Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Coming Back Soon.......

Life has been busy. It always is this time of year.


I celebrated another year of life,


spent a weekend with an amazing group of storytellers at Adventures in Storytelling,


and now, I'm spending a lot of time getting ready for the UP Early Childhood Conference
as late registrations are trickling in......

Tomorrow, I'm off to Grand Rapids for the MiAEYC conference. I will be presenting "Take It Outside! Creating an Outdoor Classroom" on Saturday morning. 
We've been soaking up the sun whenever it decides to come out, I love that the "Mud Pie Kitchen" has been uncovered enough to become a mud and snow kitchen. I am however looking forward to the disappearance of the last bits of snow in the yard!


I appologize for my absence in advance as I am quite certain that my blogging time will be quite limited this week.

If you are missing the extra reading and looking for some other great options, stop on over at Let the Children Play  for a couple of great blog lists that Jenny has compiled:

30 More Blogs About Play, Creativity, Nature, and Family

30 Blogs About Children, Play, and Creativity

Jenny's Page of Blog Love

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Tinkering Place

I've been thinking a lot about a "permanent" tinkering place to add to our indoor environment. It is difficult to find the balance of space sometimes, as at the end of the day, this is our home. We devote the entire first floor of the house to the childcare, where most people would have a living room, we have a giant classroom! Filled from floor to ceiling with equipment (toys, books, etc... ) for the children.
(This photo was taken awhile back, but it gives you a general idea of the first room you enter in our home daycare)

(Looking at these photos reminds me that I really need to take some newer photos of the classroom!)

This week, Mr. Allan and I started to install our tinkering station. We decided that it would be best placed in the kitchen near all of the arts and crafts supplies. We started with a peg board and shelf.


 Then, I started to stock it with hand tools and moved the shelf of recyclables (the shelf that has the alternating colored baskets in it) over under the peg board. It is filled with metal lids, plastic caps, odds and ends of plastic, mesh nets from produce, peg clothes pins, Popsicle sticks, etc.  We also added a cart of bins for odds and ends pieces of wood, corks, string, fabrics, etc.


As with all of the other areas, I know that this one will evolve over time. I am really excited to have a space devoted to storing our real tools that is now in the area that the children use. (Previously, we stored them in the basement and we retrieved them when needed.) I think that having the tools readily available and plain sight will encourage us to use them more!

I know that taking the majority of our art supplies and organizing them where children could see and access them more readily encouraged more mixed mediums and creative use.  Here is what our art supply area looks like:

We also have a couple of shelves with other arts and crafts supplies and closet filled with more stuff! (And no, I won't be showing any photos any time soon of that closet! It tends to collect a lot of odds and ends.) We have a very child-driven program, and like to have materials ready for use at their level. If a child can reach it and does not come from a box or container that needs to be open, the child can choose to use it without asking for permission.  For this reason, materials that require assistance are stored in covered totes or up higher.


Our kitchen table is child sized, and well loved. We actually found it on a curbside. Someone was getting rid of it because it had a broken leg. We need to make it short for the children, so we cut off all of the legs at a shorter length! Over time, the table top has become a collection of project residue. (Hot glue chunks, paint, etc..... ) Instead of getting a new table, we cut and stained a new table top. So, when we need a nice table for eating or sitting, we put the new top on. When we are working on arts and crafts... and now.. .tinkering.... we will just remove it!

I can't wait to see what the children think about this new addition! Do you have any suggestions for tinkering items? 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What's Inside Those Eggs?

This week, we set up our chick-u-bator. The children have been very curious about those eggs sitting there.  "I wonder what is inside those eggs? Could they be alligators? turtles? turkeys? baby birds? chickens?"  After observing and talking about them, Dane and I told the children that we brought the chicken eggs from my parent's farm this past weekend. We keep talking about what Farmer Ricky had to say to teach us how to take care of the eggs.


It is very important to keep the eggs warm.  Hens keep them warm by sitting on them. We decided that the eggs would probably crack if we tried to sit on them, so we are using an incubator instead. We need to make sure the eggs stay between 98 and 102 degrees. 100 degrees is the optimum temperature, but Farmer Ricky says that if the eggs are kept a little bit cooler it will take longer for them to hatch. If they are kept a little bit warmer, they will hatch sooner.


Farmer Ricky also told us to turn the eggs three times a day. As you can see, we have a list put on the wall near our eggs to help us remember when to turn them. We marked the eggs with X on one side and O on the other to help us make sure we are turning them and to see if the eggs have been turned all the way. It is important to turn them to keep the yolk from attaching to the side of the egg and to exercise the chick.


We are also going to be "candling" the eggs to determine whether or not the chicks are developing. This was our first attempt to do so. We didn't see much of anything being that it was the first day, but it was good to have the children look at them for comparison. Our chicken eggs are brown, so it will take a few more days before we are going to really be able to see the development during our candling session. (I save a few great links on candling eggs in my tumblr account. If you are interested, pop on over and check them out.)


Don't worry, I'll post another update when we actually have something to share from our candling observations.  If you are going to hatch eggs, it is definitely worth candling them to provide more observation opportunities to the children as the eggs start to develop. 21 days is a long time (approximately for chickens) for children to just watch and turn eggs!


As you can see, our incubator is not very big or very "high tech." This version called a "chick-u-bator" was most appealing to me because of the clear dome lid. Many incubators have a very small observation window, and I wanted to make sure that the children had an opportunity to all observe all of the events as they happen.
My friend Carol (who also runs a home daycare) is also hatching eggs right now, and she had the great idea of putting the incubator in a glass aquarium. This provides additional safety for the eggs and it also helps to keep the temperature up.


As you can see, we have a few eggs sitting outside of the incubator. Farmer Ricky said that if we find out that some of our eggs are not developing, we will be able to place these eggs in the incubator as long as we continue to turn them at least once a day. We are turning all of the eggs three times a day.  We will be updating you on our observations as the chicks begin to develop.

On a side note for local folks: The Marquette Food Co-op is hosting an upcoming training:

Raising Your Own Chickens 
 
Have you have ever wondered what it would take to raise chickens? Do you dream of fresh eggs from your backyard? Learn what it takes to make that dream come true from people with experience. A panel of community members, each with different flock sizes, will share their knowledge about raising poultry.  A representative from the City Planning Commission will also be on hand to answer questions about chickens in the city.
  
When: Wednesday, April 13 at 7p
Where: Marquette Arts and Culture Center, in the basement of the Peter White Public Library.  
Price:  Free to all. 

Call Sarah at 225-0671, ext. 23 for more information

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What Would You Do With It? Wednesdays: Oatmeal/Pringles/Cylindrical Containers



Welcome to this week's edition of What Would You Do With It? Wednesday. This week we are featuring cylindrical oatmeal containers.

Valerie from over at Frugal Family Fun Blog shares another pure genius idea for a great "Cat in the Hat" hat made with an oatmeal canister!

Scott over at Brick by Brick shares this fantastic idea for marble painting for two! This simple idea promotes cooperation and it looks like it would be loads of fun!

I found this great tutorial for a cradle made from an oatmeal canister for dolls over at Artists Helping Children.

I don't have any photos to share, but we have made ours into drums, banks, and we have even set them up to practice our weaving.

Last week's challenge was to use CDs/DVDs. I'm still looking for some ideas! If you have one, hop on over and link up!


Quirky Momma shared a great building idea using the cases from CDs and DVDs! Look at this great tower:


For the full list of previously posted items and upcoming challenges, visit the What Would You Do With It? Wednesdays Page.

On to this week's link up! Cylindrical Oatmeal Containers(or something similar like bulk hot chocolate, etc)- It's your turn!

Do you have a great idea or post that you can share using oatmeal conatiners? If so, please join in linking up!

Here are the rules:

1) The post MUST use a cylindrical oatmeal container (or something very similar)

2) The post MUST be family friendly.

There are no other requirements. If you would like, I would love if you linked back to his linky party, but it is not required. I would hope that you will investigate the links shared and visit some of the other blogs, but I'm not imposing any "blog hop/linky" rules. Please, if you do find great ideas and photos... Give credit where credit is due :).

If you have been featured and feel inclined, my featured button is available to grab from the sidebar.

Next week, I will feature my favorite link up and I'll be posting about metal coffee cans! Look for the post late on Wednesday night next week, as I will be on the road for the MiAEYC Conference in Grand Rapids!

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Smorgasbord of Updates!

We've been busy. I try to share a glimpse of what is going on regularly, but sometimes it seems like there is just so much more to share! Tonight, I'm going to give you a few quick photo updates!

We are still going full force with our fort building. The children have been working hard on their indoor forts, but have also begun to work on plans for some outdoor building. The prospect of spring being right around the corner does not look good. We have a five day forecast that includes wintry mixes and chances of snow.

We had a lot of fun playing with our food again. We "painted" our waffles with a few drops of food coloring added to water. (Make sure to use new, clean paint brushes.)

 Dane had a great time at the pinewood derby. His car "kept coming in fourth" (of four cars in the wolf division.) He was so excited to have a cool car and to receive a participation medal. He still isn't interested in making a car to win, he is much more interested in coming up with unique designs :).

 Our plants are growing like crazy! We will probably have to transplant again, AND if the weather continues to bring us cold and snow... We might just have an indoor harvest for some of our plants!

Dane's artist wall canvas has now become a "community project" as he has invited some of his friends to share in the artist renderings on the wall. it is still a large mural work in progress, but he is loving the opportunity to write on the walls and have such a HUGE canvas.


The homemade chalkboard paint has been a HUGE success both indoors on the back of the shelf and outdoors on our fence.
I know there are oodles of other updates I could give, so if there is something you are curious about, drop me a comment and I'll see what I can do to fill you in!

(Oh, check out the outdoor classroom inspiration page too! There are over 50 link there (and growing!))

The next couple of weeks are going to be quite busy, so if you don't see me here as often, know that I'll pop back in when I have the time!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Marvelous Mud!

Children are always intrigued by mud, but there is something about "spring" mud that holds their attention for even longer.

Maybe it is because it has been hidden for so long underneath the snow,

perhaps it is continual trickle of running water from the melting snow.....


Maybe it is the cooler temperature or the hard base found just a few inches below where the ground is still frozen.

It is hard to say why, but whatever the reason they simply cannot get enough of it!


We've been having a GREAT time enjoying the sunshine and the mud this week! We watched in anticipation of our annual "St Patty's Day" storm today. Fortunately, so far, we've only seen rain!  Maybe spring really is on the way!







Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What Would You Do With It? Wednesdays: CDs/DVDs



Welcome to this week's edition of What Would You Do With It? Wednesday. This week we are featuring CDs/DVDs. For awhile it seemed like the number of junk mail CDs was enormous! Do you remember all of the trial software that used to come on CD? We have a stack of old CDs that are just ready and waiting for some creative ideas!

 
Isn't this Sparkly Kids' Craft from over at 805moms awesome! We have made CD fish before, but for some reason, we have never thought to decorate them with more sparkles! 
 
 
Stringing them together makes a great Sun catcher/Whirli-gig, from About.com.  I know that the children will love putting a few of these together for our front porch this year.

About.com also has a tutorial for these fun glimmering flowers!  I'm always game for fun flower crafts to add to our outdoor rock garden.  For some reason, I am an excellent vegetable gardener, but when it comes to flowers, I have a hard time keeping them alive!

Casa Maria shared this wonderful Salad Spinner Art using CDs on Facebook. They used acrylic paints and glitter.
Last week's challenge was to use wine corks. I'm still looking for some ideas! If you have one, hop on over and link up!


For the full list of previously posted items and upcoming challenges, visit the What Would You Do With It? Wednesdays Page.

On to this week's link up! CDs/DVDs- It's your turn!

Do you have a great idea or post that you can share using CDs or DVDs? If so, please join in linking up!

Here are the rules:

1) The post MUST use CDs or DVDs

2) The post MUST be family friendly.

There are no other requirements. If you would like, I would love if you linked back to his linky party, but it is not required. I would hope that you will investigate the links shared and visit some of the other blogs, but I'm not imposing any "blog hop/linky" rules. Please, if you do find great ideas and photos... Give credit where credit is due :).

If you have been featured and feel inclined, my featured button is available to grab from the sidebar.

Next week, I will feature my favorite link up and I'll be posting about cylindrical food containers like: oatmeal/pringles, etc ! Hopefully, I'll be on time!

Outdoor Chalkboards

I've been doing my best to push spring along. I am so anxious to get back to making the planned changes to our outdoor space!

 We have had a couple of dry sunny days, so I decided that we could start working on some of the fence projects! I have envisioned creating mini chalkboards on our fence for quite sometime, but I have been itching to do even more since I found out that you could make your own chalkboard paint!


We are creating mini strips of chalkboard all the way along our fence. Some are high, some are low. I hope to gather of make some small step stools and ladders for the children to use the higher ones.


I keep shoveling our piles of snow, breaking it up and moving it into the sunnier patches of the yard, trying to expedite the melting process.

Another layer of paint on these sections and they will be ready to go!

We have a lot planned for the continuation of the transformation of our outdoor classroom. If you need or have some great inspiration, stop on by and link up to our outdoor classroom inspiration page! 



If you stopped by looking for our weekly What Would You Do With It? Wednesday post, don't worry... It will be up later tonight :).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Snow Paint Pendulums


Signs of spring are all around us. In between all of the mounds of snow we are finding lovely puddles of slush... and more and more mud!  The yard is very wet, and the sun feels fantastic!  We are in the time of year where the weather can change with the drop of a hat! Right now, it is a great reminder of living in the moment and appreciating what we have right here, right now. 



With some of the recent posts on pendulum painting (Teacher Tom, Tinker Lab's Funnel Painting), I thought it would be great to try out painting the snow with a pendulum. Rather than trying to rig up a pvc pipe system, we opted to use our play structure and hang our pendulum from where the swings will return when the fall zone is no longer full of ice and snow.


The children had a great time adding some more color to our patches of white! We used a mixture of Kool-Aid powder and water to make our "paint."  The rainbow colors and fruity smells were delightful!


We know that around here St Patty's Day is just around the corner, which almost always means... We'll have another wave of snow.  But, here's our rainbow tribute to sun and mud!


For more of our winter fun with snow painting, Check out this compilation posts of ways to paint in snow:

Let Me Count the Ways You Can Paint in the Snow!

For more of our pendulum painting explorations, you might want to check out these posts:

Pendulum Painting

Sandbox Pendulum

When Monster Pendulum Meets Sidewalk Paint

This post was linked up to:

 
PreK + K Sharing

It Wasn't Peek-A-Boo, Respecting Infants at Play

Last week, a colleague of mine asked, "What does a child-led, play based program look like for infants and toddlers?" For man...