Childcare

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;


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);


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


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;

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.

Quick & Easy

I want to write a post but I’m a little short on time so it will have to be an ‘easy to write’ post.  I’ve got five loads of laundry in various stages of completion and I need to get paperwork organized for my re-licensing tomorrow.  I probably should have done some of this work yesterday but Mother Nature begged me to go outside and play so I did.

So what should I write about?  Yesterday’s yard work project is not yet complete and it will probably not be a short post so I won’t write about it now. I considered writing about our Mother’s Day crystal flowers activity but I’m still undecided if it was a ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ activity so I’ll have to do some more reflecting before I can write about that.

Wait, I just remembered that there was a request for a recipe and I haven’t emailed it yet.  A post about recipes would be easy and since it has been five months since I revamped the menu it is probably time for an update.

Some of the early favourites – like the Turkey Tetrazzini – from our new menu have begun to loose their appeal. It is not that the children don’t like them any more but rather, they don’t get excited and cheer anymore.  Many of the menu items receive mixed reviews – loved by some, hated by others.  This can be difficult since I cannot replace the menu item nor leave it on the menu without upsetting someone.

So, the requested recipe falls into this category since not all the children will eat it and others have been begging their mothers to make it at home too.  Some of the children don’t like ‘spicy’ food so this may be part of the problem but I actually consider the recipe to be quite mild.

Taco Soup

  • 1lb ground beef (cooked and drained)
  • 1 can mixed beans
  • 1 can cheddar cheese soup
  • 1 can tomato soup
  • 1 ½ cups salsa (I use extra chunky extra mild)
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tbsp taco seasoning
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Chopped tortilla wraps

Mix first 7 ingredients together and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer to blend flavours. Stir occasionally.  Add sour cream shortly before serving. Use chopped tortilla wraps instead of crackers or croutons.

I have to admit that this is probably my favourite soup recipe and it is so quick and easy.

Boredom & Initiative

In my last post I mentioned that usually it is the school age children that have the most difficulty with free play time.  This was a generalized comment and the problem is in part due to the mixed age group setting.

In Manitoba a licensed family childcare home can have a maximum of eight children and no more than five of those children may be under 6 years old – three of the eight must be school-age.

In my opinion some of the greatest benefits of a mixed age group are the opportunity for the childcare provider to build a relationship with the child as they develop and for the child to experience playing and working with children at various developmental levels. When a child is enrolled in a family childcare home as an infant they may be able to stay with that same caregiver throughout their preschool years and even as they begin school.

I say ‘may’ because the province has set a higher daily rate for infants (children under 2 years of age) than for preschoolers (2-5 years old) and some providers will choose the money over the child and not keep a child in an infant space after they turn two.  This is a practice that I find upsetting but I understand that some providers simply cannot accept the drop in income which can be as much as $600/month.  The bond between child and caregiver is so very important and I will always choose to keep child as long as possible even if it results in a loss of income.  I would like to see infant and preschool rates equalized but that is another rant so let me get back to the topic of those school-age children.

Due to the fact that care for preschool children is harder to find, parents often have to look for childcare outside the area that they live in.  Therefore when the child starts school they may need to leave their current childcare setting in order for the child to attend the appropriate school. When this happens there is no currently enrolled preschool child to move into a vacant school-age space.  Many family childcare providers have difficulty filling these school-age spaces and some choose to focus on preschool care and leave their school-age spaces empty.

So, the most likely time for me to enrol a new child in my childcare home is when they are an infant or when they are school-age. For all of us there is an adjustment period while we get to know each other but infants are more adaptable so this adjustment period is usually shorter.  If a school-age child was here as an infant or preschooler our relationship is already well established and although we may have our ups and downs we’re ‘family’ and we work through it.  Those ‘new’ school-age children are the hardest particularly if they have little experience in a setting with younger children.

In a family childcare home with eight children there are rarely more than three school age children. Three is a pretty small group when you’re used to interacting in a larger group in a classroom or childcare centre.  Three is an even smaller group when you consider ‘school age’ can be anywhere from 6 years old to 12 years old or more and you may not have much in common.  Add to that the restrictions because you have to consider that there are babies and toddlers watching everything you do and it is almost unbearable.

Sometimes they resent being placed in a setting ‘with little kids’ – after all, they are growing up and it may feel like a punishment to be in a group with babies. Sometimes they want to help look after the younger ones but it often comes across as ‘bossy’ – at least that’s how the younger ones view it because they have been here longer and already ‘know everything’. One of the hardest lessons for the older children can be learning the difference between ‘helping’ someone who needs assistance and ‘interfering’ when someone is trying to be independent. Many conflicts can arise in these situations.

You know who often does really well in this mixed age setting? — The school age child that doesn’t ‘fit’ with a large group of peers.  The one that is insecure – unsure if their abilities will measure up to those of others their age – who suddenly realize they have so much to offer as a mentor to the younger children.  Or the one that has been labelled as a ‘troublemaker’ at school because they feel they need to be ‘bad’ to be noticed – here they may be revered by the younger children and can be given extra responsibilities – something usually reserved for the ‘best’ children in a large classroom.

Here, eventually the school age children will stop lamenting that there is no exciting entertainment; no elaborate activities set up to amuse and enlighten them; too many things they can’t do because there are little children around. If they are ‘bored’ long enough they will discover that there are plenty of opportunities for them to demonstrate leadership, to make decisions, to offer advice, to show initiative and to be responsible – plenty of opportunities to grow up.