Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Who am I?

Welcome back after our 3 day weekend. What a morning it has been. I don't know if it was the heat, the 3 days off, or if my little friends had a lack of sleep this weekend... but, we had lots of heated discussions, redirection, and lots of reminders of how we act with our friends. I think the end of the year jitters are upon us. The fact that some of us will be leaving and not coming back to Shell's house can create some anxiety. Which, in turn, makes some of us a little irritable, grumpy, and out of sorts.

Each June I pose the same questions to myself... "Who am I?" "Where do these little ones tuck me away to when they leave for the day, summer, forever??" "Have I done the best job I could have?" "Will I see them graduate high school, college, get married?" "Do they know how much I truly care about who they become??"

As a Family Child Care Provider, each child becomes mine when they are in my care for those 9 or 10 hours a day. I know their looks, their likes, dislikes. I know how to redirect a melt down, I know just where the tickle spot is. I know I am not the Mom or Dad, even the Nana, Grandma, Grandpa or Papa... but I have a unique job, one in which there is no actual words to describe. A Parent gives me this awesome responsibility to care for, and in essence, help raise their child for a short time. They hand to me on that first day, the most precious and important person in their lives. They trust that I will make their child feel safe, loved, special, and as important in this world, as they are. I hope I have lived up to that trust.

Instead of bickering, yelling at each other or getting mad over small things... I hope that tomorrow will be a better day, one in which we can cuddle up together to read one more book, joke about our day, run in the sun, splash in the water, and enjoy each others company, you see our time is getting short.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Baby & Butterflies

Little Man is so busy these days. He is practicing his standing and walking, and investigating everything he can get his hands on. His new favorite activity is washing his hands, by himself, at our playroom sink. He gets himself up there and yells until someone turns the water on. We are trying to teach him the word, "on" so he doesn't have to yell to us, he is getting better at least trying to say it... how fast he is growing.

Another recent activity that has peaked his interest, is the plastic container cabinet and the pots and pans. The noise of the pots and pans can be deafening, but man he loves to bang them, look at them, put one inside the other, and crash the lids. I remember the look on my little ones face when he first made that crashing noise with the metal lids... it was such a glorious and surprised look. Then to be able to recreate the noise (without being told no) was such a success for them. Thankfully, the other kids were able to distract him from being noisy for to long, I didn't have to take anything away or tell him no, a win - win for us all!!

This year was our first year getting a butterfly house at the store and ordering caterpillars from an online store. Last year we found a caterpillar in the yard and but him in a bug house and he actually cocooned and came out a beautiful moth. I can't find my post about it, but I know it's here somewhere :)

Anyway, we received our caterpillar's and watched as they fed on the food that was sent with them, then watched as they made cocoons (chrysalis), and then put them in the nifty butterfly house we purchased. It seemed like forever watching those cocoons hanging there, until finally, one day....

Yeah!!! All 5 of the caterpillars successfully made their chrysalis and successfully hatched into beautiful Painted Lady Butterflies. How exciting!!! We have been watching them for about 5 days now and we think today is the day to release them so they can spend the rest of their lives in the freedom of the yard. I hope they enjoy it.

Little Miss M's mom gave us a wonderful idea about an art activity depicting the life cycle of a caterpillar. So, we completed that today too. It was a little to teacher directed for my little ones, but the big kids really enjoyed it and loved talking about each step the caterpillar took. We didn't get to see the eggs of the caterpillar, but we read some wonderful books, and looked up some information on the Internet. The preschoolers were wonderfully impressed that our butterflies started out as eggs and ended up as what we have today.

The end product came out great, and the kids were very proud of their work. The preschooler need to wait until it dries and then they will write, on their own, the different stages like I did for the toddlers. Thanks Miss Dana!! We loved our project!!!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Outside & Nap Time

Wow, it's hot out there!!! We have been using water so much lately due to the very high temperatures here in NC. Today we had out spray bottles, paint brushes, and other equipment meant to be carried around and used in any way the kids saw fit. Well, I got my camera to click some photos, thinking I would have drenched little ducks running around, instead I found the three girls up in the "tree house" playing with a cash register they found and some "Life" money that was inside (it was a little windy and I had Life & Monopoly money blowing all over the yard). I don't know if you can tell from the photos how red their little faces are, but they looked hot up there, even though the breeze was blowing beautifully through the "tree house," as they dubbed the new climbing structure D-Man's Grandma & Grandpa donated to us!!! Yet, they would not come down. I had to go over and physically carry them out of their little perch. They were not happy with me :) but lunch had to be made and another round of water had to be passed out.

The two boys were busy finding rocks all over the yard. D-Man had his T-Ball hat with him today, and was using that to carry all his treasures in and Little Man thought that was interesting. They would wander around and then come back to the shaded awning to cool off and Little Man would take a moment to practice his climbing and sliding skills.

We also put our green sand in the sensory table today. I took the soil tub out and will use that for a water table tomorrow with some bugs in it. So, I bought the green sand a long time ago, and thought I put it into the garage, but when I went looking last night I couldn't find it anywhere. I found some regular sand, used in the yard, that my husband bought a while ago, and thought I would have to use that, but Princess said she knew where the sand was and a second later, she was carrying this big bag of green sand into the playroom... I love that kid!!! She knows Miss Michelle has a tendency to misplace things, and if it's something good, she will always know where I put it.

Nap Time... I find nap time to be both a blessing and a curse. Of course the kids need a rest period, especially those under the age of 4. Eventually though, kids begin to grow out of the need to rest. We make sure everyone has some sort of rest time, then if they are still awake after 20 or 30 mins, then they can either read books, play with our I Spy Letter Bags, or play with puzzles. I find that the winter is the hardest time for nap time. Even though we are busy, inside and out, it isn't anything like the summer, where the heat and activity wear these guys out. These photos were taken right before we laid our heads down to rest...

(Sprout's turn for sleeping in the house)

(How cute are babies sleeping with their tush in the air)

Today we made a fort in the playroom, so much fun!! The toddlers and baby had so much fun just going in and out!! Princess & D-Man had to reign them in to "play house" with them. Lots of squealing and giggling, but all in all, it went really great. They had a lot of fun.

They also, somehow, talked me into leaving it up and letting someone sleep in it. I asked how would I be able to choose... the preschoolers came up with the idea of the "best listener" being able to sleep in the fort. We took a vote and the winner was....

Although Princess was the best listener today, I will now leave it up until EVERYONE is the best listener at least once... or I will have to make lots of forts for everyone to sleep in tomorrow :)

Another fun day!!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Very Special Birthday

Happy Birthday Little Man!!!!

This year has gone by so fast... I remember the day I found out about you and the anticipation and joy I had about meeting you and getting to care for you. I took special Baby Classes at the NAFCC Conference to get ready for you, I got all the paper work ready for your arrival, and took a SIDS class so I would be armed with everything I needed to know to keep you happy and safe!! Oh, I remember seeing you for the first time... ALL THAT HAIR!!! I am so thankful to God that I was chosen to help care for you and guide you on this journey through babyhood.

With All My Heart, Little Man, I Love You!!!

Happy Birthday... and many, many more!!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Water, Water Everywhere!!!

Water is our primary learning tool right now... sure we are "learning" about bugs, but it seems that everything relates back to water. How can we get our hands on it, what we will do or make when we get it, how will it feel, how much will we get, will it drown our bugs or will they be able to swim (ants float we learned).

Our Butterflies have started to hatch from their cocoon, but even that only holds their attention for a short time before I get the question, "When can we play with the water?" It doesn't matter inside or out, in the water table or the sink, or in the mud pit or sand pit... as long as, at some time during the day they experience water play!!

I think water play is an excellent teaching tool... it can be an independent activity as well as a social one, children use gross motor as well as fine motor skills and language skills are formed naturally, flowing freely from child to child, usually without much intervention from anyone else. Thus, children are more apt to take risks and try new things that they may not have otherwise felt comfortable to do. The teacher doesn't have to put a lot of thought into the water center, just setting it up with different cups will provide hours of play. But a teacher can use a water table to teach numbers, concepts, or letters just by what she puts into the water center. I personally, think that the main water table in a classroom should be for open-ended play. So much unintentional learning goes on during open-ended play, that in an early childhood program there should be lots and lots of time for it. But, if I have a concept I want to teach and feel that they may learn better if it has a sensory aspect to it, I will set up a smaller water table near by to teach that concept. I just feel providing ample water play opportunities is key to any early childhood program. And parents should be weary of any program where there is dust on the water table :)

People visit my home and see the dirt box, the water table, the science area, or the art area and cannot believe I allow that kind of messy play to go on IN the house. I really feel that providing these opportunities for the children helps them grow in all parts of who they are becoming. Isn't childhood the time to test the limits, in the safety of the ones we love, and are loved by. Isn't it the place that we learn right from wrong, by those we love, and are loved by. I try to give each child that consideration and love. Setting up the environment to learn how to function in a group, or independently. To allow those who learn a little slower than the others more time with materials, and more time to learn from those children around them that model the acceptable behavior. It isn't easy to clean up soil off the floor most of the day, or sop up water from the same child 3 times in an hour... but have you ever seen the smiling face of a child knee or elbow deep in a table of water or mud?? I have, and that makes it ALL worth it!!!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Z is for Zebra

Wow... I can't believe we finished all of our letters!! I think that every year I have left out a W, Y, or X. This year we did them all!!! What fun we had too!!! I usually will usually not go through the alphabet in order (that is the way they teach in the local elementary school) but this year we went from Aa to Zz. I am glad we did too, because it was a great time of year to visit our local "Zoo." We have a zoo like park in the town over from us called Zootastic. It is a really great animal park, and we didn't have to travel across state lines to get to the closest large zoo near us.

We had talked about the letter Zz all week, learned about Zebra's and then we got to see this guy!! It was great, all the kids exclaimed, "ZEBRA!!!" when we saw him. To cute!!

We also got to feed lots of animals. The baby animals were the cutest things we saw all day!!

The Reptile Room actually was another favorite. The kids enjoyed hearing about the different lizards and even getting to pet one. Then the tour guide took out this interesting orange snake, of course I cannot remember the name of it, but it didn't stop the kids from talking about him all day. They got to pet him and found his skin to be quite interesting, not wet or slimy like they thought.

The kangaroo was so soft... we didn't think he would be. We actually had talked about seeing him at the "zoo" (I had found out earlier that they had a kangaroo from a parent) and we guessed his fur would be course, rough, or pokey. We were surprised to feel how soft and friendly the little guy was. Of course the guide had a great grip on his tail to keep him from jumping, thankfully :)

They also had a baby tiger, baby bear, some beautiful birds (that talked no less), a tortoise, camel, buffalo, and many more to see and learn about. We got to eat our lunch at some nice picnic table in the shade, right near a wonderful playground. We had a great day, it was a wonderful way to end our alphabet curriculum.

Now it is on to Spring/Summer activities. Like... mud, water, bugs, and lots of outdoor time!!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Forming Friendship over the Soil Tub

While talking about the letter Zz and the Zoo kept us busy today, it was the tub of soil, tiny dinosaurs, buckets and shovels that was a favorite for another day. While there is a bit of soil on the floor, on a constant basis, it's not to bad. I thought with Little Man and 2 toddlers that the mess would be a whole lot worse. Yet, it hasn't been to bad. It has given each child a wonderful sense of freedom and independence when they are able to get the mini broom and dust pan out and sweep the dirt off the floor. Even Little Man tries, although he usually ends up trying to eat the broom, so we have to watch him carefully :)

These three little ones are learning to work together each day. It is hard work for them to maneuver through this part of growing up. Sharing is really, really hard. Today was an interesting day. I watched as Little Miss M and Sprout did the sharing dance all day. It was a lot of testing, pushing the limits, and "tattling." Yet, in the end, both of them worked through it and were actually playing wonderfully together, as well as with Little Man.

Having a small home child care gives me the opportunity to work with each child individually, as well as in a small group. I am able to give words to situations, model correct behavior, praise positive outcomes and help them work things out when tempers get a little ruffled. With only 5 children at any given time, I will see almost everything and I can help them work through it. The good and the bad :)

Monday, May 16, 2011

We Are Still Here

Haven't been able to post daily lately, so much going on. We have been practicing for our Graduation Program, wrapping up our last alphabet letters, enjoying the wonderful weather, and doing a lot of playing. So here are just a few photo's from last week to keep you updated...

Little Miss M and Sprout cooking together in the kitchen area... Thanks Miss Jada for the GREAT Chef Aprons & Hats!!

Little Man helping the kids wash the playroom table!! Water, bubbles, and wash clothes... who would have thought cleaning could be so much fun :)

Using the weight work from the shelf... they love matching the weighted cylinders, but I added a scale and it became much more of a group activity.

With lots of discussion, questions and explanations to the little ones on what was happening and why. I loved listening to Princess and D-Man explaining why the scale did or did not balance to the the little ones. I heard, "because they are wet." (they weren't), "because they have the same dot on the bottom" (some did, some didn't) and my favorite... "because I wanted it to be the same heavy." I love it.

We made flower pots and planted flowers for our Mom's for Mother's Day. This was the left over soil. We had a great time exploring and playing with it all week. So much so, that it is still out this week :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sprinkler Fun

We are enjoying the weather here in NC!! Yesterday it got warm enough to play in the water table outside and lots of discussion about getting the sprinkler out. Since we all didn't have bathing suits here yet, we had to wait until today to play in the sprinkler. But, it was worth the wait!!

The questions started right around breakfast... "What time can we go in the sprinkler?" "When will you take the sprinkler out." Princess would saunter up to me, wrap her little arms around my neck, and give me a kiss... only to be followed with, "Are you taking the sprinkler out NOW??" (She is a sneaky one, she is!! :) )

If I made any kind of movement toward the backdoor I was met with 10 tiny feet running from all corners of the playroom... "Are you getting the sprinkler out now??" So, finally, we went outside to test the air... Was it warm enough? Was it to cloudy? Was the sun peeking out?? When, after many, "I think it's perfect, Shell" I finally got the sprinkler out. What Fun We Had!!!

I think the sprinkler will be a favorite Spring/Summer activity again this year :)

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Few Things We Did This Week

It has been a very, very busy week. Posting has taken a back seat to all the other things that have been occupying our time this past week. That isn't to say we haven't done lots of neat things though.

Of course outside time is on the top of our list. Getting all those wiggles out and expending all that energy a baby, toddler or preschooler has is an important part of our program. Leaving a child ready to open themselves to learning.

Being Silly is also an enormous part of our program. Can you imagine not being silly?? These kids can't!!

Some play dough work is always a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of our daily routines.

A little Montessori work for those who need some independent time.

On the light table we had x-rays of animals and people. This one got A LOT of use. Not only were the kids totally in awe that they looked like that inside, but seeing the bones in her face just amazed them. There was a lot of talking and discussing about there own faces. They even would stare in the mirror around the light table and study themselves. Very cute.

Winding down the school year is always hard. Getting everything in is always hard, what with practicing for our Spring Program, and enjoying the beautiful weather, we don't have time for much else. Just remember... Play is an important job for a child :)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Blast From the Past

The end of a school year is always hard when you only have most of your kids for the school year. It is even harder knowing they won't be back next school year. I was going through some of our older photos this week and I found these, enjoy....

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Few Things We Did Today

Getting back into being at Shell's house couldn't have gone any better. It was a beautiful day, we had some new work on the shelf, and seeing our friends after a 2 week hiatus was pure joy!!! The kids found something new on practically every shelf this morning, but a few of our favorites were...

New Glue Bottles... with little paint style brushes to paint the glue on, Fun!!!

New Blocks!!!

A Magnetic Fishing Game

There was also some new science work on the shelf, but I was so busy with the kids I couldn't get pictures. I am sure I will catch someone playing with them this week and post later on.

Since it was a gorgeous, although a little humid, day, we went outside to play this morning. Little Man is moving all around and I was quite busy keeping up with him, so again, no photos of our outdoor play. We did the usual though... sand table, sand box, climbing, running, basketball, and swinging to name just a few. I am happy all the kids are back, I missed them.