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Winter Gifts

Posted by sunshine-dayhome on January 6, 2017 at 3:00 PM Comments comments (0)

I can't begin to say how pleased I am to work with all of the excellent families at Sunshine Dayhome right now. This group of parents is dedicated, kind, and very supportive of the work and play that occurs here each day. At our holiday party, in addition to heart-felt cards and various offerings, the dayhome was gifted with a couple of unique items that will enhance our days here: a tire bird feeder and molds for ice blocks. After our field trip to the Wildbird General Store, we were well prepared to stock that feeder! Here are the boys busy making their selections. We eneded up chosing red millet, safflower seeds, cracked corn, barley, and scratch and grit for the quail too.

Ice blocks were an idea that came to me years ago, when I noticed how much the children were enjoying indoor block play. Though I didn't want to lose or destroy any of the beautiful wood blocks we use inside, this was how the wonderful idea of freezing ice blocks to use outside was born. Each winter now, when the cold weather comes, I am ready with food coloring and a variety of molds. Happily, a parent was able to find the perfect mold to make large, square ice blocks for stacking. The boys helped me color the water and pour it ito the molds -

And then we set them outside to freeze. The first year I did this I froze them i the freezer then felt so silly as I prepared to transition them to, ahem, the freezing cold temperatures outside. ;) Live and learn, right? Getting the children to help make the blocks, then allowing them to unold them, provides opportunities for collaborating, sharing, working together, and developing both fine motor and problem solving skills. Sometimes I am tempted to do things myself to save on mess or time, or just to provide a surprise - but always, when I include the children in preparatory steps, I am glad I did. They loved making the ice blocks, and unmolding them as well! Because these cold temperatures look like they're here to stay, these beautiful blocks of ice will provide many hours of fun outside fine motor winter play for everyone here. Thank you again, parents - you are wonderful!

Holiday Family Party!

Posted by sunshine-dayhome on December 23, 2016 at 4:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Our annual holiday party yesterday afternoon, with all families and relatives invited, was wonderful. We got to meet out of town grandparents, and the parents got a chance to talk, play with the children, and catch a glimpse of what we do here. It was neat to hear stories and conversations about all we have in common, while watching the children play around us.

Everyone brought something to contribute to our potluck snack, and it was delicious! We had oranges, crackers, deli meats and cheeses, and treats galore. It makes me so happy when we can all come together to celebrate this season, and there were activities on hand as well. A simple sticker craft and markers go a long way toward creating merriment and fun fo all ages! I am so happy that so many people were able to join us for this afternoon get together. Happy Holidays and enjoy your winter break! :) 

Christmas Toys

Posted by sunshine-dayhome on December 16, 2016 at 3:10 PM Comments comments (0)

To prepare for many seasonal holidays, I like to offer toys that double as decorations. Some of them I have made myself, others I've collected over the years, and they all add to the fun and entertainment here. One of the items I've created was this set of elves and gnomes, and this year I added a Santa! This collection is something that gets played with every single day for the month of December.

The snowman stacker below is such a cool toy, because it can be put together in many many ways. When I saw it, I knew we had to have it. Saxon loves putting the pieces in a red cloth bag and pretending he's Santa!

These snowflakes don't look like much, but they are actually gorgeous tops that even a toddler can spin. The children spin them for long periods of time together, and have little contests where they see who can spin the longest and guess if their spinner will bounce into someone else's. While I have many other Christmas toys and decorations, including a silver toy rocking horse, penguin nesting dolls, and a felt tree that the children can decorate themselves, the ones shown here are, I think, the most favored toys of them all. Happy Holidays!

Sneaky Fine Motor

Posted by sunshine-dayhome on December 9, 2016 at 3:50 PM Comments comments (0)

I love it when I can enhance the environment here in a way that draws the children in and increases their developmental skills along the way. Sneaking in some fun, while working on fine motor and cognitive skills? Works for me!

The play inspiration that I offered was very simple; a variety of nuts with two attractive nutcrackers. I found these beautiful wooden mushrooms years ago on Ebay, and I am so so glad; they were worth every penny. I love that they contain the mess, prevent the nut from rolling around and cracking fingers instead, and can be operated by very young children, ages two and three. Luckily, my entire group right now is over two and we have no mouthers or nut allergies, so this idea is good to go!

Along the way, the children learned to share the two nutcrackers, to pay attention to where the hulls went (it helps when they get to clean up after themselves ;)), and learn the names and shapes of several varieties of holiday nuts. I offered pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts, and almonds. These children all declared that almonds are their favorite, though I'm not sure if that's because they taste the best, or simply that they're the easiest to crack. Bon appetit!

Advent Ideas

Posted by sunshine-dayhome on December 2, 2016 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (0)

At this time of year, our programming turns to all things festive. Though this is a multucultural dayhome with diverse celebrations including Chinese New Year and Tabatana, or the Star Festival, we also celebrate events from my Swiss heritage - Christmas included. :) I created an advent calendar years ago, and in each of the little envelopes is a different way that we can celebrate this fun season.

Here is a list that I have brainstormed, in case you'd like to try this with the children in your life. Some of my ideas are:

1. Buy a tree

2. Decorate the tree

3. Read a festive book (the Grinch, the mitten, the little fir tree . . .)

4. Bake something (gingerbread men or cake or loaf, snowballs, a yule log, bark . . .)

5. Create gift wrap

6. Make a gift for the parents

7. Wrap the gift for the parents

8. Bake cookies for Santa

9. Visit Santa

10. Drink peppermint hot chocolate

11. Make pomanders (cloves stuck into an orange)

12. Make cards for each other and relatives

13. Decorate the house for Christmas

14. Sing Christmas carols or go carolling

15. Listen to Christmas carols

16. See a Christmas play or ballet

17. Write letters to Santa

18. Mil the letters

19. Decorate candles with colored beeswax, or dip or roll candles

20. Make a snowman craft

21. Create a jingle bell craft

22. Make Christmas ornaments

23. Go for a holiday walk to see all the lights and decorations

24. String popcorn and cranberries (for the birds; even 2-year-olds can do this!)

25. Make bird feeders

26. Build a snowman

27. Decorate a tree outside with garlands, lights, and bulbs

28. Bake a gingerbread house

29. Decorate the gingerbread house

30. Walk or drive down Candy Cane Lane

31. Go on a sleigh ride


So far this week, the activities scheduled in our Advent calendar were making gift wrap and decorating candles. The gift wrap was just paper that we stamped with Christmas shapes and colours, and the candle decorating? See for yourself!

Block Play

Posted by sunshine-dayhome on November 25, 2016 at 2:25 PM Comments comments (0)

I have long been of the opinion that, most of the time, simple toys are best. This week, the children reminded me of that with the amount of time and creativity they showed when engaging with the blocks here. Duplo, Lego, and other plastic building toys are fun, but there's something about the perfect simplicity of a good old wooden block that soothes the soul. I like that the children need to use more cognitive and motor skills to decipher how to arrange and balance the blocks if they don't snap into place, and the kids love how anything can be created with them. Oscar's first design? A hotel.

After he had perfected his hotel, for a visiting auntie to stay in, he created a bridge. He was very engaged, deeply motivated, and wanted me to wait to take a picture until it was just right. Here is his finished creation; he wants you to know that "There are cars driving over it". Check out how proud he is!

Finally, I'll share with you an example of cross-play. Cross-play is when toys of two different realms are used: blocks and figurines, kitchen food and balls, etc. While it can be worrisome to imagine how everything is going to find its proper place, the amount and possibilities for creative play skyrockets when children are allowed to enjoy cross-play with toys - as shown below. This is Saxon's creation, and he worked a long time to get it just right. Vive le blocks!

Let There Be Light!

Posted by sunshine-dayhome on November 18, 2016 at 3:05 PM Comments comments (0)

It's a dark time of year, and I wanted to bring some light into our space. I have been dreaming of this idea, a tent with lights and guazy white fabric, for a long time! I thought I would build a simple tent frame with wooden dowelling or PVC pipe, but then it hit me: I can just use our play stands instead.

This is it! The Cave of Light. I think it's much better than the tent idea; it is larger and is one less thing to store. I was very lucky to find the perfect strands of lights at the ReUse Centre, and some white fabric too. I wanted a layer of fabric on the top and bottom, for both aesthetic and safety reasons, so I was delighted when I remembered that I had kept our old curtains for just this purpose. They fit perfectly! Here are the children enjoying the tent. It really is magical, and brightens and warms our space so much.

This is what it looks like on the inside. The front "door" can be flipped open if the kids wish, and I decided to drape the back wall as well, both for looks and to keep the cords away from inquiring fingers. Safe as necessary, gorgeous, useful, and overall a wonderful addition to the dayhome!

Remembrance Day

Posted by sunshine-dayhome on November 10, 2016 at 3:05 PM Comments comments (0)

This week is very short, just three days. We have been really enjoying the weather, and have been playing outside and even been able to enjoy lunch and snacks outside often this week. Though the mornings usually start outside, with an activity and a snack, we head out right after that to play. Here's one of our creative activities this week: Remembrance Day poppies.

We sat down this morning to make a simple Remembrance Day craft of paper poppies together. I had thought about making a red handprint poppy craft, but it seemed too restrictive and not creative enough. This was is more open-ended; the children can explore thier own creativity and explore what a poppy might look like for them. Here are the results!

Packing Peanut Creativity

Posted by sunshine-dayhome on November 4, 2016 at 4:10 PM Comments comments (0)

I love using materials just one more time before they get tossed, and when science and creativity can combine it makes it even better! This week, a package in the mail delivered not only an early holiday gift but also super fun biodegradable packing peanuts. Did you know that, not only do they dissolve in water, but they stick together as well?

You can write on them with markers, make a snake or a person or a spaceship (shown here), and then drown, dissolve, and destroy them all! The perfect craft for a pack of rambunctious little guys :)

Spooky and FUN Halloween!

Posted by sunshine-dayhome on October 28, 2016 at 3:20 PM Comments comments (0)

In all my work with children, I strive to make the experiences and environment here appropriate for them. These young people don't need to be scared witless during this holiday, and so I have worked hard to ensure that they have toys and decorations that they can be spooked by yet still have fun with. Potions and spells? Perfectly spooky. Cobwebs and lunging spiders - too scary.

I found these awesome real Pyrex beakers online, so the children can whip up a potion when the urge hits. Also, to make this more available (as we only do water play during group activities), I assembled this potion ingredient kit for them. Add a cauldron, and we're all set!  They absolutely love this; they play witches together all the time. The tops are sealed with superglue or epoxy to make them safe for even the littlest ghouls.

As for toys, last week I showed you the witches I created for the children. Here is the full set of peg doll trick-or-treaters; the ones without faces are not meant to scare but offer a Waldorf philosophy of having a blank face so the child can determine if they are asleep, happy, sad, etc. Have a very happy Halloween!! :)