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Advent Ideas and Planning

Posted by sunshine-dayhome on November 27, 2015 at 3:05 PM Comments comments (0)

As December draws near, my thoughts turn to Advent and all of the things I want to do with these lovely children before Christmas. I cherish Advent calenders of all shapes and sizes, because they make each day special and unique and help build up the excitement of Christmas Day. In my home, there are some Advent calenders that have been handcrafted for my own three children, as well as one unique calendar that I use mostly with the dayhome children.


This first handmade Advent calendar may explain more on why I love Advent calenders so much; my mother made this when I was a child, and my three siblings and I delighted in looking at the pretty chocolates up on the wall and looked forward to eating one each morning. I was so happy that they all agreed I could use it with my own three; now my children delight in it on our wall, and look forward to that decadent morning chocolate!


Next is the Advent calendar I made for my eldest child, my daughter Kaliana. She really likes feeling older, and because I didn't want to get her a commercial beauty calendar (perfume and lipstick for a 9-year-old? No thanks), I chose the items in this myself. In the little packages are fun and age-appropriate gifts like lotion, body wash, bath scrubs, bath bombs and fizzies, flavoured lip balm, and more. I can't wait to see which are her favourites!


While my middle boy LOVES Lego and would settle for nothing less than this year's Lego Advent calendar, for my youngest I went for a softer touch. I hand-painted 25 tiny peg dolls, transforming them into gorgeous glittery decorations for the tree. Then, I simply created these green cones, which together look like a forest. Each little tree cradles a tiny angel inside (check back later to see them on our tree!). Beside it you can see my own Advent calendar, Lush's 12 Days of Christmas - because Mommy needs pampering, too!


I have saved the best for last. Here is the Advent calendar I created years ago for the dayhome children, and my own on the weekends. Each felt envelope has a different Advent idea, and they are planned out in advance so I have the materials I need on hand.


To help with creating your own Advent calendar, if you are so inclined, I have included some lists below! Here are 32 Advent Ideas:


For the Dayhome

  1. Bake Christmas cookies (gingerbread men; nanaimo bars; snowballs; thumbprint . . .)
  2. Make a Christmas craft
  3. Create Christmas cards
  4. Enjoy peppermint hot chocolate
  5. Create a present for the parents
  6. Make gift wrap
  7. Read a Christmas story together
  8. Go for a walk to see Christmas lights and decorations
  9. Decorate the tree in the front yard
  10. String popcorn and cranberry garlands
  11. Create pomanders (cloves stuck into oranges)
  12. Write a Christmas wish list
  13. Celebrate with a dayhome party including the parents
  14. Bake a Yule Log
  15. Drink hot apple cider

With My Own Children:

  1. Pick out a tree together
  2. Decorate the tree
  3. Decorate the house
  4. Put up our Christmas lights
  5. Pick a gift for Daddy
  6. Wrap Daddy's gift
  7. Eat a candy cane
  8. Watch a Christmas movie (A Christmas Carol, The Grinch, Elf, Miracle on 34th Street, Home Alone, A Christmas Story ...)
  9. Visit Candy Cane Lane
  10. Go see Santa
  11. Attend the Festival of Trees
  12. Got to the WISE Winter Fair
  13. See the Nutcracker Ballet
  14. Go carolling, or take in a choir concert
  15. Bake cookies for Santa
  16. Put out Santa's cookies and milk
  17. Read The Night Before Christmas

Happy Advent!





Posted by sunshine-dayhome on November 20, 2015 at 2:25 PM Comments comments (0)

This was our first week of snow that stayed on the ground this season. The kids were all very excited! As soon as we finished snack, we headed outside.

I am still so happy that I took the time in 2014 to organize and determine which toys and materials would be most helpful for outside use. Here, the guys are using small shovels and trowels to scrape snow off surfaces.

Even though there isn't much snow quite yet, they still had a great time. We all can't wait for more snow to fall! The boys want to make snowmen, I want us to try snow angels, and on the small table in the back I have set up a board that I hope will turn into a small sledding hill; we will see!


Museum Field Trip!

Posted by sunshine-dayhome on November 13, 2015 at 3:50 PM Comments comments (0)

This week has been wonderful; with t=my oldest two home, all the children have been making forts, playing hard outside, and making elaborate plans for what they should do on their next break from school for the holidays. We created some beautiful Remembrance Day crafts, read lots of books, and had a fun pajama day complete with teddy bears and hot chocolate, but today might have been the best day of all - Museum Day!

I was quite impressed with how engaged the children all were. They stayed together as a group, asked lots of questions, and stuck around to listen to me read them details from the exhibit's plaques. There is so much to see and do there, and it all held their interest so well - plants and animals, bugs and dinosaurs, indigenous peoples and even rocks - every topic their favorite!

I will miss the museum, as it is moving in just 3 weeks and isn't slated to reopen in its new location until the winter of 2017. It was fantastic to be able to go one more time with the children in my care, while they are still young. I have so many memories of bringing my oldest two there, and have been bringing groups of children there with me wince 2007, way back when I was nanny and we were within walking distance. I'm sad to see it go, but looking forward to visiting again with these children, and likely some new ones as well, in late 2017 or early 2018.

November Play Provocations

Posted by sunshine-dayhome on November 6, 2015 at 3:20 PM Comments comments (0)

An important part of my dayhome is setting up inspirations for play, or play provocations. These carefully arranged groupings draw the child in to play; they support creativity, free play time, and development across the domains. I try to have two or three out at all times, and change them up about once a week. If the children don't play with them at all, I switch them out, and if they love the arrangement, and play with the materials all the time, I of course leave it up for longer. I choose the play provocations based on what the children are currently interested in; this follows an emergent curriculum and almost guarantees their interest, because I simply support what they already like or are curious about.


In this first provocation, I made a set of textured rubbings for them to explore. You simply lay a piece of paper on top and run the crayon across it to get the imprint. Everyone loved doing this outside this past summer, so I found a way to bring it inside! Next is Where's Waldo; I got the idea when I noticed how drawn the children were to the binoculars at play group last week. It was really fun for me to gather these books up for the children; a blast from my past, and I found myself even sitting down to find Waldo!


Finally, this simple xylophone. It was lent to me by my mother, a Waldorf teacher here in Edmonton. The simplest form of play provocation is setting out a new and unique, interesting item to explore, and the children here play with this each and every day. It will stay in the play area until their interest fades, and then be replaced by the next musical item (a harp, or maracas maybe?).


One final note on cost: each of these ideas cost me literally nothing at all. It can seem expensive trying to continually come up with ideas for inspirations or provocations that match the children's current needs, but by having a store of open-ended items, a library card, and a creative mind, you can easily set out great play prompts without breaking the bank. Look at what you have and think about the children you spend time with, and let the ideas flow!

Another Birthday!

Posted by sunshine-dayhome on October 23, 2015 at 2:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Today we celebrated Lilly's second birthday here at Sunshine Dayhome. She was greeted at the door when she arrived with this sign, under our daily menu.

Lilly was having a hard time transitioning into care here, so I was very happy when today she seemed a bit more comfortable! She is sitting in front of her cupcake, waiting to blow out her candles as we all finished singing Happy Birthday to her. Usually we bake a cake ourselves here together, but for this little one her parents wanted to be engaged and so sent in some special birthday cupcakes.

I make a small toy or gift for each child on their special day, and for Lilly I chose to make this little peg doll. I adore peg dolls because of their sturdy design, open-ended play value, and the simple beauty they offer. Happy 2nd birthday, Lillian!

Fall Leaves

Posted by sunshine-dayhome on October 16, 2015 at 2:45 PM Comments comments (0)

It's always so much fun piling, throwing, and crunching leaves! We went for a leaf walk this week, and also crunched them, made heaps, buried each other, and tossed them up into the air. Back at the house, every child grabbed a rake and we tackled the front yard.

The children really enjoyed engaging in this meaningful work, as well as jumping in our leaf piles and helping stuff two huge bags with leaves. A child's work is play, and when that play combines with necessary tasks of daily living, the children are able to grow and develop while learning and practicing valuable life skills.

When we headed inside, it was time for a calming lunch and nap. Kaliana was home on Thursday, and she wanted to lead the children through their pre-nap story. It was a treat to watch the children gathered round, and listening so attentively to my bright oldest child!


Baking the Acorn Bread

Posted by sunshine-dayhome on September 18, 2015 at 3:20 PM Comments comments (0)

So even after all of that effort, our flour needed more processing! It was blended in the blender, ground in the food mill, and finally - pulverised with hammers (definitely the boys' favourite part!).

Finally, finally, this acorn flour was ready! It took hours of work and many steps, and here it is: one cup of fragrant, gorgeous flour. The boys are pros at baking bread, as we do it weekly, and I decided to also bake a batch of whole wheat bread using the same recipe, so we could do a taste test at snack time.

The bakers are working their magic . . .

And here, at last, is our acorn bread! It is the darker slice. It had a richer, more woodsy flavor; still mid enough to be enjoyable, and definitely with a denser crumb and chewier texture. This outdoor scavenging and baking adventure has officially been deemed a success!





Posted by sunshine-dayhome on August 7, 2015 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Sometimes, the simplest things really are the best. I strive to send a craft home with the children each week, and when I first began my day home six years ago, I often found that I was creating six crafts myself to send home - one for each child! Over time, I have developed a deep awareness of what the children can do, and what they like to do. I try to tie in creative activities with both their developmental abilities, and their interests, to offer something for them to create that they will enjoy both making and enjoying once it is complete. Because I only had two little ones each day this week, I was able to sneak into the picture myself!

Our creation was simple: a periscope, or a hooter toy - depending on how you use it. Open-ended things are best, and these two loved discovering on their own what they could use their tubes for. They concentrated so much on their coloring! Saxon was focused and knew what he was doing, and what he wanted it to look like. He also had a very definite idea of when it was fully complete.

Dylan really likes coloring, and happily he only tried once to put the marker in his mouth. While I don't often use markers, this day was perfect for it; a child as young as Dylan really can struggle to press down a crayon or pencil crayon hard enough to make a mark, and our surface was round, not flat. He learned very quickly to use his other hand to stabilize the tube enough to draw on it, and once he was coloring the table more than his periscope, his creation was complete, too!

Lemon Loaf

Posted by sunshine-dayhome on July 24, 2015 at 2:30 PM Comments comments (0)

This week has been a bit slow and rainy, which is sometimes a nice change of pace in our busy, hot summers. Throughout the school year, we bake each week, but in the summer we are often outside more and baking less. Because of that, I decided that when we do cook together, we will make double batches so we can always have fresh baking without preservatives to look forward to - and this week, it was lemon loaf.

Apparently I haven't baked with Ben very often, because he was ecstatic about the whole thing! He was so excited about each step: adding the eggs, mixing the butter and sugar together, even pouring in the vanilla was a reason to celebrate. He kept saying, "Wow, I can't believe it! Wow!". He was also really using his vocabulary as he commented on the batter as it formed: "It looks really smooth . . . And look, now it's white with the milk! It's going yellow again . . . and now it's all lumpy!". It was quite fun to bake with someone who was so engaged and exhilarated by the whole process.

We made one loaf the traditional way, and I poured the glaze on top when it was cooked, and the other loaf? We mixed in some frozen blueberries for an extra hit of colour and good fruit flavor. The boys gobbled it up with cream cheese for snack, and declared it delicious.

Rain Walk

Posted by sunshine-dayhome on July 17, 2015 at 3:15 PM Comments comments (0)

It was a very wet end of the week here; the last two days have consisted of a lot of indoor time, split up by some very wet outdoor periods. After we made and painted airplanes, played with Play Dough, made dinosaur track molds, and hosted a tenting party in the living room, we were ready to brave the driving rain.

It is a lot of fun walking in the rain, even if it can be a LOT of work to clean up afterward! We geared up in head to toe rain gear this morning, and then headed outside to drink it all up and splash around. The children were so happy to splish, splash, and slide in the huge puddles.

It is really great to be able to get outside and do this kind of thing; children thrive when they can enjoy time outside. There is space to work through emotions by jumping, shouting, and yelling, and social skills thrive as they work together to figure out what kind of splashing is okay and how to share the puddles. They become connected to the earth and its rhythms in a deep and meaningful way when they connect the rain falling from the sky, to the puddles on the ground, and the free watering of the garden which offers vegetables to us. Though we did dump out buckets of muddy water from 6 pairs of rain boots when we got home, I must say, it was truly worth it.