Tag Archive for childcare

How to Win the Battle with Lesson Plans!

Are lesson plans your biggest fear or biggest heart ache? Do you love working with kids but choke at the idea of deciding what to do with them? A little pre planning will make your life so much easier and it’s not as hard as you think.

At Little Sprouts, I make a basic plan for my lessons for the entire school year. This helps me stay on track and stay organized throughout the year. If I do a month or a week at a time, I tend to lose focus and fall off the wagon many times throughout the year. This plan is not best for everyone, some people get too overwhelmed with thinking of planning a year at a time, but it’s not the detailed plans, just a lose outline of what you’ll work on.

My number one quote is and has always been, if you don’t keep the kids busy, THEY will keep YOU busy. This is not a pleasant thing. Have things planned to do with them!

The first thing you need to do to get started is find something to plan on. I use free printable online calendars, but you can use a spreadsheet or whatever works for you. I’m a pen and paper girl. I like it that way. I print out a calendar for each month from August to May. I check the public school calendars and choose a date I want to start and end my preschool season.


Next you need to make a list of all the things you’d like to cover. At Little Sprouts, we use one day for letters, numbers, colors, shapes, working on our names and that sort of thing. We use one day for creative, open ended art and jamming tunes with instruments and dancing. We use one day for science projects, and we use one day for math activities or crafts. We don’t do many crafts, but we do a few, so most weeks, this day is for math. We have fun Fridays where we have a lot of extra free play and sitting around reading, laughing and talking. We get to do this most days, but on Fridays, we do it more.

preschool lesson plans, reading with kids

Take home papers

I do a lot of activities that involve taking something home because parents like to see and be involved in what their kids are learning. If they don’t see anything coming home, they will naturally assume learning is not taking place. So I try to keep parent involvement in mind when planning what we are doing. We don’t take home a paper every day, but a lot of times we do.

Planning dates for lessons

Now that you have your basic blueprint of what you want to cover and something to record your ideas on, go through the calendar and mark off any days you are closed for holidays or vacations. If you have school kids, you can mark the days school is out so you can plan something that is more appropriate for the older kids as well as the younger ones.

This is the first year in 20 years I have not had any school agers after school and on breaks and I am AMAZED at how much easier lesson planning has been. I am glad I made the decision not to keep school agers anymore, because as I get older, it gets harder and harder to be everything to everyone. Two years ago I stopped taking infants and children under the age of 2. It has helped me so much not to get burned out.

I love babies, but I just want babies only, preschoolers only, or big kids only. Not all three. It’s too hard and requires SO much equipment and supplies to cover all of those age groups. I find ages 2-4 the absolute most fun, so that’s what I’ve decided to focus on from now on. Preschool is for me.

Routine

Back to the lesson plans. We have the days set we need and what we want to cover each week, so now we have to set a routine for the day. Routines cannot work out 100% of the time, but if you have a structure in place it will make your whole day go more smoothly. Start with meal times and nap.

At Little Sprouts, we have breakfast at 8:30, lunch at 11:30, and snack at 3:00. We used to have a 4:00 snack for after school, but we don’t need that any more. Our nap is from about 12:45 to about 2:45 most days. Of course it just depends on what happens if that is totally accurate. If you’ve done daycare for any length of time, you already know that.

preschool lesson plans, outside play

I open at 7:00 and close at 5:00. It takes me around 30 minutes to make breakfast and lunch. Snack just takes a few. So from 7:00 to 8:30 when we eat breakfast, we have free time. Before I have to start cooking, I mostly answer the door to let people in and sit and snuggle on the couch with the kids.

I’m a morning person but not everyone is and some kids need some extra time to wake up. They can play in the playroom or the living room or hang out with me and just be still if they want. I get up at 8 and start breakfast and they can still play or chill.

We get finished with breakfast around 9 most days. In the summer time we go outside right after breakfast so we can avoid as much heat as possible and still get outside. My temperature range for outdoor play is the same as the public schools, 40-90. If it’s 39 we stay in, if it’s 91 we stay in. Sometimes it’s 91 by 10:00 or even earlier, so to get as much time outside as we can, we go out as soon as we can.

If it’s winter time, we wait until around 10:00 to go outside so it has time to warm up a little. In the winter, we have activity time inside at 9 and in the summer we have outside time at 9. If it’s a rainy day, we just have free time inside instead. Kids love being outside and it’s so good for them, we do as much out there as we can.

If it’s garden picking day (click here to read about our garden activities) we go pick vegetables first and then have free time in the play area. Sometimes the kids just want to play in the garden and they can do that too. Sometimes we have other activities in the garden as well. It’s a great classroom for us.

At 10 we come inside, wash our hands, get a drink, and have activity time from 10-11. At 11, I let the star of the day (a different child gets to be the star each day and gets to choose certain things throughout the day, sit in a special chair, be in charge of the water in the bathroom, and say a blessing over our meals) chose a movie from my VHS collection to watch while I make lunch. It helps them start to wind down, keeps the mishaps down and helps me focus more on what I’m cooking for them.

I don’t let them watch TV because I think commercials are horrid for children. Images being blasted at them for more more more are just gross. If they ever watch TV here, it’s OETA public television, no commercials.

preschool lesson plans, music and movement

Anyway, back to lunch making. Lunch is at 11:30 and we finish eating and cleaning up around 12-12:15 each day. Everyone goes potty, washes up and gets ready for bed. We all snuggle together on the couch and have story time and sing songs and finger plays. After story time, the kids get on their mats, I get each of them a stuffed animal to snuggle, I give them a hug and a kiss and tuck them in and they go to sleep.

I usually have to wake them up for snack and then we got potty again, put our beds away, get our shoes on and get our stuff together and they start going home. Kids trickle out for the next two hours so we have free play in the living room until they leave so we can watch for parents. We can do puzzles at the table, draw or whatever the kids want to do.

So now we have an hour a day, four days a week to do special activities. You can see that we already have covered a lot of stuff in our daily routine. There are so many teachable moments during free time where we can talk about colors or count or talk about our names.

We have a check in and out system that has a foot for each child that they “clock in” with. They take their foot from the bye bye spot to a slot that shows they are present for the day, at the end of the day they put it back in the bye bye spot. It has their name on it and helps them get familiar with their name.

preschool lesson planning, writing

Now we need to make a list of all the things you want to teach the kids or set up for them to do. If you have core curriculum requirements, list them now. I am a big advocate of school readiness so I like to focus on a lot of skills that will help them find success at school. Fine and gross motor skill building, self-help skills, pre-reading skills and things like that are my focus.

Playdough

Painting

Coloring

Drawing

Work on ABC’s

Counting

Color recognition

Spelling their name

Writing their name

Saying their phone number

Learning their parents’ names

Playing with Magnets

Puzzles

Collages

Cutting

Planting seeds

Measuring

Sensory Experiences

Craft projects

Cooking

This is just a short list of examples. Make a list that goes along with your goals for teaching your kids.

Next we can think of some themes we want to use. For instance, you could do apples in September, pumpkins in October, and butterflies in May, whatever you think your kids will be interested in and is current for the time of year it is. Write those themes on each page of your calendar or spreadsheet. This gives you a basic outline of what you’re doing.

At Little Sprouts, we do each theme for two weeks. If the kids are bored with it, we scrap it and move on. If they come up with something they are interested in, we do that instead of what I have planned. The outline just gives us something to keep us moving forward.

lesson plans for preschool, cooking with kids

Now take your sheet and write one of the areas you want to teach above each day of the week. At Little Sprouts we have “learning time” on Mondays, crafts or math on Tuesdays, music and free art on Wednesdays, and science on Thursdays.

Now I can go to my list of things I want to teach and plug them into each day on my calendar. For pumpkins I can have the kids mix red and yellow playdough or paint to make orange, I could cut open a pumpkin for them and let them gut it and cook the seeds, or cook the flesh and make a pie, or make paint or ink stamps with the flesh and let them do art.

I can plan it out and then the kid’s interests can take it in any direction we want it to go. The kids might want to play with magnets every day for a week and not do anything with a pumpkin. That’s okay, they are learning. And I promise they will learn a whole lot more from something they are interested in than something you want them to be interested in.

Plug in something for each day on your sheet until it’s full. The internet is a wonderful resource for spaces that you have that might be blank. There are hundreds of preschool websites to help you come up with activates. Please make sure all of your activities are not cookie cutter, closed ended craft projects.

Kids need to learn how to create, not just follow directions. Following directions is important as well, they do have to go to school when they leave you and they do need some skills to help them find success when they get there, but most of your time should be spent letting kids explore their own interests.

You can keep your list of activities and use them from year to year. Spending a few hours in the summer planning out your year’s activities will help you so much. You can make a shopping list for any supplies you need and put it on the back of each page of your calendar so you will have everything you need when the time comes. You can also print out any sheets you may need and have those ready as well. Being prepared is the number one best way to find success in your day!

Do you have any great secrets for planning your school year right?

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7 Steps to Rest-How to Get Kids to Sleep

Raise your hand if you could use a good night’s sleep? Who out there wants naptime at daycare to be more successful? Who wouldn’t want those things? Sleep can be elusive for children just like it can be for adults. Here are a few simple suggestions to help make sleep come easier for your kids. And they won’t hurt for adults either! Lack of sleep is detrimental to children not only for the tantrums and melt downs it causes, but it’s also important for physical growth and developmental growth. Click here to see the importance of sleep for kids.

Did anyone ever notice kids act better for everyone other than their own parents. Kids know their parents love them no matter what and that will never change, so they tend to show their real selves to their parents more than any other people. You know the old, you hurt the ones you love the most saying, it’s true. Many time parents or grandparents share with me their disbelief about how I can get 7 kids to lay on mats in my playroom a mere few inches apart and they all go to sleep. HOW DO YOU DO THAT? It is THE most common question I am asked by my parents.

getting kids to go to sleep


kids sleeping, how to get them to go to sleep

Obviously, it will go more smoothly for me simply because I am NOT their parent. But these tips worked with my own daughter too. After 22 years of putting kids down for naps, I know how to find success. Check out my tips on how to do it. ROUTINES, ROUTINES, ROUTINES! This is the number one tip for making any part of your day successful. Children NEED to know what’s coming next. If your child is always in a different place doing something different and they never know what to expect, settling down is harder for them.

Have a set routine for bed time every single night! A simple routine could be:  Bath, PJ’s, Teeth Brushing, Read a Story, Go to Sleep It doesn’t matter as much what the routine is as that you have one. At daycare, our routine is: Potty, Wash Hands, Story, Songs, Huggies, Get in bed, Choose a stuffed animal, Get covered up in your blankie, Be still and let your friends sleep. Most days they are all out within 5 minutes. I have one who fights sleep sometimes and it takes them up to 30 minutes to fall asleep some days, but mostly they are out in 5 as well. Here are my ten best tips to getting your kids to rest well.

  1. GET THE KIDS TO BED ON TIME! If kids (and adults) get overly tired, they start to produce stress hormones called cortisol that prevent them from falling asleep and staying asleep. Make sure you have a set bed time or nap time and stick to it! The more tired a child becomes, the less they will sleep. You can’t get a child to sleep in in the morning by keeping them up later at night. It just does not work that way, the more sleep people get, the more easily they will be able to sleep. Overtired people do not sleep well.
  2. Make sleep a pleasant topic. Talk about how good it feels to be rested and how much you  like your rest at other times when it’s not time to head to bed. Show the kids that sleep is good for them.
  3. Create a comfortable, peaceful environment.
  4. Eliminate all distractions such as TV and video games in the room. Quiet down the house around the room. Make sure the child has blankets and a comfy pillow to snuggle up in. Tuck them into bed and make them feel safe and warm. Make sure there is not too much light in the room, although some children will feel more comforted with a night light.
  5. Give them time to wind down. About an hour before your bed time routine, start transitioning the activities to quieter things. Turn the TV down, turn a few of the lights off in the house, chose some quieter things for the kids to do. Let their minds and bodies start to relax (and yours too!)
  6. Let kids fall asleep on their own! I know its super fun and snuggly to rock children or lay down with them, but that’s not what’s best for them. Of course newborns need to be rocked at first, but if kids are never allowed to soothe themselves to sleep, when they wake up in the night, they won’t be able to put themselves back to sleep. Do you want to get up all hours of the night and comfort your child forever? They have the tools to soothe themselves, let them develop them. It doesn’t make your relationship less close or cause the children harm to settle themselves to sleep. Stick to your routine, give them what they need, tell them you’re leaving the room and they need to stay in bed, and then leave. No one should be laying down is a 4 year old or a 10 year old to help them fall asleep every night. Let them do it on their own and they will develop more confidence in themselves.
  7. Be in charge. Don’t let the kids run the show. It’s our job to set healthy boundaries and actually, limits make children feel safe. Knowing you are in charge is comforting to them, and don’t you know what’s good for them as the adult? Our job is to care for children’s needs. Do what you know is best, even when it’s not the favorite thing of the child.

language development for kids

Making bedtimes peaceful and successful takes time if they haven’t been in the past. Don’t give up! Stick to your guns and stick with your routines and you will be amazed how it improves every part of your life. Being well rested is the best gift you can give yourself, your family, and the world. It’s worth the effort, and you can do it!

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How Do I Keep my Daycare Full? Parent Involvement is Key!

How do i keep my daycare full? Parent involvement is key!

Success in childcare can be elusive sometimes. Providing the absolute best quality you possibly can is very important. But letting your parents know what you are doing and that you are doing your very best is just as important. If you want to sit on the couch all day and let the parents hand you money for ignoring their kids, you are not going to find success.

Other providers ask me how I am full and have a waiting list when they can’t find kids. Parents need to know you care about their kids. If you go above and beyond doing the absolute best for their kids, people will tell their friends and you will not have trouble finding new families to provide care for.

Find what you LOVE doing. For me, preschool is the absolute most fun, so I concentrate on being as awesome as I can be with preschoolers. And recently I stopped keeping babies at all. I love babies, but I was always frustrated trying to do a project with the kids and needing to stop and hold a baby or feed or change a baby. I just realized I am better with preschool age. Some people want to cuddle and snuggle babies all day. That’s great, they should care for babies. Some people are good at all ages. No longer taking infants was the right choice for me. If you just don’t have fun working with kids, you should find something else to do. The kids deserve your best.


Once you find your niche, try to be your best every day. Some days my best totally sucks. Some days I’m a rock star. I let it go when I don’t have my best day, and try harder the next day. Everyone has bad days and that doesn’t change because you are doing child care.

How do you get your parents involved in your daycare? Some people just aren’t going to be. I have had some parents I could not get to even send a can of corn to make stone soup as a group project. On stone soup day, the child was like, what did I bring? When I saw her sad little face, I handed her a can of my corn and said, you brought THIS! Her face lit up. So you can get around parents who don’t want to participate however you can. If they won’t, just let it go.

Most parents get really excited when you want to do your best for their kids. Get them as involved as you can. I throw two big parties during the year, an Easter Party, and a gingerbread decorating party. When my parents get together on a Saturday or an evening, it gives them a chance to see how their kids interact with each other, and to meet other parents and see what’s going on with their kids. Parents need that.

parent involvement in childcare

My parents love these get togethers and look forward to them all year. For the Easter party, I just stuff and hide the eggs, invite everyone and have them bring a dish for a pot luck lunch. We have an Easter story, then we hunt eggs and eat lunch.

For the gingerbread party, I build a gingerbread creation of some sort and make frosting to glue the candy on with. The parents bring candy to decorate with and we usually order pizza and they each bring money for that. It’s A LOT of fun to give parents an opportunity to create something with their kids. We donate the creation to a child advocacy center in town so the kids in transition there can see something fun.

parent involvement in childcare

Another event I do each year is a mom’s night out. It’s for moms only, no dads and no kids. We wear our pajamas, I provide something to eat, and we play games, make a craft and then pamper our hands. I have a waxer and I let them do a satin hands treatment and then wax their hands before they go home. I also make a picture collage from the past year of their kids and write each child a letter that I put on the back of their collage. I give it to the moms as a gift. There is no faster way to a mom’s heart than caring for her AND her child.

I always have a theme for each mom’s night like one year we did Grease. We met at an old fashioned diner for dinner, then came to my house where I had the movie playing quietly during game and craft time. Another time I did a garden theme. The moms planted flowers in a pot, made stepping stones, and exchanged garden gifts they brought it a gift exchange game. They are really fun for me as well and I get to know the moms better.

There are so many different things you can do, but the important part is to do something to engage your parents in the program. If they aren’t interested, that is fine, but give them the chance to send snacks for the valentine party or supplies for a project, or let them come together to meet other families. It’s an important part of them feeling comfortable with your child care.

Parent involvement

If you were a parent who had to leave your child to go to work, wouldn’t you want to KNOW that they were being well taken care of so you could focus on your job? I know when I had Kayla in childcare, I appreciated that so much!

A big part of success and getting parents involved is being approachable. Make sure you are available to your parents for their questions and concerns. Listen carefully to them when they are expressing their needs to you. They are trusting you with the most important thing in their life.

Give them your full attention. They may be asking for something you cannot do. Don’t be dishonest and say you will do it if you won’t. And don’t promise to do things that are going to make you miserable. It’s your business and you need to be in charge of it. And remember it’s a business, not a friendship. Even if you are friends with some of your parents, you still need be professional.

Try to think of a few simple things to get your parents involved in your daycare. You will be amazed at how it helps your business grow!

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What Parents Wish Daycare Providers Knew…

What parents wish daycare providers knew

Do you feel frustrated with your daycare sometimes? Here’s what parents wish daycare providers knew. Parents and providers can work together to build a great relationship that supports children and builds a great foundation for their future. I have been talking to parents to see what they would say to their providers past or present if they could. To be a great provider, you need empathy. Leaving your kids with someone else is not easy. If you are a childcare provider, please realize parents have feelings.

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Babies are Born to Learn

When children are born, they are naturally curious and processing information about the world through sensory stimulation. During the first three years of life, a baby has incredible growth in all areas. There is so much we can do as parents and caregivers to get children off to a great start of lifelong learning.

A baby’s genes serve as the main structure for their ability to learn, but there is so much we can do to help them improve. During the first years, a baby’s brain produces massive numbers of connections that will after the age of three begin to be pruned if they are not used. It is easier to form learning connections during this “plastic” or growing time in the brain. That’s why early childhood experiences are of utmost importance.

Positive experiences have a huge effect on children’s chances for happiness, achievement, and success. The more they are nurtured, held, and stimulated in the first three years, the better their brains will function for their entire lives. Not only academic learning is affected, but trust, problem solving, resilience and other emotional process are as well. Fifty percent of a child’s learning about the world is achieved by age 3.


Each person has billions of brain cells. Each cell has dendrites, or extensions like tree branches. They give and receive impulses to other brain cells which travel along pathways called synapses. These pathways send information from one cell to the other to form knowledge or brain power. Everything babies learn such as speaking, moving, feeling safe, recognizing objects, etc. travel along those pathways.

Pathways grow because of stimulation and nurturing. Repetition and routine are important to strengthen the connections between the cells. As an experience is repeated, it sculpts the brain. For instance, every time you nurture a crying baby, you are sending the message of safety and love and establishing trust. Nothing is more important to brain development than relationships.

So what can we do as caregivers to give young children the best chance at success? Spending time with infants and young children, talk to them, sing to them, play games, read to them. All of these activities build a foundation for children’s language. Encourage them to crawl, walk, climb, draw, hop, ride bikes, jump, skip, and dress themselves. In addition, it is vitally important not to rush children into learning skills their brains are not yet ready to learn. Not only does pushing children to learn things early cause undue stress that is damaging, but the connections that are formed will not stay because the child’s brain is not ready to receive those impulses yet.

Young children also need the proper amount of healthy fats in their diet so that the brain can function at its highest capacity. Breast milk is the perfect food to provide that to children. Healthy fats in natural food will give children the best chance of learning success they can have. Limiting unhealthy fats such as are in fried and processed foods is imperative for developing brains. Healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, and natural oils present in foods such as fish help to protect the processes of the brain and help it reach its fullest potential.

Creating little geniuses or super brains should not be our goal as caregivers. Our goal should be to provide a safe and loving environment where children know that their needs will be met. When children can trust, they are free to learn at their personal pace. Our goal should be to provide a safe, structured and loving environment with plenty of stimulation for young brains to learn.

Avoiding Burnout in Childcare

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Why do you think daycare has one of the highest burnout rates of any profession? It is hard work, long hours, and little pay. Why do people do it then? I do it because it’s my passion. I feel every child deserves a great place to be. I feel that just because they were born into this world, they deserve to be built up, nurtured, and loved. Many other providers I know feel the same way. Most of us are in it to love kids and no other reason.

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9 Reasons to be a Daycare Provider

9 Reasons to be a Daycare Provider

Every child deserves a great place to be. That’s why I have kept teaching kids for over 20 years. I firmly believe if we are going to take care of children, we should give it our 110%. There is nothing more important than how a provider spends their day. Here are some GREAT reasons to be a daycare provider.

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