Friday, 27 April 2012

Rainbow Rice

To make rainbow rice to play with, start by gathering what you will need. Rubbing alcohol, food coloring, uncooked rice, 3 glass bowls, paper towels, plates/cookie sheets to dry rice on and a large bowl or rubbermaid container. Buy a very large bag of rice to ensure you have enough for several children to play with.


Pour 1-2 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol into glass bowl. Add 1-2 drops of food coloring.

Add uncooked white rice. Mix for about 30 seconds.

Spoon rice out of liquid.

Place rice on a piece of paper towel to dry. Takes a couple of hours to dry completely when spread out thin.

Mix more colors.

red + blue = purple
blue + yellow= green
red + yellow = orange

 Start with a big bowl/container of white rice
 Add a new color of rice each day until you have all the colors of the rainbow!

Put rice in a large plastic rubbermaid container to play. Add scoops, clear plastic bottles, funnels, measuring spoons, soup ladles, and mixing spoons. Let the fun begin! Do not eat.
(You can color uncooked dry pasta this way too. Add it to crafts)

Monday, 16 April 2012

Storing Outdoor Play Materials

Well, now that you have reviewed your inventory of outdoor materials, it is time to make sure that they are organized and available to the children so that they are easily accessible and quick to clean up.

When it comes to organizing outdoor toys, the same strategies that you would use inside also apply for outside. I grew up with the saying: "A place for everything and everything in its place" and when you assign a specific home for toys, they are more likely to be put away. There are many options for outdoor toy storage, and it is best if things are stored in a covered area away from the rain/snow. If you have a garage, that's great, but under the deck or patio works, too. You can also purchase outdoor storage containers that are normally used for deck storage, but also work great for outdoor play items.

Here are a few ideas for outdoor storage that you can adapt for your own situation:

The most important thing to remember is to label your containers - this helps at clean up time. You can purchase plastic luggage tags and slide a piece of paper inside to label bins. There are also many different types of labels available - some can even be written on with chalk and then erased if you change what's in the container. Make sure whatever type of label you do choose will work indoors and outdoors, depending on where your storage is.

You don't need to spend a lot of money on containers, either. Dollar stores, second-hand stores, Walmart, and Superstore all have a variety of inexpensive baskets and bins available. Make sure that you know what types and sizes of baskets you will need BEFORE you buy any - there is nothing more frustrating that spending money on things that you don't need or don't fit on your shelves.

And remember, even toddlers can be taught how to put toys away. Once you have things organized, spend some time teaching the children where everything belongs, and practice putting items away. It may take a few days of guidance from you, but once they learn where everything goes it will help things stay tidy in your outdoor play space and keep things more sane for you.

Have some outdoor storage ideas to share? Leave a comment and share it with our readers!

Happy organizing!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Outdoor Play Materials

Despite the occasional snowfall, the winter months are now behind us and spring is in the air. This is a great time to take inventory of your outdoor materials available for play. This list is certainly not limited to what is mentioned - be creative with what you offer children to play with and watch their imaginations grow! Most of these items can be easily found at the Dollar Store, Goodwill, or Walmart at a reasonable cost.

Gardening: children's gardening tools, child sized rakes, a variety of seeds, planters or pots, watering cans, gardening gloves.

Natural Materials: pine cones, sea shells, stones, leaves, seed pods, moss

Water and Sand: hoses, spray bottles, sprinklers, turkey basters, paint brushes, cars, trucks, buckets, cups, bowls, shovels, sifters, funnels, sponges, boats, scoops, muffin tins, squeeze bottles, medicine droppers, soup ladle, strainer, containers of various sizes.

Art/Painting: big pieces of paper, foam brushes, rollers, sponges, easel, paint brushes, paint, markers, chalk, bingo dabbers.

Sculpting: clay, playdough, wet sand or mud, cornstarch goop, accessories like straws, pipe cleaners, feathers, etc.

Dramatic Play: boxes, small tent or blankets, play house, toy kitchen set, tool set, dress up clothes, dishes, play food.

Gross Motor: balls of different sizes and materials, tricycles, riding toys, bean bags, hoola hoops, small basket ball net, bowling set, parachute, skipping ropes, bubble wands, bubble solution.

Of course you need to make sure that the materials you provide are age appropriate and that you are adequately supervising the children while they play. If you have a variety of age groups in your dayhome or family, divide your outdoor space into different areas, and distribute the materials according to age. Make sure that some activities are done all together, such as the kitchen play set, a small tent, and parachute games.

With these types of materials available, you will never have to hear "there is nothing to do outside" and your children will benefit from fresh air, exercise, and an expanded view of her or his world.

Coming in our next post....organizing your outdoor space and materials!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Building A Routine

Whether you are a parent or a provider, having a solid routine for your day is important for the children in your care, and for your own sanity!

Here's an article by Kristen Schulz (CCC Teacher) who discusses the whys and hows of routines for children:

"The following article will guide you through the routine process, explaining what a routine is, when a routine might be useful in your life, and finally how to build one yourself. My hope is that you will find comfort in knowing that many parents and families go through struggles and there is a way to help your children gain independence and structure without losing your mind.

The “Super Nanny” Jo Frost says, “A routine provides a clear structure for daily life.” (p.44) When you think about all of the things you have to get done during the day, it can be very overwhelming. As a parent you have to get all of that stuff done, but with your children following close behind. This is when having a plan of action can help.

If you know that the kids have to be dressed and ready to go by 8 am, your plan starts when they wake up. How can you structure the time so that it is logical and orderly for everyone involved? Maybe it would look like this: Wake the kids at 7 am and bring them to the table where they will eat. After breakfast it’s time to clean up. Bring the kids to the bathroom to wash their hands and face, brush teeth, and get dressed. Once they are clean and dressed, it’s time for shoes and out the door.

If this is what you do every morning then your kids understand what is going to be happening and they can feel safe. According to the article Routines to the Rescue, Parents Magazine, 1999, “Routines give kids a sense of control. When kids can anticipate what’s going to happen, it makes them feel safe and builds a sense of trust in their parents and their environment.”

You might think this is going to be too hard. Let’s look at what the experts say. According to a workshop from 4-C entitled Everyday Magic:

“Children thrive on routines, they like their lives to be clear and predictable, and enjoy the security of comfortable repetition. Routines establish trust in children and show them that their world is a safe place… Young children are not able to plan in advance. Often, as adults, we get frustrated at our children for acting up during these times. However, try to think what it would be like if you did not know or understand why things around you were happening. Picture how you would feel if someone just loaded you into a car and didn’t explain where you were going or why. You would be anxious too!”

We should stop once in awhile and put ourselves in their shoes to see if what we are asking them makes sense within the time and limits of their abilities. We have high expectations for our children, and we need to make sure that the expectation makes sense so as to provide learning. “The easiest way for children to learn is through repetition. Consistent routines teach children how to do necessary things like eating, bathing, tooth brushing, etc.” (Everyday Magic)

Jo Frost has provided her readers with this advice, “Routines build consistency into family life. You also need an agreed upon a set of rules. Before you can insist on certain standards of behavior from your child, you have to decide what is acceptable and what is not. Then you have to stick to your guns. If you’re always bending the rules and moving the goalposts, your child won’t have the first clue of what he should be doing and won’t take you seriously.”(p.47)

This brings us to actually building a routine. Have a plan for what you want accomplished and talk it over with your children if they are old enough. Giving them some control over how they will be moving through their day will provide them with an opportunity to be an active participant in the routine itself. “Routines should be respectful. Tell the child what you are going to do before you do it. Treat them as respectfully as you would an adult.” Elaine Goodwin also says, “Give children a warning. About ten minutes before you need them to do the routine, let them know. This prepares the children for what is coming to give them time to wrap-up what they are doing.” Then you have to guide them through it especially at first so they understand the expectations.

Jo Frost says, “You’re talking through their day. But what you are not doing is offering them lots of choices.” Examples, “Let’s put on your shoes,” not, “Will you put on your shoes?” “When you have put on your shoes we can go to the park,” not, “If you put on your shoes, you can go to the park.” “The difference in the way you say things may be very subtle, but the difference in the results are not.” (p.50) Stick with the routine and have fun at the same time says Elaine Goodwin. “Make your routines fun! Your child has to eat and sleep anyway, why not use this time to teach your child and bond with them. You will find that doing so not only improves the child’s behavior during these necessary routines, but also helps them to feel better prepared for life.”

Some children are going to be able to pick up on the routines right away and others will need time and consistency. If you are finding that the routine is harder than it was before, maybe your child could use a visual reminder of the routine. Children think in pictures instead of words, and if you are getting frustrated saying the same thing over and over let the routine chart be your guide. “Visual cues are great because kids learn to tune out verbal instruction,” says Dr. Abrams. “With a chart, there’s less emotion, because it’s harder to argue with an inanimate object.” (Parents 2008)

A chart should be simple and organized so the children can follow it. Have the kids help to create it to include them in the process. You can use simple drawing, pictures from magazines, or take digital pictures of the kids doing the routine themselves. Then when they ask, “What’s next?” you can say, “Look at the chart.” Just remember, you can build a routine for any time of the day: mealtime, bedtime, hand washing, teeth brushing, bath time, clean up, dressing and undressing, etc. Just work on one at a time and watch your life go from absolutely crazy to only slightly crazy."


Memon, Reshma, You make Me Want to Shout, Parents, December 2008

Frost, Jo, How to Get The Best From Your Children, Hyperion, New York, 2005

Miller Kase, Lori, Routines to the Rescue, Parents, February 1999

Goodwin, Elaine, Why should I have a Routine for my Child,4-C Parent Educator, Dekalb, IL

Unknown Routines: Everyday Magic,4-C , DeKalb, IL