Tag Archives: observation

The Raccoon

It was early in June that we saw the raccoon.  I opened the blind after the children woke from nap and there it was – sleeping in the tree in front of my house.

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The children were very excited and had so many question. ‘Where did she come from?’ ‘Why is she sleeping there?’ ‘How did she get up there?’ ‘How will she get down?’ ‘When will she come down?’ ‘Why doesn’t she move?’

I didn’t have all the answers.  In fact, now I too was wondering why she didn’t move.  We’d been watching her for close to an hour now.  We had gone outside to take some pictures.  Other people in the neighbourhood had come by to see what all the fuss was about.

Was she really sleeping? I began to feel a little uneasy.  The branch she was on hung directly over my front sidewalk – if she slipped off the branch she’d land in a heap on my steps!  Then she DID move.  She stood up, stretched, turned around and lay down again.

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As parents arrived to pick up their children they too took some pictures.  So much excitement!  The two year old wanted to take the raccoon home – stood on the sidewalk, unzipped his backpack and told the raccoon to get in.  It didn’t comply.

Periodically throughout the evening crowds of onlookers would gather to look at the raccoon.  Sometimes it would non nonchalantly look back.  Shortly after 9 pm it was gone.  I never saw it leave and I don’t know where it went.

For weeks the children continued to check for it – wondering when it might return.  Then it was vacation time so none of them were here for two weeks.  When the children first returned after vacation we were so busy I forgot to tell them what happened while they were away.

On the third day of my vacation we saw someone sleeping on the garden shed in the back yard.

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The children would have been thrilled!  This spot is almost within reach of where we play – but I wouldn’t have let them try to touch her.

On this day the raccoon was much more active than before.  She got up and scratched several times. Tried to rip some branches off my willow and had a standoff with the neighbour’s cat on the garage roof.  The neighbour’s cat sleeps on my garden shed roof every day – except this one.

At one point the raccoon was walking on the fence and I was about to take a picture when it slipped – oops!

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Again, I didn’t see when it left or where it went but it hasn’t been back since – at least not that we’ve noticed – but we still check.

Coloured Paper

The basic craft supplies are always available for the children to use independently throughout the day – pencils, crayons, chalk, scissors, glue, tape, rulers, magazines and various types of paper. The children’s choice of paper is something that I find interesting.  The current school-age children go through vast amounts of plain white paper, cutting pieces and gluing/taping them together to create books, masks etc.  They seem to have no interest in the coloured paper or adding colour to their projects – unless there is paint.

The school-age children I had here for the summer preferred to use the lined paper.  They created impressive stories and art work filling every space on one paper before selecting another piece of lined paper.  They never chose plain white paper or coloured paper.

For the preschoolers paper choice is a major decision often taking more time than anything that they add to the paper.  Coloured paper has been their favourite ever since I showed them that the white pencils/crayons were not ‘broken’, but you could only see them on darker paper. If several of the preschoolers are at the table at the same time the paper choice process takes even longer since they often rethink their colour choice if the others pick a different colour.

Every time I restock the coloured paper the selection process is the same.  Pink paper is always the first choice and when all the pink paper is gone they will choose purple.  After that the decisions get more difficult – light blue, dark blue, red or black get used up next but they definitely are not the preferred colour choices.  In fact, after the pink and purple are gone they often choose plain white or lined paper over the other coloured paper.

Eventually the stack of coloured paper contains only yellow, orange, green, and brown.  The preschoolers will occasionally use these colours but they never seem pleased about it.  So, as the sad looking four year old sighed and reluctantly picked a yellow paper from the dwindling pile I asked  “Why don’t you like these colours?”  She replied “I like them but they are your favourites.”

?!?!?!

Yes, they are.  Throughout all our activities we often discuss favourite colours as well as other likes & dislikes but until she mentioned it I had never even noticed that the ‘leftover’ paper pile contained all my favourite colours.  Awww, all this time have they been leaving those papers for me?  I always thought they picked pink and purple first because they liked those colours best but now I’m wondering if they chose them because they know I don’t like pink and purple.

They’re very perceptive.

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The Window

When I first opened my childcare home I had used the dining room of my home as the main play space.  In 2009 I rearranged the spaces so the living room became the new and improved play space.  This renovation gave the children access to the North-facing front window of my home and a whole new world of things to observe. Watching neighbourhood events like cutting down the old tree became a favourite activity.

The play space by the window is our indoor ‘nature’ area – here you can read more about the evolution of our nature space.  Due to the placement of the shelves containing our mini nature scenes some of the toddlers were not tall enough to see out the window so I had created a wooden stool which looked like a stone bridge over the imitation river;

14-08-NS00Over the past few months the bridge has caused some issues.  The toddlers who are tall enough to see out the window still like to stand on the bridge.  Those who are too short to see out become upset – there has been a lot of pushing and jostling for the premium spot.  The bridge can accommodate three cooperative toddlers but not all toddlers are cooperative and I have more than three.

As much as I like the design of the bridge I’ve been working on a plan to eliminate the need to use it to see out the window.  Two weeks ago I completed another small renovation so the shelves are no longer blocking the lower portion of the window.  The North wall now looks like this;

15-05-nature00The shelves have been moved to the East and West walls;

15-05-nature01Access to the full six foot window ledge is now level.  Most of the toddlers are thrilled.  Some are still adapting to the loss of their ‘power position’.

The Squeaky Door

It was back in December that I rearranged the play space again.   When I looked back at that post I realized that I mainly wrote about the history of the loft and the reason for the changes.  The post was getting too long so I didn’t include pictures of the finished space.  I will have to do a full post about that soon but right now I want to focus on one small area.

The refrigerator in the housekeeping area;

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The new block bin is now located on the right hand side of the refrigerator – this is where the entrance to the block area used to be.  The counter top above the block bin is centered over the block bin and overhangs the bin by several inches on both sides.  This was an intentional design feature.

Due to the placement of the counter top the right hand door of the refrigerator only opens part way before it touches the counter top.  The left hand door opens a full 180 degrees.  I didn’t think it was a major issue so I didn’t correct it then.  Months later the problem is getting worse instead of better.

Even though the food in the refrigerator is easily accessible when the right hand door is only partially open the toddlers insist on pushing on the door to force it to open fully.  Since it is physically impossible for the door to open that far all they manage to do is get the door jammed so tightly against the counter top that they can then not close it.  Meltdowns ensue.

The hinges on the right hand door had also begun to squeak.  Some of the children like to move this door slowly back & forth simply because they like the sound.  I do not like that sound – especially not for a solid 20 minute stretch of time.

Last Friday was an school inservice day which meant I had the older children here for the whole day.  It also meant that my school-bus-driver husband was home for the day too.  So, as the children and I were getting ready to go outside to play I said to my husband “We will be outside for the next 2 hours.  While we are gone please unhook the brackets holding the counter top and move it an inch to the North.  Also, grease the fridge door hinge.”

For the second half of Friday and all of Monday I have silently watched and waited.  Only one of the two-year-olds has noticed the change.  On several occasions he has stood by the refrigerator and slowly moved the right hand door all the way open and then all the way closed.  Sometimes he stands in the space behind the door so he can watch the hinge action from a different point of view.  I’ve been observing him as closely as he is observing the door.

The other children either don’t notice or don’t care that the door doesn’t stick or squeak any more.  I notice, thank-you very much.

Good-Bye Old Tree

Last summer the tree across the street was marked for removal – we loose so many of our grand old elm trees due to Dutch Elm Disease.  Although loosing trees makes us sad, the tree removal process is also very exciting.  One morning last week we noticed that the city workers were putting ‘No Parking’ on the street signs around the tree.

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We had the perfect vantage point – the tree is directly in front of our window;

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After the signs were put up the snow plow removed all the snow banks from the area around the tree.  Then, for the rest of the morning there was no further activity.  We waited. We had lunch and then I closed the blind so it was darker for the toddlers’ nap time.  As the children slept I caught up on some paperwork and answered a few emails — then I heard the trucks.

Seriously, why do they always come at nap time?  Who do I complain to about this?  I paced back and forth listening to the chain saws and impatiently waiting for the children to wake.  As soon as the children began to stir I flung open the blind and sent all the children to the window as I put away the cots.  The baby stayed in his crib – standing there he could see over the children at the window.

All the branches had already been removed from the tree and they had cut a notch from the trunk;

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They tied a rope to the tree as a safety measure so it would not fall on the nearby houses.  Then, one more cut and the trunk began to fall;

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CRASH! Wow, that was loud and the whole house shook.

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As the workers began cutting the tree trunk into smaller pieces one of the children started complaining about the ‘bad pirate’ wrecking the tree.  I was confused until they pointed to this worker’s helmet;

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The tractor then picked up the trunk pieces;

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And put them in a big dump truck;

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It was all very interesting and kept the children engaged for the remainder of the afternoon.  I printed off a series of pictures of the tree removal process and used them to create sequence cards.  The children have enjoyed looking at them and reliving the excitement of the day.

Contemplation and Deliberation

Modifications and expansions to the play space over the past few years have enabled me to have a wider variety of toys available at the same time.  Elimination of old, broken and seldom used items from the storage area has also limited the number of items available to rotate in and out of play. So,  about a year ago that I decided it was time to consider purchasing some new toys.

I started looking at some of the many daycare supply catalogues that I have here.  Every year I get more sent to me.  Some of them end up as craft supplies or loose parts for the children to ‘read’ and use in their dramatic play activities.  As the children peruse the catalogues I take note of the items that interest them.  I was intrigued that some of the children pick out items that they want to ‘make’ rather than ‘buy’ – I do that too.

However, I know there are some new items that I do need to buy.  I made a rather long list of possible purchases then I put it aside for a while.  When I looked at it again I easily cut the list in half but it was still a little long.  Over spring break I printed the shortened list – with pictures – and gave it to the children.  I asked them for their opinions.  What items would they like best and why?

They were little help.

Not only did they not eliminate any of the items from the list but now they are expecting the arrival of the new items. Every day they arrive and ask if the new toys are here – I haven’t even placed the order yet.

Sigh, it’s going to be a big, expensive order.

Trimming Trees

One day last week as I was helping to get the toddlers dressed to go outside I told the preschoolers to put on their boots.  They looked at me and in unison asked “Are we going for a walk?”

They know the routine.  We get dressed at the front door because there is more room there but we carry our boots to the back door to go outside to play.  We only put our boots on at the front door if we are going out the front to go for a walk.

They sounded a little disappointed.  They look forward to playing in the yard and sometimes the toddlers walk so slowly that we run out of time to play.  I reassured them that we were just walking around the block and would come in the back yard to play.

There was something on the street that I thought they would like to see.  I had noticed the ‘No Parking – Street Work’ signs the day before and now the trucks were down at the end of the block.

We went out on the step;

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“What are they doing?” the children asked.

“Trimming the trees” I replied.

“Can we go watch them?”

“Yes, but not to close.”  We talked about the warning signs;

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We discussed the things we saw and heard.  The equipment was very loud.  I explained that it was easier to trim the trees in the winter when there were no leaves and the trees were dormant.  One child expressed concern that the workers would cut down ‘all the trees and we’ll have none left’.  Awww.

We walked around to the back yard to play.  I was hoping that by the time we came back inside the workers would have moved farther down the street and the children would be able to watch some more from the playroom window.

By lunchtime the trucks had only moved slightly closer – they didn’t appear to be making much progress.  I figured at this rate they wouldn’t reach my house until the middle of nap time – grrrr.

Actually, they never did come further down the street.  I wondered why.

The school bus dropped off the older children and then had to back down the street to leave because the trucks were still blocking the road.  That’s when we noticed this;

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That’s some MAJOR trimming.  Luckily they only cut down the one tree and not all of them.  We still have some left – for now.