Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Recycled Crafts: Egg Carton Caterpillars


  • children's paint 
  • paintbrushes
  • container for paint
  • empty egg cartons (one carton will make 2 caterpillars)
  • small, sharp knife
  • scissors
  • googly eyes
  • coffee stir sticks
  • glue
  • permanent marker

How To:
  1. Rip off the top of the empty egg carton.
  2. Using a knife, cut down the middle of the carton, lengthwise, so you end up with two strips of six egg cups.
  3. Using your scissors, cut off the excess bits. The fine details are really up to the individual. I cut enough off each of the sides to minimize lopsidedness when the caterpillar is standing. (But I've seen other people make little legs for them out of the carton itself.)
  4. Have the child paint the egg carton strip. (Encourage them to paint the outside of it, rather than the inside since this is what will be seen.) Let carton dry
  5. Choose one end of the strip for the face. Place a dab of glue near the top of the carton strip and have the child place a googly eye onto it. Do the same for the other side. Let dry.
  6. Using a knife, cut two small slits in the "head", for antennae. (Make sure you don't make the slits bigger than the width of the coffee stir sticks.)
  7. Break two coffee stir sticks so that they are 3 inches long (or 8cm). Insert them into the holes.
  8. Draw a smiling mouth with the permanent marker, just below the eyes on the egg carton strip.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Fire Station

Last Friday, High Park Home Daycare went on a field trip to the local fire station at Keele and Dundas West. Both Aidas's mother (Aldona) and the twins' mother (Marlaine) came along to help out with the excursion. This trip has been a long time coming. I had wanted to take them last summer, but children have to be at least 2.5 years old before the fire department will allow them to tour. Well, the youngest of our group turned 2 and a half on July 2nd, so we were now ready! 

When we got there, there were no firefighters or fire trucks in sight. No one answered the doorbell. With all the hype surrounding this trip, I was really dreading having to tell the children they would not get to go on a fire truck. Not only would they be sad; it could get downright ugly. Toddler rage times five. On a hot day. Far from home. This is the stuff nightmares are made of! Okay, I digress, and embellish...

Let's just say there was a big sigh of relief when we saw a fire truck pulling up to the station. Marlaine quipped that we were probably the last people they wanted to see after attending to a fire. I agreed, and even felt a little guilty just for being there. Well, if they were disappointed to see us, they surely didn't show it. They were absolutely hospitable.

The kids enjoyed sitting in the fire truck. One of the firefighters showed them his suit, boots, and gas mask. Another firefighter later informed me that the gas mask has only been available for the past 15 years or so. She stated that there is no damage to the lungs now, with the mask, but some firefighters who have been with the department a long time are suffering consequences to their health because of previous exposure to smoke and chemicals.

One of the firefighters showed us how one of his tools worked by playfully spraying water at his fellow firefighter. This same man later entertained the children by walking on his hands. It was so nice that he went out of his way to make the children smile. Noah still talks (at least once a day) about how he sprayed the water, so he did really make an impression!

All of them were a little hesitant, but Maya was most in need of mommy's security. The enormity of the fire truck would be intimidating to kids, never mind the new faces! 

Noah and B. both got a chance to sit in the driver's seat of the fire truck. This firefighter even turned on the siren when B. sat with her. It was very loud and exciting for the kids, and I was happy that she had done this for them. As you can imagine, however, Maya was not pleased!

It was a very hot day, so we eventually made our way out of the sun (the firefighters had left the fire truck parked in the driveway) and into the station. The kids stood in awe as a fire truck backed into the station. And to top off the visit, they each received a firefighter's hat. They looked so proud to receive this from an official firefighter!

One of the firefighters insisted on taking a picture of the whole group, and I am so glad he did. I'll treasure these two pictures forever. The kids just look too darned cute!

Apart from what they did for the kids, I am grateful for all that I learned from the visit. We adults were naturally curious about many aspects of the firefighting profession, and the firefighters answered all our questions with a genuine interest in sharing their knowledge. I am in awe of their courage for the dangerous career that they have chosen. And as a teacher myself, I have great admiration for the passion they exhibit for helping the community learn about fire safety. We thank-you, Keele/Dundas firefighters!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Picnics and Pools

It's wading pool season! Once or twice a week, we have been going to the playground and wading pool at Lithuania Park. We bring our Spider Man backpack of toys to share with everyone. Some of our regular programming time is lost due to the sunscreen I have to slather on them all. (And I thought getting them into their snowsuits was time consuming! Still, this is much easier!)

The water is absolutely frigid. No, I'm not being a big baby. I'm basing this opinion on the fact that after wading in it for more than 10 seconds, my feet actually hurt. But kids are made of different stuff, and don't seem to notice. (Remember actually enjoying a good frolic in the freezing cold sprinkler as a child?)

B. doesn't like to go in the water yet. He prefers to play with the toys "by the shore". Lucas is the one who seems to enjoy the pool the most. He goes to the middle (the deepest part) and fills up buckets from the ice water coming out of the tap.

The part of the excursion they look forward to most, though, is the picnic. We bring cheese sandwiches and cucumber, or pita bread with cream cheese. There's something so enjoyable about eating outside, isn't there?

Aidas is pretty much toilet trained. We are all so proud of him! Every day we all have a little treat to congratulate him for being a potty star. I give the treat to all of them because I want the other kids to be happy for their friend, not jealous. At first Noah was motivated by Aidas's success to also become a potty star. Now he prefers to reap the rewards Aidas brings in without doing any of the work himself. (Smart boy.) Sometimes he comes to the bathroom and says to Aidas, (as if he is very excited about his buddy's hard work), "Aidas! You go pee pee in potty?!" Then he adds, "What treat you want later? Freezie, or Gold Fish, or Nutrigrain Bar?" He's got it all figured out.

Maya and Lucas love to show support for their friend by wearing (clean) underwear on their heads. As you can see in the photos above, they are intent on promoting their fashion line.

The following video demonstrates Lucas's skill, not only at playing guitar, but at being cool and cute at the same time. He is very passionate about his song. A true musician!

Noah's Oma and Opa got him a 10-foot long alphabet train puzzle. It's a great teaching tool for toddlers! And fun too! They love singing their ABC's over and over again to see what puzzle piece they need to put next.

Noah and I picked up some new foam shapes (and pom-poms) from the dollar store, and the kids all made pictures by gluing them to a coloured paper of their choice. We haven't done a gluing activity in a few weeks, and I was surprised to see that most of the kids had forgotten how to do it! It's a lesson for me: make sure this is, in the very least, a bi-weekly activity. 

The kids are loving Play-Dough more than ever, as they are able to do more and more with it themselves. 

Lucas and Maya are still treating nap time as "concert rehearsal time". I often have to go back in, after a little while, and change their diapers. Sometimes they can only settle down if I lie down in my bed and encourage them to be quiet. The following video shows Lucas entertaining himself after his sister has already dropped off to sleep. He has such a sweet, playful character! Little imp!

Speaking of performing, Noah continues to entertain. We have made a few trips to the Choo Choo Playground (Vine Parkette) after the kids have gone home. He loves to use the empty wading pool as his stage. I love to watch him singing. During one of his songs, titled "It's a nice day out", he pointed to the sky and sung about it being blue, and the fact that it was sunny outside. I love my little ham!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Toronto Pride Fun for Kids

Last Saturday, Noah and I went to Toronto Pride. I had never been before. I must admit, I got a very limited experience of the festival, since Noah and I spent most of our time in the "Family Pride" area. I found out about this area from a friend, who sent me this link: http://www.pridetoronto.com/festival/family-pride/. The Family Pride area is basically a schoolyard filled with activities for children of all ages. So, off I went with Noah to Church Street Public School to check it out.
First, we got some of the free snacks being served inside the school. Then, we went back outside and ate the food while watching this very cool musical trio. They were older kids, perhaps preteens, and had no musical instruments except for one tambourine (if memory serves me correct), but their rhythm was mesmerizing. 

Noah spotted the playground in the distance, and wanted to try it out. Unfortunately, when we got to it, he realized it was geared more to older kids, and changed his mind. There were a few buckets of outdoor toys, so Noah explored these for a little while. He tried golf, and I showed him how to throw a Frisbee and what to do with a lacrosse stick. (Okay, you got me. I don't really know what to do with a lacrosse stick either.) I tried to entice him to participate in one of the many arts and crafts activities they had going on in various tents.

Then, he spotted the train.
He eagerly ran to where the little Via Rail Train was slowing down to park. So did every other child in the vicinity. The confusion and chaos of the mob was managed by one very nice lady who had the tremendous task of ushering everyone into a linear formation. It was genius! Honestly though, us parents are worse than the kids sometimes. I know I'm no psychic, but I am positive that every parent was thinking, "This train is so cool. My baby needs to experience this, NOW!" Noah patiently waited in line while the first train of kids rode around the yard. He wouldn't have made it on the next train if it weren't for the fact that he was brave enough to go as a single rider!
Noah had a great time in the toy area. We could see a bit of the Dyke March from where we were, but as I say, our experience of the Pride festival outside of the family area was quite limited! He was just having such a great time here, that there was no reason to move on!
He played with trucks, a car ramp, pop-up toys and blocks. Then he was on a mission to place all the foam ABC's in alphabetical order. 
We had a bit of time for him to enjoy the water play area before we had to head home. He was very happy to get some relief from the heat. 

He wanted to walk with me through the busy streets to Wellesley station. It was hard enough to maneuver the stroller through the crowds, never mind a walking Noah as well! Thank goodness for some Toronto cops who threw a few little packages of chocolate treats into the stroller. Another bribe saves the day!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fun and Games

We are continuing our round-the-block walks, at least once a week. Aidas and Noah get to walk half of the way around the block, while the other 3 enjoy the view from the wagon. Then, when we get to the tennis courts, we know it's time to switch. Noah and Aidas get into the wagon, and Lucas, Maya and B. get a chance to walk. They're all really good about holding hands and staying safe. We have been working on what to do when you get to a driveway. The kids are getting pretty good at the drill. We stop, look both ways for cars, and walk quickly across if it's clear. It is helpful, teaching-wise, that sometimes there is a car coming into or out of the driveway, so that the kids can see why we need to check.

Some days we go straight out back with the Spider Man backpack of toys. The kids are becoming more interested in the skipping rope. They enjoy turning the rope. Because they are beginners, I'm encouraging them to jump over the rope when it is still or moving (Snakesies) on the ground.

One weekend, Dan, Noah and I were returning to the apartment building after an outing. In the garbage area, someone had left a child's play kitchen that was in nearly perfect condition. I almost left it alone, since we have little space left for more toys. In the end, I just couldn't leave it, knowing that many children besides my own would get to enjoy it. I made room. They love it!

The kids manage to find or create muck even when it isn't raining. Sometimes the sloppy goop still hasn't dried from a rain storm the night before. Sometimes they gather dirt, and then hold it under an outdoor tap that has a slow drip. One day when it was drizzling out, the kids scooped up mud and then painted an outside wall with it. It looked like graffiti on our building, yet I just couldn't bring myself to stop them. I was captivated by the focus they showed while creating their art. It looked like an incredible childhood experience for them, making a mural with mud! The next day, when Aidas was trying to add to the masterpiece, the superintendent to our building walked by and basically told us "Not cool." I completely understood, but was glad they had the chance to do it at least once!

We visited the library again a couple of Fridays ago. B. accidentally locked himself in this little chair and needed to be rescued. The children and I talked about the fact that they are big kids now, and that this little chair is for babies. We found a dolly and all the kids doted on her, giving her lots of pretend food to eat and many toys to play with.

Here are a few of the kids dancing during music circle at the library. They love this "Throw the Beanbag and Catch" song! 

I bought this great ABC puzzle from a neighbourhood garage sale. Each puzzle piece is a different letter of the alphabet. Singing the alphabet helped us to place the letters in sequential order. Then we tried to match pieces from our wooden alphabet puzzle to the letters on this jigsaw puzzle.

The kids are also learning how to play games. Noah got "The Nose Game" from Maya and Lucas for his 2nd birthday. Whenever we take out this game, we spend some time just playing informally with the pieces and matching the noses to the right animals. Then we play a game, where each child takes a turn reaching into the bag (without looking) in hopes of matching the noses on his or her cards. They are really good at waiting their turn now, and also keeping their cool when the awaited for turn doesn't result in any nose matches. The last time we played, the game was long because none of us were getting matches for our cards. I was amazed that all the kids remained focused and continued to participate right until the end of the game!

After this game though, most of the kids were done with such formal play. It was just Noah who wanted to play another game, so we played the "Memory Game". He mostly understands this game, though at one point when my attention was on the other kids, I found him flipping over every card until he got a match! 

One of the kids' favourite activities is playing with both the wooden (Thomas the Tank Engine) and the plastic train tracks. Maya is particularly good at making both interesting and extensive train track routes. Thank goodness we have accumulated enough of the wooden train cars (some from IKEA, which is where my mother bought the wooden track) so that all the kids can have at least 2 each!

Pretend play is increasing around here, and getting more creative too! The newest game is pretending that the doors between the kitchen and dining room are elevator doors. I was washing dishes after lunch one day, watching them play this. Way. Too. Cute.

There is a lot of arguing over toys happening lately. At least they are starting to see that having a ball all to yourself isn't nearly as fun as playing with a partner! Lucas and B. rolled the ball back and forth to each other for quite some time, without needing me to help coordinate things. This was especially good because I needed to get dinner on the table!

On June 30th, just before the long weekend, the kids coloured in print-outs of the Canadian Flag. I got the printable from the internet at http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/pdfs/coloring_flag_canada.pdf. Lucas coloured his yellow, and Aidas coloured his orange, just to give it some flair!

By the way, in the photo below, Noah's holding the one I coloured; he's not that advanced! He did bring both the one I coloured and the one he coloured on our outing on Canada Day, and waved them around proudly!

Look out summertime, cause here we come!