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Exuberant Exploration

“The drive to protect our children is profound and easily can lead to cleansing their lives of challenge and depth. Early childhood is a time when children begin to live in the world and hopefully learn to love the world. They can’t do this when fenced off from the messy richness of life to live in a world of fluorescent lights and plastic toys, two dimensional glowing screens, and narrow teaching instruction. Scrubbing and polishing raw experience in the name of health and safety scrapes away the natural luster and meaning of childhood. Many of the wonders and joys of childhood that fuel the best in our adult selves are birthed in the unavoidable messes, bumps, bruises, and tears that come with exuberant exploration.” (Greenman, 2005b, p. 7)

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Gluten Free Dairy Free Birthday Pancakes!

Birthdays are a source of great memories as a child, a day to feel special, a day to know that you are important, a day to celebrate a person! Birthdays are a wonderful self-esteem booster for anyone! I love birthdays!

Now when I think about a birthday party I often think of over indulgence, grand productions and a focus on stuff rather than the sweet child in which we are celebrating! Why such a disconnect from what is important?

In my home and in my childcare I try to focus on those wonderful things about a birthday that elicit that happy feeling inside. About a year ago I started a little tradition. Instead of a big colorful cupcake or cake (don’t get me wrong we do that too sometimes) we start the day off with special birthday pancakes! The children help me make them and we try different recipes for each birthday. Sometimes we add a colorful fruit to the pancake, sometimes we add a few sprinkles, but we always have candles!

This year I have a couple of kiddos who do not do gluten or dairy. Since pancakes are pretty much just gluten and dairy I thought that we would miss out on our birthday pancakes when the little one’s special day came. But I did a little searching and we tried a new recipe that was a huge hit! The tradition lives on!

Another part of the fun on these special days is that while we consume our tasty pancakes we go around the table and each child says something that they like about the birthday child, sometimes the responses are pretty generic, “I like his monster truck shirt.” But other times they are wonderful and sweet and make me remember why I love working with kids, ” I love it when we play trains together and he lets me use the red train, we have so much fun together!”

Here is our recipe for gluten free dairy free pancakes, they were tasty!

1 cup coconut flour
1 Tbsp Stevia (we used a little less)
2 tsp gluten free baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 cup coconut milk
1 egg
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp vanilla

We mixed it all together in no particular order, coated the pan with coconut oil and flipped when they looked ready! When baking with the kids I often pre measure and label the bowls to help with pre reading skills. The kids can usually look at the recipe and find the bowl labeled with the correct ingredient. The younger kids just love to mix!

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Descriptive Language, Technology and Slime!

Recently we embarked on a new project in how we document our work. Often we use words to describe something that we’re working with. For example, “this slime is so sticky!” Usually I write their words down and sometimes I post them somewhere the children can see. Just the other day we were in the midst of this type of an activity, I was writing down their words describing our very slippery purple slime as usual. The next step is where we took it to a new level. Instead of tapping the words to the wall, or shelf that holds the slime, I set up the word list and my computer at the big kids table. The older kids then worked to type their descriptive words into a program called wordle. They carefully deciphered my handwriting and found the corresponding key on the keyboard. They were identifying letters, capital and lowercase. They were also learning about important functions of a keyboard. When all the words were typed in we pressed the submit button and they created their own word cloud. They were so excited! They now would like to create word clouds for everything!!

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Sink or Float Buckets

Most of our summer days are spent outside in our mud pit of a backyard. Our frequent weekend getaways and the blazing heat that this summer has brought has left us with a less than green yard. Composed of more weeds than grass and an equal amounts of rocks and dust we make do and tend to have a delightfully dirty time playing each day. The addition of water on these ever-too-often 90 degree days is a must and when the water hits that dust we get some serious mud! This is okay because I am rather partial to mud. So our hose is running more than my husband would like to know (wait until we get that water bill!) and since our play-space is riddled with buckets and pools and other things to fill up that’s what we do. The other day the boys were taking the hose around and filling whatever they could find. They filled 3 red metal buckets and let them sit for a while. When we had finally soaked our yard to my content I turned off the hose and they kids started to look for something new to occupy their attention. The buckets were there in a line, waiting, glistening in the sun, ready for dumping. At least that’s what I expected the kids to do with them given their track record. Much to my surprise one of the older boys found a pinecone and dropped it in.

“It floats!!” he screamed.

This drew in a crowd.

“What else floats?” I heard my son asking.

“A car?”

“Nope that goes to the bottom, it sinks.”

This dialogue carried on for quite sometime, each child taking turns guessing, gathering, testing. After the buckets were good and full they decided to sort the items per bucket, one for floating things, one for sinkers, and one for stuff that starts out floating and then ends up sinking. I love to watch them explore and discover in such a natural way. I had no hand in this activity. My role was to merely document and observe! Science happens everyday in the life of a child, we must merely foster that curiosity and set the environment so they can explore!

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Playdough Math

We love playdough! We probably play with play dough everyday at one point or another. Not only is it squishy and wonderful it provides an excellent hands on way to learn so many great skills. We have been using cookie cutters with our play dough this last week. Just the other day the kids were wondering about the “+” sign. I explained it to them and that’s where it all started. The children would choose two numbers to add and then they would count out the number of balls that each number represented. Next they counted all of the play dough balls and added them together, they found the answer to the equation and stamped it out of the play dough. By the end of this activity they were doing the whole process entirely on their own! They were doing math! The kids learned new vocabulary; “adding”, “equation” and “equals”. They also got a chance to explore these skills while working with their hands, squishing the dough and making their own counters! They were so proud!

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While We’ve Been Away!

It has been over a year since I last posted anything on Our Dandelion Wishes! I don’t know how time got away from me but I think that the busyness that is life got to me. Oh and it’s so much simpler to just post pictures to our Facebook page, much less focus on writing or detail! I love sharing with families what we do at daycare each day but I struggled with the idea of coming up with a story to go with it. Or maybe I struggled with the time aspect of actually getting a minute to sit with my laptop and create! Whatever the reason, I have decided that I’m ready to join the blogging world once again!

So much has happened in the past year! Two new houses, one big move, a new job for Rob, grad school for me and the always growing kids have kept us on our toes! Now that we are “settled” (I say that lightly because I am not sure that our life will ever truly allow for settling) I think that I want to share the fun things that we do each day and the general going-ons of our life and my life as an early childhood professional.

And because I like pictures so much I’m going to share some of the great shots I’ve taken of my kids this summer at the lake, on the boat, and just having fun!!

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The Kindest Kids I Know!

Today I am writing about something that I was no part of. I wish I was a part of it. I wish I had even thought of it, because it is truly one of the most wonderful experiences that my son has been apart of in his short little life. My sister, who is still in high school, I say this because to me it makes it even more cool, took E for the day and toured the valley performing small acts of kindness. It was a day full of good deeds, ice cream and lots of smiles.

My sister is a teacher at heart and does a tremendous job with my little guy. This day she helped him to understand what being kind means and why we might want to be kind to others. She was hands on with him as they worked on making many cards for the recipients of their kindness. They wore super hero capes all day 1.) because he’s three and he often wears a super hero cape all day 2.) because she was helping him to understand what a real life super hero is – a person who is nice and good to others – not just someone who fights bad guys.

She took pictures along the way and I am going to highlight some of their greatest moments of kindness for my readers. I hope that her acts inspire others, I know that they have inspired me, to do just one small good deed for someone random, everyone could benefit from a little happiness in their day.

He’s ready to go with Horsey by his side, cards in hand and cape secured!

10489926_759316847425002_1608633056484792327_n First stop was at the assisted living center, they asked the front desk who would most appreciate a visit & a special homemade card. Mary was delighted to have a friend! They stayed and talked and sang songs for a long time. I think we may have to visit Mary again soon, yay for new friends!994104_759316794091674_5264620480240963646_n Next they were off to the fire station, he was excited to thank these fine folks for keeping us and others safe!10540844_759316757425011_8858915723371437818_n Then to Dairy Queen because in this little mans mind the people who make the ice cream are pretty much on the same level as the people who put out fires😉 They gave the workers at DQ a special card, they paid for the next-person-in-line’s blizzard and of course got a sweet treat for themselves!10527841_759316687425018_3269822178884240644_n I love that face!10348515_759316660758354_7373519634697507850_n After their ice-cream treat these two do-gooders headed to the humane society to volunteer. E was so concerned that the kitties didn’t have their own home with people to love on them, he wanted to build them a house.🙂 Since little man is under 10 they couldn’t do actual volunteer work but they were lucky enough to get to brush and pet these pretty cats.10556401_759316544091699_8031080807642410269_n He wanted to take them home with him😀10561580_759316594091694_6284576632469378608_n “They’re sooo soft.”10482227_759316624091691_5183006300187821939_n Off for some more fun at the dollar tree! These two hid dollar bills in the toy section with notes for others to find. It would have been fun to see the faces on the lucky kids who found these. 10502128_759316390758381_2061244491540831184_n 10402609_759316477425039_9041642536659807813_n 10489926_759316344091719_6590878819479069805_n Last but most definitely not least they delivered flowers to me! I felt pretty special!evflowerSuch a beautiful day full of making other peoples days better! I’m lucky and happy to have a kind and caring sister and a wonderful auntie to my kiddos who can help instill these values in my little ones!

We’re Going on a Letter Hunt!

 

We take a walk around our little neighborhood daily, sometimes twice daily. We often walk to the park or over to the busy construction sight to check out the happenings there. Sometimes we just walk to walk. We aimlessly meander around the loop and talk about what we see. Our neighborhood is very little boxes-esque so there’s not a ton of variation when we set off on these walks. We generally see the same things; ants, dogs, trees, grass, airplanes. Sometimes there’s a bird thrown into the mix and occasionally we will see a car driving on the rode. These aimless walks are nice. They present me with such a wonderful time for discussion with the children. We talk about everything. Lately our topic of conversation has been hyper-focused, in a way only a three-year-old can, on letters. We talk about the letters in our names, the letters in our friends names, the letters on the signs, the letters on our clothes, letters everywhere! Last week I decided to really help this idea of letters-all-over-in-our-world by giving these kiddos a concrete way to represent just how many letters we see when we are out and about.

 

Each child had a small notebook with a pen to start with. They were each assigned the beginning letter in their name to find. Once they found their letter they would make a tally in their notebook and move on to find another one of their beginning letters. These guys were soooo excited! They were jumping up and down to see the letter “E” on garbage cans, squealing with delight to find a “B” on a license plate! Their excitement is wonderful and I love watching those little hands work to make the tally marks!

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A Gorgeous Variation

My post Like Oil and Water(colors) is by far my most popular post. After being featured on Teach Preschool’s Facebook page my blog blew up! I actually thought it was a virus I had so many visits to my blog.🙂 The version of oil and watercolors that we did in that post was beautiful and a very fun way to make abstract watercolors. But once the finished product was dry it was a little disappointing. Those brilliant colors, and vibrant bubbles looked kind of dark green and a little greasy:/ . Not to mention my kiddos wanted to put WAY more color on the paper than it could hold. With all of that being said I still loved the scientific exploration behind the project that resulted in art. I needed to find a new way to make this oil and watercolor plan work out. And Viola! A new oil and watercolor that provides gorgeous, frame able art and holds attention for oh so long! I do love a good engaging project!

We started with:

  • Four cups with a little bit of oil in each
  • A pan with a small amount of water in the bottom – not too much or your colors will sink to the bottom
  • Some liquid watercolors and some watercolor paper (or any thicker paper)
  • Eye Droppers

After a few squirts of liquid watercolors into the oil cups we mixed and mixed and mixed until the color was incorporated into the oil. This took a bit of mixing.

Image 15 Image 21 Then we got started, using the eye droppers to place the colored oil in the pan of water. The kids put the oil anywhere and everywhere  in the pan.Image 25 Image 22

Image 14 When they were satisfied with the color placement we plopped a piece of paper on top and let it sit for about 45seconds, the oil bled through the paper & was fun to watch.

Image 12 We peeled the paper up and were presented with these works of art!Image 29

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Car Wash and Bubble Mountains

We have been busy busy since my last post and I am finding that I am piling up pictures of some great things that we have been doing but never getting around to posting about them! Time slips away from me and then I forget all about the pictures that sit in my iPhoto waiting to be shared. So I think I will try to do a purge and post about some of my favorite things that have been happening in my little home over the last month all at once!🙂

Due to the mass amount of boys who frequent my home we tend to base a majority of our projects around hot wheels cars. Even activities that initially had no intention of involving cars end up with a car or two slipping their way into the mix. Our sensory table often has something and cars, i.e. rice and cars, water beads and cars, flour and cars. I have a minimum of three cars in our stroller, probably more in my diaper bag.They are everywhere!

Last week we started a painting project at the table, working on painting rocks. This lasted for about 3.5minutes before someone pulled a red car out of there pocket and asked if they could paint it… I let them and of course I needed to find about 15 more cars so everyone could paint one, or two or three. Once all of the cars were covered in a good layer of “preschool grey” (this is the resulting color once all colors available are mixed) we needed to wash them. I pulled out pans and soap and sponges. The cars got clean quick, so we painted them again! We painted and washed and painted and washed to our hearts content.
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Once the cars wash scene had fizzled out I pulled out straws for the older kids to make bubble mountains! I was introduced to this activity years ago from a former employer of mine and love to do this with big kids (I say big kids because often little kids want to suck with the straw and end up with a belly full of bubbles, my boys are 3 and they did just fine). We used our soapy water from the car wash stuck straws into the mix and blew and blew and blew! Then the excitement built and the giggles were nearly as plentiful as the bubbles! The boys would smash them down and then blow them up taller and taller. Literally 45minutes of fun!!!

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