Archive of ‘Uncategorized’ category

Veggie-loaded Breakfast Bake

IMG_3106

Veggie-loaded Breakfast Bake!

You will need:

Enough eggs to feed your family

A few avocados, diced

Bell pepper, diced (I used red and green)

Chopped cilantro, to taste

½ onion, diced

Cheese of your choice, I used pepperjack

Potatoes

Breakfast sausages (we used sausages from a local, organic farm)

This breakfast was inspired by the beautiful state of New Mexico.  We went there three years ago, when our son was 9 months old.  Some of the best food I’ve eaten was on that trip!

IMG_3116 Breakfast Bake 02

I wanted to spare as many dirty dishes as I could, so I decided to bake my eggs in a glass pan.  If you’ve never tried eggs cooked in coconut oil, this would be a good chance to do so! Add a bit to your glass pan to avoid stuck eggs.  If I was out of coconut oil, I’d reach for my lard from a pastured pig.  Pastured lard is full of omega fatty acids and vitamin D.  Use what you have and prefer. Put your thawed sausages in the pan, and bake at 350 for 10 minutes.

I saw a picture online of hash browns being made in a waffle iron, and decided to try it. Plug it in to let it preheat, than shred the potatoes while your sausages cook. You could also use a food processor, but I figured the cheese grater would save a few pieces of washing later!  I prefer skin on, so I didn’t peel mine.  After shredding, rinse with cool water until it runs clear.  You want to wash away the excess starches.  Squeeze the water out with your hands.  Put the potato shreds in the greased waffle iron, add salt and pepper, and cook on high until crunchy, about 7 minutes.  I did two rounds of hash browns.  The second round had some chopped onion thrown in.  That caramelized up well!

Let’s get back to the oven and check on those sausages.  If they aren’t totally done, it’s okay.  They can finish cooking with the eggs.  I love my eggs with a creamy yolk, so I don’t scramble them.  Just crack them in and cover them with all of those veggies.  Put the shredded cheese and cilantro on top, and pop it back in the oven.  I gave it about 6 minutes, and then turned the broiler on for a minute to melt the cheese a bit more.

The finished product is pretty, tasty, and healthy!  Enjoy!

DIY Easy Book Page Puzzles

Identifying things that go together is a great skill for toddlers to work on. Using pictures they’re familiar with, such as simple illustrations from their favorite book can make this task easier, since they already know what the image looks like.

DIY Easy Book Page Puzzles

Supplies:

  • Printer
  • White card stock
  • Your child’s favorite book with simple illustrations, such as Brown Bear Brown Bear by Eric Carle
  • Optional: Laminating machine

Ahead of time, print and cut out your pictures and cut them in half. Young toddlers don’t need the complication of having a lot of pieces. However, if you were doing this for an older child, you could cut them in to different pieces or even shapes. I was able to find Brown Bear Brown Bear pictures online at 1plus1plus1equals1.com, so I didn’t even have to take the time to scan the pictures, just print them right out. Also, if you happen to have a laminator, I would highly recommend laminating your pieces. Peanut had half of our pictures scrunched up by the end of the activity and I had wished I laminated the pieces.

DIY Easy Book Page Puzzles

To start, I spread all of the pictures out on the floor so Peanut could see all the pictures. Then, I asked her to find the puppy, which I knew she’d be able to identify. When she found the puppy head I I asked, “Where’s the rest of the puppy?” Then, I helped her find the back of the dog and put the picture together.

Then, we continued with the other animals. Sometimes Peanut would identify an animal on her own and then we’d hunt for the rest of the picture and sometimes I would have to point out a picture, name the animal, and help her find the rest of the picture. If Peanut was having trouble finding the pictures that matched, I’d help her out by picking up a few different pieces and asking her if it was the rest of the animal we were looking for. Obviously she wouldn’t get it right every time, but she would get really excited and scream, “Yeah!” when we realized a picture was what we were really looking for. Then she’d grab the piece from me and try to  put the pictures together (which is where a lot of our scrunched up pieces came from).

DIY Easy Book Page Puzzles

As we built the pictures, I set them aside completed in a long row so we could see all of the work we’d done. When we were done I also asked Peanut what each animal was and the sound it made. Peanut had a lot of fun and even when I thought she was done she wanted to play with the pieces more.

Vocabulary used in play:
“This is a puzzle!”
“Which animal is this?”
“What sound does the (dog, cat, horse, etc.) make?”
“Does that look like the right picture to go with this one?”
“Where’s the rest of the (dog, cat, horse, etc.)?”
“Do these go together?”
“That looks silly, I don’t think that’s the right picture.”
“That looks like a dog, I think we found the right picture!”
“What an awesome job your doing of looking for the right picture! You’re working so hard!”

Had a laminated the pieces, I would have put them in a plastic bag and kept them as a busy bag activity for when I needed something to keep Peanut occupied without my help.

Tissue Paper Butterfly Toss

These easy to make butterflies can provide fun for days, especially if you introduce a bug net to the play!

Tissue Paper Butterfly Toss and Catch for Toddlers

Supplies:

To make the butterflies:

  1. Cut tissue paper into rectangles about 2.5 x 3 inches or so.
    SONY DSC
  2. Stack 2-3 pieces of tissue paper together.
  3. Pinch the rectangle in the middle.Tissue paper butterfly making
  4. Wrap 1 pipe cleaner around the pinched middle.Tissue paper butterfly making
  5. Done!

I pre-made the butterflies so Peanut wouldn’t have to wait on me making butterflies to be entertained. To introduce the activity to her I simply grabbed the butterflies and tossed them in the air over her head. She thought it was hilarious! She thought it was even better when I told her she could throw them around.

Tissue Paper Butterfly Toss and Catch for Toddlers

She ran around picking up one or two butterflies at a time and throwing them the best she could. I would collect as many as I could and toss them in the air for her to try and catch.

Tissue Paper Butterfly Toss and Catch for Toddlers

The next day I decided we’d add our bug net to the mix, which added a whole new level of fun. Not only could we collect all the butterflies in the net, we could flip them all back out again. She tried scooping them up in the net from the floor, but could never quite get them. She ended up mostly picking the butterflies up to put them in her net.

Tissue Paper Butterfly Toss and Catch for Toddlers

Vocabulary used in play:
“Catch the butterflies!”
“They’re flying!”
“Throw them.”
“Toss them.”
“Catch it!”
“Get the net.”
“Put the butterflies in the net.”

These little guys are great to keep handy in a Ziploc bag in a kitchen drawer or somewhere near where you might need a quick distraction. The net required a bit more supervision so Peanut didn’t end up knocking a picture off the wall, but the butterflies themselves are a great independent activity!

Outdoor Crayon Rubbings for Toddlers

Simplifying this favorite activity for younger children is a great way to get a toddler-approved activity outside!

Outdoor Crayon Rubbings for Toddlers

Supplies:
Paper
Crayons

Outdoor Crayon Rubbings for Toddlers

I took our bucket of crayons outside with a few sheets of paper and put the paper on the cement. I asked Peanut if she wanted to color and she was more than happy to join me. First we colored on the concrete. Then we moved to the stair, which has some larger bumps. Then we moved to her picnic table and finally the grass.

Outdoor Crayon Rubbings for Toddlers

Peanut always took a minute to figure out why I wanted her to color in these strange places and lingered at the picnic table the longest. And she honestly spent more time dumping the crayons out of their bucket and putting them back in than she did coloring. But, she got the experience and that’s all that matters!

Vocabulary used in play: 
Crayon
Bucket
Paper
“That’s really rough when you color on it, isn’t it?”
“This surface is really bumpy!”
“The table is smooth to color on.”
“The grass is squishy, it’s hard to color on.”
“The rug is soft.”
“The bucket is loud when you drop it!”

This one is so easy and highly engaging! Get out there (in the morning before it gets too hot!) and try this one!

Wet Oats and Noodles Sensory Play

Wet Oats and Pasta Sensory activity for toddlers

This post from Fun-A-Day! was the inspiration for this activity. While the activity on her blog looked super fun, we went a little more simple for our toddler sensory activity.

Wet Oats & Pasta Sensory Activity for Toddlers

Supplies:
Old-Fashioned Oats
Dry noodles of any variety (we used macaroni)
1-3 spoons
A medium-large sized bowl
table cloth (if you’re doing the activity inside and want to contain the mess)
Recommended: a long sleeved art smock

This messy sensory activity was very easy to set up! If you need a quick, engaging activity where you don’t mind a big clean up, this one is great in a pinch since you probably already have the supplies in your pantry.

Wet Oats & Pasta Sensory Activity for Toddlers

I dumped a couple of cups of oats and some noodles into a bowl and added some water. I let the mess sit for a few minutes so the oats could soak up the water. At first I hadn’t added enough water and the oats were still pretty dry. I just added more and waited a couple of more minutes. When my mixture was right I set out the spoons and the bowl of “mush” on the table cloth and suited Peanut up in her smock.

Wet Oats & Pasta Sensory Activity for Toddlers

Oh, Peanut and her inability to get messy. She touched it once, looked at me with her hand in the air and said, “Yucky.” So, I showed her how to use the spoons to play with it instead. We mixed and stirred and folded the “mush” and eventually she got so caught up in it she forgot how yucky it was and started using her hands.

Wet Oats & Pasta Sensory Activity for Toddlers

Vocabulary we used while playing:
sticky
mushy
wet
hard
stir
mix
fold
bowl
spoon
spatula
messy

When she decided she was done, there was quite a mess on her and the table cloth. Here’s my hint for clean up: wash the smock right away but leave the table cloth to dry out. When it’s try, the big chunks shake right off and you can wipe the rest clean.

Next week’s shopping list

Here is your shopping list for next weeks activities! Come back Sunday night for the complete plan with links to all of the activities!

Computer

Large rubber bands

Shoe box

Stickers or Markers

Variety of tools such as wrenches and sockets

Old-fashioned oats

Sand

Sand box

Old kitchen tools (or cheap tools from the dollar store used for play)

Ice

Water

Pitcher

Plastic measuring cup with spout

Plastic cup

Plastic reusable condiment dispenser

Golf tees

Green floral foam blocks

Wooden Spoon

Small backpack (will be used a lot in the future)

Book of choice (see post for more information)

Related to book coloring page & clip board

Large crayons

Related to book small toys

Sand paper

Orange and yellow washable tempera paint

Paintbrushes

Elmer’s glue

Water Book

Water Noodle cut into pieces

Contact paper

Customizable coloring page from http://www.frecklebox.com/free-personalized-coloring-pages-63t.aspx

Does your daycare stack up?


Does your daycare stack up?

Not all of us are lucky enough to stay at home. Which means some of us have the unlucky task of choosing child care for our little loves. Picking a daycare is one of the hardest things you have to do as a parent. Not only are you picking the people who are responsible for your child’s safety while you’re apart, but those who are educating them in some of the most formidable years of their life. How can you know if your daycare is up to snuff when you are not there all day to watch over your provider? Here are some big clues I’ve come up with over the years during child care facility observations, my time as a preschool teacher, classroom teacher, and parent.

This list of clues is fairly comprehensive. A child care facility which was perfect on each level would be hard to come by, so as you’re reading, understand that the daycare that’s right for your child may not have all of these or they may have other qualities you find important. Also, understand that I am using the terms daycare, child care, center, facility, etc. as blanket terms. This list is a great place to start whether you’re looking at a large child care center or a small home daycare.

  • Environment. What happens when you walk through the door of your child’s daycare? I’m not talking about if you’re acknowledged or said hello to, but how do you feel? Does it make you happy to be there? Is it colorful? Are their interesting things for the kids to see at their eye-level? Not just toys, but posters or artwork? Does it feel bright and is the temperature comfortable? 
  • Cleanliness. How clean is the facility? Do you actually see the staff cleaning things? Is there a routine for cleaning
    after meals and messy art activities? Can you see cleanliness when you walk in? Does it smell clean? Is there a system for monitoring if toys have been mouthed in the baby or toddler rooms and then cleaning them before other children play with them? Cleanliness is a sign of pride in the facility. If it’s not clean, the staff doesn’t have much pride in their workplace, which means they’re likely not as dedicated to the center as they should be. Another sign of cleanliness can be how often the workers are sick. If the center is doing everything they can to be clean and healthy, staff should generally (everyone gets stick sometimes!) be able to stay healthy even though they’re working with snotty kids all day. :)
  • Do the kids contribute to the environment? Is their artwork displayed? Can they see it? Is it changed out regularly, signaling that new activities are planned often? How are the kids made to feel important and loved? Are there 
    pictures of the children up? Are their names displayed? How at home are the kids made to feel? Is the space really theirs or is it just a place they’re kept?
  • Are their routines? Kids are happier when things are predictable. Ensuring that your daycare has a well scheduled routine can be a major factor in how good the daycare is. Not only does it make things easier on the kids, it keeps the teachers on track to get everything in for the day. From naps, snacks, and diaper changes, to outdoor time, circle times, and sensory activities…a schedule keeps everyone on track. It’s even better if the schedule is displayed somewhere in the classroom with pictures for kiddos who can’t read yet.
  • What do you see happening? This is the biggest factor. As I stated before, there should be good routines and schedules in place, so if you come in at exactly the same time every day you may see the exact same things happening every day. Kids do need time to warm up to the environment when they first get to daycare and free play is a great way to transition in and out. But, if you have the ability to stop by at different times, what do you see going on? Are teachers engaged with the kids? Are teachers “teaching” or leading activities? Do you see arts and crafts happening? Do you see children being read to? Chances are, if you NEVER see these things happening (even if you do come at a certain time) they’re not happening. Especially with younger children, who tend to have more “child-based” schedules. A big red flag can be if you constantly see teachers just talking to each other.
  • Materials. Is there a variety of materials available to your child to use? Not only for arts and crafts, but for different areas of play. Is there a gross motor area (inside and out), is there manipulative play suitable for your child’s age group? Are their sensory and art areas? Is your child allowed to play with and discover a variety of mediums, not necessarily in one day, but are you seeing things be changed out? How often are toys rotated? Is there any sort of toy rotation? Do you see new things being introduced on a regular basis? Are children bored with the toys or do they seem to be enjoying them? Below is a more specific list of what you should see based on your child’s age:
    • Infant (Birth-mobility): Look for a variety of (clean) infant positioners, such as: Boppy pillows, Bumbo chairs (safely on the floor), tummy time mats, swings, bouncy seats, comfortable blankets. It’s very important for muscle development that infants are moved regularly, if they’re not already mobile. Check for a schedule of rotation to ensure all of the babies are getting the opportunity to use all of the positioners appropriate for them. There should be visually stimulating toys such a mobiles and things they can track. Manipulative such as rattles, teethers, and board books. Toys with a variety of textures items children can touch and feel. There doesn’t necessarily need to be lots of toys with lights and music. In fact, in a daycare those can be rather over-stimulating for infants. Cribs and comfortable places for sleep. A rocker for putting children to sleep is great, too. A completely separate area for sleep is even better. Also look for he center’s method of tracking feedings, diapers, and naps for infants. There is no way they could keep the kids schedules straight with out them. Trust me, I’ve been there and there is so much going on you NEED to write it down.
    • Toddlers (mobility-usually age 3): Water or sand tables for sensory activities, tables for art projects as well as meals and snacks, a variety of manipulative toys suitable for small hands that cannot be choked on, a gross motor area, blocks, cars, baby dolls or other pretend play toys. A variety of books and comfortable places for children to “read”. Places to wash hands and facilities for diapered children as well as children who are potty training.
    • Preschoolers (3-school age): Essentially the same as a toddler room although manipulative are more advanced, smaller and more numerous, there is more opportunity for pretend play, and more area for structured activities such as circle times or science experiments.
  • Planning. Do teachers work from lesson plans or a curriculum? Even with the smallest of children, having a plan is critical. If there is no plan, children are not being introduced to new experiences and the center is likely “stuck in a rut” of what is easiest for them to do.
  • Teacher Training. Early childhood education degrees are becoming increasingly popular. While most states do not require preschool or daycare teachers to have a college education, looking for a center where teachers hold an early childhood education degree (or similar) is important. However, I do suggest looking experience as well. There are a lot of great preschool teachers who have been teaching for decades that are just as qualified, if not more so, than the college-educated teachers.
  • Teacher-Child Interactions. Unfortunately, teachers will be on their best behavior when parents are around (aren’t we all when someone else is around?). So, most of the time you won’t be able to see exactly how the teacher might interact with your child when you’re not present. However, do keep an eye on interactions when you’re there. Do you see teachers calming dealing with behavior issues or problems? Are touches gentile and caring? Red flags would be teachers yelling or screaming at children, saying hurtful things, or touching a child roughly. If they’re willing to do these things in front of you, what are they willing to do when you’re not there? This is a great place to use your instincts. If the provider just doesn’t seem to interact well with children, seems unhappy to be there, or is awkward with the children, it’s probably best to look elsewhere.
  • Communication. What sort of a system is set up for communicating with parents? Often times (great) teachers are too busy with other children when you walk in to talk with each parent individual on a daily basis. Is there a way for the teacher to communicate with you even if they are busy? Is there a note home or a board displaying what the children did that day? Are you able to know when your child slept, ate, and was diapered? What about during times of potty training or other transitions? A great center will always have a way to communicate.
  • Quality of materials. From toys to dishes, playground equipment to cots, good quality daycares are going to insure that their facilities house great products. Not necessarily expensive items, but well kept items. Toys will not be broken or damaged. Things that are not in working quality will be replaced regularly for children’s safety. Something can be old, but in great condition. Once again, this can be a sign of pride in the center itself.

The following are some things that are NOT determining factors in your child’s daycare quality. They may seem great on the surface, but when you dig a bit deeper they are not sufficient clues.

  • The name. Simply because it’s a “child development center” or a super cute name like “Susie’s Sweet Lambs” doesn’t mean it’s any good. There are little to no regulations on child care facility names. Someplace may call themselves a “daycare” but in fact offer a much more enriching environment than a “child development center”. 

  • Using fancy terminology. There are a lot of politically correct terms floating around early childhood education these days. Phrases like “developmentally appropriate”, “engaging”, “circle time”, “literacy rich”, etc. come out of the mouth of many early childhood “educators”. However, it’s best to judge a center on what they’re doing rather than if they use fancy words when you’re getting a tour or interviewing. See activities that are engaging and appropriate for your child’s age group happening is a much better determining factor than the tour guide telling you they happen, when in all actuality they’re only occurring on a sporadic occasion.
  • Location. I say this cautiously. If your daycare is in a strip mall, a home, or a fancy new stand-alone facility….any of those locations can be great. It just matters what is on the INSIDE of the facility. It can be in a brand new, state of the art building but hold no other standard true. So, don’t be blinded by the smell of fresh paint.
  • Cost & size. The small in-home daycare down the street that cost a third of the price as the large center down the block can provide just as good of care and education. The people and the overall environment are much more important than the cost or size of the facility you choose.

There you have it. Some important things to look for when you’re trying to decide on a daycare for your little one. What questions do you have about looking for a quality day care?

Shopping List for Next Week’s Toddler Lesson Plans

As promised, here is your shopping list. I still have a few posts to write before I put up the actual lesson plan, but I wanted to get the list up for you so you can do your shopping over the weekend!

Enjoy!

Shopping List:

painting tape (or similar that will easily come off a window)
contact paper
tissue paper squares
sidewalk chalk
Instant pudding
Bubbles
1 cup salt
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon oil
few drop fresh lemon juice
fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano, or mint
pom poms
paper towel or toilet paper roll
plastic cups, preferably clear
stickers
beads or beans
duct tape or electrical tape
bean bags
Memory game
Shaving cream
Sea shells, large to medium in size
2×4 board, at least 2-3 feet long
sand box
sand toys (shovel, bucket, sifter, etc.)
water beads

OTHER STUFF YOU’LL NEED:
Things you probably have or can’t “get” but should plan for
Ice
Water/watering can
Items for outdoor obstacle course (use whatever you can find!)
A park—find one with in walking distance!
milk

%d bloggers like this: