Tag Archives: play space

Summer 2017

Fall is definitely on its way – today is cool, wet, and dreary.  It has been a wonderful summer.  There were many things I meant to write about but never did – probably because I was playing outside.  Today I’m huddled in front of my computer, cat sleeping on my lap, waiting for one load of laundry to finish so I can start another.  Seems like the perfect time to write a quick summer recap.

In the yard we built a new composter and fire pit and added a gazing ball (lovely good-bye gift).

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We had some old pieces of cribbing that I let the children paint;

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They now arrange the pieces in various configurations for follow the leader games and other gross motor activities;

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Sometimes they make teeter totters but so far I haven’t managed to get a picture of them doing that.  They often make benches too – even though we have eight ‘real’ benches in the yard they seem to like theirs better;

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We went on a long (9 km) hike to the Forks and back.

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Watching the boats, ducks, and geese was great but couldn’t beat this;

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Standing on the path under the train bridge watching/listening to the train above;

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That was pretty amazing.

With colder weather approaching I’ve turned my focus toward our somewhat neglected indoor play space.  Plans have been made and work will begin soon.  By Thanksgiving we should have a new – tiny house inspired – loft.  So excited!

Working on Phase One

Last weekend my husband and I spent about 26 hours working on ‘phase one’ of the BIG play space renovation. The second phase of the project is scheduled for next weekend. This post does not contain details about the completed phase or the plans for the next phase. This post is about the process.

People have often commented on the childcare environment that my husband and I have created. Some remark that we manage to make every nook and cranny into a functional space. Many claim “I would just love to stay and play here all day – the children must love it”. Other family childcare providers wistfully say “I wish my husband would build/let me build something like this”.

By far the most common statement is “You two really work well together.” This one always makes me smile. They might not say that if they were here through the process. Yes, my husband and I have different strengths and together we can accomplish a lot. I am the planner, the detailer, the visionary. He is the mechanic, the physical labor, the force.

However, we also have very different methods that don’t always mesh (some may say our methods never mesh). Much like the tortoise and the hare we work at different speeds. I know that we have a limited amount of time and therefore I try to consolidate trips and organize supplies. As we disassemble the old stuff I spend a lot of time sorting and arranging the pieces that we may be able to reuse. I group pieces according to the part of the project they belong to. I trial fit pieces even though they are not part of the section we are currently working on.

My husband’s approach is more ‘frantic’. He is constantly darting back and forth making what I consider to be unnecessary trips. He dumps bins and digs through neatly organized piles in his haste to find something he wants. He complains that I am dawdling and we’ll never complete the project before the children return. He threatens to quit and leave all the tools and supplies out as ‘loose parts’.

The radio is on in the background – my husband must have music while he works – I block it out because it is not relevant to what I am doing. Periodically he asks ‘Who sings this?’ These random music trivia quizzes interrupt my train of thought and are distracting. He is both frustrated and amused that I cannot name the artist of a classic song.

He needs to cut a board and asks me for a measurement. I measure the space but there are fractions involved. I need paper – things don’t make sense to me until I write them down. He’s about to have a meltdown. “I’m cutting the board NOW – if you don’t give me a number I’m just going to make something up and that’s the way it will be!” I’ve measured the space and done calculations several times – each time I get a different result. The yelling doesn’t help.

He returns with the cut board, holds it in place and asks if that is what I want – I don’t respond. I didn’t hear him because I’m ‘rendering’. I’m standing still staring at the space and visualizing not only the current piece but also all the pieces that will connect to it – in this phase and the next phase too. I’m picturing children in the space. Can they reach that shelf? Will they climb? Will toys get knocked off the edge? “ARE YOU HAVING A STROKE?” he yells.

I pick up a piece of paper. He flips out. “Don’t you dare draw me a picture!”

“I have to. It’s the only way I can explain it to you.”

“I thought you had a plan already. How can you start a project without a plan?” he asks

“I had a plan but in phase two…”

“WE’RE NOT WORKING ON PHASE TWOOO!” He throws the board on the floor and stomps off. I suggest it may be a good time for a break. He can have something to eat while I’m drawing my picture. I can’t include the rest of the dialogue that accompanies the noise as he puts tools away. I don’t tell him that I’m really considering all the aspects of phase three and phase four….

Sometimes I wonder how we manage to complete these projects but we do. When they are complete we are both pleased with the finished project and eager to see how the children respond. During the process though the end result is very hard to see. I don’t have a photo of the process for this post. Instead, I’ll include one of my favourite paint color – Bison Brown. Mmmm, looks like melted chocolate….

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Alternatives

Ultimately I’d love to allow all the children to move freely from room to room indoors and out throughout the day.  Unfortunately, due to the separation between the rooms in my home there are some necessary restrictions.  I work alone so I am unable to adequately supervise all the areas at the same time. This is the layout of the main floor;

Floorplan

In the drawing I just numbered the rooms because how I’ve used them has changed over time.  If a ‘normal’ person lived here Room One would be the living room, Room Two would be the dining room, and Room Three would be the sunroom/back porch (it was called a ‘den’ in the real estate listing).

Earlier in my childcare career Room One was the living room for my family.  There were two sofas that I used for nap time along with cots on the floor.  Infants napped in playpens in the upstairs bedrooms.  Room Two was used as the playroom/office and Room Three was the dining area for my family and the children in care.  Room Three was also used for arts & crafts, board games, sensory play and group activities as well as storage for small toys and supplies.

That arrangement had both good and bad points.  I liked that my family had plenty of space to use after hours and that all the children’s play areas could be easily supervised while I was in the kitchen.  Both play areas could also be used at nap time with only limits on noisy toys.

The list of problems was longer.  It included;

  • No private space for my own family – no access to bedrooms or living room at nap time.
  • The art/dining area was crowded and had no open floor space so all activities required everyone to be seated at tables.
  • All play spaces were accessed off the kitchen so there was constant traffic back and forth through the kitchen.
  • Cots/playpens had to be setup and put away daily – leaving the children briefly indirectly supervised.
  • The playroom had a large window for natural light but the only ‘view’ was the side of the neighbour’s house.

In 2008 I changed the way I used the spaces.  Room One became the playroom/office/nap room.  Room Two was the dining room/living room and is not used for playing.  Room Three became a dedicated art and messy play area with storage for a wide variety of equipment and supplies. The benefits included;

  • Larger play areas
  • Many quiet time activity choices for school-age children
  • Second floor never used for childcare – more private area for family members.
  • Better supervision during nap time.
  • Limited kitchen traffic
  • Playroom window faces the front street allowing the children to see all the neighbourhood activity as well as the arrival and departure of parents/friends.

There are also some negative aspects.  Using the playroom as a nap area means it is difficult to accommodate children who required an early or late nap. It is difficult to supervise both the playroom and art area so art area is only used by older, independent children or for whole group activities.

The combination of this long, cold winter and the young group currently enrolled has amplified these issues. Usually I allow the children to opt out of any planned activity if they don’t want to participate but with my current group of 1 and 2 year olds I can’t allow them to be in separate room.  That means that any time I plan any activity in the sunroom all four of them have to come along.

It is this forced participation that has been causing angst this winter.  Half of my toddler group love to do artsy stuff, listen to stories and other group activities.  The other half have little patience for any activity that doesn’t involve moving around and exploring independently.  The two groups clash – some get bored/disruptive and others are unable to fully engage in an activity they enjoy.  No one is happy for long in the sunroom so we don’t spend much time there.  This ‘dedicated’ space is so rarely used that it seems to be more of a ‘wasted’ space.

I came up with a plan.  This shouldn’t be surprising – I often change/rearrange the spaces.  However, this will be a BIG change.  So big in fact that I had to wait for just the right time to ‘discuss’ it with my husband (he approves of the design).  So big that there will be several  weekend phases before the entire project is complete (he’s not thrilled about all the work).  So big that it will affect every aspect of my program.

It is such a major change that it has been keeping me awake at night – partly because I’m excited, but also because I’m going through a list of ‘what ifs’.  I like change but this one will be bigger than usual and I want to ensure I’ve considered all the factors.  I don’t anticipate that it will be perfect and nothing will ever need to be changed again but I do believe that the pros will outweigh the cons.

As for the details – for that you’ll have to wait.  Phase one begins this weekend…

Flipped

I was working on a post last week but didn’t get it finished before the weekend arrived – and the beginning of the playroom reno.  The other post will have to wait so I can show you the new and improved playroom.

The main problem with old arrangement was the entrance/walkway area – I wrote about it here.  I devised a plan to solve the congestion by ‘flipping’ the play areas.  It took three days – half a day for demo, one and a half for the rebuild, and the final day for painting and finish work.

This was one view of the playroom before the flip;

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And this is what it looks like now;

Flip02-afterThis is the North East corner of the playroom before;

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It was the housekeeping area – now it is the music/workshop area;

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The South West area before;

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Is now the new houskeeping area;

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Here’s another view of the houskeeping area;

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And this is the new – uncongested – entrance to the playroom;

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Now I’m waiting for the children to arrive so I can see what they think of the new space…