Tag Archives: library

The Loft Evolution

It was back in 2005 that the first lofts were added to our play space. These lofts were only one foot off the ground so that we could store toy bins under them and still have useable play space. The ‘puppet loft’ provided storage for blocks as well as a stage for puppet shows;

14-12-loft01

Inside there was also a cozy bench to sit and read or relax;

14-12-loft02

On the other side of the room was the original nature loft which provided a nature-themed play area with storage for dress-up clothes below;

14-12-loft03

At the end of 2008 when we relocated the playroom to the front half of the house the old lofts were disassembled. The new play space only had one loft – a larger nature loft with two levels play space. It was slightly higher than the original lofts but still low enough that all children enrolled at that time could use both upper and lower play spaces. I wrote about it and our other nature spaces here;
14-12-loft04

It was only a year later that the nature loft was replaced by library loft. This fourth loft was nearly four feet off the ground and the entrance was gated to prevent toddlers from climbing/falling on the stairs. This loft was intended as a quiet space for the older children to go read or relax – it was not a ‘play’ space.

14-12-loft05

The space below this loft was used as the block area. The floor of the loft created a lower ceiling in the block area which limited traffic through the construction zone. Both the block area below and the quiet area above were popular play spaces for many years.

14-12-loft06

In fact, these areas were so popular that last year we moved the staircase and expanded the loft. The expansion made both the block area and the library loft larger and more comfortable for several children to use at the same time. We loved it. You can read more about that renovation here.
14-12-loft07

However, over the last six months, although the block area continued to be a popular play area, the library loft was rarely used. At first I assumed this was because it was summer and we were spending most of our time outdoors. However, in the fall when the older children returned to school the library loft received even less use – sometimes no children ventured up there for a week or more!

Most of the children in my preschool group are too young to traverse the stairs or read independently. For story times I always brought books down to read to the group. I started to feel the loft was wasted space – so of course that got me thinking about renovating again. Was there a better use for this upper loft space? Was there a way to make the library more interesting/accessible? I started making a list of all the things in our space that caused me angst.

  1. the loft stairs block part of the entrance to the nature area and create traffic flow issues
  2. to enter the block area you have to go through the kitchen play space which is always crowded with people and toys – more traffic issues.
  3. the block bin is too deep – some toddlers have trouble reaching all the blocks without climbing in the bin (discouraged – safety concern)
  4. the block bin crowds the music/dance space – all the children LOVE to sing and dance – a larger music area would be appreciated
  5. there is no good place to put the new cash register – I bought it months ago but haven’t put it out for play.
  6. We need a divider on the back of the kitchen area counter – the children get frustrated when their toys keep falling behind the counter.
  7. My filing cabinet is in the storage side of the nature area – two rooms away from my desk – my excuse to NEVER do paperwork – also means there a huge ‘to be filed’ pile on my desk.
  8. the cribs are usable for napping infants when children are playing in the play room but not when other children are eating lunch or doing crafts/table activities
  9. non nappers can use nature area at nap time but have few toys available and must navigate around cots to enter/leave play area – disturbs napping children
  10. reading and crafts are perfect quiet time activities but library and indoor craft areas are not currently useable at nap time – lighting is an issue in both areas due to children napping nearby.
  11. We don’t have a good indoor space for group sensory bin/messy activities.

If I was going to renovate to make better use of the loft space then I wanted to address as many of these issues as possible at the same time. I briefly entertained the idea of using the loft as a nap area – both the compact cribs would fit up there with space between. After more thought I decided that the biggest issue was the loft stairs – they took up so much valuable space. So…two weeks ago I removed them and changed a few other things too.

Now;

  • the cribs are in the nature area
  • the music area is larger
  • the kitchen area is self contained with no ‘thru traffic’
  • there is a ‘store’ area
  • the library is portable
  • both library and craft areas are useable during nap time
  • there are many more quiet time toys available
    and….
  • the loft is used for storage.

Since I am the only one who needs to go into the loft there is no need for a bulky stair case – I just use my step stool. Yes, this is the first time in nearly 10 years that we haven’t had a lofted play space but so far there haven’t been any complaints. Besides, you never know for sure, there might be another loft in our future….

Spring Break Continues

On day three of spring break we headed out on a field trip to explore the Science Gallery  and listen to a special presentation about the work of the Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre  and meet some of their rescued birds and one pet rabbit.  It was great to see a peregrine falcon ‘in person’ – we have learned a lot about them in the past and last spring   we really enjoyed watching their adventures on the falcon cam. We had planned to attend a Planetariumshow too but the wildlife presentation ran longer than expected so we missed the beginning of the show – next time!

There was one other interesting bit of information from day three.  I overheard a comment made by one of the school-age children – apparently they had considered our walk to the dollar store ‘long’.  I was intrigued so we discussed this a little further and I discovered that the older children all agreed with this assessment.  Now I was more shocked and a little dismayed – the dollar store is only a few blocks away – about one kilometre!

The children involved in this conversation are not regularly in attendance or they have recently enrolled so have not experienced our excursions.  They take the bus to school and – according to them – their parents drive them everywhere else they have to go.  These children do not normally walk anywhere.  The ‘regulars’ and I shared some stories of our hiking adventures and I began making plans for a ‘special event’ for day four.

After morning snack on day four we got ready for our trek.

“Where are we going?” they ask

“To the library” I reply

“Where is the library?” the newbies ask

Those who attend regularly begin to giggle and answer “It’s waaay past Safeway and Sobey’s too”.

It is 3.3 kilometres away when we take the short route.  I don’t particularly like the short route because it is a bit of a boring hike with no points of interest and the loud traffic makes conversations difficult.  Today, however, we would take the short route because we didn’t have a lot of time and it was a little chilly.  Our brisk pace kept us warm and we made it there in about 40 minutes.

No one complained about the length of the journey.

We relaxed in the library, read some books and picked out some to take back with us for later.  The pace for our return trip was a little slower so it took a few extra minutes.  While I prepared lunch only one child chose to play in the playroom – the others just wanted to sit and read their books.  The room was surprisingly quiet throughout lunch too.  They were tired and hungry.

After lunch I brought out a map and we traced our routes for the trip to the dollar store and the trip to the library.  I also traced the ‘scenic’ route to the library – the one we usually do twice each summer.  That route is 4.6 kilometres and passes through three parks where we stop and play.  We climb trees and we usually have a picnic too.  The scenic route to the library is the best.

Just one more day of spring break…..

Books

Given the influx of tech gadgets books remain an integral part of child development. When I first opened my child care home we had about 200 books.  They were kept on shelves in the main play area where they were available for the children to read throughout the day.

Over the years our collection has grown and so has its need for space.  Considering how limited our space is finding an adequate location for the books has been a challenge.  Eventually I decided it was necessary to store the majority of the books and have just a small selection of books available at one time.

The predominant issue that this scenario posed was the time it took for me to choose which books to display.  Sometimes I would pick out all the books with a common theme like ‘dinosaurs’. We had a lot of dinosaur books and if I had them out then there wasn’t room for any other books so if you didn’t like dinosaurs there were no books for you to read.

Selecting books based on a theme was also a problem for emergent curriculum program since I sorted through and chose the books when the children were not here. Then when they arrived I’d discover that they had a totally different ‘theme’ in mind.

So a couple years ago I spent a weekend sorting and organizing all the books into twelve groups – one for each month. Holiday and seasonal themed books were grouped in their appropriate month.  The remaining books were distributed evenly among the months.  Each month contains a variety of books – fiction and resource, toddler to school-age, small and large, paperback and hardcover – something for everyone.

When not in use they are stored like this;

Looking up the stairs to the library loft you see a few of the books available;

Up in the loft there is space to relax alone or share a story with a few friends;

There are books outside of the loft too because we know that books are used often during dramatic play and other activities too. There is always a lot of excitement when the new books come out.  They bring back memories and ignite new interests.

It always makes me smile when the children hold their books like this;

Ensuring that everyone can see the pictures as you read the story to them and making story time a wonderful socially interactive experience.