Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ontario Science Centre for Toddlers

Dan and I decided to take Noah to the Ontario Science Centre for Family Day. As expected, every other family in the GTA had the same idea! It seemed as though the Science Centre was prepared for the crowds, however, and the mayhem was somewhat organized.

Noah will be 2 and a half years old very soon. He doesn't yet understand many of the exhibits at this young age. Thank goodness for KidSpark! The relatively new (2003) KidSpark area of the Science Centre is perfect for his age group. Actually, it is intended for children 8 and under, but I saw kids as young as 1 year old enjoying themselves.

First off, there is a pretend grocery store, where children can load their cart or buggy with empty packages of real food, and plastic fruits and vegetables. They can weigh the food in hanging basket scales, and pretend to buy their food at the "checkout". It was a busy place, and I dare say the biggest attraction at KidSpark.

Another major attraction in this area is the water table, where kids can play with boats, fishing rods, and other toys. Older kids can experiment with how water behaves in more complex ways, by turning a hose wound around a large tube, for instance.

One very cool feature of this area is a pretend house, with an upstairs and downstairs. Children can fit rectangle foam pieces into the holes in the walls, or use them to shingle the roof.

Beside this play exhibit, there are numerous tracks for children to roll balls down. The ramps have hills and loop-de-loops. Thus, children can experiment with how to roll their ball to overcome gravity (by using height and/or speed), so that it travels over the hills and upside down.

Noah's favourite part by far (i.e. the one we finally had to drag him away from, kicking and screaming) was the rock band room. There is a stage, a drum, and a bunch of pretend guitars. The younger kids enjoy rocking out on stage (and seeing themselves on T.V.), while the older kids push buttons on a large board in front of the stage, to play the songs or change the lighting.

There are two sectioned off areas for children only 3 and under. This is great for the little ones who may feel intimidated or overstimulated by the older (read: rowdier) kids. They can find solace in these areas, which include books, climbing cushions and a pretend kitchen.

There is also a castle in which kids can look out over the play area, tables with building blocks, and many, more fun things to do, in KidSpark alone. And yes, there are nursing rooms and baby changing rooms located right in the same area. If you are thinking of visiting, you will find more information on the Ontario Science Centre's Website:

Friday, February 18, 2011

Healthy Broccoli Pizza for Toddlers

  • one 8 gram package active dry yeast (equal to 2 and 1/2 teaspoons or 0.25ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups all purpose whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 cups broccoli (cooked until tender, and diced)
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • spray can of cooking oil
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Stir yeast, sugar and water together until dissolved. Wait 10 minutes.
  3. Add the olive oil and salt. Mix well.
  4. Add the flour. Mix until well blended.
  5. Let it sit for 10 minutes.
  6. Add any extra flour needed, in small amounts, until dough does not stick to your hands when kneading it.
  7. Lightly spray a large baking pan with oil.
  8. Roll the dough out so that it is pretty thin and covers most of the pan. Don't worry about making a crust. Kids prefer the cheesiness, so you can make the whole pizza flat.
  9. Spoon the sauce onto the dough and spread it out evenly. Again, since kids usually prefer not to eat the crust, you can spread it as close to the edge as possible.
  10. Sprinkle the broccoli evenly over the dough.
  11. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese evenly onto the pizza.
  12. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese evenly onto the pizza.
  13. Place it in the oven for 12-14 minutes.
  14. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Day: Home Daycare Style!

We had a fun little Valentine's Day celebration at the home daycare, complete with treats, balloons, heart decorations and valentines.

One of the activities the children did was matching coloured hearts. I made them each their own activity board by taping one red, yellow and blue heart (made out of construction paper) to white Bristol Board. I covered these with clear plastic tape, and placed a piece of Velcro over each heart. I then cut out corresponding coloured hearts from coloured Bristol Board. I wrote the colour name on each heart, and placed Velcro on the back. The kids had to stick each heart to its matching coloured heart on the board. It's a great starter activity for teaching colours. (I wish I had started to teach colours using this activity!) Using only 3 colours simplifies things, and primary colours are a good place to begin. It is also very hands-on, yet appropriate for a 2-year-old's level of fine motor development.
At morning snack I gave them each a very small treat bag with a few chocolates, and a valentine from me to them. (They are too young to get the point of giving each other valentines, but I figured this would give them an idea of how it works.)
Later that morning, the kids made heart-shaped cookies. (It was mostly Noah and M., with the others dropping in when something peaked their interest!) We followed the same recipe as when Noah and I made Christmas Tree cookies (
We had fun making a big old mess. (Did I just say that? Boy, have I changed in the past year or so!) All of them went wild sweeping the flour all over the table with their hands. B. kept eating the flour. Noah kept sucking on the baking utensils. It was perfect chaos. 
They each had a plain heart cookie after their lunch, and then I iced the rest while they napped. As you can see, my artistic skills in this area are severely lacking. But hey, it's from the heart, right?
We have been playing with heart cut-outs for the past week. I drew happy faces on some of the hearts and wrote their names on others. Then I stuck Velcro to the back of them. We have been sticking them to the area designated as "The Alphabet Wall". I also wrote the numbers "1", "2" and "3" on 3 of the hearts so that the kids can practise putting them in order. The rest of the cut-outs have been everywhere! I was hoping the kids would help me to decorate the apartment with them, but they preferred to hold onto them, dropping them in random places, of course! Happy Valentine's Day to my little sweethearts!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

They Come in Colours Everywhere

Before I begin with the news, please note that I have recently (within the past month) updated the 'Menu', 'Schedule', and 'Discipline Policy' pages of my website.   
Now, on with the cuteness! We did the colour gluing activity again last week; this time using cut-outs with the colour red. The kids are starting to get the hang of how to use a glue stick. We have hung the red and yellow collages in the dining room and often refer to them during meals or snack time. 
We also did some colour sorting with the coloured bowls and vehicles. For the first 2 minutes, I kept hold of the vehicles, giving them one at a time. I showed them how to match the colour to the bowls. However, they were so excited to get their hands on the vehicles and play 'in their own way', that I quickly felt guilty for withholding them and handed them over. They really love just filling the bowls and emptying the bowls, or pouring the vehicles from one bowl into another.
The kids were ravenous for more colours during our finger painting activity. Noah kept asking for more paint, even though he had an untouched glob of each colour already on his paper. I finally quickly helped him paint hand-over-hand, just so that his painting would actually dry, and I could hang it on the wall. He looked at me as if I had violated him. He really doesn't seem to like the feeling of paint on his hands. I was very happy that he at least participated to some extent this time, though! 

While the other kids dabbled in the activity, Aidas and L. dove right in, producing 3 paintings each! Doesn't the following picture say it all? You know you had fun painting when....

All of their paintings turned out beautifully. It means so much to them to see their paintings up on the wall. They are so proud of their work. It is also helping each of them to recognize their names. When we read books at snack time, we often talk about letters, and whose name starts with which letter. Most of them know which painting is theirs by looking at the beginning letter of each name on the paintings. (Thank goodness their names all start with different letters!) Some of them can tell me exactly whose painting is whose, for the entire group!

Our dress-up bin has always included some leftover party hats and paper plates from Noah's 2nd birthday party. The newest fad is to turn the empty dress-up bin upside down, use it as a table, and pretend that we are at a birthday party. The kids are so into it that Noah and I bought some new hats from the Dollar Store this week, to replenish the supply. We also added some plastic knives, forks and spoons to the collection. 

The kids are starting to take a very small part, now and then, in cooking. Noah woke up early from nap one day last week while I was in the middle of making broccoli macaroni and cheese. He was happy to help pour the milk into the dish before I popped it in the oven.
Today the kids helped with their pizza dinner. They took turns spreading tomato sauce on the dough with a spoon. Then, I gave them each a little bowl of cut up broccoli and they took turns sprinkling it over the sauce...and eating a little here and there, of course! I was wiser with the cheese, and held onto the bowl so they wouldn't spoil their appetite for dinner, though I did sprinkle a little in each of their bowls as a treat. It turned out to be the most delicious homemade pizza I've ever served at the daycare! Go figure!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Toddlers Befriend a Snowman

We had a great time playing in the snow on Monday. It was beautiful outside. It felt mild, and for the first time this winter, we had packing snow! We can't take credit for building this snowman, though we did subsequently build a baby snowman beside it. I wish every wintry day was as nice as this one was!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Teaching Colours Activity - Colour Sorting

Here is an easy activity to do even if you don't have fancy colour sorting equipment. Place a piece of construction paper, in the colour you wish to teach, on the floor. Name the colour of the paper first. Begin looking around the room for toys of that colour and place them on the paper. State what you are doing to the kids, and ask for their help. It is best to choose objects that are uniformly that colour, to make it clear.
We did the activity this week, using the colours red, yellow, and blue. As a teacher, it is instinct to reflect upon activities or lessons. One thing I would do differently next time is to use larger pieces of construction paper to put the objects on (or tape smaller pieces of construction paper together). Also, if children choose a toy that is not uniformly that colour, but communicate to you where they see the target colour, obviously encourage them, and let them place it on the sheet. Lastly, the activity was very brief. Kids' attention spans wander in the blink of an eye. I don't believe that it makes this activity unsuccessful though. It just means that I can work it into the program a few times a week to make it more effective, especially with such an easy set-up. I am already thinking of other ways to revise this activity, so stay tuned!