Tuesday, June 28, 2022

New additions to the outside play area for the in-home child care kiddos

 I have wanted to add to the outside play area for years, but with his three vegetable gardens and how he worked so hard on the grass, I knew it would not work. I have play equipment back there, climbers, swings, picnic tables, sandboxes, and lots of kitchen items to play with nature and the sand. But with seeing so many wonderful areas in others' yards on Pinterest and their blogs and websites, I held onto the dream of one day being able to just do it. Now with just a few years until we retire and move it has finally become possible. I have been purchasing things I would need from home improvement stores little by little, saving items I knew would be useful, building up my supply of loose parts, and literally ended up with so much stuff waiting to be used, that it became overwhelming. But over the past few months, I have been able to get his help with things I was unable to do alone, and though there is still more that needs to get done I am happy with the progress so far. 

I absolutely LOVE the music wall that I made! And the children do also, which is the best part. I got rid of my two very old plastic turtle-shaped sandboxes and invested in this awesome new wooden one:

Since I had two of these type of sand/water tables, I kept one to use for standing up fun with sand and water and started collecting small world and fairy garden items as well as the glass stones and pebbles to use for ground cover to make a changeable fairy garden/small world table.

Next, I framed and covered the ground with landscape fabric up against the back of my house, and divided the area into two spaces, a digging/planting area, and a rock pit. It took a while to be able to purchase enough rocks for the rock pit, as well as getting an outside scale from Tractor Supply so the children can weigh the rocks. I purchased the saw horse from an estate sale and over time purchased pvc pipes to cut to smaller lengths and rain gutter extension tubes from Lowes Home Improvement Store.  I still have to make the scale with a level and two buckets for them to be able to compare which weigh more than others. I already had the construction trucks and purchased a few sets of metal and wooden hand shovels from Amazon. My amazing daughter made all of the wooden signs in my outdoor spaces. 

In the digging/planting area I chose to cover the landscape fabric with rubber mulch for the drainage and feeling it would be more comfortable for the children to sit on. I purchased a second-hand pool for the potting soil and had a wooden plant stand that I was not using, so I had my Jeff attach it to the wall for safety to store our pots, planting tools, gardening gloves, water containers, etc. 

I had been purchasing items while planning and working on the backyard spaces, which I knew would be fun for the children such as butterfly nets and pinwheels. I had dried lavender, eucalyptus, and pampas grass that I hung under the beautiful fresh herbs sign my daughter made. 

We have completed a few more projects but still have a couple more big ones that I am looking forward to for the children. I am very excited. 


Saturday, June 06, 2020

Read Across America/Dr. Seuss' Birthday theme

It is so fun to join in the fun for Read Across America/Dr. Seuss' birthday. The focus is definitely on the reading of Dr. Seuss's books and every year I look all over Pinterest and get more ideas for fun with food. I set the food up, show the children, take the pictures, then have to chop it all up due to the ages of the children in my group. But they and their parents do enjoy it.



The very next thing I worked on was the sensory bin. I have not made a sensory bin for this theme before, so I knew I would end up having to purchase some things. I found all kinds of ideas for making Truffula trees online and went with painted popsicle sticks with big puffballs (bought on Amazon) glued to them and incorporated them into the bin. The plastic blue stones are glow in the dark, I had gotten them and a few other colors back when I was doing reviews and was saving for the Fairy Garden that some of the grandchildren are going to make. There are erasers with the characters on them from the Target Dollar Spot that I found over a year ago, then a set of rubber ornaments from Amazon, the small plastic colored fish, and solid-colored cups are a Dr. Seuss color sorting game I purchased online but am not sure now what store. I used white paint markers to put the stripes on the small red Solo shot cups, red paint marker to color the small wooden letters, I already had polished white stones from past sensory bins and added a few different types of child-sized tongs I had gotten from Amazon a few years back. I had a good time building this one, and even though I did put some money into it, I will be able to use it all for many years to come.

I used some of the plastic solid-colored fish from the game to set up a color matching invitation to work on their fine motor skills as well.

I used food coloring to dye some of the white polished stones though I definitely should have worked harder on the blue and red, and had these fishbowl looking jars that I use for spices. The wooden chopsticks are from our favorite Chinese restaurant in town, they gave me a few sets to use with the children, and I purchased the helper pieces from Amazon. The beautiful tray is also from Amazon, and the basket is from an estate sale. I admittedly have a problem when it comes to baskets. I may even be obsessed.

Next, I decided to change up the photo op set up this year. I found the adorable Dr. Seuss' books material to use for the backdrop on Amazon, as well as the Cat in the Hat balloon, the One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish baby toy and I already had the Horton finger puppet, so I went online and found a set with the Cat in the Hat, the talking Fish, and Thing 1 and Thing 2. I already had the red, white and blue lanterns, the black and white tablecloth and the black and white towel. The reusable bag was purchased from the Target Dollar Spot a couple years ago.

There are many free Dr. Seuss printables I found on Pinterest that I used for coloring, matching, and number/letter recognition with the children. But they are mostly toddlers, so we focus on hands-on learning and learning through play. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Polar Bear Day

The children had so much fun with our Arctic and Antarctic winter themes, I knew they would enjoy celebrating Polar Bear day. I greeted them at the door like this:

                       Purchased on Amazon and they are super snuggly!                           

I found a free printable at Every Star Is Different with a real picture of a Polar Bear that had P is for Polar Bear on it to hang at the entrance where the children could see it as they entered. Then I googled 'large bear paw print' and picked one, made several copies, laminated then hung one at the entrance for the children to High Five on their way past. I taped the others in a path across the floor for them to walk like a polar bear.

I set up some provocations on the shelves... National Geographic Kids Polar Bears, a couple polar bear figures, and a big paw stamper for the children to stamp in their journal. 

I had purchased the paw print years ago at Walmart and the other items from Amazon.

Giant dice from the $5 and under store, chunky dice from Dollar Tree, the polar bear figure from Amazon, and the tray at an estate sale score of 3 of them!

On the next shelf, I set up the polar bear tracks game with GIANT dice and chunky dice and a smaller polar bear figure that you roll the dice to get him to his home, the cave at the end. The printable for the game is from the preschool toolbox blog.

This fun transferring activity was another of their provocations. With pretend ice cubes, silicone ice trays, and cute tongs. 

The pretend ice cubes, trays and tongs were all purchased from Amazon, the tray from Dollar General 

This next tray with the super awesome do a dot  Polar Bear printable from Living Montessori Now can be used in so many ways. I had purchased a pack of tiny polar bear erasers from Amazon, so that is what I used, but you could use cotton balls, or dot markers, etc. 

       Tray and bowl from estate sales, and gator grabbers from Amazon     
I love using printables with real images, not clip art or cartoons whenever possible. So these adorable polar bear images from Every Star Is Different are perfect for setting up a matching invitation. I printed in black and white because my printer hates me right now, and I need to replace it, but the printables are even cuter in color.

Wooden tray from Amazon and part of a set

The children had so much fun with this theme, but I was super stoked to get their Read Across America/Dr. Seuss's birthday items set up by March 2nd!

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Building fine motor skills

  • Many of your child’s daily activities—like getting dressed, eating, and writing—require control of small muscles in the hands. We call these skills fine motor skills. Your child can do more things for himself when he has opportunities to practice these skills. There are lots of activities that can increase muscle strength and coordination, preparing children for more advanced skills, from writing with a pencil, using a computer mouse, or playing a musical instrument. Help your child build fine motor skills at home by providing opportunities to...
  • Set the table
    • Hold knives, forks, and spoons to eat
    • Pour the juice into a cup

    • Wipe the table with a sponge
    • Help with meals—stir, shake, chop, cut, and mix
    • Get dressed—button, zip, snap, buckle, and fasten

      • Use Velcro tabs
      • Open and close containers with lids
      • Cut with child-safe scissors
      • Finger paint
      • Use a paintbrush

      • Play with playdough and clay—roll, smoosh, pat, pound, and use tools like popsicle sticks or stamps

      • Draw, scribble or write with crayons, pencils, and markers
      • Put together puzzles
      • Place pegs in a board
      • Build with small blocks
      • Play board games
      • Play with puppets

    • Photos are mine.
      Source: Adapted from "Getting a Grip on Things: Building Fine Motor Skills,” Message in a Backpack, 2010, Teaching Young Children 3 (5): 26–28.