Saturday, January 22, 2011

Learning About Colours, Playing Dress-Up, and Other Daycare Updates

Although Torontonians have been experiencing frigid temperatures recently, the kids never complain about going outside. In fact, a few of them complain when I declare that it is time to go back inside! They also enjoy trying on each others' boots when we are inside the apartment. Above, M. sports Noah's winter boots, and is about to try on his mittens too! It's great to see them practise these self-help skills. 
Even though I have to work quickly and methodically to get the kids' snowsuits on, it still can't be easy for them to wait even a few minutes with half their gear on, inside. They really are very patient, and used to the routine by now. I had to get a couple of shots of the live entertainment going on in the hallway as I got them ready (thereby delaying them just a few seconds longer).
We played a little hockey inside the other week, since the kids certainly can't hold onto a hockey stick outside, with their mittens on. Actually, it was more like a tutorial, but the kids caught on pretty fast. Aidas kept exclaiming, "He shoots! He scores!" What made me a little nervous is that Noah held the hockey stick properly without me showing him where to place his hands. (Please don't let me be a hockey mom, please don't let me be a hockey mom!)
Noah received a beautiful Noah's Ark puzzle from his Oma and Opa for Christmas. It's a great puzzle for all 5 of the kids to work on together (with me facilitating, of course). The pieces are nice and big, and there are lots of them, so each child can have quite a few turns. Also, the puzzle itself is so big, so that all the children can sit around it - it doesn't get too cramped.
Aidas is absolutely hilarious lately. He likes to create a 'crash scene'. It usually involves at least 3 of our larger 'vehicles', like the fire truck, bike, and the red car. He turns them onto their sides, lies in the middle (sometimes along with some stuffed animals) and yells for help. He did this yesterday as I was in the kitchen getting dinner ready. It started with an unconvincing "Ahhhh!" which changed to "Help!". I told him I couldn't save him at the moment since I was getting dinner ready. He kept saying "I need to be rescued!" Finally, he directly yelled for his buddy L. to rescue him. L. loyally climbed down from his booster seat (he had been waiting for dinner to be ready), crying "I rescue Aidas!" It was such a heartwarming moment.
The kids had fun with the dress-up clothes this week. Above, firefighter M. declared she was saving the baby (referring to our "Hurry Hurry Drive the Fire Truck" song). She is especially into the pretend food lately. She keeps coming to me with a plate of pretend food, saying "Look what I made", or "I made lunch".
We did a gluing activity this week. I had cut out pictures of yellow objects. The kids took turns gluing the pictures onto paper, using a glue stick. They were very excited about this activity, and after the initial swarming, they realized they weren't going to get a turn unless they were sitting down. They enjoyed it so much that we moved on to gluing red pictures. This proved to be a mistake though, as it confused things for some of the kids. So, I have put our yellow collage up on the wall in the dining room. (I had posted their paintings in this area last week, and they often point to them and talk about them at meal time. I figured this could also be a topic of discussion.) I think I'm going to just leave the focus on "yellow" for about a week or so, to simplify things. After all, they are only two...they've got time!

B., although not shown in any pictures, continues to adapt well to the daycare. He is getting used to our culture - trying more of our foods, understanding more of the language, etc. I am impressed that when I ask him the colour of something, he responds with a colour name (sometimes correctly). Now that's catching on quick! It is especially nice to see the bonds he is forming with the other children, though. There's a surge in his confidence, and I am happy to know that this can only mean he is feeling that he truly belongs. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Unlicensed Daycare - The Scapegoat?

In light of recent events, I feel compelled to respond to the issue of unlicensed child care.

Almost two weeks ago, an unlicensed home daycare provider in Mississauga, April Luckese, was charged with 2nd degree murder in the death of 14-month-old Duy-An Nguyen. This is a tragedy that has upset many of us, myself included. It is horrifying to think of losing one's child, and my heart goes out to the Nyugen family. I cannot fathom dealing with a loss of this magnitude.

In response to this tragedy, however, I feel that the media has drawn a conclusion that is untrue. The message seems to be: "Unlicensed child care is unsafe." ( As the provider of unlicensed daycare, I cannot help but take offence to this. I feel disgusted that the death of a baby is directly linked to unlicensed child care. This is wildly simplistic, and a knee-jerk reaction that is intended to find a simple cause or reason.

First of all, it is too soon to say with certainty that April Luckese is guilty of harming this child. I understand that police have evidence that she may have caused this child's death. Still, until she is sentenced in a court of law, we cannot say for sure that she did it. It is one of our rights as Canadian citizens to be innocent until proven guilty.

But for the sake of the current media argument, let's assume for a moment that she did do this crime. The picture painted by the media is that, as an unlicensed daycare provider, April Luckese let too many children into her care. This, in turn, led to an inability to deal with the demands of all the children, and in a moment of stress, she snapped. The sensational message of the media is: Unlicensed child care is unsafe, even fatal, for your child. This is far too simplistic an inference.

People have snapped with children in various circumstances. Here are a couple of stories of people accused of harming children in licensed daycares:
Does this mean all licensed daycare centres are problematic? Of course not.

What about parents who snap and harm their children? Shouldn't you need a licence to parent, too? Most child abuse is inflicted by family members (, but we have few safeguards in that domain (until, of course, the damage is already done).

It's not that I think licensing is a bad thing. Quite the contrary. I was thinking of becoming licensed  last year, but like April Luckese, I had too many children of a certain age for the licensing agency's requirements. I have always adhered to the number and age of the children allowed by Ontario Law. In case you are unfamiliar with the Day Nurseries Act, it states:

A person may provide informal child care to five children or less 
under the age of 10 years who are not of common parentage 
(children who have different parents), in addition to his/her own 
children, without a licence.

Even though I could not become licensed, the lady from the agency offered to send me all the information on becoming licensed anyway, so I could look it over. I have to say that the information she sent was very helpful, and brought issues to my attention that I may not have thought of on my own. I made changes to my daycare program by looking through the requirement checklist of the licensing agency. I wanted to meet every expectation except for the numbers requirement. I believe the only other requirement I found difficult to meet was the one that stated children under 2 should be outside for at least 2 hours every day.

My point with all this is that the information on providing quality childcare that an agency can offer is an excellent resource. But at the end of the day, it is ME who is responsible for carrying it out. And this is what is comes down to: Childcare is as good as the person providing it - licensed or not. Although inspections are done by licensing agencies, they cannot be there all day, every day. How can they know how a provider is interacting with the children when no one is watching?

And what about the numbers? Is one daycare better than another simply by virtue of having fewer children? Not necessarily. I know that there is a point at which the combination of the size and age of the group would be too much for anyone to handle. But apart from this, it is up to the provider to gauge what he or she is able to handle. I have 5 two-year-olds in my care (including my son), and I work hard to provide them with excellent care.

The Toronto Star ran an editorial stating that many parents had "no choice" but to put their children in unlicensed daycare. ( While I do agree that parents should have a choice as to what type of daycare is best for their child, I resent the idea that my type of daycare should be referred to as an undesirable option or a last resort.  It works for some families.  It may not work for all families. Furthermore, it is simply false to assume that licensed childcare is always the best place for a child. If you need proof of this, have a look at this article from a few years ago, discussing abuse and other problems discovered in various licensed daycares ( The notion that 'your child will be safe provided he/she is in a licensed daycare' is misleading to the public.

We are all emotionally affected by the loss of an innocent child. It is nothing less than horrific. But let's not turn this emotionality into irrationality. Licensing a daycare can be a good thing, but we are sadly mistaken if we think that this is the antidote to child maltreatment in daycare centres. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow Paintings for 2-year-olds

This is a very simple idea that goes with the season, and especially with the weather we've been having lately in Toronto! Simply give the kids each a piece of blue construction paper, and some white paint. Tell them they are going to make a snow painting.
The main component of this activity is talking to them about what they are painting. Depending on if they are dabbing their paintbrush on the paper, or spreading the paint around, you can ask them if they're making snowflakes, snowballs, a snowstorm, etc. Aidas said that he was painting a snowstorm. We talked about the wind and the cold, and about snow being white.
This picture only has Aidas's painting in it, since M., L., and B.'s names can't be published in the blog. Noah chose not to paint at all. He watched the others paint with mild interest, but declined to participate. I guess the arsty fartsy part of him is so consumed with music right now, he has no room left for painting!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Home Daycare Kids Return!

I had been on holidays for nearly two weeks until this past Monday. It was fantastic to spend family time with Noah over the holidays; I was able to give him more of my undivided attention. Sometimes, as a home daycare provider, I have wondered if the fact that I am sharing my attention with 4 other children might be unfair to Noah. But, by the end of the holidays, I realized that the home daycare situation is really more beneficial to him than having me all to himself. The group of kids I have is small enough that everyone's needs get met, and I am able to give attention to all of them. Yet, it is a big enough group that demands are sometimes not instantly met. Toys, attention, discipline, choices and praise are shared. I believe that the home daycare is helping Noah (and all of the children) to take turns, be more patient, empathize, share, and of course, socialize. 

But I digress. Let's get back to business! The other children returned this week and it was as smooth as if there had been no break at all. Over the holidays, 3 of the children turned 2 years old, so now they are all 2. The kids have been enjoying playing with all the new toys Noah received from Santa. Aidas barely ate the first day back, choosing the exploration of new toys over food.

We have been continuing to brave the cold for about an hour each morning. Pictured above is the children enjoying some hot chocolate after an outing. Luckily, I do not have any addicts, yet.

One of the toys Noah received for Christmas was a huge bucket of playdough, and tools to go along with it! The kids had a blast!

We had a little lesson about colours at morning snack this week. I am also using any opportunity throughout the day to teach about colours, until everyone in the group is an expert.

The kids always have afternoon snack after waking from their naps. This is often rather close to dinner time, so I have had to take measures to ensure they don't fill up too much on graham crackers and spoil their appetite for a nutritious dinner. They are now allotted a limited amount of carbs for this snack. After that, they are allowed to eat as much fruit or vegetables as they please. One day this week, I had cooked some broccoli (to serve with Noah and Aidas's dinner) while they were napping. I offered this as their fruit/veggie option. Well, they scarfed this down and kept demanding more! (M. was especially ravenous for it!) 

I took some pictures in transit, from the apartment to outside. Here are my usual 3 walkers. They are holding hands while we wait for the elevator. Although it is bitterly cold outside most days, it gets very hot before we get out there. So, I have the process of dressing them for the outdoors worked out to a science!
A few of them know to press #1 on our way down. Sometimes a couple of other numbers are also pressed!

I am happy that we finally have some snow to play in, though it's not yet packing snow. Here are my little polar bears enjoying the great Canadian winter.

I think the most exciting part about going outside, for them, is when we see the garbage truck emptying the big apartment garbage bins. That and the little tractor that is used to do work for some of the apartment buildings in the area are the current wow factors. I get excited just watching their awe. It is so precious!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Healthy Macaroni & Cheese (with Broccoli) Recipe for Toddlers

  • one 8 ounce package of whole wheat macaroni
  • 1 cup's worth of fresh broccoli florets
  • 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups of grated medium cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 a teaspoon of salt
  • 2 cups whole organic milk
  • 3 tablespoons of butter at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon of refrigerated butter
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Grease a 9x13 inch casserole dish with 1 tablespoon of (room temperature) butter.
  3. Cook the macaroni in boiling, salted water until tender.
  4. Cook the broccoli in boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Drain and cut into tiny pieces (the size of peas).
  5. Spread half of the macaroni noodles onto the bottom of the casserole dish.
  6. Cover with half the broccoli bits.
  7. Sprinkle half of the cheese as your next layer.
  8. Cut the tablespoon of cold butter into small bits. Sprinkle half over the macaroni and cheese.
  9. Sprinkle half a tablespoon of flour evenly over the macaroni and cheese, followed by half the salt.
  10. Repeat layers.
  11. Pour milk slowly and evenly into the dish.
  12. Mix the remaining 2 tablespoons of room temperature butter with the bread crumbs, until well combined. Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over top.
  13. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
*This recipe makes 12 generous toddler portions. (I usually cut it into the portions and freeze what is not needed until a later date.)
*Other vegetables, such as peas or green beans, can be substituted for the broccoli.