Weekly Kid’s Co-op…’Get Better Bowl’ (with eucalyptus scented rice)

“I don’t feel very much like Pooh today,” said Pooh. “There there,” said Piglet. “I’ll bring you tea and honey until you do.”  ~A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

The cold and flu season is upon us and in full force. Everyday, one of the smalls falls prey to the germ. This means a lot of stuffed noses and tired kids who don’t quite feel like themselves.

While reading through some of the blogs I follow, I came upon a fantastic post from Growing A Jeweled Rose. She has created a soothing, therapeutic eucalyptus scented rice, and it’s genius. I found the eucalyptus essential oil at our local pharmacy for about $5 (Canadian) and followed her instructions on making the rice. Then I got to thinking about what I could put in the rice bowl for the smalls to play with.

We adults like a good theme, don’t we? I started thinking of all the things associated with being sick and getting better, and how I could incorporate them into a sensory play bin. I decided on empty vitamin and throat lozenge bottles, pill cups, and a few of the doctor tools from our play kit.When it was finished, and I showed it to another adult, the first thing she said was, “Ya, it smells great, but what will the kids DO with it?”

Isn’t that the beauty of sensory play and children? You can give them materials and then sit back and watch to see what they will DO with them.

The smalls did not disappoint. I documented each and every bit of the exploration of this bowl with my camera. The photos illustrate exactly what the smalls DID with this bowl…

There was scooping and ladling into the little cups with the tiny mirror as a “spoon”…And pouring from one container to another… There was exploration with the different tools to see which ones could be used as a scoop to transfer rice to the vitamin bottles…Small motor skills were given a real work-out trying to open the flip-top lids…Tests were performed to see which tools would fit inside the cups and bottles…This was just one little 2 year-old with a stuffed nose. She played there for an hour. A 2 year-old played for an hour with something an adult had no idea what to DO with. Fantastic.

My own 6 yr old, who is constantly fighting a battle with his sinuses got up this morning and I suggested he play in the Get Better Bowl. He was happy to oblige, and I got out my camera to document what he would do.

He removed all the objects from the bowl that he deemed superfluous and got to work. He stuck two pill cups together and tipped rice from one to the other…He buried vitamin bottles and pushed them through the rice to fill them…When that didn’t get the result he wanted, he just used his hands…The focus and concentration were palpable. He was so proud of himself once he had filled it to the top.

“Some medicine for you, Mama!”

Once I had taken my “medicine,” he got back to playing. And you know what came next, of course…the big pour!He filled and dumped and filled and dumped, every once in a while, stopping to check his teeth in the tiny mirror!When he tried using the scissor tongs, he exclaimed, “Look what I can do, Mama!!”

There are so many possibilities to discover when we give children the chance. By providing familiar materials in an unexpected environment, children will stretch their brains to explore the situation. They don’t look at it and wonder what it could be used for. They find out.

And the answer to the question you’re asking is yes…they both were breathing better after their play sessions with the bowl! 20 minutes into their play, both of their noses started to run. And run. And run some more. Keep some tissues close by.

It’s time for the Weekly Kids Co-op, so if you’ve got an idea to share, click the link below to add your post to the growing list of fabulous kid-friendly ideas. If you’re not a blogger, you can still play at the Co-op! Click the view button below and enjoy all the blogs that are participating. Enjoy!
The Weekly Kid's Co-op


Thanks for stopping by!

~Arlee, Small Potatoes

5 Easy Steps to Making a Better Photograph…

“To photograph truthfully and effectively is to see beneath the surfaces and record the qualities of nature and humanity which live or are latent in all things.”  ~Ansel Adams

Ok grown-ups. It’s your turn. No more excuses. No more using that smart phone only because you’re too chicken to use that nice fancy camera you have. It’s time. It’s time to make a better photograph. Parents, your kids deserve the legacy of beautiful memories of their childhood. Bloggers, your readers deserve a bit of eye candy here and there. And as for the rest of you, don’t you just want to look at a kick-butt photo and say, “Hey, I made that picture!”

I’ve come up with 5 easy steps you can do to make a better photo. This is not a technical tutorial, with terms like ISO, TV,  AV, and f~stop  to overload your already busy mind. These steps are universal for all cameras. Even smart phones. You don’t have to have a fancy, professional digital camera to follow them. You just need a camera.

Before we get to the steps, remember this one thing…a good photo should have a theme. A universal message that it communicates. That’s the beauty of photography…we all don’t have to speak the same language to understand it. The photo should speak for itself.

So once you’ve decided what you what your photo to say, whether it is simple or profound, here is where you might begin. 5 easy steps to help you make that photo say what you want it to say.

Step 1…Learning the Rule of Thirds.

Now for Step #2…Watch for Unwanted Accessories.

Step #3…Fill Your Frame.

And Step #4…Avoid Camera Shake.

And finally, Step #5…Capture The Details.

So there you have it. 5 easy steps to making a better photograph, regardless of the type of camera you use. And please remember to have fun! That’s the most important rule of all.

Thanks for stopping by!

BIG Builders…

There is nothing like the smell of coffee to wake me up in the morning. I love it. I also love chocolate. Like, really love it. Put the 2 of them together, and well…mmmmmm. Perfection. And just when you think things couldn’t possibly get better, a few dump trucks come along and take it to a whole new level!

This activity was one of our most successful ones here at Small Potatoes. The boys took the play to places I would have never even thought of. What started out as a pile of coffee beans and a mound of chocolate playdough, (recipe from the lovely NurtureStore) turned into hours of creative building, dumping, sculpting, crushing, rolling, and most of all, IMAGINING!

I poured a large bag of cheap (Western Family brand) coffee beans into our process table. I added some plastic construction trucks (found at Toys R Us), and some wooden play tools. I made a double batch of the chocolate playdough and plopped it in alongside everything else. Then I let the kids have at ‘er!
At first, they did exactly what I had expected. They poured and dumped the beans in and out of the diggers and dump trucks, and drove them up and over the playdough hill.
But not long into their play time, they began to take the activity up into a more complex level…
First, they cleared roadways and marked the centre line with individual beans.
Then they started hammering the beans into the playdough to make some sort of foundation. At this point, I wasn’t quite sure what they were up to…
Then, they went to the toy bins and returned with handfuls of wooden blocks. They used the playdough as mortar between their wooden “bricks” and built a house on their foundation! Such smart little boys!!
And then, just when I thought they couldn’t be any more clever, they began to crush and grind the beans with a wooden block to make “cement” for their sidewalks. God bless them!
Little hands building a sidewalk up to the house.
So I was able to enjoy the smell of coffee and chocolate all through my house (seriously, it smelled like Starbucks), and the boys spent the afternoon immersed in imaginative, sensory play. Win win! I packed the playdough into a plastic container at the end of the play session and we kept the beans in the process table for a good week. I brought the playdough out for them each time they asked. They absolutely loved this activity. And so did I.  If you don’t have a process table, don’t fret…just use your table top, or a large plastic bin. You will be sweeping up beans, but it’s a fair trade when you see how much fun your little ones are having!
Don’t you want to just get in there and play, too? I did! What are you waiting for?
Thanks for stopping by! Enjoy!

Tuesday Tots

It’s Not JUST a Sandbox…Turn Your Sand Play Area into Something Special

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“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct.”  ~Carl Jung

If you give a child a sandbox, he will play in it.

If you give a child a sandbox equipped with ALL kinds of materials for play possibilities, he will create worlds the likes of which we’ve never even imagined. Except maybe, when we were children ourselves.

With creative materials and various “loose parts” at his fingertips, the potential to turn a child’s simple play session into an extended, imagination-filled play experience grows exponentially. He will become an architect, a builder of new worlds. She will become a scientist, experimenting with cause and effect and gravity, making predictions and testing hypothesis.  He will be an accomplished chef, serving his imaginary patrons only the best recipes…all of his own creation.

And also? Your child will be busy and happy longer.

Children will play. It’s what they do. It’s our job as teachers, parents, caregivers, and grandparents to create an environment conducive to play. Now, I’m not talking about buying all the toys. I am well aware that children play best with a cardboard box and a couple of sticks. What I’m talking about is providing simple materials to enrich their play spaces; making spaces child-friendly, where messes can be made, ideas can be tried, and children can do their best work.

Adults work so much better with their offices and workspaces built to encourage efficiency and comfort. Why should a child’s work space be any different? Play is a child’s work. So let’s give them the space they need to succeed in the work place!

Quite often, we focus only on the indoor workspace. But even without reading studies and statistics, I can tell you from experience, that children thrive in the outdoors. The kids I work with on a daily basis NEED to be outside at LEAST once a day or tempers flare, they get antsy, or they simply get bored.

This Spring, I’ve been working on making our outdoor play/work space something really special. We started with our Clubhouse, and now we are sharing our new and improved sand play area.thewholepicture
The Mud Pie Kitchen tucked in the back there, will be a different post altogether. Today we will go over the sand play area, starting with the overall design.

I used stumps to divide the sand from the grass for a few reasons. First, it looks fantastic! Secondly, it was cost-effective, having had the stumps donated by one of our dayhome families. But most importantly, the stumps create a terrain that begs for children to come and play.

Stumps serve SO many purposes when it comes to a child’s work space. Stumps make great little tables. Stumps create walls and shade for little creatures that might be part of the day’s play session. Stumps are great for walking on, balancing, and hopping from one to the next. Stumps are helicopter landing pads, tall mountains, diving boards, and skating rinks. Stumps are all the things.
variedterrain
I simply dug holes in the ground, inserted the stumps, stomped and jumped up and down on each one until they all stood sturdy and firm, then packed the dirt back in and around them. I placed them at various heights to create more of a challenge when walking from one to the next.

I used 13 bags of play sand from Home Depot to fill this space. I use a tarp and stones to weigh it down if I need to cover it for any reason. We have had NO cats in our yard thus far, so they have not been a problem at all.

I left a space between the stumps to create a pathway to the clubhouse door, thus preventing any kids tripping on their way to and from the clubhouse. You’ll see at the back of this photo I have created a little storage unit for diggers. This is no ordinary storage. It is a log tunnel for bunnies and guinea pigs I purchased at the pet store.  I have turned it on its side and placed up against the fence to store the plastic trucks. When it’s not holding the diggers, it can be used as a tunnel for cars, trucks, and diggers, or caves for dinosaurs, bears, etc. I believe in getting the most bang for my buck, so I always try to think of more than one purpose for things I add to our play space.
pathway
I also keep the grass tall around the stumps, it provides a wilder, more natural terrain, and creates great cover and hiding places for little toys and parts used in free play.

Our sand play materials can be found on our “loose parts” shelf right next to the sand.  A child’s play materials should be  convenient, visible, and easily accessible. No artist will want to traipse across the studio each time he needs a pencil or a particular paintbrush, it interrupts the flow of creativity and productivity. I purchased the shelf at a thrift store for $5 and painted it with an exterior paint from the mis-tinted paints section of the local hardware store.

All of the materials on our loose parts shelf with the exception of the terra-cotta pots and the ornamental birds, were found in our indoor stash of play materials. I simply moved them outside.

The top shelf contains little terra-cotta pots, pot trays, river rocks, and little ornamental garden birds. These birds are a favourite for flying the flower fairies around the back yard. They were purchased at Wal-Mart in the seasonal section for $6/each.
birds_pots_rocks
*And if you have terra-cotta pots, you have no need to store funnels in your play space. Children have a way of showing us that “other purpose”for things we put within their reach.potfunnel

The second shelf contains little plastic jars of loose parts, along with plastic grass bits from the dollar store and a few wood blocks…
plasticjars

The middle shelf contains bins of larger items, too big for jars and too fussy for lids…bluebins

At the bottom, we have sticks, bird nests, metal basins, a box of Hotwheels, and the larger dinosaurs…bottomshelf
*Next to this shelf is another wooden tunnel I use to store plastic greenery. The children most often use the greenery as trees in their playscapes, but I’ve seen them used as cotton candy, so the sky really is the limit when it comes to play materials!

All in all, this project has been worth every single second of work done and every penny spent. It is a hub of activity whenEVER we are in the back yard…

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Thanks for stopping by!

~Arlee, Small Potatoes

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In The Fairy Garden…A Very Magical DIY for Kids

 

title3“It’s a secret no one is telling?  Why in your garden, surely they’re dwelling! No need for journeying, seeking afar: Where there are flowers, there fairies are!”  ~Cicely Mary Barker

Around this time last year, my two littlest children and I built a little garden in the backyard…just for them to play in. The flowers grew, and the bees buzzed in and out. The children drove trucks through the little muddy pathways, they dug up worms, ate the strawberries from their own tiny patch, and watched the sweet peas climb the back wall. There were some very special hours passed in that little garden.

But something always seemed to be missing.

The winter came and the plants turned brown and crumbled into the earth. The freeze seemed to last an eternity. But when the big melt finally arrived, the kids and I were itching to get outside and transform that little patch of dirt into something even better than it was before. We had finally figured out just what our garden had been missing all along…

Fairies.

My 2 little ones firmly believe in the magic of fairies, and I am not one to argue about things of the heart…I am a huge believer in things one cannot always see.

So Coco, age 9, and Mr. Pancakes, age 7 went about planning their garden. They wanted it to be everything it needed to be for fairies to want to come and visit, and I wanted it not to cost me a fortune. We put our minds together, scrounged things from the craft room, visited our favourite thrift store, and gathered up a few things from our backyard. We also tried to use most of the bits we had already put in our garden last summer.

They started out with painting a generous pile of stones they had gathered from under our patio in the back yard…inthebeginningWe used acrylic paints and glitter and covered them with mod podge and a clear coat of varnish so they stones would stand up to the heavy Spring rains. The kids wanted to make winding stone pathways through their garden for the fairies to walk upon to visit one another…paintingstonesI suggested that maybe the fairies would feel extra welcome if we gave them their own magical door into the garden. The door was purchased online at fancy.com and came with its own little ladder. It had been a gift to me from Christmas time, so we had it on hand already. The door comes in white, but this mama decided to give it a little more pop, so I joined the kids at the craft table and painted alongside them. I also cut little tiny triangles of felt from my fabric supply and glued them to a piece of twine to create a little bunting for the garden fairies…

fairydoor         bunting        *Some of the other bits and pieces we collected for the garden were seashells, twigs, stones, $1 tea cups and saucers, 50 cent glass bowls and a $3 bag of sea glass from the thrift store, little terra-cotta pots from the Dollar Store, plastic frogs, a ceramic bird, a plastic flying cardinal on a stake, and bird bath from last year’s garden. We took a trip to the Farmer’s Market and Coco and Mr. P. chose all kids of flowers and herbs to plant. The strawberry patch had already come back up in the existing garden, so that was a big bonus!

We spent the first afternoon planting the flowers, placing stones, and building the little fairy houses with tea cups and bunting tied to twigs. I used sticky velcro to attach the fairy door to the fence, and encouraged the kids to leave themselves each a spot “unplanted” so they would have room to sit and play…

underconstruction2 Everything was coming together so swimmingly.

And then the thunderclouds rolled in. Coco and Mr. Pancakes were desperately worried about their newly planted flowers! So I quickly fashioned a shelter from an old sheet and some garden stakes and we left the garden under a flowery canopy and waited for tomorrow. untiltomorrow        The morning came, more pathways were constructed, more flowers and herbs planted, and fairy hot tubs were installed…fairyhottubMr. Pancakes thought it necessary to leave a sign in the garden asking the fairies to make the frogs come to life and stay in the garden where he had built a very special frog house for them…toadhouseSo without further ado, we’d like to introduce you to the three fairies who have come to watch over the garden in the day…

This is Iris. She lives here in Mr. P’s teacup house. Mr. Pancakes says she uses her magic to bring honeybees to the garden and to make the spiders stay out.IrisFairyThis is Ivy. The kids tell me she is responsible for making all the herbs bright green and very tasty!ivyfairyAnd this is Bluebell. She lives in Coco’s teacup house and is a little bit shy of cameras. Coco says she likes to sing for the other fairies and birds nearby.bluebellfairyThe two kids have been playing in that little garden every chance they get.  Each day they check to see if anything has moved about in their garden…proof that other fairies are using their little door into this magical little place. They come inside with dirty knees, happy hearts, and full of tales to tell.happylegsThis garden was designed and built almost entirely by my kids. I painted the door and installed it, and I made the fairy buntings. That’s it. I let them choose the flowers and herbs and decide where they should be planted.

*The plants in their garden include strawberries, pansies, dianthus, wheatgrass (for their smoothies), parsley and cilantro for the hens, a pumpkin for jack-o-laterns in the fall, ivy, thyme for “fairy carpets”, peppermint for their fruit drinks in the summer, and a few other perennials of which I have forgotten the names of. The only direction I gave was to choose plants that were easily maintained and required the kind of sunshine that we get on that side of the yard.

The bits and pieces they built their fairy garden with, were also their own ideas, and they cost next to nothing, making this a project that didn’t wear me out, nor empty my bank account. I like that kind of project, don’t you?

And I like fairies, too.gardenfairies

p.s. The fairies are made by Safari Ltd. and were purchased at Michaels, but you can buy them online at Amazon. Safari Ltd. has also created a Toob of tinier fairies which can be purchased at Amazon. Oh, and THIS set is on Coco’s wish list and I can’t blame her!

Thanks for stopping by!

~Arlee, Small Potatoes 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Building Our Own Tire Climber…

title“You can’t fall if you don’t climb, but there’s no joy in living your whole life on the ground.”  ~Author Unknown (although some sources will try to tell you it was Dr. Seuss)

Today we are continuing on in our outdoor play space improvements. But this project, though it looks fabulous, is NOT for the faint of heart. Oh boy. Just thinking of the work that went into this makes me want to take a nap! But before you are completely discouraged, please remember that I was on my own without proper tools or extra muscles for bolting tires together. I’m sure this project would go together lickety-split if you can recruit some helpers!

It all started when I saw some really cute tire planters somewhere on Pinterest. That’s right. It’s all Pinterest’s fault. The tires were painted bright colours and had flowers growing out of them and I thought, hey that’s a really cute idea. But you all know me well enough by now to know that I can’t leave a simple idea as a simple idea and get on with my day.

Nope.

I had to make it bigger.

And so began the hunt for free, used up tires. I started with 4 really big ones which were given to me by a really great family I know. loadingupThe 4 tires grew into 8 tires when I realized our local Canadian Tire shop will let a person take what they want from the old tire pile outside their building.

Now for the paint. I had NO idea what kind of paint to use and whether or not it would stick, but I did have some luck. I used cans of RustOleum Ultra Cover 2x along with the clear coat of the same brand. If you think you want to skip the clear coat, don’t…we missed one side of one tire when clear-coating and that side is all chipped off already. I needed about 1 can/tire depending on the size of the tire.

My teenagers were happy to oblige when it came to the painting of the old tires…spraypaintingI set the tires on pallets out in the back alley and they went to work…spraypainting2Stopping occasionally when we were running out of paint…runningoutOnce the tires were dry, we clear coated them and let them cure overnight.

In the morning, we stacked up the tires in the design my oldest son had created…clearcoatedandreadySo far, this had all come together quite easily.

But now comes the hard work. I had to secure the tires to each other. Using only a drill, a hammer, and my own strength and determination, I got to work. I used 1/4 inch bolts that were long enough to go through 2 tires but not stick out too far, with a really wide washer and a nylon lined nut for each joint. I’d give you a better idea of what length of bolts to use, but it is determined by the size of the tires you’re using, and whether you are going through side walls or tread. All together, I had 14 joints. Here is a rough diagram of where I attached each tire…14boltsI did NOT attach the 3 base tires to each other, as the whole structure is filled with sand, making them solid and immoveable. The sand also keeps small children from falling into cracks, or pinching legs or arms. You may wonder about that big yellow tire at the top of the structure and what might be holding it up? Well, it is attached to the fence now with a nylon rope so it won’t swivel or tip.

I marked the joints with chalk, drilled out a hole for each bolt, pushed and hammered and cried the bolts in, attached a washer and a nut, and then tightened each nut and bolt with a ratchet. And when I say I cried, I mean it quite literally. I was really discouraged at many different times in the “attaching” process! I’m sure there is a better way to do this, in fact I stumbled upon this AMAZING resource when I was actually finished our little climber! He goes through every detail of building any kind of play space with tires that you could ever imagine. allfinishedWe love our little tire climber. My kids especially like to gain a different perspective of our backyard by standing up on the tippy top tire. The smalls dig around with shovel and bare toes and just enjoy the textures and the climbing.

I especially love it because I didn’t give up. I may have said a few choice words, gained a few bruises, and let a few tears fall, but I didn’t stop until it was finished. I learned a lot about myself during the construction of this colourful play area, that’s for sure. Did I mention it rained through most of the bolting?

If you have any questions about the process of building this climber, don’t hesitate to ask! I will try my best to explain myself and the instructions a little better for you!

Thanks for stopping by!

~Arlee, Small Potatoes

Mothering, Cleaning, Teaching, Cooking, Resting, Playing, Blogging. How to ALMOST Do it All Without Losing Your Head!

title“In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”  ~Dwight D. Eisenhower

I know I have not been doing a whole lot of blogging lately, but I assure you, I have been listening. So many of you are asking me how I do it all everyday. You call me a superwoman. I am extremely flattered, but you must know that I am a mere mortal.

I am not a “scheduler” by any stretch of the imagination. I am a “fly by the seat of my pants” kind of girl. I’ve learned over the years that what you schedule doesn’t always stick, life gets in the way. And sometimes you just don’t feel like doing what’s on your “to do” list. So I find it’s better to be prepared, to work with what you have, to be open to the present moment’s mood, and to move with the natural rhythm of your children and your heart.

That being said, one cannot successfully run a household, a dayhome, or a business without proper research, preparedness, or some sort of structure.

In planning my curriculum for my day care centre and for my own children’s play, I follow a simple guideline…and add a little SPICE to their day. Everyday I plan the activities around 5 basic and important needs of the smalls in my care…

SOCIAL, PHYSICAL, INTELLECTUAL, CREATIVE, EMOTIONAL….

I’ve prepared a photograph for each of these needs with a brief explanation of each one for you. When you’re thinking about planning your curriculum or your time with your children, maybe take a minute to see how much SPICE you are adding to their day…SOCIAL1PHYSICAL2INTELLECTUAL1CREATIVE1EMOTIONAL1The following is an “iPhone photo snapshot” of a typical day here at Small Potatoes. The photos are not great, but just an illustration of how we spend our days…

I wake up at 6:55am and press the snooze button ONCE. I have this down to an exact science. I know how long I can laze about in my bed before my feet have to hit the ground and get in the shower. I wake up my smalls and they get dressed and brush their teeth on their own while I head downstairs to sweep the floor and get the lunch-making supplies out and ready…packlunchesWhile I’m packing lunches, my kids serve themselves at the “cereal bar”. It is also set up so they can get water without coming into my tiny little kitchen workspace. This cuts down on crowding, crashing, and fussing…waterstationMy kids are out the door to the bus stop by 8:00 and then my day begins again…smallsarriveThe smalls play freely with the upstairs toys while I have my morning coffee. There are busy bag activities, books, colouring materials, blocks, sensory play stations, cars, and other quiet activities for them to choose from…quietsensoryThe smalls are also able to go out on the patio to play in the sandbox, as there is a railing all the way around and no stairs leading down to the yard. It is totally self-contained…sandplayThis “easing into their day” with free choice and open invitations to play help the smalls transition from a possible hurried morning at home and into the car, to a play and learning environment without force or any “you MUSTS” from adults. The smalls who need breakfast, eat with me while the others play.

messyplayThis includes art, play dough, water play, sensory play, and baking…bakingIf you are not quite convinced that messy/sensory play is really all that necessary, pop over to Picklebums and read the post I wrote on easing reluctant adults into the world of messy play. All of these sensory, art, play dough, and baking activities fall into each of the 5 SPICE categories, so I’d say they’re pretty important.

10:30 SNACK TIME: Snack time isn’t always at 10:30, but it’s usually in the ball park. Depending on how hungry everyone is, or how involved they are in an activity, we change snack time accordingly.

goOutside“Go outside” can mean a trip to the park, a walk to the grocery store, a play on the patio sandbox, or a full-blown backyard play date. This is where the physical needs are met. If we can’t go outside and play because of the weather, we dance it out in the living room, or we practice yoga…yoga

lunchtimeMy favourite time of day, really. We chat, we listen to music, and we eat good food. Our meals are posted at the front door for parents to see…mealplansBy writing it down, I can see what I need to buy. I can see if I’ve covered all the nutritional needs, and I can give the smalls something to look forward to. I have one little girl who asks her mother every morning, “what does my signs say today?” Do I ALWAYS have the menu planned and written on the board every morning? No, I do not. But the days that I do always run more smoothly simply because I know what to plan for.NaptimeThis is my quiet time. My planning time. My yoga time. My blogging time. My cleaning time. My pet feeding time. My fold laundry time. My sit on the couch and read time. Notice how many times I used the word “my?” If there is one thing I have learned, it is that I am no good to anyone if I am no good to myself. Just like the smalls need SPICE, so do I.  Please, please, please take time for yourself. Parents work hard. Teachers work hard. So work hard on working on some “me time”, ok?

Smalls are usually waking between 3 and 3:30. This is potty time, diaper changing time, and reading stories time. afterschoolsnackMy kids are home off the bus now and they join the smalls for afternoon snack. I usually prepare snack right at the end of nap time so it’s ready and waiting.playoutsideFrom 4-5pm We play outside if weather permits. The parents come straight to the backyard to pick up their smalls and mine will usually continue to play while I prepare their dinner. If the weather is too cold, we play in the playroom and all activities, with the exception of messy activities, are open for free play.

And there you have it. A whole day at Small Potatoes. It’s not a schedule really. It’s more like a little pathway through our day. We play, we create, we rest, we eat, we grow. Now it’s time for a glass of wine, right?

Thanks for stopping by,

Arlee, Small Potatoes

Encouraging Independent Creativity in Children…

Most of my readers will know already that I am a regular contributing writer for Childhood 101. Well, today our writing team is bringing you a rousing game of tag! We have all written a post for each other’s blog and we’ve all gone live at the same time. When you get down to the bottom of the post, you click thru to the blogger that I have tagged. When you are finished with that one, you can move through to the blogger that was tagged next!  Repeat until you’ve come full circle! Oooo…this is going to be good! So many wonderful posts for you to see!

So without further ado, I’d like to introduce Tricia of Little Eco Footprints. Tricia is our very first guest blogger on Small Potatoes and I am thrilled to have her here….

Tricia is a nature-loving mum passionate about learning to live better with less. She recently made a ‘tree change’, moving from a major city to a rural property, and is enjoying more outdoor time with her daughter, adding to her small flock of chooks and starting a new garden. She shares her lessons in learning to live better with less at www.littleecofootprints.com

TITLE2“The object isn’t to make art, it’s to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable.”  ~Robert Henri

Materials for art and craft have always been freely available in our home. Paint, paper, glue, chalk cloth and scissors are not tucked away out of reach but rather are easy for my daughter to access.  This freedom to create whenever she chooses has led to some interesting messes, but more importantly, I believe it has contributed to her blossoming independent creativity.

At six, I rarely initiate art or craft, but regularly find her absorbed in her latest artistic creation. I’ll notice its quiet and then discover her in her child-sized corner crafting, or at her desk drawing, or outdoors painting. These spaces, set up just for her, have been a vital ingredient in nurturing her independent creativity.

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We’ve recently moved, so these child-sized spaces look a little diffident, but their ingredients are still the same and they are still a prominent feature of our home.

Her craft corner includes child-sized chairs and nearby a set of draws stores craft materials. We try to keep this table clear and inviting. When she was younger I helped her keep it tidy, but now that’s her responsibility. She quickly learnt that a cluttered corner isn’t an inviting space and she (still with a little persuasion) tidies up after herself.

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Pencils, textas, and paper sit invitingly ready for use at her desk. Like her craft corner – her desk is a prominent feature of our living area, rather than tucked away in her bedroom.

My daughter is a fan of messy painting, so it’s an activity mainly undertaken outside. Her brushes, paints and a jar for water sit in a basket ready for her to carry outside whenever she chooses.

Admittedly, allowing free reign of craft and art material has led to some mess and chaos, but nothing that couldn’t be cleaned up. The benefits to nurturing her independent creativity far outweigh any short-term inconvenience.

~Tricia of www.littleecofootprints.com

I sure hope you enjoyed this article from Tricia…I hope you take some time to visit her blog. Her photos are so lovely, full of natural light and happy kids. You can also connect with Little Eco Footprints in any one of these places…

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/triciaeco/

Instagram:  http://instagram.com/triciaeco

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/TriciaEco

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/Littleecofootprints

Now it’s time to play tag!! You go on over to www.picklebums.com and you’ll find MY post! That’s right, I’m tagging myself! I’ll see you there!

Thanks for stopping by,

Arlee, Small Potatoes

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For The Love of Backyard Chickens…

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“Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way.  ~John Muir

We have chickens in our backyard. We gather eggs every day.  We live in the city.

Read more…

I don’t know if you know, but I am also a regular contributing writer for Childhood 101. Today my article on keeping backyard hens is up and running over there! The article includes the plans and construction of our shabby chic henhouse, our baby chick-hatching capers, and some really good reasons to keep hens in your backyard. Please take a minute to pop over there and enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by,

Arlee, Small Potatoes

Gluten-Free, Nut-Free Caramel Apple Pie Lunchbox Bars…

title“Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness.”  ~Jane Austen

I don’t know about your schools, but ours have a strict “no nut” policy. As you might imagine, this takes a lot of the ease out of lunch-making. No more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. No more trail mix.  No Nutella…ya, that one stings. No almonds. No almond butter. No granola bars unless they are free of nuts. Yeesh.

I didn’t want to give up granola or granola bars entirely, so I started making my own. This recipe is perfect for lunch boxes, and it’s easy to make…no baking required! They are chewy, delicious, and also gluten-free, which I suppose is another difficult obstacle to overcome when it comes to lunch-making.

Here is the list of ingredients that we put in our caramel apple pie bars…recipe*Recipe adapted from Kitchen Simplicity

Gather all your dry ingredients in a big mixing bowl and stir them up. I added the cinnamon to the dry ingredients, but you can add it in your wet ingredients if you prefer…mixeddryPut all your wet ingredients together in a saucepan on medium heat. Stir until melted. Bring to a boil for 60 seconds, stirring constantly. The 60 seconds is important. If you boil your sugars too long, your granola bars will be hard and crunchy. If you underboil them, your bars will crumble apart. Once you’ve reached the 60 second mark, remove from heat and pour over your dry ingredients…pouringthehotMix thoroughly…mixNow pour your bars into a wax paper-lined 9×13 pan. I also spray the wax paper with a little bit of cooking spray so the bars are easily peeled from the wax paper. The wax paper is optional. I use it because I don’t like to do dishes, and it makes it easier to remove the bars from the pan for cutting…intothepanPress the bars into your pan with the spoon. Then butter your hands and press them in good and tight. The tighter you press them in, the better your bars will stay together when cooled…pressANDcoolNow you can sit back and relax while the bars cool. Once they have cooled, lift the wax paper and all the bars out onto your cutting board and slice them into segments the size of your choosing. I can usually get 8 bars by 3 bars, leaving me with 24 full bars…slicedbarsWhile my bars are cooling, I slice off  12 small strips of wax paper and then cut my strips in half, leaving me with 24 granola bar “wrappers.”waxpaperI use kitchen twine to tie the wax paper wrappers closed, but you could use a sticky tape if you prefer…wrappingAnd there you have it! Delicious, gluten-free, nut-free, no-bake, picky-eater approved lunchbox bars! These bars will last up to 3 weeks on your counter. We keep ours in a jar on the kitchen shelf.enjoy

Thanks for stopping by!

~Arlee, Small Potatoes