Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Learning to Read With A Word Box

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One of my favourite things to teach my buddies is reading.  Perhaps It is because I love reading myself, or maybe just because I feel that once my buddy masters reading, the doors are opened to learning everything else.  Over the years I have employed many strategies to help my buddies learn to read, but I've never placed any pressure on them to learn anything.  We always do things that my buddies enjoy.  I'm very conscious of the fact that if learning is made to be unpleasant, my buddies will lose the desire to learn. That would be devastating!  If you're ever working with your child to learn something and either of you is not enjoying it, take a break and come back to it another time.

One of the activities I have used successfully with my buddies was a Word Box. I would provide my buddy with a recipe box. I had a box of my own, filled with blank cards. Each day that my buddy attended daycare, he or she had the opportunity to dictate a word that I would write on a card. (I learned to use a permanent marker to hold up to all the handling without smudging.)  Then my buddy could trace over the word or draw a picture to go along with it. I would write a sentence on the back of the card, using the word that my buddy had given me. I would emphasize their word to make it easy to distinguish from the other words in the sentence. Then I would read the sentence to my buddy, running my finger under the words as I read them.

I would have my buddy read the word to me and most often, my buddy would also be able to read the sentence back to me.  This was always so exciting and gives us both a feeling of instant achievement!

The next day, we would review the previous day's word(s) and add a new one.  As long as my buddy was easily reading and remembering all the words in their collection, I would add another one.  When they would struggle a bit, I would hold off on adding a new one  . When my buddy had a big collection, we might weed some of them out. I might add an extra sentence to the backs of the word card. I've always found that my buddies learned their big words more easily than some of the simple sight words that are taught.  By using their big words in sentences, they were getting the benefit of BOTH! And they enjoyed it!

I loved this method of teaching reading because it is very individualized.  If you have a preschool child who is keen to read or a child in school who is struggling with reading, this could be the perfect solution.  Kids can progress at their own pace and it gives them a lot of control over their own learning. They have the power to choose the words and decide if they want to trace the word or add pictures or both. They can even decorate their word boxes if they wish. It's really important to make sure the activity is fun. When they struggle to sound out a word, try helping by putting your finger under each letter and giving each individual letter sound and allowing your child to link the sounds to figure out the word. If they don't figure it out right away, give the sounds again, this time allowing a smaller gap or even begin to blend the sounds together. If they struggle to read the sentences on the back, read them for your child, but pause at their word for them to read. If they still don't remember the word, go back to the front of the card and have them read it on that side then flip it over and ask them to find the word in the sentence. Even without being able to read the word, just looking at it and retaining the image of it to recognize on the back of the card building future reading skills.  Let your child own their word box and show it off to anyone who would like to listen to them read. This is a great motivator for kids, too.  Some of my buddies would proudly carry their word boxes around for the better part of the day and even play with their cards on their own.  I'd love to hear if you try this out with your child or if you have your own reading ideas, I'd love to hear those too!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Chocolate Playdough

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My buddies and I have a beautiful chocolate playdough to share with you.  I found the recipe here: Valentine Heart Chocolate Playdough/Pre-KPages and quickly made up a batch.  I always use a skillet to make any cooked playdough recipes - they seem to cook faster and that means we can get to playing sooner.  

I have to tell you this is one of the nicest playdough recipes that I have made in a while. The texture is super smooth and soft.  The smell is fantastic and mine came out a very rich dark brown colour.  My grandchildren enjoyed helping make this one on the weekend.   They helped put all the ingredients into the skillet and mix them up before I put it on the stove. They are now old enough to be by the stove with me so they were able to stir and watch it form.  We all enjoyed the chocolatey smell!

After it was cool they played with it for a bit and then we sealed it up in a plastic container where I keep it on a shelf with a selection of playdough rollers, cutters, stamps, and extruders.  We also use trays when we play with playdough, just to help contain it and minimize the amount that falls on the floor. 

If you're looking for some great playdough for Valentine's Day or any day, this is a great one!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Menu Makeover

Revamping my menus according to the Food Guide photo Daycare Menu Makeover-1.jpg
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This weekend I've spent time looking at my menus.  As I come to know more about good nutrition, I can't help but feel a greater responsibility to ensure I am feeding my buddies food that will set them on the path to healthy eating and a healthy life.

In a daycare setting this is far easier said than done.  First of all, everyone has a different idea of healthy. My goal is to find food that will be:

  #1 EATEN 



by a majority of my buddies.  I'm not getting rid of gluten or sugar or fat.  I am following guidelines based on Canada's Food Guide.

 I want my menus to follow these standards:

  • Lunch will contain food from all four food groups
  • Each snack will have a fruit or vegetable plus food from another food group
  • At least 10 different foods from the fruit & vegetable food group will be served each week
  • At least 1 dark green or orange vegetable or fruit will be served each day (spinach, broccoli, carrots, pumpkin, cantaloupe, peaches, nectarines, apricots)
  • Whole milk will be served with lunch and snacks
  • A meat alternative such as eggs or peanut butter or lentils will be served once a week
  • Fish will be served once a week
  • Processed meat will be avoided or at least minimized (sandwich meats, hot dogs)
  • Water will be available between meals and snacks
  • Local produce will be served as often as is practical
  • Menus will be re-evaluated and updated twice a year
  • Snacks will contain at least one contrast between colour, taste, texture, shape or temperature
  • At least 1/2 of the grains served will be whole grain

Needless to say, this was a huge undertaking.  Especially because of #1 and 2!  The healthiest food in the world is worthless if nobody eats it.  I have kept some kid favourites on my menu, too. Everything in moderation!  So yes, you do see tater gems, pizza, and french fries.  I use regular peanut butter as well.  Overall, I'm happy with my menus and I hope my buddies will be happy too!

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 photo BlueMenu-1.png
 photo OrangeMenu.png
That's it! Let me know what you think & feel free to use these menus to help you plan, too!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Healthy Christmas Treats

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Have you seen the fabulous strawberry and banana candy canes made by Make, Do & Friend??? They're beautiful. I tried to make them for my buddies but failed miserably so you're not going to see a picture of those here. But you can see the ones from Make, Do & Friend HERE. I did not give up, however, and came up with a fun banana and mandarin orange version which sat nicely on the plate for me and went into the candy cane shape without too much fuss. So here's my version:

mandarin banana candyless cane

They were easy to make and didn't take a lot of time. This is important when you have a group of hungry buddies! Best of all they were a fun and healthy snack. Another fast, fun and healthy snack idea is this watermelon banana santa hat:

Santa Hat Snack

Completely enjoyable for my buddies and no guilt for me!   It's as easy to make as it looks, with a triangle slice of watermelon and slices of banana trim.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Easy Christmas Houses

 photo ChristmasHouse.png
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If you're looking for a very easy project for your children this Christmas, this one is for you!  Last year, I was planning to make the classic graham wafer covered milk carton with my buddies but wasn't able to find the small milk cartons that we usually use.  Knowing that rice crispy treats are so easy to cut, I made up a thick pan of rice crispy treats and cut the pieces into triangles to substitute for the houses.

It was fairly easy to put the graham crackers on the sides.  Mine just stuck to the rice crispy treats but you could use frosting to attach them, too.  I had premade this part of the houses on sturdy disposable plates.  Then I handed them out and provided my buddies with assorted candies and some frosting and let them go to work.  They had a great time and were able to finish their houses independently.  This would be a great class project for a group of kids because once the houses are made, they don't need much assistance.  I think they turned out great!  They were so pleased to take them home.

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fashion vs Function

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It's that time of year again when I know that parents are shopping for kid's clothing. Some of the clothes are just irresistable and you just can't help but purchase them. I ought to know, I'm a grandma!  And Grandmas can't resist shopping for the grandkids!

choosing Kids Clothes : Fashion vs Function photo KidsClothing.png

Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, I know that some of the cutest outfits are just not child-friendly.  You have to look at the function of the clothing.  What is it's specific purpose?  If the clothing's only purpose is to look cute you've got a big selection to choose from.  But, if your children are anything at all like my buddies, they require more from their clothing.

  • My buddies are always busy.  They need clothing that is comfortable and safe.  Nothing should be too tight or pinching.  Footwear should be comfortable and secure.  Shoes that fall off easily are a tripping hazard and there's no fun in that.
  • My buddies want to be independent.  They need clothing that is manageable.  Velcro is a friend!  Elastic is an ally.  Snaps, ties and tiny buttons are not your friend when you are 2 and struggling to put on your clothes.  You want to join your friends already at play and you've already said "ME do" 20 times today and the daycare lady is helping the baby so if you have to wait for her help you aren't going to be first to get to your favourite toy.  <GASP!>  No lace up shoes, Mom and Dad, please, at least not until I can tie laces myself! 
  • My buddies move from active to quiet activities and can easily become cold or hot.  They need clothing that layers, so they can easily add or remove pieces.  Layers work well with our ever changing weather, too.
  • My buddies work hard and play hard.  They get dirty.  Often.  They need clothing that is washable.  I don't like ruining my buddies' clothing, but I know it happens.  When it does, I hope it's not the irreplaceable shirt that the favourite auntie bought for my buddy to wear on special occasions.  Keep that one safe at home, please.
  • My buddies are exceptionally cute.  They don't need all the extra accessories in order to be cute.  Remember this when adding the belts, hair accessories, hats and scarves and the like.  These items are often taken off and are hard to keep track of.  If these items don't have a function, they may be a nuisance that only serves to impede playing and learning.
Hope these tips have been as helpful to you as following them is to children!  If you have any of your own tips I'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Writing's on the Wall

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The writing was on the wall.  I wasn't particularly pleased with it being there, either.  It happens from time to time in daycare and the best way I have found to manage it is to have my buddy (who happened to be my grandson this time) clean it up.  I don't say much, just that writing doesn't belong on the walls and that it needed to be cleaned.  I hand over a scrubber and maybe a little soap.  Sometimes it's easy to clean and sometimes it's not but it's ALWAYS a good learning experience.  It's almost never as much fun cleaning the writing off the wall as it was putting it there.  The few times when it IS as much fun?  Well, then I will happily hand over scrubbers and cleaning cloths for the whole group and have a clean up party.  Win/win!

Remove the writing on the wall
Removing the writing on the wall