Tissue Paper Watercolor

It’s always fun to watch the children experiment with materials. Last year, we had created these amazing jellyfish by coloring with markers on extra large coffee filters and then placing them out in the rain to allow the color to spread. The ink spread in the rain and created a watercolor effect. Since the children have been exceptionally interested in using eye droppers to drip water (since our snow painting) I set out some canvas boards, tissue paper, water and eye droppers. 



Tissue paper was cut and/or torn and placed so it covered the entire canvas.





It was difficult to wait to drip the water, so before the canvas was covered, the addition of water began.





Once the first bits of tissue were wet, she went back and added more to cover the white spots. She was surprised that the new tissue paper soaked up the remaining water on the canvas.





She added a little bit more water to make sure that every bit of tissue was wet enough. The canvas was set aside to dry. Note: We did blot some of the excess water off of the top with a papertowel.





After the tissue paper dried (it took about a half day) she peeled it off. what was left behind was beautiful.



This provocation turned out to be really fun and a good lesson in color mixing. The girl that was documented noted that if she was going to do it agai she would use the brighter and darker colored tissue paper because they left the most color. Pretty keen observation for a 6 year old to make. She also noted that the black and white tissue paper left no color and she thinks that’s why there are white spots left on her canvas. 

Please visit us on Facebook to see more of what we do!

If you give this provocation a try with your children, let us know how yours have come out. If you have any suggestions for us to try next time, leave a comment below! 

Tales of a Child Care Provider: “How Do You Do It All?”

It’s funny to think about, because I don’t really anymore, but when I pay attention, I sure do get a lot of astonished looks from people that see me walking down the road. I’m not sure why you’re staring….I’ve got (2) 2-year old’s in a double stroller making truck noises, a 3-year old walking beside holding on, a 4 year old singing a song from Frozen, a 9 year old & a 7 year old talking rapid-fire about Minecraft, and (3) 6 year old’s discussing the latest gossip from music class. Yup, I’m by myself. Nope, they aren’t all mine, well…they aren’t…but they are (in a way).

“How do you do it?” followed by an exasperated glance at all my kiddos (neatly lined up along side the road on the way back from the bus stop) is probably the question that I get asked most often, and typically by complete strangers that can’t comprehend the situation they have laid eyes on.

“How do I do what?” would be the answer I’d prefer to give with a laugh. I’m organized and I’m in charge. It’s honestly pretty darn easy. I’m NOT patting myself on the back, it’s hard work and most days my back is so sore at the end it would be hard to bend that way to do the patting.

Okay, okay…the key to “doing it all” is….drum-roll please………………………………………………………….ORGANIZATION!

keep-calm-and-organize-351

That’s it. It’s really quite simple. Oh yes, and a real, legitimate love for children. If you don’t love kids…well…that’s a whole other blog post and you should probably consider a career change.

If you’re not organized, you will never survive. Never is a bold statement but that’s how I feel. If there isn’t a nice, neat notebook with each and every day’s schedule of enrolled children expected to attend, and nice neat piles of shoes, coats and backpacks at the entrance, your life will be chaos. The kids you are caring for will be in chaos. The families attempting to find someones missing glove and a missing shoe will be in chaos.

You may has well just leave the building and let the kids go all Lord of the Flies.

lordflies

Okay…maybe not that extreme, but you get my drift. Being a child care provider, organization needs to be a constant, not “One of these days I’m going to get myself organized”. You either are or you aren’t”.

So, thank you for asking “How do I do it all?” while I’m keeping my tribe of children together on the side of the road. I love meeting new people and so do the children. However, please keep the conversation short so our organized line doesn’t start looking like a chopped up worm. Take my word for it when I smile and say “It’s fun, you just need to be organized”. I really do love my job and I’ve worked hard to have this lovely line you see.

If you need tips on being organized as a child care provider (or even a family with lots going on!), I can help! I’ve got some systems in place at Salt Meadow Academy that work extremely well for me. Feel free to shoot me an email or comment below!

What do you do to keep your group organized?

Product Review: Minute Menu Pro

I haven’t taken the time to review any of the products I use on a frequent basis at Salt Meadow Academy, but with tax season coming to a close, I thought I’d take the time and review Minute Menu Pro software. **NOTE: I was not solicited by this company to write this review**

I’ve been following Tom Copeland’s blog for a while. If anyone is in the field of child care (especially home child care), and they don’t know who Tom Copeland is, they may have been living under a swing set on a deserted playground somewhere. It was on Tom’s blog that I first came across Minute Menu Pro.

Minute Menu Pro is advertised as “the most comprehensive online record keeping software designed specifically for family child care providers.” Tall order to live up to…but last year, I decided to give the free trial a whirl. I was so impressed I purchased the software in full about 30 minutes later.

I’m quite tech-savvy, so at first glance, this software program looked like something I would have seen in the early 90’s running on Windows 3.1. It’s not visually impressive. However, as you give it a chance after getting over the shock of such an old looking program, you realize that its simplicity is part of its charm. The tools you need are right in front of you on the main screen. Providers can log attendance, track payments received, track expenses, keep track of meals provided to children and even accept payments online (though I don’t use that feature).

The ease of entering my expenses was probably what excited me the most about this program. If you’re a daycare provider, you’ve likely got a stack of crinkled receipts stashed into a folder somewhere, in some filing cabinet that you are dreading adding up (and pulling your hair out if you mistype a number in the calculator and have to start again)and taking your time/space percentage of…it’s a CHORE. This program makes it SO MUCH EASIER!

If you keep your attendance through Minute Menu Pro, like I do, it’s incredibly easy to track your time. At the end of the year, the program will figure your Time/Space % for you! No manual calculations on your part AND you can easily print a report to include with your taxes to show the IRS how you’ve come to that percentage. No guessing, no math errors, just simple!

My last favorite feature is receipts. I create an invoice for every week for my parents (though they don’t actually get a copy, it’s for my records only) and I log their payment into Minute Menu Pro. I’m able to note the day they paid, by what method and even note the check #. At the end of the year my gross sales receipts are automatically tallied onto a report! I can print out end-of-the-year statements for my parents which lists all of their payments for the year along with my EIN so that they can possibly take advantage of the tax deductions for dependent care.

So is it worth the yearly subscription fee? You bet your stack of crinkled receipts it is! It saves me so much time at the end of the year and takes a lot of guesswork out of tax time. Also….it’s pretty great if you are obsessed with organization like I am.

Twisted Strands™: Connections Remain

When we started the Twisted Strands™ project way back in the beginning of the school year, we had never expected that it would blossom into such a fabulous opportunity for our children to really make connections (not just casual ones) with children and teachers at schools across the country and around the world.

Barrow Street Nursery School in New York is one of those connections that hasn’t forgotten about us. It was an insanely cold, snowy day on Friday here in Connecticut and it was a super surprise to find a heavy, unexpected package at our mailbox.

IMG_0604

Since we had no idea it was coming, we had no idea what was inside! We were very excited to guess the contents. Since it was so heavy our children guessed heavy items like rocks, a dog, a pair of boots, and lots of marbles. We opened the box to see it stuffed with bubble wrap and green paper and a couple of letters!

IMG_0602

IMG_0603

The children in the classes called “The Pandas” and “The I Don’t Knows” had taken a pottery class! They have a teacher called Pottery Dave who taught them how to use a potters wheel to fashion their own projects! Incredible! This must have been such an exciting opportunity for these children! Both letters mentioned that they made the kids at Salt Meadow Academy a special gift!

IMG_0605

These beautiful pieces of pottery where made by the children of Barrow Street Nursery School under the guidance of their mentor Pottery Dave. Our children haven’t decided what we will store inside them yet, but they loved the idea of storing cookies or candy inside! We may keep our pencils inside so we can always find them and so that we can see the beautiful gift these children sent us every day.

Thank you so much for your generousity! We will be in touch soon, as our children are now brainstorming a thank you gift.

Reflections: Valentine’s Day and Self-Esteem

Like countless other early childhood programs, once one holiday has passed, the children are already looking forward and counting the days to the next.

A child’s positive self-image is an important focus for teachers and parents throughout the year. This February, all of the children at SMA celebrated each others wonderfully unique qualities with our “Have a Heart” project. Each child had the opportunity to anonymously note positive character traits about their classmates to fill their hearts!

IMG_0612

The children had a lot of fun with this activity and seemed to really write or dictate very thoughtful ideas that would surely make their classmates were guaranteed to get the “warm fuzzies”. Some of the things listed included; shares well with me, is one of my best friends, is brave, has a nice smile, is a good reader, is nice to me, sings well and even is a good sidekick.

Much to my surprise, the older children secretly created a heart for me and left it on my computer so that I would find it later. It’s really the little wonderful things such as this that makes any difficult days completely worth it.

IMG_0610

I sent the hearts home a couple of days before Valentine’s Day with a note for parents explaining the project. Typically, I wouldn’t send a letter with a project, but I felt that I needed to explain the essence of this project, especially to the parents of our youngest children and to those that do not follow our activity on Facebook.

IMG_0609

Another project that spontaneously came about, was our freestyle heart art. Simple as simple can be to set up with only a cardboard tube from toilet tissue, a palette paints and a large paper. Children can easily bend the cardboard tube into a heart shape and use it as a stamp! What was incredibly fun was that unlike a paintbrush, you can not rinse the tube before changing colors. Therefore, the initial hearts start out as more of a solid, singular color and the subsequent hearts take on a rainbow effect.

IMG_0606

The color mixing was something incredibly fun for the kiddos and before I knew it, exclamations of “I made a rainbow heart! Come see my rainbow heart!” were being called across our classroom.

IMG_0607

IMG_0608

We were even invited to enter our freestyle heart art into a contest sponsored by Learning Genie. Learning Genie is an interactive digital childcare daily report and digital portfolio for early childhood situations and parents. We WON by having the most “likes” on our project! Visit and “like” Learning Genie’s Facebook page.

We are already counting down to St. Patrick’s Day and there is talk amongst the children if leprechauns will be visiting them! Time will tell.

Twisted Strands™: Challenge from Hopmeadow Nursery School

Awhile back, as you may recall, we received a Twisted Strands™ contribution from Hopmeadow Nursery School. In return, when we sent along a Certificate of Participation we also sent them a braid of yarn. The yarn contained 10 strands, one for each child, and we challenged the children to create something. A bit of time passed and one day we saw on their Facebook page an entry about our challenge and their response. They sewed their strands onto fabric to create a unique art piece to frame and display in their classroom. They then announced they were sending us a material and challenged us to create something. A package arrived at Salt Meadow Academy a short time later containing a letter and some muslin squares.

2015/01/img_0558.jpg

We called a class meeting to open the package together. The children at Hopmeadow guessed that we would make a quilt, draw pictures on the fabric and other very creative suggestions. However, our oldest student “N” had a great idea! “We should make something totally different than any of the things that they guessed”, he said. One child suggested we make shirts from the fabric squares, but after holding them up came to the realization that none of them would be small enough to fit in a shirt made from a 12×12 muslin square. It was then suggested that they could make one shirt from all of the squares but they each wanted to be able to wear it and the older children decided it would be to big for the two year olds. After a lot of back and forth and a couple days of consideration the class decided that it definitely wanted to create something that each of them could take home. So what could we create with these identical pieces of muslin that would be unique to each individual child at Salt Meadow Academy? Pillows?!

“But we don’t know how to sew!”
“The needle is sharp.”
“I have a sewing machine at home.”
“How do you make a pillow?”

The suggestion was met with mixed reaction and questions. The idea was explored a bit more with one child saying she didn’t want a plain white pillow and she asked if she could draw with crayons on her fabric square. The others took to this idea immediately and we were off and running with the decision to make pillows confirmed….though “we still don’t know how to sew.”

Over the course of the next few days the children designed their fabric to fit their individual style. Robots, video game characters, rainbows and butterflies emerged in full color on the fabric. When they tired of drawing on their own fabric, children wandered to look at what others were drawing. The drawing process took nearly a week as we don’t see all of our children on a daily basis. When a child that hadn’t already started designing their pillow began, the other children excitedly explained what they had drawn and got out the needed supplies for the child just starting out.

2015/01/img_0546.jpg

With the designs finalized on the fabric, the next step in the process for the children to discover was “How do you make a pillow?” The first stop was into the room where the youngest children nap to take a closer look at pillows.

“They are fluffy inside.”
“This pillow is much bigger than my fabric.”
“There are two pieces of fabric.”
“I think there are four pieces because this pillow is a rectangle.”
“How does the stuffing get inside?”

It was ultimately decided that the pillow needed a front piece of fabric and a back piece of fabric along with some stuffing. We had quite a bit of fabric scraps leftover in our classroom that we could have used for the pillow backings but the children felt they were not good or new enough to create these special pillows with. They desired bright fancy fabric with designs on it.

This picture shows some of the fabric that was found in the clearance bin at our local Joann fabrics. Next to the fabric lay some of the children’s drawings.

2015/01/img_0548.jpg

One the first sewing day, we had only a very small group of children. Fabric squares were chosen and marked with stitching lines to make the sewing process a little easier. Luckily, I’ve done a lot of sewing by hand and by machine so teaching the children how to sew came quite easy. We did use real needles much to the excitement of the children. The dull plastic needles wouldn’t have pushed through the fabric. The children were aware that the needles for were sharp and that they needed to work slowly and carefully to avoid pricked fingers. Of course, a couple finger pricks occurred over the course but nothing major and soon the room was silent with children bent over diligently assembling their pillows.

2015/01/img_0557.jpg

2015/01/img_0547.jpg

2015/01/img_0549.jpg

Sewing so slowly and carefully is tiring for little hands. So when they tired of stitching we put their fabric away to work on another day. We did not outline a timeline for completion of this project because I felt the joy would be sucked right out of it if the children were pushed. The fine motor skills and concentration needed to stitch all the way around their fabric was incredible. It took about two weeks of on and off attempts to finish to the point where the pillows could be stuffed.

2015/01/img_0551.jpg

At last, the long awaited pillow stuffing day came! I never would have guessed how many giggles would occur during pillow stuffing but it sure was a lot! We went through a couple bags of stuffing to get the pillows to the appropriate “fluffiness”. After the stuffing, a couple stitches secured the hole and they were ready to snuggle!

2015/01/img_0550.jpg

2015/01/img_0553.jpg

2015/01/img_0555.jpg

2015/01/img_0552.jpg

Thank you to Hopmeadow Nursery School for the challenge! We had so much fun creating our pillows and they’ve all been taken home to snuggle with! Our children are brainstorming what material we could send your class this time! Which leads to the next project idea by the children.

Twisted Strands™ allowed us to meet classes and learn about children all over the world through their letters and ribbons! Since we haven’t received any ribbons for quite some time, the children are again looking for some mail. The new learning branch is now dubbed the SMA Challenge™. Does anyone else want to send a project material to challenge our children? Please send a material along with a letter from your program and the children at Salt Meadow Academy will create something amazing!

Please mail your challenge to:
Salt Meadow Academy Challenge™
15 Bluff Avenue
Clinton, CT 06413

Twisted Strands™: What Do YOU Know About Iceland?

We were stunned to see a Twisted Strands™ envelope in the mail from ICELAND earlier this week. I had been in contact with a teacher, Hronn Godjonsdottir, who was interested in participating in our project, but honestly, I had forgotten they were going to mail one. It was so very exciting to see!
iceland5

A package from ICELAND!

A package from ICELAND!

Now, like my students, I’m not very well versed in Iceland’s geography or traditions (though I’m planning a trip to the capital Reykjavik in 2015), so I got to learn quite a bit right alongside them. Together, we are on this Twisted Strands™

adventure and it’s bringing us to some fabulous places.

Inside the envelope (which was rather heavy) was a letter with lots of information about their country and school, a calendar (more about this later) and a ribbon!

Wonderful Twisted Strands contribution from Leikskolinn Hladhamrar in Mosfellsbae, Iceland.

Wonderful Twisted Strands contribution from Leikskolinn Hladhamrar in Mosfellsbae, Iceland

Hronn and students were kind enough to tell us all about Iceland. In their letter, they told us about an active volcana called Baroarbunga, which is located in central Iceland. The children told us that it was dangerous to go near the volcano and that they’ve seen it on TV. We used the internet to look at more information on Baroarbunga. Our children have never known anyone that lived near a real, active volcano. They expressed concern and hoped that the children at the Kindergarten would be safe and not get hurt.

We also learned that from around the middle of September to about the middle of April, the Northern Lights are easily seen from Iceland. Our children thought the picture of The Northern Lights looked like fireworks, similar to what we have here in America to celebrate our Independence Day. We looked at videos on the internet of The Northern Lights and they were very pretty. The children erupted into giggles while trying to pronounce Aurora Borealis.

As mentioned previously, there was a calendar included with the letter. It was called “The Icelandic Yuletide Calendar: Recounting the Adventures of the 13 Yuletide Lads”. None of us had ever heard of the 13 Yuletide Lads.

A very special gift from Iceland.

A very special gift from Iceland.

“In a cave high up in the blue mountains, a place fit only for ogres and trolls, Mother Gryla stirred the brew, throwing sheep dung into the fire, Father Leppaluoi sat on his bed, which he never left, unless he had to. From a dark corner there came a rumbling, loud yawning, quarreling and kicking about. After their long sleep, limbs stiff and shaky, their heads unclear, the Lads were awakening. With the approach of yet another Yuletide they were getting on their feet again. The Lads grew merrier by the hour, and the Yuletide Cat came slinking in, sensing something tastier in the offing than the mice of past months. The Lads wolfed down Gryla’s brew and prepared for their annual journey. The Yuletide Lads meant mischief, and each day another one made his way down from the mountains. Under cover of darkness they approached the homesteads, the hissing Yuletide Cat close upon their heels. At the farms, from then on, things began to disappear. Deplorable, really, the way these Lads behaved.”

In the earlier centuries, the number of Yuletide Lads varied from one part of Iceland to another. The number 13 is first seen in ballad about the giantess Gryla in the eighteenth century, the names of the Lads first appear in the “Icelandic Folk Tales” compiled by Jon Arnason in 1862. The Lads come down from their mountain dwelling, one each day. The first to arrive is Sheep-Cot Clod. He appears on the 12th of December and leaves on Christmas Day. The last one, Candle Beggar, arrives on Christmas Eve and goes back to the mountains on the 6th of January, the 13th day of Christmas.

The children at Salt Meadow Academy are very excited to read about the 13 Yuletide Lads starting on December 12. We have hung the calendar on our bulletin board for the children and families to see when they visit our classroom.

The ribbon included in the envelope was blue, red and white, which are the colors of the Icelandic flag. We hung the beautiful ribbon from the branches and even wrapped part of it around the trunk.

The Icelandic ribbon hangs on the left side of the branches. You can see the blue, white and red stripes.

The Icelandic ribbon hangs on the left side of the branches. You can see the blue, white and red stripes.

We marked the location on the map which we thought was closest to Mosfellsbaer, Iceland.

iceland2

Thank you very much for your contribution to the Twisted Strands™ Project. Watch your mail! We have written a letter to your children and have also included a Certificate of Participation!

To have your school, program or family participate in the Twisted Strands Project, please mail your contribution to:
Twisted Strands™

Salt Meadow Academy
15 Bluff Avenue
Clinton, CT 06413 USA

Twisted Strands™: Bribie Island Kindy & The World’s Smallest Kite

It’s been awhile since we posted about a Twisted Strands™ contribution because it’s been a little while since we’ve received any. Our students still check the mail box every single day in hopes that more letters and strings arrive for their project. Many days, I can see their disappointment when nothing arrives, but their joy is contagious when there is a special envelope in the mail.

The children were very excited to see an envelope from Bribie Island, Australia in the mail on Monday! Bribie Island Community Kindergarten and their teacher Miss Narelle has been in contact via email with us for about a month now. We have exchanged emails with her class as virtual pen pals. Their class is 9,675 miles away from us but email has made communication very easy.

bribieisland5

A special package from new connections in Australia!

Inside the envelope was a lovely letter, a beautiful bunch of ribbons and a special surprise, “The World’s Smallest Kite”!

Bribie Island Community Kindergarten's Twisted Strands contribution!

Bribie Island Community Kindergarten’s Twisted Strands contribution!

On many of the ribbons, which were Christmas themed, the children and teachers wrote messages and questions to the children at Salt Meadow Academy. They asked about snow and told us about their weather. They told us they had chickens as pets (which our students thought was fantastic!!).

Christmas ribbons from Bribie Island Community Kindergarten.

Christmas ribbons from Bribie Island Community Kindergarten.

Christmas ribbons from Bribie Island Community Kindergarten

Christmas ribbons from Bribie Island Community Kindergarten

The letter from the class said “P.S. We have included a small gift ‘something to provoke investigation and of course fun.’ We have never seen a kite so small. Our children were all chattering at once. Will it fly? How was it made? Can we fly it right now? Is it really the “World’s Smallest Kite”? Your provocation worked and we are now investigating kite construction and if we can get this kite to fly. The weather hasn’t been the greatest here in Connecticut so we haven’t been able to try it out yet.

Christmas ribbons from the children and teachers at Bribie Island Community Kindergarten in Bribie Island, Australia.

Christmas ribbons from the children and teachers at Bribie Island Community Kindergarten in Bribie Island, Australia.

After hanging the bouquet of ribbons from the tree, we placed a pin (our 2nd in Australia!) on where we thought Bribie Island was. The map on the internet showed them just north of Brisbane near Moreton Bay.

The white pin marks Bribie Island, Australia.

The white pin marks Bribie Island, Australia.

We have written you a letter to answer some of your questions and we have also included a Certificate of Participation! As a special surprise, one of our students painted a butterfly and flowers for your school because one of your students (Shae-Lee) asked if we had any butterflies in Connecticut. We do!!

Painting a butterfly and flowers for new friends in Australia.

Painting a butterfly and flowers for new friends in Australia.

Thank you for your participation in Twisted Strands™ and helping us demonstrate that “We are all connected.” We hope to continue our communication throughout the year. Since a new class of children will start at Bribie Island Kindy in the coming weeks (our summer in CT is opposite their summer) we will be learning about new children.

To have your school, program or family participate in Salt Meadow Academy’s Twisted Strands™ Project, please mail your contribution to:
Twisted Strands™ Project
Salt Meadow Academy
15 Bluff Avenue
Clinton, CT 06413 USA

What’s In A Name?

Our 2 year olds have been very interested in creating words lately. They are fascinated with the alphabet song. The letters on our handwriting poster are of constant interest so I felt it was time to set up another letter provocation.

It’s been happening with some of my older kids for over a year when they first started here at Salt Meadow Academy. When we were talking about the alphabet it always seemed to be tied to their names. J is for Jill. M is for Murphy (our cat). Etc Etc. They loved to pick out their first letter in their first name when they saw it on a sign or in a book. Neat stuff. 

 We have glass beads with letters written on them that have been in constant use on the light box.

The provocation was simple. A list of classmates names written on a piece of construction paper, glass letter beads and the light box. I wasn’t sure which children would approach the activity and was surprised it was a pair of children just about in the middle of our programs mixed age group (we have children aged 2-9 currently).

“M” (age 6.2) and “S” (age 4.11) approached the table. I was able to sit and quietly observe and record the conversation. [Apologies for not snapping any pictures].

 M: It’s our names! I’ll read it to you. You find the letters. 

 S: Okay. I’ll find them. [leans over the big pile of letters]
(M read each letter of a name and pauses between each letter while S located the letter in the pile)
[M hands S the paper] 

M: You read me letters. 

S: D.E.C. 

M: Wait wait C…..where’s C?? I found it!

 S: L. A. N.
S: Okay, let’s do Finn! 

M: F 

S: Lemme find f. F f f easy! 

M: I. N. N 

S: Two N’s?! What?? 

M: Yup. See. [shows S the list of names] 

S: I.V. 

M: I’m looking for a V. 

 The dialog continued until the girls decided they did enough of the name list. They completed appropriately 8 names on the list.

Their letter recognition was very impressive and also notable was that they recognized everyone’s name on the list based on the first letter and the sound it makes.