So long Southwater

Thursday saw the end of an era.  Our local childminding group drop in session had its final meet up so we decided to go out with a bang – literally!  We had balloons and bubbles and banners.  There was party music, gingerbread treats for the children and cake for grown ups.

goodbye banner

We even made an effort to decorate the dreary walls!

And who doesn’t love bubbles!

southwater bubbles

 

The funniest thing about the morning, amongst the bittersweet feeling of the last ever Minis and Minders was that I took along a stereo with children’s music…and not a single child took any notice.  Then I put on Now 87, the first song of which was ‘Happy’ by Pharrel Williams and every single child was dancing and bopping and giggling away!  It was fabulous and a great way to say So long Southwater, thanks for having us.

In another year of change for childminding it feels both sad to be saying goodbye to old traditions but exciting to start a new chapter.

The Wheels on the Bus..and the trike..and the scooter

Sports fans are being exceptionally spoilt this summer with the large number of events in a short space of time.  For example already we have had the World Cup, Wimbledon, The Open and we still have the Commonwealth Games to look forward to.  Not to leave the little people out in the sporting excitement we had a Tour de France morning at our weekly drop in session!

 

We mapped out a ‘route’ using masking tape

 

TDF track tdf track 2

Then our little people chose their mode of transport to navigate the course.

Holly tdf track

 

Thankfully there was no road rage though some of the littlies decided to emulate sporting heroes Mark Cavendish and Chris Froome by crashing into each other though thankfully none of these resulted in xrays as with the professional riders!  They thoroughly enjoyed themselves – and wore themselves out 🙂

 

 

Parties and Pondlife

There are many positives about being a childminder and two that have been emphasised for me this week are that firstly I am able to be around for my children so I can attend sports days, plays and assemblies.  Secondly that the addition of my own daughters aged 10 and 7 adds a different dynamic to the experiences of my minded children.  One thing I say time and again is that as a childminder no two days are the same!  Which means neither us or the children get bored!

 

Take yesterday.  Although it was 3rd July (incidentally my wedding anniversary!) it was my last working day of the week so at our weekly childminder drop in we decided to have a little Independence Day party!  The children loved decorating the hall, flying flags, wearing Mickey Mouse ears and making their own USA flag.

USA banners

USA Holly and Charlie

Having held an Independence Day party in my setting a few years back I chatted to a friend of my parents in law who is a native New Yorker to see what traditions they have for this holiday.  Food-wise she told me they had barbecue food and red, white and blue fruit salads.  So for a change at snack time we gave the children such a salad.  Unfortunately, not being able to open the melon in Sainsburys I couldn’t check how ripe the melon was and it was more than a little green!  It made an interesting colour combination but the children didn’t seem to mind.

USA salad

 

In the afternoon me and the children were treated to an assembly by my daughter’s Year 2 class on the topic of Minibeasts.  After some song singing the children and I were invited to view some written work and artwork about a recent trip the school had taken to enhance their study.  After the display the schoolchildren gave us a tour of the school conservation area to go on a real life minibeast hunt.  This was lovely for my daughter to be able to show her knowledge and impart it to me and the minded children – even taking one chap by the hand to lead him through the grass to turn over logs to find the creepy crawlies.

Minibeast hunt

My minded children were fascinated and loved the opportunity to have a go at pond dipping – squealing as they found water boatmen, water snails and the odd tadpole.

Pond dipping

It’s times like these when I can combine being there for my family whilst working that remind me that I really do have a fabulous job with the best of both worlds – being able to be an educator to my mindees AND continuing to be a mum to my own children.

We’re Going on a Strawberry Hunt. We’re going to find a juicy one!

I hear many people, and the Boomtown Rats (showing my age here!) saying that they don’t like Mondays and I can see where they’re coming from as it’s the start of the working week.  But for me I LOVE Mondays!  At the moment I just have one little mindee and I can be led by what she wants to do (within reason!).  Numerous Mondays she comes in and asks to ride the bus – something I don’t mind doing at all with just one little person in tow so we have done that a few times lately.  She gets a little bit excited about the ride!

 

holly bus

She also rather enjoys a sneaky muffin at our favourite cafe!

holly costa

 

Today was a little different as I had promised mindee a trip fruit picking last week and we did something different so today we had to go to Newhouse Farm.  We got there at opening and were told that raspberries were heavily picked at the weekend but if we went right to the end of the strawberry field we would find some lovely big strawberries.  It was so much fun watching little mindee lifting leaves to find the crop and kept saying ‘I get big juicy one Ness’ over and over!  She very soon filled 2 big punnets and told me they were for Mummy, Daddy, Grandma and Grandad!  We had a nice rest in the cafe as the rain stopped our picking fun then came home for lunch.  What did she ask for with her lunch?  A bowl of her freshly picked strawberries of course!

 

holly strawberry picking strawberry lunch

 

Tonight I have a mammoth task in turning a lovely big bowl of berries into homemade jam!

 

bowl of berries

More hungry caterpillars

Followers of my blog may remember that last year we grew butterflies from caterpillars.  As it was such a success and I have different children in my setting we thought we would try again.  I took photos every day but thanks to wonderful modern technology that is the camera phone, the phone died, had to be sent for repair and thus erased about a year’s worth of photos, including most of my caterpillar pictures.

During this time I took the caterpillars in their pot along to my local childminding group with a set of butterfly life cycle figures and talked to the children about what was going to happen over the next few weeks.  I then read them The Very Hungry Caterpillar – a book I loved as a child and which was 45 years old this year (older than me I may add!)

Here are the caterpillars on their first day with us

 

caterpillars 2014 day 1

And again on day 3

caterpillars 2014 day 3

Then at the end of their first week -haven’t they grown?

caterpillars week 1 2014

Ordering the caterpillars a bit later this year meant it was a lot warmer and they changed much quicker than they did last year – and unfortunately it was about this time my camera phone died and I lost all my pictures.  However after a week and a half all the caterpillars moved into their chrysalides and I transferred them to the butterfly net, ready for their transformation.  Again, around a week and a half later, all 5 hatched within 24 hours!  Sadly they decided to emerge when we weren’t around to witness them but we were lucky enough to have 5 beautiful painted ladies

 

Butterflies 2014

Butterfly 2014

 

It’s such a great experience for the children and they are all begging me to let them do it again.

Lotsa laughs at Legoland!

A few weeks ago I got an email from Morton Michel, my childminding insurance company, inviting me to their 50th birthday party.  If I’m honest I probably wouldn’t have given it a second glance except this was a little bit special.  Not only was the ‘party’ at Legoland, it was for an absolute steal of a price AND my daughters had an inset day!  I looked at the logistics and whether I could take my mindee and then realised that she was on holiday so it turned into a bit of a family day as my husband was off too.  We invited my daughter’s BFF and with another childminder, husband and mindees in tow we set off for sunny Windsor.

 

We had an incredible day especially as neither of us needed to push buggies about as all our children were old enough to walk – though you could definitely spot other childminders with their double and triple buggies around the park.  It was a great excuse to do the main thing I love about my job and that is to act like a big kid.  ALL day!

 

We went on wet rides, spinning rides, high rides, more wet rides and had an absolute ball.  Even the weather was kind to us though the forecast had not been good.

Morton and Michel bears

Meeting Morton and Michel bears at the start of the day

Legoland besties

Dry on pirate falls – before the huge drop!

Legoland 1

A little bit wet and hysterical after the drop!

legoland 2

Soaking wet but still smiling

legoland selfie

Selfie on the monorail

legoland tired

A little bit pooped at the end of the day!

Build me up Buttercup!

If there’s one thing the children in my setting and my own children like doing it’s building things – be it with old boxes, bricks, lego, magnetic polydrons or interstar links.  But we have a new favourite construction material – called Plus Plus.  It is exactly as it sounds – two + signs together in a durable rubber which you can interconnect.  Sounds odd but it is soooo addictive!

PlusPlus 3in1 Classic 220 pcs

We were lucky enough to get a sample pack from the lovely people at Mulberry Bush http://www.mulberrybush.co.uk/ a fabulous local independent toy company that specialises in wooden toys but has an amazing array of traditional and unusual toys for every age.  As soon as my own 7 and 10 year old daughters got their hands on the sample pack they wanted more!  I now have both the pastel and classic packs and they have had a ball making things with it.

plus plus plus plus 2

I can totally recommend Plus Plus from any age 4 and up – and I guarantee you will be addicted and the kids will be begging to have their turn when all the mums and dads are hogging it!

 

Been AWOL again!

I seem to be forever apologising for my absence here but with my degree, GCSE Biology, full time childminding job AND two children of my own I’m afraid time isn’t something I have much of so unfortunately my blog doesn’t get updated as much as I would like.  I’m hoping once my final degree assignment is out of the way and my Biology exams sat I will have a bit more ‘free’ time – if such a thing exists for a working parent!

This could be a long entry seeing as the last time I posted it was still February and here we are now, hurtling past Easter and into Summer.  Aside from my studies, we have had a very busy time in the setting.  No sooner did we seem to get through February half term, so the Easter holidays crept up on us.  As always this is a great time for us as without school runs, we can go further afield in our adventures.  We headed off to our favourite Easter outing to http://www.gastonfarm.com/.  The children (and their minder!) were very eager to get their hands on baby chicks, duckling and lambs as well as enjoying tractor rides and feeding the sheep.  One of the first words of one little mindee was ‘duck’ so she was thrilled to see so many and get to stroke them!  She had excitedly been chanting ‘baa baas’ all the way there and after her initial shock when one lamb did indeed BAA at her, she happily gave one a cuddle! The children had a great day with the animals but ask any of them what their favourite bit of the day was and I guarantee they will all say it was when a feisty duck pooped in my lap!

 

holly gaston duck holly gaston lamb

logan gaston lamb

It wouldn’t be a holiday without a bit of crafty fun.  I got together with my minder friends and held an Easter themed day of craft and activities.  Children enjoyed decorating eggs, having an Easter egg hunt and making chocolate nest cakes.  One child (typically my own!) decided to help herself to the leftover mixture when she thought nobody was looking.

paige cake

A highlight of the holidays and a favourite of children and minders alike was movie morning at the Capitol Horsham.  In total 70 of us filled the theatre for a showing of the Muppets Most Wanted – which was hysterical (but also made some of us old enough to remember watching the tv show as kids VERY old indeed!)  But the little people loved it which was the main thing!

cinema muppet

We had lots of other holiday fun including easter crafts and sensory fun at home

easter tray

an easter egg hunt at Nymans Gardens and a trip to lovely Tilgate park to see a tiny newborn meercat – or 5!  Which one mindee wanted to get in with

meercats easter charlie meercat

One of our final trips of the holidays was another firm favourite with the children – Polesden Lacey house in Surrey.  We took part in a family-oriented tour of the house where the children got to play puff billiards and dress up in Edwardian clothing.  They then completed a travel-themed trail around the grounds and won a medal for their efforts.

polesden bench  polesden hill

So after the fun of the holidays we settled back into our routine of our weekly drop in sessions where we have had fun with sensory resources such as coloured rice and bubble wrap – which was a huge hit with children and minders alike!

 

rice mix rice

bubble wrap

 

So aside from working I seem to be living and breathing my studies!  A positive that has come out of this year’s module is that I am learning to be more reflective about my practice and also my setting.  During an assignment I took a good look at my setting and realised I didn’t have a designated quiet area for the children to chill out.  A bit of reshuffling, selling furniture and sewing later I created our very own cosy corner which the children seem to love – some more than others!

cosy corner cosy ben

 

Finally I come to the end of my long post and the end of an era in our setting as we had to say goodbye to one of our little people who is off on his adventures at pre-school and a very exciting adventure as a big brother.  I’ve said before that I hate this part of my job.  Each little person comes into our home and become part of our family.  I watch them grow and develop into wonderful young people and it’s very sad to see them leave.  So I finish this entry with photos which show the little chap who entered our home as an 11 month old and leaves as a wonderfully happy, bright and loving 3 year old soon-to-be big brother.  The change is wonderful and it’s a privilege to be a part of that growth.

logan 1 logan selfie

logan polesden

 

 

Winter Olympics 2014

We could not let the Sochi games go by unmarked and today myself and my fellow minders held a Winter Olympic themed activity day.  I know for many people the thought of having to entertain around 20 children aged from 8 months to 10 years of age would be hell but it was a really enjoyable day and not one child used the dreaded ‘B’ word (BORED!!)

We had Olympic ring painting – using toilet rolls as a template

olympic rings

which then turned into a free painting session.

We set up a tray full of sugar cubes where the children were using it for construction of igloos and pretend ‘ice cube’ play.

My little ones discovered some fab construction pieces brought by another minder.  One little chap sat for ages playing with it to make snowflakes and then got an older child to turn it into a crown!

charlie wammy charlie wammy crown

The children enjoyed their picnic lunch then we had gloop ‘snow’

anya gloop nhh

Decorated ice skates and practised threading skills

skate nhh

There were also specially made Winter Olympics wordsearches for the older children.

All in all it was a fab day and a great way to round off a brilliant half term.  Two of my minding mums have said this week that they envy my job and the fun I have and I have to say that during the holidays is when I realise I have one of the best jobs in the world.  How can you beat being paid to be a kid all day, playing and using copious amounts of glitter whilst spending time with my friends?!

 

Community spirit

I know I have mentioned this before but we are very fortunate in our part of West Sussex to have access to some great children’s centres and I know from extensive networking with other minders in person and via the internet that sadly this is not the experience of all childminders.  However we have a little gem at the Needles CFC in Horsham.  We have friendly, helpful staff who allow us to run a bi-monthly childminder only session where we are in charge.  They have a wide range of fabulous resources for children big and small and access to a large hall, outdoor area and quiet baby-friendly room.

This week being half term meant we had children ranging from 9 months to 10 years old and it can sometimes be a headache finding stuff for all of them to enjoy.  So my fellow minders and I let the children plan the session and decide what resources they wanted out – with the older children going to the storage cupboard with staff to select what they wanted.  They really enjoyed being allowed the choice and had a great time.

They chose the layout of the large hall

needles logan

They self-selected resources

needles logan 2

They liked playing basketball

basketball needles

Even the little people made a bee-line for their favourite things

ben cube needles

And there’s always time for a bit of a doodle

holly chalk needles

We had a lovely morning with very happy children and happy children = happy childminders!