COUNTRY FUN

~ early education care ~ where our play supports our learning

September 5, 2017
by countryfun
Comments Off on Monster Puppet, Sticks and Onion….. not Apples

Monster Puppet, Sticks and Onion….. not Apples

I have the Fall preschool unit on apples and pumpkins all ready to go, but right now the children have different ideas. Since I believe that children learn best when they have a strong interest the planned lessons will keep and we’ll follow their lead.

Go Away Big Green Monster has been a favorite book over the years and it is one being continually read on just now. One preschooler early this morning found an old green monster puppet I had made years past and wanted to make one themself. No problem… this “envelope” puppet style is very simple to make and I always have material for it on hand.

Take a sheet of construction paper, holding the long way, fold both ends in until just overlap. Glue the overlap. Take the top end and cut down both side about 1″. Then cut across just the paper that that has been overlapped. This will provide you with a flap you glue and fold over. You now have what I think of as an “envelope puppet”.

Following the construction of the green monster we cut out the needed facial features. Once glued in place the puppet was ready to use.

Then, it was all about a “stick” collection. Well, we have plenty of sticks, so all we needed was a box for collection. We’ll find ways to compare size, work with idea of shortest to longest, count, observe and describe. Thinking might be able to do a bit of crafting stick figures the next day or so ………

It’s also time to harvest the garden and a favorite vegetable for young children to harvest is the onion. Especially when the last weeding of the bed was missed. The onion bed is looking pretty green, so we needed to hunt for all the dried leaves. Once found it’s all about pulling the onions out. Pulling and pushing are important concepts for young children and having opportunities for these actions on a variety of levels is important.

harvesting onions from Country Fun Child Care on Vimeo.

Our onion harvest means lots of teamwork as we have lots of onions to clean, sort, count and prep for winter storage.

sorting onions from Country Fun Child Care on Vimeo.

……… So no apples or pumpkins today, but lots of learning right at the appropriate level for each child involved.

 

July 3, 2017
by countryfun
Comments Off on Why Garden with Children?

Why Garden with Children?

I am often asked why I garden with young children.

First, I garden in my personal life and I think it’s important to share my interests with the children I care for. Second, I think it’s important for children to learn to care for growing things. Third, gardening offers learning experiences that support all the different developmental levels of the children here.

We start gardening here with seeds and follow them through harvest. What better way to learn that living things have life cycles. We also know that when children are hands on they are more open to trying new things. With our garden that means trying a large variety of vegetables and the meals prepared with them.

The gardening is really starting to show changes, so today we had a garden hunt where we went looking for: different kinds of leaves; blossoms; and any vegetables growing.

Here’s what we found: Pie Pumpkin, Pickling Cucumber, Zucchini (yellow italian) all growing behind their blossoms. Blossoms on the tomatoes, but no tomatoes.

 

 

We were also able to see how the leaves of these plants were similar in shape, but the size was different. Comparing leaves the children found the pumpkins were the largest leaves.

 

 

 

 

We did find one group of vining plants with blossoms (no fruit yet) with different leaves – darker green and more curves on the edges. Do you know what it is? 

We also found pea pods finally fat enough to harvest. Of course we needed to count the pods, arrange by size and even count how many peas were in some of the different pods as we taste tested.  It doesn’t get much sweeter than freshly picked raw peas!

  

Here are some of the different leaves we found:

How many plants did you recognize by their leaves?

~ onions, cabbage, dill, lima beans, lettuce, kale, tomato, carrots, rutabaga, sunflower ~

We also found bugs making dinner of the leaves of the eggplants ~

And Broccoli! That’s one common vegetable that everyone here knows the name for.

What’s fun is learning that when we eat broccoli we are eating the flower blossoms before they open up.

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All that learning from the garden, as it begins to provide us with more than mixed salad greens for our lunches.

It’s fun to be in the garden daily seeing all the changes. Reinforcing lessons learned and experiencing new ones.

We’ve also been harvesting the herbs. Which is a totally fun sensory experience!

 

May 25, 2017
by countryfun
Comments Off on Some Rhubarb Recipes…….

Some Rhubarb Recipes…….

Rhubarb Quick Bread ~ (note I use my flour blend for any quick bread: equal parts reg. flour/whole wheat flour and wheat germ ~ I make up a large batch and keep stored in the freezer)

Beat:

  • 1 – 1/2 C brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 C salad oil

Add:

  • 1 C sour milk ( regular works – I add a good dash of white vinegar to sour it)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2-1/2 C flour

Mix well to combine. Add in:

  • 1 -1/2 C fresh rhubarb, 1/2″ dice (about 2 good stalks)
  • optional – 1/2 C nuts of choice or raw sunflower seeds

Mix to combine. Split between 2 grease loaf pans. BAke 325 oven for 60 minutes or until tests done.

Freezes well.

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Rhubarb Muffins ~

Preheat oven to 400. Grease muffin tin.

  • 1 cup sour milk (I use 1% with 2 tsp reg. vinegar added)
  • 1/4 C vegetable oil (I use canola)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla (real, not extract)
  • 1 -1/2 C brown sugar
  • 2 -1/2 C flour (I use my baking mix – equal parts reg flour, whole wheat flour and wheat germ)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp each baking soda and baking powder
  • 3 (generous) cups chopped rhubarb (I like pieces at 1/2″ or less for baked goods. I find the flavor is more pleasant and children are not always fans of larger chunks.)

To save on pans and utensils for easier clean-up we mix everything in the order presented here in one pan. If you mix all the wet ingredients, then the brown sugar you will not be over mixing the flour which leads to a firmer baked good. By sprinkling the salt and baking soda and powder over the flour they will blend in well when mixed.

Mix until just blended/moistened. Now fold in the rhubarb.

We fill the muffin tins for smaller muffins, so no more than 2/3 full. Bake 10 – 15 minutes. Cool before eating as the rhubarb chunks hold the heat a bit.

This batter provides for a couple of dozen muffins this way or as we often do – make 1 dozen muffins and bake the remaining batter off as a quick bread – oven of 350. I start checking after 1/2 hour. The baking time will depend on how deep the batter is in the (greased) loaf pan.

May 24, 2017
by countryfun
Comments Off on Rhubarb is Here!

Rhubarb is Here!

For many, when they hear “learning”, they think structured lessons. All the “learning” occurring in the everyday activities of our children is so often overlooked. For me, being able to combine gardening and baking together offers multiple opportunities to be taking advantage of “learning” from an everyday activity.

Here’s a quick look at some of the “Learning” I see happening when I’m in the kitchen with children:

  • Demonstrates increasing capacity to follow rules and routines
  • Develops and communicates a growing awareness of self as having certain abilities, characteristics, preferences, and rights
  • Interacts with one or more children
  • Expresses an eagerness to participate in and learn about a widening range of topics, ideas, and tasks
  • Applies prior experiences, senses, and knowledge to new learning situations
  • Uses basic personal hygiene practices and understands that those practices help to maintain good health
  • Matches a number of objects with written numeral
  • Counting
  • Understands that numbers have multiple uses
  • Identifies problems and proposes ways to solve them
  • Observes, describes and investigates changes in materials and cause and effect relationships
  • Demonstrates the knowledge and skills needed to perform particular jobs and tasks
  • Identifies tools and technology used at home, school and work
  • Knows and discusses where some products come from

To start any cooking together, we talk safety, cleanliness and then gather the supplies needed (includes tools, recipe and ingredients). We then discuss things like: how to sit/stand so all could be involved; how to count as we measure (not until pouring or adding to mix); and review the different tools for purpose of usage. The real engagement happens once we actually start baking.

As each item is added to the bowl/pan we: looked at it’s texture; smell and/or taste; talk about where or how it grows; color; shape; past experiences with; etc. As we continue we discuss the changes as each new item is added – why changed, how changed, etc.

Whenever possible the children pour, mix, et. as we work through the recipe. Turns are taken with awareness of the different abilities for participation.

All done prepping and into the oven, then everyone helps with clean-up putting everything back where it should be.

Every group I have had here loves time in the kitchen!

With the garden starting to provide a harvest we will be spending even more time in the kitchen. Right now a good bit will be working with the rhubarb harvest.

The bed is lush and producing way more than I can use this year, even with canning, so if anyone would like some for home use please let me know. I’m happy to share.

Rhubarb is an excellent source of many vitamins like C, K, A and B-complex. It is high in dietary fiber and is a good source of calcium.  Rhubarb is low in sodium and saturated fat. To get the best nutrition from rhubarb, it is suggested that it be baked or stewed for a long period of time.

Besides using Rhubarb for sauces and jams think quick breads and muffins. Also a healthy side dish when cooked with apples and oranges sprinkling with cinnamon and/or ginger. This is a nice change up with pancakes or waffles.

 

Tomorrow I’ll post a couple of separate posts of recipes we are baking up with the 2017 rhubarb harvest.

 

March 16, 2017
by countryfun
Comments Off on Country Fun’s New Store

Country Fun’s New Store

As a teacher I’m always encouraging my young learners to try new things, explore, experiment, get messy and make mistakes. It’s a lesson I do my best to model for them. For me technology is where I find I’m definitely challenged, but ultimately rewarded when I push myself to engage.

I continually find today’s ever changing technology continues to allow new ways to support the children and families here – social media, Seesaw’s eportfolios or credit card payments.

In 2015, I made the decision to accept credit cards for payment. After researching pros and cons of options and the companies offering processing of credit card payment, I chose Square and have been happy with that choice. From all feedback it has been a positive for families here too.

Trying to answer a question that has recently arisen again, I decided to try out another avenue Square offers – so now there is a Country Fun Child Care store online.

This store has 4 products: full-time care, part-time care, Sibling care and parcel care. Prices are set, and there is a no return policy in place. 

Just because it’s available, free and easy to set-up, one might ask “What’s the value of a store for a family child care?”…….. hm………. maybe purchases of care being given as gifts………..

We’ll find out over time.

February 3, 2017
by countryfun
Comments Off on Butterflies in February!

Butterflies in February!

Having a good collection of materials that reflects common interests of young children means I can quickly gather items to be used to expand the creative play of the young children here.

As part of our kitchen gear, I have small plastic spice jars with lids that snap open/close or twist off. The twist is a bit too hard for the motor skills just yet and the snap open/close while a challenge is interesting for the children. Yesterday afternoon found the jars being played with as normal – open/close, open/close. Then there was a change……

…….”my butterfly flied away.”

I watched to see where this would lead wondering how I might encourage an expansion of the play. Another child asked where the butterfly was and an answer was provided. I asked what color it was. “Blue”. I then asked if they could see any other butterflies fluttering around the room? Immediately started to look around and jump up to catch them with the jars. The play keep building. I thought of the butterfly nets I have in storage (usually used in the summer – fall). I got them out and some interesting butterflies managed to be caught….. fork, wrench, stuffed turtle, book……. Parents began to pick-up, so play ended. I left the nets on the shelf wondering if might get used another day…….

Morning play found the nets in use, so I decided to expand the learning some more – What supplies were readily at hand?

Water color paints, coffee filters = circle, primary color and color blending to secondary colors,

divided bead storage containers and pipettes = fine motor and some science, counting, language

pipe cleaners and jumbo craft sticks = Butterfly Stick Puppets

We have reached an age where developing skills and interest is allowing for some fun creative projects, so I asked if they wanted to make butterflies this morning. “YES!!!”

Aprons on, materials ready,  demonstration of pipette done, so it’s time to explore………

Two coffee filters wasn’t enough for “B”, so some scrap paper to use up the rest of the paint. All about the mixing colors now.

Off to play while drying. Once dried comes the harder part, definitely needing more adult hands-on.

  1. Gather (“smash”) the coffee filter so it makes a long, not ball shape.
  2. “Kiss” the 2 ends of a pipe cleaner and “smash” together so you bend it in half.
  3. Place the gathered coffee filter into the folded pipe cleaner. Twist it about halfway up.
  4. Now open up the filter – “It makes wings!”  (I did not show a finished product, so here was the first true view of their butterfly.)
  5. Bend ends of pipe cleaners for the antenna. You’re done. Or not………

I thought the children would have more fun if the butterflies were made into stick puppets. (Also thought they might last a bit longer.)

Hot glue on one end of the craft stick,  turn it over and push it down onto the pipe cleaner = a butterfly puppet.

Butterflies in Feburary from Country Fun Child Care on Vimeo.

January 5, 2017
by countryfun
Comments Off on Listening Is Important and Needs to be Taught

Listening Is Important and Needs to be Taught

We teach our children so many other skills, but do we really think about teaching them to listen?

The art of listening is something children will use throughout their entire lives and while it usually takes a back seat to learning how to talk, walk, ABC’s… it really is just as important a skill. Maybe even more important.

So how does one go about teaching “listening”?

Believe it or not there are many simple and fun ways to teaching listening skills. Think “PLAY”, the natural way children learn. When participating in any of the activities below be sure to comment on “what a good listener” they are. That the connection that draws a child’s attention to listening as a skill that’s a positive in them learning. That’s the teaching.

  1. Play games like, “Simon Says,” or “I Spy”. Play “Clue” games that involve following clues/directions to find a hidden (or in our case lost) object. We also like to play “Who says…….” – make an animal sound and have them label it. If your good make other sounds like a truck backing up, popcorn popping, ….
  2. Sing favorite songs together. Then when singing it again (which we all know children love to do) change up some of the important words. See if they notice and point out your “mistakes.” Do this a few times and you’ll find them always watching for you to “make mistakes” again. They might even start making their own “mistakes” for you to catch.
  3. Talk about sounds. When talking with your child about the ordinary things that are happen during their day be sure to ask them about the things you both are hearing. For example- talk about the sounds you hear as you are outside like birds, airplanes, traffic.
  4. Ask those “predictor” questions. When reading books aloud asking questions about what they think will happen next. At the end of the story, question them about events in the story to see how well they were listening. No “yes” or “no” questions, we want information shared. This activity works better for children as they are getting closer to preschool age. They need some base of language to follow through on clearly answering the questions. Do not let this stop you from asking right from the start. Every engagement is an opportunity to support your child’s learning.

We can teach listening skills through fun or play activities, but it’s just as important that we model good listening when we are with our children.

  1. Be at eye level. We know it’s easier to talk to someone when you are on the same level. Our children deserve that also. Getting down to their level makes that connection and it’s more likely they will focus and listen to you. If it’s hard to kneel down, adapt – pick them up, sit in chairs. What’s most important is that you’re eye to eye, or on a similar level.
  2. Use a normal (volume) voice speaking at a steady pace, in a language your child can understand. Please with toddlers, don’t dumb down your language (baby talk). First they understands more than you realize and second we want them to hear rich expanded language. If they do not hear it how are they to learn it?
  3. Say it once and give them so time to respond by words or action. Saying it over and over means they don’t need to listen the first time, and that is not a behavior pattern we want to set in place or encourage. Try it again using different words, making sure your directions aren’t too wordy, and really are appropriate for the developmental level of the child. If your child continues not to respond after you have adapted, this time repeat the directions and then gently show them the way or how to follow your directions.
  4. Keep your word. If you tell a child that they must eat a good meal or they can’t have dessert, stick to it. Developing a reason to listen is part of one’s listening skills, so it’s important that children know you mean it and will consistently follow through.
  5. Control your yelling. It’s often better to drop your voice tone or whisper to get a child’s attention. When they are ignoring you, it’s tempting to yell to get them to do what you want. However, if you yell too much, they are just learning to tune you out, or just see this speaking as normal. Save your loud voice for times when you really need it, like if you notice your toddler is about to run out into the street.
  6. Listen to your child.  This seems like such common sense, but so often we do not truly listen to them. Remember good role models are needed in developing good listening skills. The other benefit of listening to your child is supporting the development of their personal sense of self-worth.
  7. Repeat what you hear them saying. Take the opportunity to expand by adding a descriptive word. This not only works on listening skills, but increases their vocabulary.

Listening is also more than just “listen” and “follow the directions” or “respond”. Listening is really how we communicate. No matter the age we need to be having real conversations with our children. Talk with them, not at them. Really listen to them and show them that you are, through your responses. These conversations with you, help them learn about the flow of conversations. Even with an infant these conversations, which as usually “silly”, are encouraging listening skill development while making those important personal connections.

 

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