I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn. ~ Albert Einstein


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Thematic Units

When I first started my in home childcare, I remember building all my lesson plans around a weekly theme. First week of October? Fire safety for sure. Third week of May? Only flower lessons would do. Snow on the ground? Well, surely it would not be the right time to learn about butterflies and ladybugs!

Watching  my shadow while painting with both hands

I few years later, I realized something was missing. Sure I was planning a TON of activities for each theme, but it just wasn't working. It was stressful for me, to say the least, and the kids weren't really interested. They were simply following along my path of preset learning and exploring. Sure, they painted their apples, and glued their snowmen, but they weren't fully engaged or excited about the activities that were being presented to them. It wasn't authentic.

Digging for Native American artifacts  

And then there were the times when they were excited about a theme, and would have loved to continue exploring, but each theme was only set for a week. How could we possibly continue with dinosaurs when next week is space week? Now, I can only wonder what we may have lost, or what experiences may have slipped by unexplored.

Finding wild blueberries in our woods

I am now using a more emergent curriculum.
I've let go of the reins and put them in the hands of the children. I allow their interests to determine our themes and how long they will last. Sometimes we explore the same topic for months. Sometimes there is no set theme to our week at all. Either way, the learning is more authentic. The children are more engaged and more excited about the materials. The information we gather has more meaning. They are learning and exploring the things that are of most interest to them, even if that means snowmen in July.

Building a  monster truck after noticing the round blocks roll

Sure, you will still see the occasional hand print turkey in November, or coffee filter butterfly in April, but it all comes more naturally for us now. The children themselves notice the changes in the seasons, and in the environment around them, and they decide the learning topics that are most important to them at the time.

Observing a snake x-ray on the light table
I've found myself more engaged, and more excited about learning and exploring along side of the children. I make sure to take advantage of every "teachable moment", and savor every opportunity to watch a child discover something for the first time, which may have otherwise been lost in the fast pace shuffle of pre-determined "themes".

Playing with my reflection in the mirror

 Last Friday we went apple picking because, well, its apple picking season around these parts. So next week we have activities planned to explore apples more.

Apple picking in 2009

Some children have also noticed the leaves are changing, and some have been showing a lot of interest in trains. Where will all this lead us? We will have to wait and see!
 (maybe a leaf peeping train ride!)

Piping liquid watercolor on coffee filters

  And the toads, snakes, and salamanders we have been following the whole summer have not hibernated yet. I'm sure they will still be outside waiting for us....just in case.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Water Beads

After seeing a lot of posts recently on many other early childhood blogs about water beads, I had to check them out for myself. I ordered a few bags online, although I know you can also find them in stores like the Dollar Tree and Target.

Water beads are these little pellets, that when you soak with water, they expand into squishy balls. They are mainly used in flower arrangements, but are all the rage in early childhood classrooms and are popping up in preschool sensory tubs everywhere!

The kids just loved plunging their hands into the tub. The beads are very wet and  squishy, and bouncy!

I even gave the baby a chance to check them out. He loved the feel of them, and squealed with delight! (Even though water beads are non toxic, I highly recommend staying within arms length at all times!)

 He even insisted on getting IN the tub. And hey, why not?!

I find myself dunking my own hand in ever time I walk past the tub. They are quite soothing and relaxing. I even had a mom spend a few minutes “playing” with them yesterday at pick up time! I wonder how they would feel on our feet! Ahhhh!!!
 We’ll have to try that tomorrow!

I’m excited to see what other ways we can come up with to play with our water beads! Tomorrow we will put them on our light table to watch them glow.

And maybe, just maybe, we will eventually make some flower arrangements with them. After all, isn’t that what they were originally intended for? ;)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Dressing for Daycare

When dressing for daycare, please keep a

few things in mind…

~ Outdoor play is a BIG part of our program. Children MUST have appropriate clothing for outdoor play available EVERYDAY no matter what the temperature/weather is.

~We get messy. EVERYDAY. Kids spill. They chuck paint. They wear their spaghetti sauce proudly. DO NOT send your child in clothes that you expect to
be sent back clean.

~ We play. HARD. Kids wear through their clothing quickly. Accidental rips and tears happen. Again, DO NOT send your child in clothes that you do not want ruined.

~ Things get lost. With a house full of same sized little people, occasionally your child may be sent home in the wrong clothes. DO NOT send sentimental clothing. Label everything. If something shows up missing, I will make every effort to locate it for you.


~ We are NOT an episode of Toddlers & Tiaras. Your child will NOT be judged based on the label in their shirt. I promise to not to judge you as a parent if your child wears Garanimals instead of OshKosh. Feel free to purchase your childs clothes for daycare at yard sales
or local thrift shops. (Hey...it's where I get mine!) 
If you have somewhere to go after pick up, bring a nice set of clothes to change your child in to before you leave.  

Your childs day is full of learning, exploring, wonder, and excitement. They learn best through hands on play. Hands on play IS MESSY!

When your child is up to his elbows in paint, he’s not worried about his shirt sleeves being stained. More then likely, he’s wondering how much you are
going to love his work.

 So, don’t let a dirty shirt put a damper on the wonder and joy of your little ones childhood.  Hang his picture on your fridge proudly. And buy an extra stain stick or two. ;)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Our Forest Animal Week

On a recent field trip to the zoo, the children were more interested in the squirrels that were roaming around freely then the actual animals that we were there to see. So, we decided to come home and explore some of the animals we can find in our own backyard.

We first built an animal den in our dramatic play area. We filled it with stuffed animals, and even dressed up as bears and foxes.

We made the rocks out of shipping paper.

We painted trees to decorate our den.

The kids thought these green cups looked like trees!

We also made playdough to make animal homes with. I didn't have food coloring to make brown, so I used cocoa powder. It sure smelled yummy!

We filled our sensory table with mulch (to feed the animals, of course!)

We counted bears....

And the younger kids had fun just dumping
 and filling the bowl.

We examined deer antlers.

And matched animals to their prints.

We even painted with our "paws"!

We went on a hike in the woods to find animal tracks.

OK...I planted this one..but SHHH!!!!

We Measured them......

 And recorded what we learned.....

I made homemade stampers out of sponges and scrap wood. They are supposed to look like animal prints. HaHa!

We searched for animals in our eye spy book.

 I cut up some tree blocks with a band saw...

 And added a few tree branches stuck in some playdough to the block area.

And we had fun playing a paw print game that one of the kids brought in!!!

Next week we plan on continuing our forest theme. We also have a trip planned to go apple picking, so we will see where that may lead us!