an early education learning space ~ where play equals learning

September 2, 2014
by countryfun

Pumpkins! Have We Got Pumpkins!

This year the pumpkin patch went just a bit crazy. We’ve had fun watching them grow over the summer. In checking over the weekend I found that about half the pumpkins had unexpected rotten spots. Those got left for the wildlife and the rest I harvested. They look nice lined up on the side porch where hopefully they will cure and be ready for passing out in Oct.

However, one had a couple of worms in the stem, so I decided it would be fun to explore it today before it rotted. What’s a little more heat in the kitchen on this steamy morning.

We’ll end up with roasted chunks for eating, puree for later use in soups and baked goods, and the best……roasted, slightly salted seeds for snacking!

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Top that off with all the spontaneous learning:

  • pumpkin life cycle
  • size comparison
  • sensory exploration
  • language development – huge, smooth, bumpy, sticky, wet……
  • counting
  • “P” and sound – other “P” words
  • fine motor
  • plant needs and parts
  • team work/cooperation
  • developing attention span
  • problem solving

August 29, 2014
by countryfun

“You Do Assessments?”

As part of Quality of ME I have to do assessments to document progress of the children developmentally. When parents become aware of this the following conversation is common.

  • “What kind of tests do you do?”
  • “I don’t test.”
  • “How do you do assessments then?”
  • “Daily observations. Developmental checklists. Samples of coloring, writing. Video/photos of speech and play.”
  • “What do you do with this information?”

At that time I explain about the private eportfolios I have for each family of children not yet in school.

Collecting samples and checklists are easy to understand, but the daily observations is less clear. Here is what I consider daily observations:

Daily observations are just me watching, listening and internally comparing what I see happening within the space, between children, in different situations and gaining individual skills. To support what I’m witnessing I also take many photos and videos. (You see just a small amount shared through posts on the blog or on Facebook.) I also specifically look for skills that I expect to see developing and/or we have been working on.

What I love doing is taking what I think of as snapshots of a moment. It’s as simple as just snapping a view of the space at one time, seeing what everyone is engaged in at the same time/same place. I can then make notes about what was seen and heard.


Why are assessments like this important?

  1. They support the choice in routine, rules and equipment available for the child directed play.
  2. It helps direct materials I might add in or remove from the space.
  3. It leads me to research areas where I need more knowledge or want current information.
  4. It supports the communication between myself and parents to best provide for each child.
  5. It guides lessons that occur throughout our daily activities.

August 13, 2014
by countryfun

It’s Mine!

The following piece was copied in it’s entirety (photo changed) from No More Worksheets in 2011 and has been posted here multiple times. It so simply and completely expresses the reality of young children. I must admit it brings a smile to my face every time I read it. Think it’s time to post again with the younger group that will be here now.




by Leslie Sausage  in Property Law from a Young Child’s Perspective

by Leslie Sausage  in Social Skills,Teacher Talk

Age-Appropriate Thinking Socially/Emotionally

1. If I like it, it’s MINE.
2. If it’s in my hand, it’s MINE.
3. If I can take it from you, it’s MINE.
4. If I had it a little while ago, it’s MINE.
5. If it’s MINE, it must never appear to be yours in any way.
6. If I’m doing or building something, all the pieces are MINE.
7. If it looks like it’s mine, it’s MINE.
8. If I saw it first, it’s MINE.
9. If I can see it, it’s MINE.
10. If I think it’s mine, it’s MINE.
11. If I want it, it’s MINE.
12. If I “need it, it’s MINE (yes, I know the difference between “want” and “need”!).
13. If I say it’s mine, it’s MINE.
14. If you don’t stop me from playing with it, it’s MINE.
15. If you tell me I can play with it, it’s MINE.
16. If it will upset me too much when you take it away from me, it’s MINE.
17. If I (think I) can play with it better than you can, it’s MINE.
18. If I play with it long enough, it’s MINE.
19. If you are playing with something and you put it down, it automatically becomes MINE.
20. If it’s broken, it’s yours (no wait, all the pieces are MINE).


July 17, 2014
by countryfun

One Pool Noodle and (at least 2) Marbles = Science and Fun!

If you search pool noodles online you will find lots of creative ways to use this easy to find, low cost item with children. I have used for building blocks, ordering ABC’s and numbers, making obstacles courses, whack the beach ball…..

Using the marble raceway set recently reminded me of an idea I had seen where a large pool noodle was cut in half and used as a raceway.


I just happen to have a few large noodles ready laying around and needing a new activity for another inside summer day I got it out. Pool noodles cut really easy with a serrated knife.

I cut completely through one side and then deeper so I was going part way into the opposite side. This allowed the pool noodle to open flat without separating into two pieces. (I taped for a bit more support as the noodle began to be bent in many directions)DSC05066

Then we just needed to add children, their creativity and marbles.

They found out they needed to capture the marbles and they needed a way to hold them at the top for an even start. I solved the start by cutting a slit across the noodle which would fit a jumbo craft stick.DSC05067 Perfect size for smaller fingers to handle – easy in and out.

IMG 1505 from Country Fun Child Care on Vimeo.

Many items have been used to capture the marbles as the children continue to explore the raceway.DSC05065

Where’s the science?

  • problem solving
  • discovering which size marble runs best and why
  • how curving the noodle affects run of the marbles
  • how angle (slope) of run affects speed
  • differences in number of marbles run together

July 15, 2014
by countryfun

When Engaged – Learning Just Seems to Happen

So much of the learning that occurs here comes about naturally through play. I think that’s great and really the best way for children to truly learn what they need when they need it. That’s not to say I do not do direct teaching of concepts. That’s needed at times. It also doesn’t mean I do not set up opportunities to stretch areas of interest, set up problems to be solved, or flat out challenge the children to an activity.

I love sitting back and observing as the children here take a simple activity and stretch it themselves. Adding in a word or two supports their efforts and also lets them know I’m aware and supportive of what they are doing.

The morning of 7/14 found me organizing and sorting out items that I have not used in years, yet are taking up precious shelf space in the room, as the children arrived. They offered to help. I told them I wanted to be sure all the puzzle pieces were present. They offer to make the large floor puzzles up. I told them “to go for it.”

What happens next:

  • communication
  • team work
  • lots of practice around the ABC’s and numbers
  • words were read
  • ordinal practice with ABC’s and numbers through 20
  • self awareness
  • feeling of accomplishment
  • puzzleorganize

To actually see in action watch this video:

This video shows another way they naturally extended the learning. This puzzle was checked for all it’s pieces and they started to then place in order.

Then you get to see their creative side emerge while using the slip ‘n slide. Have you every somersaulted down one? Or maybe been a sliding train? If you don’t feel like getting wet then it’s digging a “super hole” or testing out your balance on the slack line.


Everything stopped instantly when Mr. Toad was spotted hiding on the climbing gym. Observe. Talk about. Question.

Then back to playing.

July 3, 2014
by countryfun

School-age Changes Up Summer Activities

Providing summer care means more time with my school-age children which means I get to stretch my creative side a bit more. Whether it’s pulling together supplies for designing outside obstacle courses or hunting down stored craft project supplies for a surprise project request, I’m never quite sure what each day will bring.

When the weather is sunny and pleasant we spend our days outside.  Six hrs. of sandbox or bike play days on end doesn’t work however, so it’s important to have water play time as well as focused active play.

This week saw carnival games……

carnival games

The first water play of the summer is always fun and the slip and slide is a yearly hit, even in a fairly flat yard space.

IMG 1486 from Country Fun Child Care on Vimeo.

Then the heat/humidity and rain hits which means inside play. If you follow on Facebook you saw the marble raceway I brought out yesterday in action.

Here’s what it looked like during afternoon play and the children having control of the photos. (I always like seeing events from their viewpoint. It’s informative.)


As I mentioned at the beginning, summer is also about creative arts & craft projects. Watercolors have been used a lot this past year by the younger group, so I wasn’t surprised when some school-age asked for them. What I loved is that they painted pictures not only for themselves, but for the younger children as gifts.

DSC04915  DSC04918  DSC04917

Now the watercolors were easy, but the idea of making a headband was definitely unexpected. First step: internet search directions for a 5 strand braid. Then find a stretchy material to use. I hunted for 15 minutes for the ball of homemade t-shirt yarn without success. That meant a raid on my fabric stash where I came up with yardage of a white knit. Knew we had options for adding color later – fabric markers, food coloring or Sharpies with rubbing alcohol. Thought the girls might pick the latter as they’ve done that process before. You can see the how by clicking here.

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June 9, 2014
by countryfun

Homemade Play Yard Fence

Infants have a need to be part of the group, but separated at times for safe play. In the past I have used a purchased play yard fence (on it’s last legs now), but have found them expensive and cumbersome. It’s time to put my thinking cap on and design a play yard fence for inside that would work for my needs: light weight, low cost, adaptable.

I have used pvc piping to make a connect building set, a doorway gate and a puppet theatre. It’s low cost, easy to locate, and easy to work with, so that’s where my design started. I only need a 3 sided fence in the 3 ft square range and at least a foot high for the sides. PVC comes in 10 ft lengths so:

  • 2- 1 ‘ pieces
  • 2- 2 1/2′ pieces
  • 1- 3′ piece

With 2 – 10′ lengths of pvc pipe I can build 3 sides. I used 3/4″ pipe.

Now for fittings:

  • 4 – 90 degree slip on corners
  • 4 – 90 degree outlet elbows

All this for less than $20. The standard play yard fences run around $80, so a nice savings.

PVC can be cut with a hack saw, but I purchased cutters made for cutting pvc pipe when I decided to make the connector building set, so I used them here also. They provide a nice clean cut and are super easy to use.

To build: Place fittings on 1′ pieces: 2 short pieces have the plain elbows on each end. The other 2 have the outlet elbows on each end. Take one of each of these 1′ pieces and connect 2 – 2 1/2′ lengths to make a shorter side. Make the other short side. Now connect the 3′ lengths into the outlet elbows and you have your finished U shape fence. (Cutting pieces to constructed fence about a half hour.)

I made fabric tubes from a light weight knit to slide over the structure. I did 3 separate tubes, because that worked with fabric I had on hand and I only wanted a simple barrier. You could do 1 long tube. You could do straight pieces with small tubes on the long edges to side over each pipe section before building the fence. Not a sewer? Then I would use fusible hem tape. Overlap the long edges to make the fabric tube, placing tape along one edge and iron away.

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The end product is light weight, but solid – a simple barrier. It’s easily moved to accommodate the play in the space. It will also stand up on end when not needed to section off a safe space for a little one. Also thinking can be used for when those special tower structures are being built by older children providing the youngest with maximum use of the space.


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