Friday, February 27, 2015

Book Review: Ten Dogs in the Window

When I was out thrifting I came across a wonderful book that I haven't seen before, Ten Dogs in the Window by Claire Masurel.

Lucky for me I got my copy for 10 cents but I can tell you it's well worth the money to purchase a copy new.

The text of the book is repetitive and my kiddos love that.  They "read" along with me.

The story starts as a pet shop owner puts 10 dogs who are up for adoption in the window.  As people walk by they look at the dogs and pick one to take home with them.  It's a great way to start conversations.  The fireman picks the dalmatian.  The poodle is picked by a clown and taught to do tricks.  All the dogs are chosen until in the end, one dog is left...a beagle.

It's a lonely little beagle in the window all alone until a family comes along and takes him home.

Of course the countdown from 10 to 1 is fun.  It's also fun to guess which dog is going home with which person.  It promoted lots of talk between the children and I.  We talked about the different dog species and how a jogger would want a dog who could run fast so a little dog wouldn't be a good choice for a jogger.

I highly recommend the book.  It's fun, educational and is a great starting point for learning about the various dog breeds.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Egg Bake with a Little Baker

Today my little helper and I made an egg bake for lunch.  It was simple and easy...perfect for little ones to help with.

We started out by spraying cooking spray in our cake pan.  Then we sprinkled cheese in the bottom of the pan.

Next it was time to crack eggs.  My helper was excellent at it.  She cracked them one at a time, stirred the eggs and dumped them into the pan.  We just did one at a time because we were working really hard so we didn't get any shells in with the eggs.

It was hard work because we had to do that EIGHT times!

Next we had to decide which topping we wanted on our eggs. way she said.  Ham...YES!!

I had peppers on my side.

Next we sprinkled more cheese over the top.

We baked it in the oven for 20 minutes.

Then we ate.

It was a fun simple activity that we did that made for an easy lunch.

Here's the actual recipe.

Take a 9×13 pan and spray with cooking spray.  Sprinkle some shredded cheese over the bottom on the pan.  Crack 6-12 eggs into the pan. 
If you are feeding more people, use 12 eggs and it will be a bit thicker.  If it’s just two of you, it would work to use a 9×9 pan and only use 4-6 eggs.  When all the family is home I use 20 eggs in a jelly roll pan.

Add any ingredients you would normally like in a omelet.  Ham and mushrooms is real popular choice at our
 house.  Sprinkle another layer of cheese over the eggs and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  Make sure the eggs are no longer runny.  Take it out of the oven and cut into serving size pieces.

It ends up looking like this...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Simple Construction Paper Frames

We had the hole punches and construction paper out today.  It started out as a free art day letting everyone make whatever they want.  Soon they begged for me to join.  I cut a piece like this.

Then I took the decorative punches and punched around the edges.

Then we glued that to a piece of white construction paper.

Then I started drawing a picture inside my frame.  From there, my project was taken.

Then soon everyone was making picture frames.

It was a fun little project that was easy to do.  Next time I am going to use a dark blue for the background and draw on the blue construction paper with a white crayon.  I think that would make an awesome snow scene.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Playing in the Arctic

I've been waiting for a day with fresh snow to put snow in the water table.

We've been reading books about snow and ice all week.  Polar bears became the favorite around here.  

With snow in the water table along with chunks of ice I had frozen in the freezer  made for cold play.  
We started out with just hands then went to gloved hands.  It was still cold so hot water was requested.  I gladly added it.  That was part of the plan.

Our Arctic adventure turned into a discovery of adding heat (hot water) and finding that the snow melts....and even the ice melts!

It was a fun activity that included learning about animals from the cold regions and learning about melting from ice to water.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Making Muddy Buddies with my Buddy

Today was a slow day at childcare with not a lot of kids.  That made it the perfect day to make some Muddy Buddies.

One of the things we as child care providers need to teach kids is self help skills.  Preparing food for themselves is very high on the list of self help skills so any time we can include kids in meal prep or snack prep we really should.

Today we made Muddy Buddies...Here's the recipe.

3/4 cup butter
1 12 oz bag chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter

Melt the butter and chips in the microwave.  Stir then add peanut butter and microwave again to melt the peanut butter.  Pour a small box of Crispix or Chex Cereal into a big bowl or brown paper bag.  Pour some powdered sugar over the top.  Close the bag and shake.

Little fingers helped open the butter.  Little fingers opened the microwave.  Little fingers pushed the buttons on the microwave.  We watched the microwave and counted backwards as the cooking time elapsed.

We talked about safety.  We stirred.  We poured.  We listened and carefully followed directions.

So many learning opportunities were right there for us in one simple activity.

We watched as something solid turned into a liquid.

We shook and looked and shook some more.  We had to check to make sure all of the pieces first covered in brown chocolate and then covered in white powdered sugar.

Best of all...we had pride in ourselves for making our own snack.  We even bagged up some up and sent it home so they could share with their family.

I love when learning happens in such a natural way with little to no prep time.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Healthy Infant Meals

Childcare isn't a 40 hour a week job especially if you are planning healthy meals for an infant.  Even for meals when kids aren't at my house I'm thinking ahead to when the childcare kids are at my house.

Monday evening supper for my family was a roast from the crock pot along with roasted carrots and potatoes.  It was an easy meal for to throw in the crock pot during nap time.

I simply sprayed my crock pot with cooking spray.  I put the pot roast in the pot and poured a packet of dry onion soup mix over the top.  Then I set it for four hours on high.  At the two hour mark I added red potatoes and carrots.  I purposely put extra potatoes and carrots in the pot knowing the next day I'd have them cooked and ready to make into baby food for the little one in my care.

The next day I took some of the carrots, potatoes and left over roast beef and put them in a bowl.  With the immersion blender, it was baby food in no time at all.

I purposely made extra, put half in a bowl and froze it making sure to label it.  In a few days I am sure there will come a day when what I'm feeding the preschool kids won't be infant friendly.  I have this food in the freezer on reserve.

It's great to save money on baby food and best yet.  It's good to see the little ones in my care eat the least amount of commercially processed food as possible.

Honoring Family's Beliefs

Just for the record, on the religion side of things, I consider myself a Lutheran.  

As I am an in home childcare provider, with today being Ash Wednesday and with it ushering in the Lenten season I need to pause and decide what's right for my childcare.  As a Lutheran, I don't need to "give something up for lent" or eat fish on Fridays.  Both of those things, as far as I know, lean more towards Catholic beliefs.

So what do I do when I am serving Catholic families...I support their beliefs.  Do I compromise my own?  No.

I can easily serve fish on Fridays.  In fact, it's easy for me to do.  It's one less meal I have to to worry or wonder about.  It can be PB and J day or egg or tuna salad sandwich day too.  All of those are easy preps.

Honoring the beliefs of each family we care for is something we should be doing daily and that doesn't mean just religious beliefs.  It can be cultural beliefs or simply customs that families have.

At one point in my childcare days I had a family that woke their son each morning at 5 am so they could have family time with him before childcare.  That child came to care and even though he was older, he still had to have a nap in the morning.  He was tired.  The problem, that nap time was during the time that I had preschool activities scheduled in our day.  The mom was very upset that he was missing out on the activities.  After a talk we came to the conclusion that I would make an effort to try to do the activities a little earlier in the day or I would send the activity home and she could do it with him.

It was an easy fix and still honored the family's wishes and beliefs of spending quality time together in the morning.

What are you doing to support and honor the beliefs of families in your care?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

How to Get Your Kids to Clean Up

As a childcare provider I often get questions from parents about how to get the kiddos to do something.  More likely than not the task they want the kids to do is clean up.

For the most part, I have no problem with that...sure when new kids come there is always an adjustment period but for the most part, it's not something I struggle with.  Much of it is in part due to a book I read a LONG time ago How to Get Your Kids to Clean Their Rooms and Other Impossible Tasks by Henry Isaaksen.

The book is excellent.  I even heard the author speak and I was sold.  The funny thing is, I didn't even have kids at the time I bought the book.  I was pregnant though.  I was working at a school as a para educator and was sent to a conference.  By some luck of the draw, I ended up in a break out session with the author.  I was so sold on it, even though we were broke, I bought the book.

I used it as a first time parent and it has so much information that I took in.  I ended up applying it the from the moment my little one was ready for it.  The ground rules in the book have stuck with me throughout parenting my own children and into my childcare profession.

A couple points in the book that always stick out for me are these four-
1.  Tough Love
2.  Consistency
3.  Following Through
4.  Natural Consequences

I had a kiddo in my care that wanted to dump out all the toys.  As one tote got dumped out, I reminded, "If you dump this out, you'll have to clean it up".  The exploring and dumping continued.  I let it...yet I continued to remind.  We would be learning an important lesson soon,

As lunch time approached I said, "I am making lunch".  The toys on the table must be picked up before I serve lunch.  I commented about how hungry I was.  I commented that my table was cleaned off so I would get to eat.  I commented that the childcare table wasn't clean so I guess the child couldn't eat yet.  I never told the child that she couldn't eat.  I just made it clear that there are natural consequences.  If the table is not prepared, we can't eat.  The child figured the solution was to just shove everything to the floor....I didn't give in.  I didn't pick up the toys for the child.

At one point the child said well you played with this doll and this dress.  I did, so I went to the table and picked that up and put it in the case, saying, "Wow...that was easy.  Now I could eat."

I put my food on the table and began eating.  The child didn't like that.  I simply said, as soon as you pick up the toys and put them in the case the right way you can eat.  In a flash the toys were put away and I put the food on the table and the struggle was over.

One of the keys is not to be secretly mad-don't bride.  Present natural consequences.   Let the children choose the action and in turn choose the consequence.  As they see things not going the way they want, they learn to respond correctly on their own.

One tip I really want to give though is this...Make sure you understand that the struggle will likely happen and you allow enough time for to play out.

As our day went on and nap time approach I knew we'd be back to learning lessons with toys needing to be cleaned up and little ones not wanting to.  I simply said when the toys get picked up, we'll watch a movie.  Nothing happened-I took an infant and "helped" her pick up the toys she played with setting an example.  Nothing happened.  Then I started talking about the movie I wanted to watch.  I said how good of a movie it was.  I said I really wanted to watch it and didn't they too.  They said yes.  I reminded that the toys had to be picked up first.

This took lots of time and lots of patience.  When nothing happened I finally said, "Okay...I see that you don't want to pick up your toys.  That was fine.  I was going to watch the movie.  They got all excited until I said I was sorry that they couldn't.  I said we'd make a bed in the other room for them and they could nap instead.  I got a blanket and started making the bed in the other room.  Things happened fast then.  The toys were picked up.

Had the toys not been picked up, what would I have done??  I would have watched the movie in the by myself and had the child nap in the other room.  I would have followed through.

1.  Tough Love
2.  Consistency
3.  Following Through
4.  Natural Consequences

At first this method takes for forever.  As time passes and you stay consistent, kids know you will follow through so it's easier for them to just listen and do the task right away.

I highly recommend the book.  I'll admit, at times I lapse and when I do, I just read the book again. As my own children got older it got to a point that all I had to do was put the book on the kitchen table.  They knew once they saw it that the tough love, consistent, follow through mom who let natural consequences come there way was back!

You can be guaranteed all of my kids will get a copy of this book when the kids.  I highly recommend the book How to Get Your Kids to Clean Their Rooms and Other Impossible Tasks.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Large, Medium, Small

Lesson prep and learning doesn't need to be hard.  I hit the Wal-Mart clearance rack and bought a set of heart cookie cutters over the weekend.  They were half of 97 cents.  

I pulled the smallest, a medium sized one and the largest heart from the set.  From there I put paint on paper plates and handed out large sheets of construction paper and the stamping began.

Had I walked away and let the kids stamp on their own..we'd have had an art project.

Instead I sat as the stamping happened.  I didn't dictate the stamping.  Stamping happened how ever and where ever the child wanted.  I simply commented using appropriate vocabulary.  "Oh, you just made a small heart."  "The purple hearts really are large, aren't they?"  "Which do you like better, the small, medium or large?"

The activity easily took over a half an hour because conversation became a large part of the activity.  When we as teachers and parents walk away from the activity and don't guide learning conversations, we miss out on so much learning.  By the time we were done, my little artist was using the words fluently saying things like, "Oh-oh.  My medium heart got stuck on the paper".

After our pictures dried we extend the learning by talking about the project.  Conversation quickly moved to numbers.  "How many large hearts did you stamp?"  "Which size do you have the most of?"

With one simple activity we practiced language skills.  We engaged with an art medium.  We talked about the math concept, small, medium and large.  We practiced our counting.

To many it may look like a simple art project.  To me it looks like a day of curriculum planning that only took a few short minutes and to the child, it never looked like learning.  That's one way to make learning fun.