Sunday, January 31, 2010

Should I Worry?

I love reading other Preschool Blogs or Childcare Blogs, because I usually find that they are thinking or worrying about the same things as I am. I got on the computer this morning and saw Teacher Tom's new post and smiled. Last night, as I lay in bed, I was thinking about the 3 children in my care that are going off to Kindergarten... are they ready?? Please go over to Teacher Tom's and take a look. Also, Deborah at Excellence in Early Childhood Education, has sooo much insight and information for both Parents and Teachers... and Deborah has so many great links... pop over and take a look!!!

On Friday a sibling came in at pick up time, we began talking about Homework... She asked me why I didn't send home "homework" for her brother. This is something I have spent a long time thinking about. I know the kids sometimes want to "do homework" when their siblings are doing theirs... but this is what I said, "Well, I think that we do sooo much learning during the day, and they have 12 years of homework in front of them, I wanted to save all that wonderful anticipation they have for homework for their Kindergarten Teacher and the homework she will need to send home :)" She shook her head, but it was her Mom who smiled and said, "Yeah."

I have had Parent's ask for homework, but I feel that the kids need play, running, and the anticipation of school. I send home little books for the kids to "read" to their families, or if we are doing a special color or letter I send home a note asking them to go on a scavenger hunt at home for something to go with the color or letter. Other than that I don't feel it is necessary for me to do more than that.

I want the children in my care to be able to experience being a kid. Introducing them to the "academic" part of it is great, but ultimately they will learn all they need to in Kindergarten. Having an environment that provides for learning in a playful style is the key for me. We can have a great time, and we learn in the process. Providing them with a place to experiment and make mistakes, learn when to sit still and when to run and jump, to problem solve, question, and be happy.

When the children go off to Kindergarten, I am confident that they will be happy, smart, and well adjusted kids. They will leave knowing what they need to know, and if they don't know it they will have the skills to figure it out, and the confidence to ask for help if they need it.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Fun

Today we did some open ended learning. I set out the play dough, some alphabet learning mats, lots of blankets for building, and as always all the centers were open to use. We reviewed our rules about how to use our materials appropriately and then spent the morning practicing. The play dough got a lot of use, dress-up was very popular, and the reading corner got a lot of traffic. The kids also took to the steps for a different reading experience.

(Yup, it's upside down again, but she is soooo cute trying to be like the big girls)

If you didn't notice by the pictures... Today was Jammie Day!! We pretended that it was a snowy, cold day and, after all our free play, we arranged a Snack Picnic of Milk and Peanut Butter Cookies. Some friends came by and Thankfully they did because they brought The Little Mermaid... which was a HUGE hit!! What a Great Start to the Weekend.
We are in for that winter storm that has hit so many states, and believe it or not I am actually excited to be "snowed" in tomorrow!! We can have some much needed family time!! We can crack out the board games, hit the switch for the fireplace :) and enjoy the weather. Have a Great Weekend!!!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Balmy Kind of Day

I know it is snowing in a lot of places right now across the US, but today, here in NC we had a temperature of 57. It was sunny and comfortable. So we did a quick Circle Time, and headed outside to play. The kids got to run, they played Monster Tag, and the most fun of all, of course, was the MUD!!! They found lots of water in buckets and toys left over from the rain we had, found an old spoon in the play house, and they were off!!! They had to transfer some water from across the playground and got messy and muddy. They worked together, problem solved, negotiated, and enjoyed their time outside!!!

During Free Play this morning we found this... it is marker on our Beloved Sand Studio. We know who did it, we talked about it, and tried to clean it... but to no avail. The marker seeped into the cracks in the wood and it seems to be there for good. I thought we were through with the coloring on toys, walls, etc... but I guess not. I hate to have to put our markers and paint up where they have to ask for it again, but I don't know what else to do. This wasn't done by Little Miss M.

I guess I am upset because being a Small Home Childcare Provider it sometimes takes me months to save enough money to get a new item for the daycare. I know these things happen, I even expect and brace myself for it. Yet our Sand Studio can't be painted over, the goo gone won't work, and the marks will have to stay on there... and seeing it on there may lead other children to think it MIGHT be okay to scribble on toys, and at least try it.

So today was a 2 step back kinda day... I hope tomorrow will be a giant leap forward kinda day!! It is Jammie Day tomorrow... Cold weather will be coming back, we will enjoy a picnic in the living room and talk more about the Groundhog... all in our Jammies!!!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Balancing Act

Today we had a visit from some of our friends. This guy had fun with our Hammer Work Tray. It's nice to see them spend time with the the fine motor toys, sometimes at this age they would much rather spend time with the gross motor activities.

Taking turns... a lesson that we all need to work on from time to time.
Doing Family Home Childcare is always a balancing act. We balance our Family Life with that of the Families we work with. My own Kids with the Daycare Kids... you get it. When my Sister started her Home Childcare business I was always like, "How do you do it? The kids always seem to leave around the age of 3 or 4" I felt like, here she is going through infancy, toddlerhood, the terrible twos, threes :)... potty training, and then the kids leave or graduate to a more preschool type daycare. One that costs sometimes 2 or 3 times the amount of money, has anywhere from 3 to 6 care givers a day, and sometimes a high turnover rate of employees. All in the name of Learning and Socialization.
So, when I started my own Family Childcare Home I wanted to figure out a way to keep my kids. To provide them the journey from infancy to kindergarten with the security of the same caregiver, environment, and love. I knew I could provide the "academic" part of the component, the crafts, the circle time, but I know a lot of Parent's are worried about Socialization. I only have spots for 5 kids. They have friends to play with, but I recognize that they need to learn to meet new friends, just the act of introducing themselves to new friends... joining in a new game... all skills they learn within a large group setting.
I explain to Parents that I can teach appropriate social skills within the small group setting, but I needed to come up with a way to get my kids with other kids also. So.... I hooked up with other Mom's and Providers that were willing to come over and have a craft time, or celebrate a Holiday with us, play in the yard, come for Story Time or meet us at the Playground... this way the kids get the best of both worlds. They have the security of one caregiver, who can give them the time they need to learn all those social skills to get through Toddlerhood... and eventually into Kindergarten.
I truly love my job and love that I can provide my families with the long term care they need. I am lucky that I have the space to invite friends over to have fun with us. That I am able to provide the mix of preschool with home.... a great combination for everyone!!!!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I forgot what we were doing today. Has anyone ever done that?? I have my plans set, have materials at the ready, then I get going. And 50% of the time, I forget what I planned. Yes, 50% of the time!!! See, I don't follow any actual curriculum. I have an outline of things I want the kids to learn September through June and then another set of things for the Summer. This gives me the flexibility to change when I need to. I like to follow what the kids are interested in and only add things when necessary. I believe ANY academics in Preschool is a plus, not a necessity. If I don't go over it here, they will DEFINITELY get it in Kindergarten. I want them to move, socialize, have fun. If we learn ABC's and 1,2,3's that's great. I like to think I follow more of an Emergent Curriculum... so when we decided to change our Letter Oo and The Mitten Theme to the Letter Gg and Groundhog Theme, I thought No Problem!!! I have that stuff set for next week anyway, we'll just do it today. HaHaHa!!! Best Laid Plans, right :)

I started our day off with all sorts of Letter Oo activities. I had the Oats ready to put in the Sensory Table, I had the Oval ready to glue Honey Nut O's onto, and we were singing our O song at breakfast. :) I have a little homemade book that the kids can use to trace letters in, so The Princess was tracing her Letter Oo and coloring her little Owl when B comes up to her and says,

"Why are you coloring the O, we didn't do O yet!!"

The Princess: "Yes we did!! Miss Michelle said I could do this!!!" (please picture her hands on her hips because it helps with the whole scenario!!)

B: "But we haven't done it yet, you can't go do it unless you know it!!"

The Princess: "I know it, and Miss Michelle said it was OK!!"

So I chime in and say, "B, it's ok. We did the Letter O yesterday. She can color it if she wants."

B: "We didn't do it. We did Gg yesterday. For Groundhog Day!! Remember!!"

Me: "Hum... I guess your right B. My mistake. I guess Miss Michelle is a little silly today."

B: "A Lot Silly!!"

The Princess: "See!!! I can do it and I do know it." (hands off the hips and turns to her work)

Yup, that's me. A Lot Silly!! What can I say, I was so ready to do the Letter O, I forgot I changed it. We had fun anyway, and I am glad I can laugh at myself, because my boys are home from school and had fun teasing me all morning about it.

Little Miss M catching up on her reading during Free Play. She loves to look at the books and she loves these little Emergent Readers since the preschoolers have a lot of them memorized and will "read" to her. It is a win-win situation. The preschoolers get practice "reading" and Little Miss M get lots of attention and modeled behavior.

All the preschoolers and my son Luke worked together to make this cool fortress. They had all Luke's Army Men out and worked together to make the fortress. They loved lining the men up, they didn't want to stop or put it away.

Here are the kids gluing their Oo's on their Oval shape. They love eating their projects and when I put out the Honey Nut O's their eye's lit up. Little Miss M wanted to glue and eat. We had to keep a close eye that she didn't eat a glued O. She didn't. She did try to sneak the O's though. She didn't understand that some were ok to eat and others were not. :) In the first picture above she has just seen me watching her from across the table and the next one is her trying to make a joke out of Not Really Eating It!!! Like, "You didn't really think I was going to eat that did you!!!??? Your Silly!!" She's a PIP!!!

The kids are being Bears, Groundhogs, and Porcupines scavenging for food to fill their belly's for winter!! We learned about Hibernation and how the Groundhog, along with other animals, hibernate through the winter and some wake up around the middle of winter and check things out. So, we made "caves," scavenged for food, climbed in our "caves" and began our Hibernation. I turned out all the lights and played some "wintry" piano music while the kids Hibernated. When I turned it off we pretended it was February 2nd and they cam out and looked for their Shadows. Some saw their (if they were near a window) others didn't.

We also had water in the Sensory Table... after I realized I needed to keep the Oats for next week, I decided water would be great. We had Boats and Little People to play with.

"What??? These aren't my shoes??'

Monday, January 25, 2010

Slime Revisited

We started our morning with lots of free-play. On Mondays I like for the kids to get reacquainted by having a nice block of time for free play. We start all of our mornings off with free play, but usually we start our circle time at around 9 or 9:30... but Monday's we don't start until 10 or so. I also decided to change up our week a little. I was going to read The Mitten by Jan Brett and focus on the letter Oo... but I changed it up to do the letter Gg for Groundhog, and read some of the Groundhog books I have. It fits into the Winter/Animal theme we have for the month... so I ran with it. (Which I love that I can do!!!)

We have calendar, introduction of our Theme for the week, letter, shape, etc... then we break up into our Quiet Work Time (which is really Center Time... using the word Quiet helps with the noise level). We read Groundhog Day by Margaret McNamara to understand what Groundhog Day is all about. This book also helped us with the concept of Pretend, as they use a Hamster to be the Groundhog, and Shadow. We also went outside and played with all our riding toys with the School Aged Kids, who were home from school due to a Teacher Work Day. (I need some of those :) ) While outside we ran after our Shadow's and wondered what it meant if WE saw our Shadows.

During Free Play we took the Slime our of the fridge again and had a grand time... We started off on the table. We love how cold it is when you first take it out of the fridge and how it doesn't stick to your hands to much.

The kids then decided that the Sensory Table looked lonely without any flour in it and moved the Slime there. We then added some animals.

The animals were a great hit and got some of the more apprehensive kids involved, since they didn't really need to touch it. They just moved it around with their animal.

Though Mr A decided to try it. "It's COLD Shell!!!" We only got him to play with it with that 1 finger and his animals... but he did and that is great!!!

The kids also loved the suction noise the Slime would make when they would press one of the animals into it and then take it out. (The School Agers taught them that) It was also interesting that when they took the toy out of the Slime the Slime didn't stick to the bottom of the animal, just to the top. HUM....

So, even though we wanted to focus on the Groundhog today, Slime was the hands down winner of the morning. Fun was had by all!!! Tomorrow is a new day :)

Yesterday I posted about my dismal organization skills. Thank you Bev and Ms Debbie... It is nice to know I am not alone!!! I did get to that area next to the fridge. OK, I know it doesn't look perfect and I haven't really addressed the issue of the pile (that keeps piling up) yet, but I will get there. Baby Steps :) I think I may follow Bev's advice and put up a couple of those plastic magazine rack kinda things on the wall over there, that will at least help make the counter stay clean. I also will look into where I can put some sort of desk/Armoire thingy to hold my "office." IKEA might be a good place for that.

Before After :)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Organize My Space

I have been reading a lot about office space for the Family Daycare Provider. This usually happens around Tax time since we need to get everyones invoice together and out to the appropriate people... and usually we have to look for it under a huge pile of "stuff" that has accumulated throughout the year.

Having our business in our home we have to carve out a space for the paper part of it. Important Files, Applications, Extra Applications, Supplies, Printers, Computers, etc... you get it!! Yet, when your in your home you don't want to give over every piece of it to your business, especially since you need it for the kids. I am finding that I don't want to take anything away from anyone else (the kids, the family, the household) so what to do. I have been watching Bev, at A Part of Our Day, working in her home office and making it use able again. I just wish I had a big enough space like that.

Yup, like Bev I can't believe I am showing my mess... but I need some ideas. I haven't even showed you the actual computer/printer area upstairs since I am not allowed to go on the second level of the house while daycare is in session. I hate that because during nap I would like to get some of my printing done while the kids sleep I just don't know where to put it so it doesn't take up kitchen space and the kids can't get at it.

I have all my supplies for the kids in the garage on large shelves my husband built for me. It is great until we have to clean out the playroom and I put it all in the garage with the intention to sort through it immediately (yeah right). I have stuffed my papers in a cupboard near the stove and than anything I kinda use on a daily basis or don't want to put away yet because I MIGHT use it is located in a jumbled pile on a kitchen counter next to the fridge. ARGH!!! I need to get organized.

(yes, my parents see this pile... I try to organize it every weekend... but it lasts a few days)
OK, Friends who stop by... what do you do?? Do you have a small space for yourself that you keep relatively neat and organized?? I want to make the business end of my Childcare Home easy so I can just spend time with the kids, I won't need to worry that when my Consultant comes, "Do I have everything she needs??"
I know I am not alone... I belong to a forum of Childcare Providers and I read the threads about organization. There are a lot of us in this situation, I am going to begin today sorting through that jumbled pile of mess on the counter... and maybe repurpose that area?? I'll keep you updated.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Recap

We ended our week of Penguins... The kids were excited to try to waddle with their penguin egg, but it turned out to be pretty hard for them. They got frustrated pretty fast and decided that there were other more exciting things to do this morning :)

Here they are trying, but not understanding why it's not working. They gave it a few minutes and then asked to be done and proceeded to open the "eggs." I used old Leggs Pantyhose Eggs and put a jar of baby food in it to add some weight. They were more intrigued by that than trying to move the egg on their feet. Although it did give them an understanding of how hard it was for the Daddy Penguin to keep his baby warm and safe.

As promised we put the ice in the flour... and wouldn't you know it the ice didn't melt. As of right now (around 1:44 EST) it is still pretty solid. HUH!! Now I am going to have to ask my big boys science teacher the reason behind that, because the questions were flying. We hypothesized that 1. the ice would melt & 2. it would turn the flour into "goop" and we could play slime... but it didn't happen. Here are some reasons the kids came up with:

R: "Um, it (the flour) is soft so it won't melt"

B: "No, it is because the flour is cold"

L: "Maybe it's because it's..." she looks at me and with a huge smile shrugs her shoulders

S: "It's because it's in there with that" and she giggles and giggles like she has just figured out all the wonders of the world

They tried to break it up with the toys, but it was actually hard to break. I will googled it and see what I can find, if I can't find something use able to explain to the kids on Monday, I will call the kids science teacher.

We got this toy from our neighborhood Smart Start which has a lending library for people who work with children 0-5 yrs old to check out. I have taken this one out before and the kids really seem to like it. It is nice to be able to check it out since they like it only for a week or so and then they get bored. This way I bring it back, someone else gets to use it and I don't have to store it. Then after a reasonable length of time, I check it out again and it's like it is brand new!!

Another Smart Start find. Someone made this box to teach or reinforce the concepts Small, Medium, Large. The kids first sort all the materials in the box into categories, like there are 3 zippers, 3 cups, 3 spoons, etc... Then they sort the individual categories onto the Small, Medium, Large circle. I don't know who made the box, but I love it!! We were having a hard time with the word Medium and this really gives them a more concrete picture of it and to practice sorting in groups, sorting by size and introducing the language needed to describe size.

The kids like this activity... a little name reinforcement and it was like Magic when it appeared.

At the Art Center the kids worked on their Snowstorm picture. When we watched The March of the Penguin the kids were interested in a part where the Daddy's are all huddled up during a Snowstorm to keep their babies warm. So we thought we would recreate it on paper (sort of). We used bubble wrap to make prints with white paint (some of the kids used fingers and/or brushes also). We then made a little penguin with a black oval shape, and torn paper.

Here is just one Snowstorm... but they all did one and it was a nice end to the week :)
My Favorite Picture of the Day... I don't know the babyness of her, the chubby cheeks, the smile, and how she is looking off and laughing... even as I look at it, I'm not sure what she is laughing about :)

Next week we are going to read The Mitten by Jan Brett, introduce the letter O, the Oval Shape, and introduce some Color work trays. Have a Great Weekend!!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Today's Fun

This morning we continued with our P activities. We learned more about Penguins by watching a small part of March of the Penguins. We decided on the part about how the Mommy's have the egg (not to much detail here :) ) and how they transfer the baby egg's to the Daddy's while the Mommy's go get food. We talked about how we thought they did that, how their bodies could keep their babies warm in that cold, icy place and how the Mommy's and Daddy's stayed warm. Tomorrow we will put ice in the sensory table (yes, with the flour, hmmm... what might happen??) and we will use old gloves/mittens to keep our hands warm (if they want to) and we will also have a experiment with the Crisco and ice water to show the kids that the Penguins have a special layer of fat to help keep them warm. So, Mom's & Dad's send the kids in Messy Clothes again!!!!

We also did some assessments for my preschoolers... mostly on numbers and I introduced another work tray onto the shelves.

This little lady got to visit today and I promise she had a much better time than what her expression seems like. She played with her friends and got to learn about Penguins too.

My friend here also was visiting today and he absolutely loved the sensory table. He played in there for quite a while and enjoyed the sensory experience on his hands. If you notice, some new and interesting things have shown up in the sensory table... we have used pretty much every imaginable toy in there. Right before this photo I had to take out about 12 Monster Trucks as there wasn't room for anything else in there, including our hands :)

This toys I have seen on a few Montessori Blogs, which I can't seem to find right now of course. When I say it, I thought how fun that must be!! I bought mine from Oriental Trading Company for a decent price. I wasn't sure how it would hold up since the price was pretty low, but it has help up to my own children first and now I have introduced it to the daycare. I must say it was a little tricky at first for them. They had to hold the itty bitty "nails" and put them into these minuscule holes and then push the "nail" in hard enough to stay up, then hammer. The hammer also had one flat side and one angled side and they would constantly use the angled side, which didn't work :) They really worked together to help one another, or some just kept at it until they figured it out.

Here the girls are helping one another and making a "Beautiful Moving Picture" as the Little Princess told me. (the shapes spin after you hammer them in)

This is my favorite picture today!! (And it doesn't have anything to do with him being my son) The kids LOVE to play "Kitty's." They take these little beanie kitty's and use them for everything. They themselves also become kitty's on a lot of occasions. The Kitty's also are a coveted sleepy time companion... so when I went to check on the kids sleeping today I found this...

I thought it was soooooo cute and am wondering Why they were on his face... Gotta love the mind of a 4 yr old.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hump Day is a Good Day

Happy Birthday
Birthday Girl!!!!!

Today we had Calendar, letter & number review and read our Penguin story... Yesterday and Today we read Tacky & the Winter Games, by Helen Lester (we also touched on what Winter Games might mean, since the Olympics are coming up and we want to be ready for them). We like Tacky the Penguin and find that he is definitely a funny bird!

We read this poem from Jackie at Pocketful of Posies... which the kids loved since we were learning how the Daddy Penguin keeps his baby warm on his feet. We then circled all the P's we could find and then The Princess said, "look there's an A... can we circle all the A's too??" So, we circled and counted 13 A's and 3 P's... then figured out which letter had more!!

We started this book yesterday. It is a silly book that talks about silly penguins of different colors and designs... Like, A Purple Penguin?? or A Plaid Penguin?? and the kids color and design the penguin... and the last page is A Perfect Penguin!! (because they colored him black, white & orange) We then read it and they can now take it home to read to Mom, Dad, Siblings, etc...
We also figured our that the first "word" A is a letter we know... so now we know an actual WORD by sight :) They were pretty intrigued by that :)

I got this idea & templates from Tired Need Sleep. I was so excited when I saw how she adjusted the idea from Handwriting Without Tears. I wanted to buy the wooden letter makers for a long time, just never had the money. Now I have a great version of it and can always make new ones if these get lost or destroyed. I can also make them in different colors for the little ones.
I know I am showing a B, but we practiced with the P today... I will start adding all the templates for the letters we have learned so far. I am just going slow to make sure we use the material properly.

We ended our morning with our Outside Time!! It has been beautiful... in the 60's this week and we have been taking advantage of the great weather!!! I told you about the ice that we found last week (in this post) well, we found that it melted yesterday. The kids were in to playing other things and didn't really care about it. Today though they decided it would be a GREAT day to get muddy!!! I always tell the Parents... we get muddy & dirty inside and out here at Kozy Kids... so send messy clothes!!! We needed it today :)

I don't know if you can tell they have dumped the water and are fascinated by the "river" it made going down the hill.

I love the way the sun bounces off the water... they were mesmerized by the trickling of the water going down.


Ah... the wonders of mud!! We spent a lot of time dumping dirt into the "ice mix" to see what color we could get it.

We of course then had to transport the water to any other vessel that would hold it.

Working together takes a lot of work... who's the boss, who is doing what and where and when. They navigate the situation so well when they all have the same goal in mind.

We as Parent's sometimes forget the learning aspect of play. The problem solving that goes into an undertaking of this magnitude. The different tasks that need to be done, the mishaps, the self correcting, the negotiations, the whole social aspect of finding an interest and building upon it. These are the skills our kids need most to go to Kindergarten... these are the skills that all the math, reading, music, social studies, and science build off of.

What... can't I play too??

Little Miss M is practicing brushing her hands off... oblivious to the kids getting and taking water to other area's of the yard, she just looks at the water, touches it, looks at me and smiles, then brushes her hands off. Over & over again... what she is processing I'm not sure... she is a smart one, so is it "Can I get away with playing in this mess?" or "What exactly is this brown yucky stuff anyway?" or "I like this"
I wonder.
I love that these kids can play, get dirty and figure out the wonders of their environment. As a Provider I always want the new toys that "teach" something, trying to keep up with the big centers and all their glitzy, shiny equipment... but I am glad I still remember that a touch of water, a fistful of dirt, and some adventurous minds is all it takes to learn and have fun while learning a lot in the process.