This is How We Roll

I’m a mom of four, with another on the way, and a home daycare provider for the last seven years. To say I’ve done a lot of research into large strollers would be a major understatement! I’ve owned multiple models, brands and sizes and each has its pros and cons. If you’re in the market for a large stroller, you have many options to consider. I’ve owned a Foundations Triple, a Foundations Quad, a six-passenger Bye-Bye Buggy and, finally, my pride and joy, a six to eight-passenger Runabout.

Foundations strollers definitely have their place in the market. They are relatively affordable and – their biggest plus – they fold up for storage. If you have no outside stroller storage, Foundations is the way to go. The downsides to these strollers are that they can be a bit heavy, and I struggled sometimes in the snow when it was fully loaded.

I was thrilled to own a six-passenger Bye-Bye Buggy (four-seater pictured). It turns very easily due to fully rotating front wheels and moves smoothly for its size. The weight (150 lbs before passengers) is a con for me, as is the limited storage space. The accessories (sun canopies, storage cover, and infant seat) can all be purchased separately.

Two years ago I had finally saved the funds to purchase a Runabout. I’m confident this amazing stroller will outlast my daycare career. The six to eight-seat model offers multiple seating arrangements, including being able to turn two seats backwards. The seats all have five-point harnesses and recline, so no need to purchase an additional infant seat. The large air-filled tires are the best by far in snow, and at eight months pregnant, I can push my stroller loaded with six toddlers with one hand.

The large storage basket is very useful, and I love the removable sun awning and rain shield. There is a learning curve with Runabout strollers; they are back-heavy, and so must be loaded from the front to avoid tipping backwards. Sharp turns require tilting the stroller onto its back wheels to pivot, which takes some getting used to. If you pop a tire, all four wheels easily pop off with the push of a button and replacement parts can be ordered through Quality Classrooms. The Runabout’s frame is one long metal piece, but it’s still really light, and the easily removable seats, wheels, storage and awning offer flexibility when you’re trying to cram it into your minivan to bring home.

With its larger price tag, a Runabout is obviously an investment in your childcare business. The brand’s superiority and flexibility, however, will make it the last stroller you will ever own. While the other strollers have their benefits and could work for other childcare centres, the Runabout is the stroller that fits my needs. I am looking forward to many years of daily use.

Written by Erin Rifkin, owner of a Reggio/Montessori daycare in Ontario 

Daycare Essentials

I’m a mother of a busy 4-year-old boy and have been working in the childcare field for 15+ years.  Throughout the years, I’ve learned that a few items are absolutely necessary (in my opinion) for running a daycare.

Furniture is the first essential for any daycare, so items such as lockers are great as they keep items organized and accessible. Organization is key in encouraging children to put things away for themselves independently. A great way to help organize a daycare is to put toys inside of a clear or open container so that the children can see what’s inside and where it goes; labelling the bins also helps with this. Items like the Preschool Enviro Upholstered Furniture Set are wonderful as the pieces are comfortable, simple, durable and easy to wipe clean. Easily cleanable surfaces and furniture is definitely a must for daycares, as items need to be cleaned very often to ensure the health and safety of the children.

My overall must-have is engaging areas and toys for the children to interact with.  For this, my top pick is a sand and water table and a sensory light table for all of the children’s sensory exploration needs.  Items that would be good to accompany these would be modelling sand, play foam, tree blocks and numbers and math signs.  These tend to be items that most children don’t use often if they are not attending a daycare centre, so thus they are already captivated by a new area and new materials to play with and expanding that play and learning. Adding simple materials and loose parts can do wonders for a child’s development and imagination to create.

My overall personal favourite area in daycare is an open, organized art area filled with all the materials available for the children to create with at their fingertips.  Arts and crafts supplies, like loose paper, pencil crayons, markers, scissors, glue sticks, tissue paper, popsicle sticks, googly eyes, pom-poms, pipe cleaners and any other materials that a child can use to make anything they desire.  This is a great area to add reusable materials to as well such as paper towel rolls, newspaper, Kleenex boxes, and old greeting cards and so on.

Daycares don’t need to be busy and complicated; they just need those key areas for children to be fully immersed in to keep them constantly learning about themselves and their environment.

Written by Michelle Ducharme, an Early Learning and Childcare Supervisor in Alberta

Happy Architect Review

One of our favourite areas in the room has always been the “construction corner.” I have watched wood blocks transform into pirate ships, tall towers, trees, baby carriages and everything in-between…many, many, times over the years. Perhaps what makes this corner my personal favourite, is simply the open-ended play that it provides my multi-age group. There is no “appropriate” age for building and constructing – building blocks support all ages and stages of development.

Over the past few weeks, my small group of eight children (ages two to four right now) have collectively been involved in dramatic play over in the construction area. Now, if you have ever known a two and a half-year-old and a three and a half-year-old separately, you can understand that cooperative play amongst these ages can and does indeed happen, but it’s rare when it comes to building because often the two-year-old is more interested in the inevitable crash of towers than the construction. If the common theme was “house” you could guarantee that the children were utilizing the blocks to build a kitchen or using the smaller blocks as various food items or props in their play. With the interest so high in the “construction corner” I was excited to have the opportunity to test out the Happy Architect sent to us from Quality Classrooms.

Upon receiving the package – I assumed that the 28 pieces in the box weren’t going to be enough pieces for a collaborative project amongst the children; but, keeping an open mind, I opened it up and presented the pieces to the group. They got to work right away – as you can tell in this one photo, they worked separately on their own projects (often referring to the pieces as puzzles *interesting*).

Some of my first thoughts about these blocks:
– They are NOT necessarily open-ended. They need to be utilized in a specific way in order to construct anything
– They do feel beautiful and like a quality item
– I wondered if the children would grow frustrated with these as most of the materials in our room are open-ended and don’t have a specific or rather, “correct” way to be utilized.

Over the next few weeks, a few of the children spent a lot of time building “the puzzle” and deconstructing it to build it another way – I could tell that these types of blocks were promoting some thinking challenges for the children, and I liked it. It wasn’t long before they were being used in other (more typical for my group) ways…photographed is a sailboat in the making complete with a highchair for the baby. I think once the children became familiar with how to connect the pieces, they were more easily used in other types of play.

In sum – these are really interesting building blocks for children. They most definitely support the development of the varying ages in my group (I observed a lot of scaffolding, problem-solving, communication, and both fine and gross motor skills being utilized – to name a few). I look forward to observing the new ways the children utilize them going forward.

Written by Ashley Elliot, a licensed ECE in British Columbia

Recess: Weather or Not?

When I hear the dreaded words “indoor recess” my heart falls.

I know then that my students can’t go outside to play, get fresh air or burn off some energy. They love indoor recess occasionally, but if we have an ongoing bout of bad weather, they get frustrated with the lack of outdoor play. I try to have options in the classroom such as games, Lego and drawing, but the gross motor movement is what most children seem to need.

Living in Canada means learning to live and flourish in cold conditions. We don’t call an indoor unless it is raining, or the temperature or wind chill reaches -35ᵒC (though this may be different depending on where in Canada you live). Teaching our students to embrace the cold, dress appropriately for it and have fun prepares them for life in Canada.

Families new to Canada often need help learning how to dress for Canadian winters. Suggestions on what to wear and where to buy it can be helpful for new families. Having a collection of communal collection of mitts, hats and even socks for the younger students is a good idea. Many teachers ask students to have their own spare socks, hat and mitts with them in anticipation of wet clothes.

On those days when indoor recess is inevitable, I recommend having more movement breaks built into the day. If you notice your students struggling, take a breather and have a stretch, check out a brain break and be ready to adapt a lesson, pivot and rethink quickly on your feet. Less sitting and more moving, harnessing your students’ energy for hands-on activities can make for a more productive and fun day for everyone.

Here is a list of whole class indoor recess games to help you out on the cold or rainy days:

  • GoNoodle is an option for a class that enjoys group dance. It can also be a choice option for a group while others play games if there is space in your classroom. GoNoodle does have an indoor recess section with songs and guided dances as an option and they include a good whole-body movement activity. Pushing back the tables to make space is worth the effort, to get everyone moving.
  • Simon Says is a good option to get a group or whole class moving and many children enjoy being Simon so you get to take a break or join in the fun.
  • Four Corners gets everyone moving too and, as with Simon Says, the leader can change.
  • Charades is less of a movement game, but it is engaging and students can help make the options.
  • Directed Drawing is popular in my classroom. Art Hub for Kids on Youtube is easy to follow and has a kid drawing with his dad.
  • Origami is a popular and quiet activity with only paper needed
  • It’s always good to have board games handy to keep smaller groups occupied.

Let’s hope for mild days, just perfect for playing outside and if the dreaded indoor recess is called, we are ready!

Written by Chris, a teacher in Manitoba