When the air begins to cool, it can be of great comfort to come in to warm and soothing aroma's. In our Centre we are not able to light candles, so a homemade potpourri is often set to simmer on the electric hot plate.
In a medium, heavy pot, place 3 cups of water and a combo of the following:
Apple peel and cinnamon stick
Orange peel and cloves
Lemon peel and a nub of fresh ginger
Lime peel and coconut extract
You can also experiment and create your own scents!
(*Notes: keep an eye on the water level and refill as it evaporates, be respectful of children/staff that are scent-sensitive or have allergies, never leave the hot plate on when you leave the room and keep the hot plate at a safe distance from curious hands & fingers)
There went August.....and September is rolling in. Time to welcome returning and new children and families.
How do you prepare for a new school year? Do you have a traditional activity, song, or room set-up?
Often when a game gets broken or has lost pieces, it just seems easier to go out and buy a new one. I try and challenge the children to remake the same game with items we have or can be easily donated to us. One of the children's favourites is Pick Up Sticks.
We used bamboo skewers(with the tips trimmed off) and coloured them. We used a paper towel tube as a storage container.
The newest favourite and a great take-a-long game, is X's and O's.
Cardboard bottom from a juice bottle pack.
Colour, paint or decorate the board.
Buttons as the X's & O's.
CHALLENGE: What games can you build from things around the Centre or house?
It's morning play and the indoor gross motor area has manifested into dramatic play; super heroes and magic powers. I watched in awe and wished that I could remember how to whole-heartedly transform myself into a super something-or-other. Myself and my Team Teacher recalled the things & people we used to become....Charlie's Angel's, She-ra/He-Man characters. Anyway, these are some of the (partly subjective) observations I made:
1) The invention of a special ability or power, that when watching them use it, makes it seem real.....and to them in that frame of time, it is!
2) The non-verbal cues that seem to tell a sidekick what the "plan" is and the reading of each others body language can be very subtle yet quite effective.
3) The Girls: huddle together and set up a plan of action, follow through with said plan, then pause to shout out what happens next.
The Boys: add things in whenever they see fit, tell everyone the plan as they already begin implementing it or after the fact.
*This isn't always the case, but today it just happened to play out in such a way.
4) Phrases often uttered may include, but are not limited to: "Pretend that (I), (you)....." , "....and then (I), (she/he), (they)...." , "....and now (you're), (I)...."
5) When it's all said and done, life is content, an hour seemed like 10 and memories have been rendered!
What observations have you made about super hero/fantasy play? Got a anecdote to share, would love for you to post it here!
Found a great "how-to" at Let the Children Play via The Crafty Crow on making your own chalk paints. Although ours didn't turn out just like theirs, for the children it was simply the ability to freely create their own paints that mattered most. The looks of pride in their faces when they finally reached their perfect colour was wonderful : )
Mixing colours in jars.
Spectacular! (yah, I enhanced the photos @ Picnik)
Throughout the school year a small handful of the ASC (after-school children) had turned some little cups that were suppose to hold beads, into a cup stacking activity. Last week I added 60 more cups to the few we had and now it's one of the top 5 activities. The stacks range from small to grandiose and challenges ensue to see whose stacks go highest or how intricate they can design them. The giggles, gasps and faces that follow a crashing of unbalanced cups, is priceless! Challenge: Create stacks, towers and bridges using only the little plastic cups!
One afternoon I set out the colouring area with small squares and rectangles of card stock and regular paper.....no takers. The next morning I stepped in for a co-worker in the Kindergarten program and set out the same activity. The first two children in that day gravitated towards the table and asked "can we use these?", "Of course!" I said. The children began laying out the different pieces of paper on the table top, one of the children said "how am I going to stick this together?" I went to the paper drawer and pulled out large pieces of (frame) matting, set them on the table with some glue sticks and they eagerly began gluing down their masterpieces. They finalized their art with shades of blue accented with black, grey and white.
This idea hit me as I was contemplating doing the wax paper and crayon sun catchers. Why not paint them?
Start by unrolling a sheet of wax paper, leaving enough on the bottom to make a palette (the children then get to arrange their own pallette and mix colours freely). Using a permanent marker, draw your picture to be painted. It can be a free-form design or place the wax paper over a picture and trace with a fine tipped permanent marker. Finally, use acryllic paint to finish off your design!
For many childcare centres, it is the beginning of summer programming. What will your program be like this year? Busy? Relaxed? or a balance of both? I will try and post as much as possible about all the adventures and discoveries that will happen over the next 2 months.
Today was all about organizing, team work, testing boundaries and observing. Tomorrow......who knows! This will be the first year myself and the other Educators will be running a summer program using Emergent Curriculum, so we're interested to see what develops!
Hooray for Summer!!!!
Until You Read Again......
Sometimes, when it's grey and gloomy outside, a little colour inside can brighten the day!
Coloured noodles were always fasinating to me as a child, "the pasta at my house doesn't look like that" I'd think to myself. Although most of us as Educators have been taught not to use food as art items, my personal philosophy/opinions sometimes bend the rules.
Making coloured pasta is extremely easy and there is NO need to use rubbing alcohol as some recipes suggest.
~ Noodles of various shapes
~ Liquid food colouring....and lots of it!
~ Baggie or container with a tight seal
~ Table or large drying area
~ Rubber gloves
1) Spread out newspaper on table or drying area
2) Fill baggie or container 3/4 full with noodles (fyi - this is a great way to learn the actual names of the noodles)
3) Add 2 (or more) Tablespoons of liquid food colour to the baggie or container and SHAKE, SHAKE, SHAKE!!! Mix and mingle colours to see what happens....how does one make black and lime green?
4) Wearing your rubber gloves, spread noodles out on the newspaper, turning once (possibly twice) to evenly dry.
5) Make necklaces, create collages, play sorting games and if you feel adventurous, boil and eat them!
I hope you enjoy this activity as much as "my" children have!
Until You Read Again......
I've wanted to make this for the longest time. It's a fun (and easy) way to upcycle all the tin cans we would otherwise recycle.
Let's get started......
3 tin cans of various widths
hammer and nail
buttons or beads
bolt or heavy washer
Step 1) Clean out cans, fill each can with about 5cm (2 in.) of water, then freeze.
Step 2) Take cans out of freezer and turn upside down on a stable work surface. Hammer a hole into the centre of each can, making it large enough to put the string through. (*note: please give the children straight, clean nails to use....I grabbed the first one I saw and it's condition is, well, older!)
Step 3) Run hot water over cans to dislodge the ice; dry cans. Cut a very long piece of string and prep. 3 buttons or beads. Thread the string through the largest can, leaving about 15cm (6in.) at the top, and tie on a button/bead to secure it in place. Continue with the next two cans, being sure to secure them so that each can sits about 2.5cm (1in.) into the other can. You can fiddle around with it though to get it just the way you like it.
To Finish: Thread buttons or beads on the bottom string and tie the bolt or washer to the very end. Hang in the yard or by an open window :)
As an extension or a pre-chime making, decorate the cans! Let me know how yours turn out!
After school can be a great time to teach children basic cooking skills and they often seem to enjoy eating new foods when they've had a hand in making them.
Peanut butter (or Pea butter or Soy butter)
Toasted pumpkin seeds
1) Toast bread and spread with peanut (or other) buter.
2) Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and cranberries.
3) Eat it all gone...yum!
*You can switch up the combo of dried fruits and seeds. Fill up little bowls full and the children can pick and choose their own!
What's your favourite after school snack? Share the recipe here!
Until You Read Again.....
What are you going to do to celebrate nature today?
This afternoon, the school-age group will be creating a habitat for garden snails that I recieved at the workshop (mine laid eggs!)
Here are some ideas you and your children may like to use to reconnect with nature!
Earth clay sculptures
Branch, shell and stone mobile
Turn over logs and rocks to discover what's underneath
Plant or pot a garden
Buy a pet tree.....yes, trees make great pets!
Photograph something in nature
Sketch a natural element
Make mud pies
Play in the forest
Walk through the grass in bare feet
All of these things are possible. If not today, then tomorrow and then the next day and the next.....until we help children understand that the future of their environments don't need to be made entirely of concrete and plastic.
Tomorrow, June 15th, is the 1st National Nature Play Day. Take your children out into nature, plan a nature related activity or read about nature. Visit http://www.childnature.ca/nature-play-day-canada to learn more and even registar your activity. Help your children (and maybe even yourself) reconnect with nature.
Until You Read Again.....
Once in a while (or sometimes every other day!) children end up with a "learning injury". Bumps, bruises, blisters, scrapes and stings all need something to ease the pain and my co-worker Andrea introduced me to a very eco-friendly way to do this!
Stones. Rounded and smooth.
Keep these stones in the freezer and when a boo-boo ensues: choose a stone, wrap in a small cloth and apply to boo-boo'ed area!
To personalize the stones, take children on a hunt for their perfect soothing stone and then use a permanent marker to write the childs name on it.
Instead of trying to scramble to find a cloth for wrapping, you could sew or crochet your own little pocket to keep the stone in.
The cooling effect lasts for about 45 minutes (depending on stone size).
The stones are easy to transport in a cooler for outtings or at camp.
Alternately, you may just want to use soothing stones as a nice way to cool down on a hot day or ease an aching muscle.
What is the sound of a child playing in the forest???
On June 9th & 10th I had the opportunity to attend a workshop on Natural Playgrounds and using nature within the curriculum. A presentation and some great hands on learning were implemented by Adam and Jill Beinenstock, a husband and wife team who combine their knowledge of Landscapes and Early Childhood Education to produce playgrounds that bring children back to nature.
Many of us grew up playing amongst trees,digging in gardens, climbing hills, picking up worms and lovingly creating mud pies. In the last few decades, generations of children/people are growing up without ever playing in a forest or sticking their hands in mud because of fear-mongering.
"We are a social enterprise that has responded to a crisis. Children no longer have the freedom to roam or explore their neighbourhoods, walk to school, or even climb a tree as we did when we were young. Our playgrounds have become flattened, paved and sterilized land punctuated with catalogued monuments of plastic and steel while obesity rates, diabetes, asthma and ADHD run out of control through our children and youth. Screen time for kids in North America now exceeds 52hrs per week and for the first time in history; our children will have a shorter lifespan than their parents. This happened on our watch, and it is becoming clear that something has gone terribly wrong." - Beinenstock.
Adam speaks very passionately about what he does. One of the stories that really stuck with me was about Adam meeting with an inspector at a playground with a boulder: The inspector was apparently questioning the safety of the boulder and what relevance it had in the playground, when two children came along-one who was "fit" and the other not so much-to play at the boulder. The fit child made his way to the top in a few movements, while his friend took a few tries and had difficulty. The fit friend then began guiding and encouraging his "not so much" friend to the top of this boulder. The inspector got his answer. Kind of a modern Aesop's fable! After his intro. and slide show, we split into groups and visited the host Daycares playground. We listened to how the process leading to the final product was very important to the overall function and design. It was then our turn to create a scale model masterpiece....a thoughtful venture indeed!!!
Jill was also an inspiration, evoking much conversation about how we can use our curriculum to bring children back to nature. A slide show about gardening prompted talk of plant safety and shrubs that you can see under. Many people seemed astounded that children (in the pictures) were using metal and wood gardening tools. On the second workshop day, Jill had brought along a vast array of curriculum ideas that the adults got to try! Do you know how relaxing it is to mould red clay?! Making natural paint/dyes with the mortar and pestle, rolling bird seed "meatballs" and creating habitats for snails (how do snails fly?), these were just the tip of the iceberg. So much happened in such a small period of time, but it was an experience I know i'll always remember.
Check out these links to find out more about connecting children with nature:
Just as a personal aside; Playgrounds are also my passion. My goal in 10years is to be creating playscapes full time. To remind parents, Educators and schools about the benefits of nature in our communities. The people that know me will tell you that I will just about talk your ears off about the subject of outdoor play and those of you I haven't met yet.....be ready!
It is time for us to help our children reconnect to the land that once taught and nurtured so many of us. It is time for us to give them back the ability to get dirty, take risks, and play freely.
I've just finished a 2 day workshop revolving around Natural playgrounds and Natural curriculum....A full post will follow(probably on Sunday). But as I sat there listening, watching, chatting and doing, my brain began churning out ideas and my idea book quickly began filling up and now I feel like a pot boiling over. SO, in order to alleviate the brain clutter, I'm going to be pouring out maaaaany activity ideas and conversation pieces. Remember, if you have anything to share with the Collective please let me know.
One of the things I spoke with other Educators about is that we don't always get to network with other Educators outside of our Centres (time, distance, etc.), and that's why I think that a blog like this is really important. Challenge: Network with a group of Educators from other Centres......go for tea & coffee, set up a make and take night, or maybe a potluck supper!?
Flip for who goes first. Then work your way up from onesies to tensies and back down to onesies. Begin by throwing the jacks out on the floor. Then, taking a ball (you can use the little ones that come in the sets or we always preferred the "Pinkies" (tennis-ball sized pink rubber balls) you throw the ball into the air, pick up the correct number of jacks and letting the ball bounce once, catch the ball while still holding the jack(s). You can only use one hand. Your turn continues until you miss the ball, miss the jacks, move a jack, or drop a jack you've just picked up. Then you are out and it is the next person's turn.
For instance, on onesies, you'll pick up one jack at a time, until you've collected all ten. (You may put the jacks you've collected into your other hand or on the ground before you try to collect more.) On twosies, you pick them up two at a time.
On threesies, you pick them up three at a time, with one left over. You pick up the leftover(s) by itself. If you pick up the leftover before you've picked up all the evenly grouped jacks, you are putting the horse before the cart and therefore must call "cart" as you take the leftover jack(s). On Foursies, there are, obviously, two groups of four and two jacks in the "cart." Fivesies has no cart. Sixsies has one group of six and four in the "cart." And so on.
If you throw the jacks and two (or more) are touching it is Kissies and you have the option of picking up the kissing jacks and dropping them to spread them out. This is sometimes advantageous; sometimes not.
FLIPPING: By flipping, we mean you take all the jacks in the palms of your two hands held together, throw them into the air as you turn your hands over so that the backs are now upwards with index fingers touching to form a surface onto which you will catch the jacks. Now, throw the jacks into the air again, this time returning your hands to the palms up position at which you started. Catch all the jacks? Good. When flipping for first, the player who drops the least goes first. If none drop, the you take turns flipping until someone drops one, determining who goes first.
You may also decide to flip at the beginning of a game.Flipping is done on your first turn only, and only until you drop a jack. The level at which you drop the jack(s) must be played from those dropped jacks. You continue from there. Thus, if you drop 2 jacks on your third flip (threesies), you would have to pick up the two jacks together (since at threesies you are taking them three at a time) and then continue with foursies. How far you can flip is decided at the outset of a game:flip only to fivsies, flip to tensies, flip all the way, and no flipping.
The Winner: The first player to complete the agreed upon steps. In Basic Jacks, the first player to complete the challenge of going from Onsies to Tensies and back down again to Onsies.
Give it a try. What else could you use as jacks? Stones, small toys, corks....so many possibilities.
Until You Read Again......
How To Play:
1) No vehicles
2) At least 2 teams
3) Only up to 10 hiding spots
4) Only tag other team if you want to
5) Each team has a person that is "it"
6) Tell someone how many points (they have)
7) Be invisible
8) Points for tagging someone not on your team
9) Only people that are "it" can go on vehicles
*This game is played in our Daycares playground. If you have a question for Austin about the game, please leave a comment so he can respond.
Sweep the sidewalk, dust the concrete, it's time for Hopscotch!
This game is enjoyed by young and old and everyone in between! My Noni (Grandmother) used to recall to me stories of her playing hopscotch when she was a little girl growing up in Italy. "I was the queen!" she'd say proudly.
The basic hopscotch grid is similar to the one in the picture; set of squares or rectangles numbered 1 through 10. The player(s) will need a small stone, bottle top, button, something to clearly mark their spot.
How To Play:
Version #1 > The player tosses the marker to land on a number. The player then hops on one foot onto the grid, starting at 1 and making it all the way to 10 without jumping on the number the marker is on. The player then turns around and comes back through the grid, stopping to pick up the marker. If a player touches the grid border, their turn is done and must line up to begin again.
Version #2 > Similar to version #1 except that the player must begin with the marker tossed to #1...then #2...then #3...etc. until they've made it to 10. The first player to make it to 10 first wins!
Version #3 > i'm not overly familiar with the complete rules for this. It involves different foot positions, through each round (ie- round one; hop on two feet -round two hop on one foot and so on)
The grid itself has taken on many forms, from the ladder type (squares of numbers all the way up), to the traditional I just spoke of. I have also come across the snail shell, the serpentine and the checker board (pix to follow). **having diffiuculty finding the right moment to take pix....apologies**
CHALLENGE: I challenge everyone to come up with their own designs for a hopscotch grid and give it a name. Educators, please take pictures to share so others could try them out too!
One of the first outdoor games children learn to master is TAG. It can be played by two or two hundred children! Okay, so 200 is streching it a bit.....is there a World Record for the most people playing one game of tag? Hmmm, something to research with the children! Anywho....Tag seems to be one of those universal games, that no matter where you go, some variation of it is being played. The very basic version is when the child(ren) run around being chased by "it" who then taps someone with their hand and yells "you're it", indicating that the title of "it" has been passed on. Often the next step is declaring a spot or landmark as "T" (or time out), where a player can not be tagged by "it". From there it's only a matter of time before this simplist of games becomes increasingly elaborate! When this begins to happen, I create a folder or binder with lots of lined paper for the children to write out the rules of the game so we can all refer back to and discuss playing fair or add newly learned versions. I am going to ask permission from one of the children to post the rules for his tag game called "Bulldozer", but until then try one of these with your group.
Best played with 5 or more people. When "it" tags someone, they must "freeze" onto that spot and not move. The last player to be frozen is 'it" next. Variations: 1) a frozen player may be thawed when another player touches them. 2) a tagged player must freeze into a statue-like position.
Play this game on a sunny day. "It" must tag players by stepping on their shadows. The person who's shadow gets tagged is then "it" or is out of the game.
Ship to Shore
Spots in the playground or field are designated as the ship and shore (ex - picnic table is the ship and tuft of grass is shore.) "It" stands in between ship and shore and all the players stand on shore. "It" then yells "ship" and everyone must run to the ship without being tagged. If you get tagged you're out. "It"stands back in the middle and calls out ship or shore until he/she has tagged all the players. The last player left is now "it". The person who is it may try and trick the other players by calling out an area they're already standing on. Variations of this game are almost endless, so i'll only add three or four: 1) "it" can be a pirate, a shark, a giant squid, etc. 2) players who are tagged can become helpers of "it" and tag people as well. 3) if playing on asphault or concrete, use chalk to create your areas. 4) change up the name...like, "cave to lake" or "mars to jupiter" or add another area "ship to shore to sky".
As an end note: I always come across the one child who really wants to be a part of the game, UNTIL, it is his/her turn to be "it" or gets tagged early on in the game, then pouting or disappointment ensues. My take on it is to remind them that this is how the game is played, it's okay for them to feel that particular rules are unfair and they can choose to count themselves out of that game. Making a whole group change the rules for one child that does not want to be "it" may cause quite a bit of tension and exclusion the next time the "one" child joins in. Winning and losing are part of a child's way to learn about how rules are made up, how to face and cope with disappointment and, how to problem solve. We can teach them resilience by helping them look at the positive, "you're "it", so now you get to tag someone and decide who's "it" next." or "today you got tagged first, but yesterday you didn't get tagged until the end."
Do your children have a game of Tag they like to play? How is played? Let's see how many tag games we know!
Until You Read Again....
Do you remember the first game of tag you played? Do you remember the moment you won your first game of marbles? Do you remember that game of hopscotch when you made it both ways without loosing your balance? Do you remember how to play Jacks? What feeling did you get the moment you realized you could jump rope without effort?
For hundreds of years, in countries all over the planet, children have been playing outdoor games. The Kindergarten years are usually the time we see more structured games of tag, hide&seek, and duck/duck/goose emerging. You may also notice the uncoordinated attempts to get a skipping rope over their heads and the "crane" or "airplane" stance during hopscotch. With practice, a hint of frustration and much encouragement they master these games and help shape the evolution of many traditional childhood favourites.
Over the next few weeks the blogs focus will be traditional and evolved games of childhood. But first things first....Who's "IT"???
Deciding who's "it" can evoke a whole range of feelings depending on the age, stage and/or personalities of the children. For the Kindergarten group I sometimes will be "it" first, as I'm seen as a neutral player, and who ends up being the last player is then "it" for the next game. If a child chooses to pass and another child doesn't volunteer to be "it", a count out rhyme is then used to fairly decide....I remember to emphisize the word fair so no one feels as though they are being picked on.
Count Out Rhymes
"Black shoe, black shoe"
Everyone stands in a circle and puts one foot in. One child points to and taps everyones shoe while saying "black shoe, black shoe, who's it? not you." Whomever the pointer finger lands on is out. This continues until one person is left, he/she is "it".
Everyone stands in a circle and places both fists within the circle. The child who initiated the game is the rhymer. He/she uses their fist to (gently) tap the other fists while reciting: "bubble gum, bubble gum in a dish, how many pieces do you wish?" Whomever the fist lands at picks a number and the rhymer counts that number out on the fists around the circle. Whomever the rhymer lands at takes out that hand. This continues until only one person and his/her fist(s) are left in the circle; that person's "it". *The Rhymer....counts themselves in by using one fist for the count out and their chin as the substitute fist.
> you may notice that some children pick random numbers, while others can calculate quickly and use this to their advantage!
"Rock, Paper, Scissors"
THE classic! Is great when a small number of players are involved.
Shake one closed fist to the count of 3 and then each person makes their hand into the shape of scissors (two fingers pointed outwards), paper (hand lays flat) or rock (hand stays in a fist).
Scissors "cut" paper and win, Paper "cover" rock to win, Rock "breaks" scissor to win.
If there's a tie, keep going until someone is "it"!
If you have anymore count out rhymes, please post for sharing! Thanks.
Until You Read Again........
When setting up a (After)School-Age program or in reviewing the needs of an existing program, it is helpful to find criteria that shows us (the Educators), Directors and a Board of Directors what the standards of practice are.
In talking with many Educators, it seems that After-School programs are being held in hallways, side rooms, locker rooms, or community rooms. Although we can be resourceful with the space(s) we are given (hooray for us!), what message does this send to the children? How do they feel about being corralled into small spaces, or being unable to continuously work on a project? I'm not stating that this is the truth for all programs, however, everyone should be made aware of the needs of the children in an School-age program. In the past, I have encouraged my school-agers to be proactive and write letters to Board of Directors/Directors talking about what they think is needed in the program and how they feel about the current program. The following are links with information regarding School-age programming: http://www.childcarelearning.on.ca Toronto Operating System Tribes
If you have other resources to share, please post a link
Until You Read Again.....
Not too long ago, I challenged my group to create a marble run out of recycled materials. On the table I put a shoebox, 5 paper tubes, a small plastic drink bottle and the only way to hold it together; tape! I asked them to examine the items and draw up designs we could collaborate.
The first design had the tubes going from top to bottom, which didn't result in the amazing thing they had hoped for...but, the children persevered. They decided the tubes would need to be cut and redirected to the sides. We tested out a couple designs until we came up with the final result:
It has become a favourite for children and adults alike! Perhaps this summer a large scale version will be in the works???
Until You Read Again....
Winter's monotone pallette is slowly giving way to springs fresh colours. Inspire children to recreate this pallette by growing grass seed and herbs or planting a pot of pansies in the play space.
Also, you may like to try adding various hues of green, yellow and brown to the art area that represent the colours seen in nature during spring. Challenge: Do you have a colour wheel handy? Take it outdoors with the children and have them seek out the different hues, then, give the colour(s) a name...ie- "growing grass green"
Remember to document and let me know what great things happen!
Until You Read Again....
(p.s. - couldn't find marble run pic. yesterday, will post it asap.)
This blog is being started as a way for me to communicate ideas with other after-school groups. In my city, After-school Educators meet monthly to discuss issues and ideas, but sometimes you just have to get an idea out there ASAP!!!
My hope is that other Educators and the Children in their programs will come here to share their experiences, ideas and questions/answers!
I would also like to post challenges. For example, I challenged my group to create a marble run using only a handful of recycled materials. They drew up plans and we tried out different configurations until it worked just how they wanted! (i'll post details & pic. tomorrow!)
I'm very excited about getting this ball rolling so,
Until You Read Again.....