My thoughts from the trenches

 

I have been in childcare for over 30 years. I started off my career in Brandon MB and after a few twists and turns through various programs and communities, I have landed in Portage la Prairie operating a group family child care program and Growing Wild Forest and Nature School program. When I think I have seen it all and got everything figured out, my children prove me wrong! There is never a dull moment when working with children.

I am always learning; from my kids, from my co-workers, from my peers and from the students at the college where I instruct part-time.

Join me in my adventures and pondering’s as I travel through the world as seen by the children.

I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas as well. Please feel free to comment and have a conversation.

(*open each blog post to see the whole post in format and pictures)

Building Fires with a Purpose.

Posted by on January 17, 2021 in Building community, Children Naturally News, Family Child Care, Multi Age Groups, Personal Growth, Professional Development | 1 comment

Building Fires with a Purpose.

The discussion about building fires in child care programs is growing as ECE’s are trying to spend more time outside as a way of dealing with Covid. The general idea is that a fire will give kids and adults a chance to warm up while being outside for long periods of time in the cold weather. I think we need to go further with this idea. I learned about fires in a child care program, not as a way to warm up, but as a skill and knowledge to expose kids to; how to build a fire, what the purpose of fire is, and how to respect and be safe around fire. I was first introduced to the concept through Gill Robertson who was a family child care provider at the time. She then connected me with Niki Buchan who shared the concept of lab fires. These are not large bonfires for the sake of having a fire. They are small fires build in a small metal bowl/caldron and used to teach children about fire. This was the first time I had ever used a fire steel. My own skills were growing. I had such a sense of accomplishment when I finally got my little fire going! As most of you already know I operate a family child care program for infants to school age as well as a forest and nature school program. I offer fire building opportunities in both these programs. If I want children to respect and understand the power of fire, I need to offer these opportunities. We don’t just ‘have’ a fire, we have conversations about fire; fire being a tool that we use for heat, cooking, light, safety. I know some people are thinking,  “There is no way I would ever be comfortable with a fire around the children I care for!” We have very strict rules and procedures around this whole process. We go over and review the rules each time; how we behave around the fire, how we move around the fire area and where we sit to be safe. There is always an adult at the fire pit when starting a fire and while the fire is burning. We start at the very beginning and explore how to start a fire. We talk about what we need and why; cotton balls, petroleum jelly, small kindling, and the flint and steel. I demonstrate how it works and then anyone who wants a chance to try, is able to. The kids can tell me the rules and what we need after their first time being exposed to these tools. The absolute joy on the kids faces when they are able to create a spark is priceless.   I want to provide opportunities for children to build new skills and I want them to know they will be safe if they choose to give them a try. With conversations and opportunities like this, I hope children will go forward with a life long skill and a new connection to nature. As Bev Bos said, “If it hasn’t been in the hand and the heart, it can’t be in the brain.” Offering real opportunities is important if we want kids to learn and retain new skills and knowledge....

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The Most Beautiful Christmas Tree!

Posted by on December 6, 2020 in Building community, Children Naturally News, Family Child Care, Multi Age Groups, Traditions | 0 comments

The Most Beautiful Christmas Tree!

I love December and all the traditions we have created in my child care program over the years. We all talk about how busy it is this time of year, but for me it is a busy I enjoy. I find myself making the ornaments the kids can paint, getting the Graham Cracker ‘gingerbread’ houses ready for decorating and  gathering the supplies for the Reindeer Munchies.  These are just a few of the activities that bring me joy. Some of the kids remembered what we have done in previous years and wanted to make some paper chains. One of the children asked if we were going to make treats again for the garbage collectors. It touched my heart that he remembered this tradition of sharing with others in our community. We do this throughout the year but make it extra festive at this time of year. With Covid and being in code red at the moment I explained I needed to look into the rules about this and what we could do. Another of our traditions in putting up the tree. It is a little tree that comes in two parts. It slides together and is done. Together we add the lights which are very durable and then the kids are in charge of the rest of the decorations. They have garlands and they can make ornaments; add and rearrange as much as they want. We are a multi-age program and so we have children one year old to five years old. They all can look at and touch the tree. Yes, it has gotten knocked over several times already. We just stand it back up and carry on. The little ones love to look at the lights and gently touch them. Almost daily the older kids love to rearrange the garland and decorations. Last year one of the kindergarten kids stated our tree needed a star. He promptly headed off to the construction paper and cut out a star from a yellow piece of paper, added a pipe cleaner and hung it on the tree. That star never left the top of the tree all last December.   Is it the grandest tree you ever saw? It just might be because it is theirs. Theirs to decorate and redecorate how they like. They are in control of how it looks and how it is cared for. It is part of their world that they can be in charge of. In all these uncertain days, this is one little piece of their world that they know is theirs....

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Where did the ‘care’ go from child care?

Posted by on November 29, 2020 in Family Child Care, Multi Age Groups, Personal Growth, Professional Development | 2 comments

Where did the ‘care’ go from child care?

Child Care vs. Early Learning Education; this has been on my mind for awhile, especially with all the talk about essential workers lately. What is the difference? How do they fit together? Do they fit together? This internal fight began years ago. When I graduated first from Child Care Services (which is what Early Childhood Education was called 32 years ago), I began working in a daycare. I really struggled with the idea that what I was dong was not important. I felt that what I was doing was little more than… dare I say it… babysitting. I was caring for other peoples children while they were at work. I looked around and thought I need to work in a nursery school program to be valued (or for me to see value in what I was doing). It has school in the title and so they must be doing more important work in those programs…. they must be ‘teaching’. I had this feeling that the ‘care’ was not valuable but teaching was. I needed to teach! Many years have passed since those days and I must admit I do fall back into that fear every once in awhile when I am faced with those days when the outside opinions seep in through social media and I am being faced with public opinion that what I am doing is not valuable; we are just caring for children until they go to school to be taught by real teachers. I was listening to an older podcast session on  That Early Childhood Nerd Podcast yesterday. Heather Bernt-Santy was interviewing Carol Garboden Murray; Caring is Honourable with Carol Murray and I started thinking again about how important care is to the work we do as Early Childhood “Educators”. One of my kinder-kids in my program was telling me last week that he learns when he goes to kindergarten (but not when he is here). I will admit that hit right to the core. Now I bet you are wondering how I reacted. I had to take a deep breath and step back in my brain. I felt I needed to defend his time with me. If a five year old felt like this, how many adults feel it too but just don’t say it? Maybe it is a good thing that he doesn’t see all the learning he does here… I work hard at making this a play based program. If he thinks all he does is play, is that not my goal? I can go on at length about all the learning and growing he has done since he (and all the others) began my program. I can talk about developmental domains, the importance of environments, risky play, loose parts, etc… but does any of this matter if I am not caring or care about the children? So how does this fit in with my internal turmoil? Reflection has been a real lifeline for me during the times when I get to feeling like care and connections with children are not valued. I can tell you how and what children are learning because of my education and experience AND I can also tell you about each individual child because of the time spent caring and connecting with each one. I know children need...

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Has Children’s play changed due to Covid-19?

Posted by on September 26, 2020 in Children Naturally News | 0 comments

Has Children’s play changed due to Covid-19?

Has children’s play changed during these (what I call) weird times called Coronavirus? Do they play differently? Has their play taken on a new ‘tone’ or manner of play? Some Background Early into this, around the end of March, the majority of the families attending my program decided to hunker down at home. We were being told to stay home, limit our exposure to people outside our bubble. As everyone well remembers schools were closed, many business were closed or greatly changing the way they did business, and people were embracing this call to action and we were flattening the curve in Manitoba. I was happy and relieved to be operating a small program. I was able to stay open and with discussion with my husband who is in the EMS field, I decided to offer care to essential service workers. I had very few children needing care which was interesting as we were told so many families were in desperate need. By June we were pretty much back up to full capacity, spending the vast majority of our time outside enjoying being back together. We did all this while helping to flatten our curve, maintaining quality and not having to wear a mask as we were told we were low risk. All was happy in my world until September hit! We have to WHAT? Our province now had raising covid numbers, many people seemed to be not following the rules, and the curve was very far from flat! Word came down that staff in child care programs and children 9 years and older are to wear a mask inside. To say I took this news with grace would be incorrect. Oh, I had a hissy fit, I swore, I ranted and raved, I cried, I swore some more… and I put on the darn mask. It has taken a few days (actually weeks) but I am adjusting more and more. I still have some tough times like when trying to get shoes on a child, I have an age related heat surge and I work up a sweat and get all hot inside that mask! It’s a challenge to keep the frustration at bay.  I am glad this didn’t come into effect in the heat of the summer. Has Play Changed? So… back to my original question; has children’s play changed due to Covid-19? I really have not seen any here. They are still playing the same types of games and pretend play they engaged in before; horses, puppies, science type experiments, caring for babies, Zombies, catch the bad guys, etc. The themes have not included talk or play around ‘the virus’ and it hasn’t involved wearing masks. The kids have just seemed to take it all in stride. They left on a Friday with everything the same as they have always know it here and returned after the weekend with us greeting them in masks and they just walked in and carried on like usual. I am sure they have been seeing others wearing masks in public places long before we had to here so this would not be completely unknown to them. Lunch time talk sometimes includes asking if “the virus’ is gone yet. The information and language the kids use has always been “bang on”!...

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We have really been Growing Wild! (the story of our first Forest and Nature School Adventure)

Posted by on August 29, 2020 in Children Naturally News, Mentoring | 0 comments

We have really been Growing Wild! (the story of our first Forest and Nature School Adventure)

I have had a dream for a while now. My dream was to be able to run a forest and nature school program, to be able to completely embrace the pillars and principles. For ECE’s who are already child-led, inquiry based, this is a natural extension. The concepts are really a way of thinking, a mind set. In June 2019 I started my journey to become a Forest and Nature School Practitioner. I took the 1 week, hands on course with an ECE friend. We had such a good time and were inspired by 2 wonderful facilitators. From that week until this summer I had assignments to complete and I was so excited when I was notified that I was DONE!! Then the planning began.     For the 2 weeks, this summer, I was able to create and offer Growing Wild Forest & Nature School for children 5 to 10 year olds. It was a fantastic experience. With low ratios (1:5) we offered real tools to build with. The kids had access to hammers, nails, hand drills, saws. We practiced our fire starting skills. So much great ‘risky’ play and so many great conversations about assessing those risks.     The kids embraced the experience! We would begin with a gathering circle around the fire pit and learning about the land we were on and the people that were here first through land acknowledgment. Desiray taught us a bit about her culture and lead us in smudging.       When the kids went off, I was able to observe all that they were exploring, the challenges the successes, the new friendships and the rekindling of old ones. They helped each other and cheered each other on! We were building a FNS community in 4 short sessions.       It was so sad to have to have it all end. For me, it gave me a chance to put my FNS skills into action and leave the world of pandemics aside. I like to think it was the same for the children and their families who attended.     What is next? I am already thinking about what I want will be my next Growing Wild venture … Stay tuned!     until then… Go Be Wild and...

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I LOVE PVC Pipes?

Posted by on July 13, 2020 in Children Naturally News, Family Child Care, Mentoring, Multi Age Groups | 2 comments

I LOVE PVC Pipes?

For anyone who knows me, knows I LOVE all loose parts! Do I have a favourite? I really don’t want to pick just one… I have so many! Let’s start at defining what loose parts are? For those who may not know what loose parts are let’s start there. Simon Nicholson, the founder of the idea of Loose Parts in 1971 says: “As long as materials can be moved, redesigned, put together, and taken apart in a variety of ways, they are classified as loose parts.” A very basic explanation is loose parts are anything that can be used alone or with something else in a multitude of ways. Our imagination is the only limitation! Think of the toy you give a child as gift… how often are the kids more interested in the box than the expensive gift inside? The box is a LOOSE PART! I could make a very long list of loose parts I love; PVC pipes, tape, sand, water, logs, tree cookies, thread spools, beads, buttons, makeup sponges, pinecones, sticks, leaves, stones, curlers, string, ribbon, …I could go on and on… (and usually do, just ask my family!) I Love PVC Pipes! Is it weird that I proclaim my love of PVC pipes?  I just love this stuff. It comes in black, white, and the best is CLEAR!! What is more fascinating than watching seeds, sand, or water (maybe even coloured water) flowing through the tubes. It can be used inside our outside. It is durable, can be cut into various lengths, and can be found in a variety of diameters as well as lengths. I first discovered the magical world of PVC pipes when I attended a child care conference in North Dakota in 2018 and had the privilege of attending and meeting Tom Bedard. His observations and reflections of children’s play are inspiring.  Sand and Water Table  Tom creates some absolutely amazing constructions using many materials but often uses PVC pipes. I have told him that when I smell duct tape I think fondly of him.   My first attempt at using PVC was pretty basic. A couple pieces, some duct tape and golf balls in the water table.     After that I got a little more adventurous. I used smaller PVC with holes drilled in and all duct taped together. I loved listening to the children get so excited about exploring it and all the different ways to move water through it.   Then there is outside! The creativity and imagination along with PVC and a bit of duct tape can move water along in so many ways). This is more than just what you see… it goes back to the adult/ECE slowing down and just observing. Watch what is happening, what is being said. How PVC Pipes promote all aspects of children’s learning. Behind the scenes and before this picture was snapped, there was so many discussions and expressions of thoughts and ideas.  Then there were the negotiations of these ideas and how they would be constructed; who would do what. Then there was problem solving… “Oh no, we have a leak!” “Let’s get the duct tape!” “We need more, it’s still leaking!” Through just this one scenario children have engaged in practicing social skills, problem solving, and emotional self...

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“She’s Capable!”

Posted by on June 22, 2020 in Children Naturally News, Family Child Care, Multi Age Groups | 2 comments

“She’s Capable!”

One of my greatest joys is to be able to sit back and observe, truly take in and watch what the kids are doing. I love to hear the laughter, the making up of games, the impromptu negotiations that happen when everyone is engaged. One particular day as I was observing a child of about 14 months old was playing. She was climbing in and out of a wagon and I heard one of the three year old kids say, “She’s capable!” My heart soared when I heard that. I think of the many times I have said that to not only adults but to the children as well. We are all so eager and quick to jump to the ‘rescue’ of children. We often don’t give children the time and space to figure things out on their own. I have worked really hard at taking a breath and a step back when children are struggling. They often come up with their own creative solutions. When children are stuck  in “I can’t do it” mode or have never been giving this opportunity before, I try to help with a question or two to get that thinking going. I find great joy in hearing “I did it!” when children discover that they can.   My program is built on my strong belief that children are capable. Adults seem to be so quick to jump in and open the play doh container, pull the wagon, push the swing, draw the picture, solve the disagreements… for children. Is it because we believe children need us to do all this for them? Is it our need to feel needed? Marie Montessori said, “The greatest sign of success for a teacher… is to be able to say, ‘the children are now working as if I did not exist’. ”   What does this mean to me? It means I have to set up the environment, support the children socially and emotionally and give them the tools and confidence they need to manage situations on their own. Am I still here if they need me? You bet!! …but an adult will not be around all the time after they leave here and enter school. I want them to leave with the belief that they are capable. Recently a child was riding a bike, then briefly left it to get something and came back to continue her play. When she returned another child was on her bike. I watched from a distance as she was clearly telling him she was not done with it yet. He argued and tried to get her to ride something else. Neither was budging. I walked over, knelt down beside them and encouraged her to keep going. She repeated she wasn’t done yet and added that he could have a turn when she was done. Each time he argued his need for the bike, she repeated her message. After a few minutes of this back and forth, he got off and went back to his original bike. I was proud of both of them; her for clearly standing her ground and being assertive (not passive or aggressive) and him for getting her message. I often hear my kids telling each other, “when you’re done with that, can I have a turn”....

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When did we become a community?

Posted by on June 13, 2020 in Children Naturally News, Family Child Care, Multi Age Groups | 2 comments

When did we become a community?

As I reflect over my six and a half years as a family child care provider I wondered when we evolved into a community? A daycare family? This feeling of community really hit home this past week for me. In March, because of Covid-19, all my regular children stayed home with their families.  Now, after about two and a half months away, the children have started trickling back. One of the kids brought me an envelope her first week back. I happily opened it and found a picture she had created for me as well as a small toy the resembled a moose she got from a Kinder Surprise egg. Her mom said as soon as she saw it she wanted to give it to me. (You see, I do have a love of Moose and over the past few years I always seem to get tagged in a lot of Moose videos, photos and receive many Moose gifts.) I was so touched that she thought of me, even though we had not been together at daycare for quite some time, and wanted to share her toy with me. This is not the only Moose that I have received over the years from the kids I care for. Each time it happens I am struck that they remember me and my love of Moose even when they are away. But it’s more than Moose. A few months ago a child brought me a potato. His dad said he was adamant that I had this. I was just as touched about him thinking of me and wanting me to have the potato as I was about all the Moose. It is more than ‘gifts’, it is about the thinking of others who we care for and are important in our lives. I have had parents tell me their child adds me to the nightly lists of who they love. This certainly goes both ways. When I am on holidays or away from daycare and I see something that makes me think of one of my kids, I know I have to buy it. It could be a book about a topic a child is really interested in right now or it could be a toy/activity/loose part that I know one of them would enjoy. I also see the relationships the children and parents are building with each other. The kids are quick to offer assistance to on another with anything from getting a toy down, putting on a jacket, pouring water, etc. When a child arrives, they are often greeted with stories, and ideas of play and sometimes hugs wether they want them or not before they even get in the door. The relationships have occasionally lead to getting together outside of daycare. This extension of our daycare community is proof of how important we are to each other. I think the moments like this are what really emphasizes the importance of these relationships we are building with the children we care for and their families. We can not possibly spend 8 plus hours a day with each other and not get to know what we enjoy, what our interests are and what we love to do. We are able to build relationships with their families and be able to...

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Looking for the Bright Side of Covid-19

Posted by on May 28, 2020 in Children Naturally News, Family Child Care, Personal Growth, Professional Development | 0 comments

Looking for the Bright Side of Covid-19

There is a lot to complain about when it comes to our current situation; being stuck ( Oh I mean self-isolated) at home, our entire world being disrupted, missing events we were looking forward to, school being closed, lost income, I could go on… but just for a moment what if we looked for a few good things.   Meeting New People I have spent some time thinking about this. What good has come from my current situation? For me the first thing is the new people I have met. Yes!!! I have met many dedicated ECE’s through this pandemic. They have all been through different zoom groups and facebook live events and they have been from across Canada and all over the USA . Many of them are like-minded and I am drawn to groups that have a similar philosophy but I have also met people in these groups who have stretched and challenged my thinking. My family keeps teasing me about all the Zoom calls I have but unlike them I work from home so my world is pretty small and generally only includes my family and the child/ren I care for. I love the kids in my care but I need that adult connection and conversations! While my family are off at work seeing other people, I am working from home so my way of ‘getting out’ is to join groups on Zoom. Zoom, Zoom, Zoom… Slowing Down (and learning to enjoy it… well I’m trying to enjoy it) I don’t sit still very well. I tend to be a putterer, always needing to move. Through all of this I have not closed my program but I have been running at much lower numbers. Actually I had one child for several days. This was a struggle for me for awhile as I pushed myself from puttering and moving most of the day to slowing down and taking a breath. This brought me to a whole new way of looking at my day. I was able to really experience following the flow of the child (since there was only one to follow). We played at his pace, ate at his pace, and engaged in the day at his pace. I realized I was wound up so tight pre-Covid that I was becoming hyper focused on aspects of the schedule. This is kind of funny as my schedule is pretty loose and free flowing but lunch is at 11:30 and darn it, we were going to eat at 11:30! I forgot how to slow down and just sit, just sit…and find the joy. I still find my mind going five different direction but that is an improvement over the ten directions it used to go! Time One thing about not having any workshops to facilitate, classes to instruct, or meetings to attend is that I now have time. I had myself booked pretty full before Covid. I had at least one extra event if not two or three each week. I was always on the go. Now I have time to sit (remember, I don’t sit still very well which is why I was always on the go), reflect (I have done lots of that), maybe even time to do a few of those projects that there wasn’t...

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What was my favourite decade in childcare?

Posted by on May 23, 2020 in Children Naturally News, Family Child Care, Mentoring, Multi Age Groups, Professional Development | 2 comments

What was my favourite decade in childcare?

I always smile (and brace myself a little) when I get a message that starts out, “Please don’t take offence….” I received this from a past college student and now a respected peer. She wanted to know what my favourite decade in the child care field has been. This implies I have seen a few, and as much as I’d like to think I’m not that old I suppose I am and have seen a few decades go by. I wasn’t really sure what she was looking for so I shared the changes with her that I have seen over the past 30 plus years. This included my personal perspective and growth from being a greenhorn and with really no concrete ideas of my own though my journey to developing and sharing my own strong philosophy. I covered politics and how they have progressed – or not progressed. (Who else remembers the day we had an organized ‘strike’ in the early 90’s? I had a sweatshirt that read Caught in Charlottes Web in reference to Charlotte Oleson, PC MLA at the time – my big political contribution in those days.) We then went on to discuss mentors and who were mine and how I found my purpose when I was lost. I covered a variety of topics but not in a deep way. Did this answer her question? Not really.. she then wanted to know which decade I felt the child care field had seen the most improvement. She was really trying to search for some hard answers. I feel each decade had its own challenges and strides forward or backward. I felt for me it is hard to compare them equally as my understanding of both the political side and the professional (actual hands on) side of child care has changed for me as I’ve gotten to know others, read more, networked more, and grow in my knowledge and confidence. We then dissected the ideas and dug a bit deeper…   Advocacy We talked about how much more advocacy is happening right now. Who knew it was going to be a pandemic that got things really rolling! Our field is standing up like never before and the conversations are revolving around how essential we are to making it possible for essential healthcare workers to go to work and to providing care getting the economy back open. There are also more conversations about quality and what that actually is. I do feel there are a lot more people having a lot more conversations about child care and the importance of the early years and the understanding of brain development now than ever before. Parents We also reflected on  parents and their challenges with child care. There has always been such a shortage of  child care spaces that parents have generally been forced into the situation of having little to no choice about the program they place their child in. They need to go to work and if only one program has a space, they often have to take it wether they like the philosophy and practices of that program or not. I have always strongly believed parents need a choice and in our current situation, there is very little of that. The next question we tacked was regarding the understanding...

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