Our Mission

Our mission is to enrich children's lives through innovative support, education and enhanced family and provider services.

Our program puts families at the center of a community of support services.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Fun with Shrinky Dinks

Continuing with our Homemade Holidays series we had fun with Shrinky Dinks.

Shrinky Dinks are definitely a blast from the past for many of us and a great open-ended craft material to create a special gift for anyone on your list. The Shrinky Dink paper is truly inexpensive, only $6 for 10 sheets. Each sheet will make nearly a dozen designs depending upon the size.

You will need:
Shrinky Dink pages- we used the Ruff 'N Ready product
permanent makers- we used fine tipped Sharpies as well as Sharpie brush tip markers for our younger participants, and metallic sharpies and metallic PRANG markers.
1/8" hole punch
jewelry jump rings and lanyards snap hooks
small needle nose or jewelry pliers
brown paper sack or parchment paper
sheet pan

This activity is adaptable to nearly all age groups. Younger children can scribble on the surface and the adult can cut it into a shape and punch the hole.

This design was completed by a young child. It was originally a 4" x 4". The artist used a red brush tip marker and the rough side. Then he turned the square over and added black with a fine tipped Sharpie. We punched in a corner to give a diamond appearance and baked. The ink on the smooth and rough side looked fantastic after baking. The only difference we noticed is that you can't see the black ink on the rough side so doing it that way doesn't make the object reversible.

We had a toddler come visit our office and create a great design. He used both brush tip and fine tip Sharpies. His mother made a frame with Sharpies and cut the edges. The young artist helped punch the holes, using a regular size punch with a little help.

His mom made him a Thomas the Train design to hang in his window, by tracing a clip art image.

Using a 1/8" hole punch makes a smaller hole if you will be making a piece of jewelry. You will need to use a jump ring.
If you have a regular hole punch that works as well for most other items, although you may need jump rings because the hole will be too small to fit on a key ring.

Shrinky Dinks shrink about 50% so make your projects twice as large as you want the finished product.
Here are some designs before baking, some were drawn freehand and others were traced.

Bake in an oven at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 1-5 minutes.
We baked for 3 minutes.
Placing a piece of parchment paper over the designs while baking keeps them from bubbling and curling up onto themselves. This will be especially important with larger designs.
Be ready with a spatula and press down on each one within the first 30 seconds.
Pressing with a spatula was less important once we began baking with the parchment paper cover.

Then we applied a clear spray paint to the rough side with the ink......

Five of the designs didn't make it because we added too much Krylon clear, gloss spray paint all at once. A light coat, a little at a time is best with the spray a few feet from the shrunk piece.
FYI- we also tried clear coat polish, but that smeared the ink.
Later, we tried Martha Stewart Satin enamel spray. It worked well and didn't run colors, even with a heavy coat.
In the end we decided that spraying the surface was not necessary so it it not listed as a needed material.

Attach the jump rings by prying open and closing with small pliers.

Attach a lanyard snap hook if using on a key chain, zipper pull or back pack.
Or use as jewelry and leave only the jump ring and attach to a necklace or bracelet.

Look at all of those awesome, personalized gifts!


Monday, November 17, 2014

Keep Kids Moving This Winter

Obstacles to Activity
It can be challenging to keep kids active when the weather outside is cold, wet and even coated with ice and snow. Adding to the weather deterrent, the hours of daylight dwindle. Remembering the benefits of keeping children active during the winter can help us focus on providing plenty of opportunities for children to maintain their activity despite the weather and darkness.

Benefits of Activity 
Most obviously, activity helps children maintain their health in general and keep a healthy weight. Additionally, physical activity helps strengthen the immune system and is a great way to help prevent winter illnesses. Being active also helps children manage anxiety and stress, especially useful for moderating behavior issues during the holiday season. Physical activity also improves sleep; adequate sleep makes everyone in the family happier.

Recommended Activity Levels
According to SHAPE America all children from birth to age 5 should engage daily in physical activity that promotes movement skillfulness and foundations of health-related fitness.

  • Infants should be placed in settings in which they can explore their environment through movement. 
  • Toddlers should have at least 30 minutes of structured physical play and at least 60 minutes of unstructured play time and should not be sedentary for more than 60 minutes at a time (except when they are sleeping of course).
  • Preschoolers should have at least 60 minutes of structured physical play and at least 60 minutes of unstructured play time and should not be sedentary for more than 60 minutes at a time (except when they are sleeping of course).
  • Children 6+ should be active at least 60 minutes each day. 
Ideas to Keep Active
  • Limit screen time to 0-2 hours each day- less is better.
  • Bundle up and head outside. Be sure to wear a hat since 30-40% of body heat loss is through the head and don't forget the sunscreen. Head to the playground, walk, or hike. If you have snow on the ground, you can still enjoy the outdoors. Low cost activities to enjoy with snow: sledding or tubing, building a fort or snowman, shoveling words in the snow (or the walk way ;) 
  • Turn on music and dance or complete chores together. Sweeping, vacuuming and window washing are great ways to stay active and refresh your environment. 
  • Play active games such as Twister, charades, Simon Says, hokey pokey or hot lava (lay small towels throughout the house and jump from towel to towel without touching the carpet). Practice yoga together. Have an indoor scavenger hunt, indoor obstacle course, or an indoor snowball fight with paper balls. Create a Move Like an Animal Cube.
  • Offer plenty of indoor play equipment that encourages physical activity such as bean bags, soft balls, beach balls, scarves, jump ropes,and hula hoops. 
  • Other more costly ideas: snowshoeing, skiing, bowling, swim lessons, memberships to indoor rec centers, geocaching, children's museums. 
Our resource libraries have a number of toys for lending that promote gross motor activity:
portable play centers with stairs and slide for toddlers, tunnel, foam hopscotch set, bean bags and board, bowling set, balance board, parachute, scooter board, sit n spin, yoga cards, Hullabaloo, scarves and even a self-standing basketball hoop!

If you don't live in our service area of El Dorado and Alpine Counties, visit the USA Toy Library Association to find one near you. 


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Fun with Flint Corn

We bought 2 bunches of miniature flint corn for crafts.
We paid only $1 for each ear and but we got a lot of mileage from each and every ear.

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We pulled the kernels from the ears and popped them in the microwave and ate popped corn.
Pulling the kernels is a great fine motor activity. Visit our popping flint corn post for detailed instructions.

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We used them as rolling pins for play dough.

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We rolled the empty and full ears in paint and rolled onto paper.

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We also saved the husks, soaking in water to make them pliable and made a corn husk doll.
We used the easy to follow directions on teachersfirst.com

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Have a warm and wonderful fall!


Popping Flint Corn

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First be sure you purchase food grade flint corn. Ask the produce clerk in your local store to be sure it is untreated. Flint corn naturally contains less water than sweet corn and this time of year we see many colors- red, blue, yellow, orange and variegated varieties containing some or all of these colors.
You can pop flint corn just as you do standard popcorn kernels because standard popcorn kernels are closely related to flint corn.

Begin by removing the husks and setting aside.

Pull kernels from each of the cobs. This is a great fine motor activity.

For this activity we wanted to pop the corn separately to compare colors and taste so we put the kernels from each cob in a different bowl.

Wash the kernels, drain and allow to dry evenly on a cloth or paper towel.

Pop the corn just as you would popcorn kernels.

We measured a few tablespoons of kernels in a lunch sized paper sack.

Roll the top under and place with the curled side down. We listened for the popping to slow which happened at about 1 minute and 20 seconds in the microwave we used.
Add butter and salt as desired.

Popped Red Flint Corn
We also decided to give the miniature flint corn a try.

The smaller flint corn was more challenging to remove from the cob......

The different colors/types of kernels cook differently. To be safe, set your microwave to 3 or 4 minutes and listen, pulling the corn out when the popping stops to peter out.

The miniature flint corn pops better and is more tender but more difficult to remove from the cob and the larger flint corn is easier to remove from the cob but doesn't taste as good as the miniature.
Choose according to which positive trait is most important to your group.

Or forgo the whole kernel removal process and place the entire miniature cob in a brown lunch sack, rolling tight and placing the rolled side on the bottom. Start with 3-4 minutes and listen for the popping to slow. Popping flint corn is a great way to show children the difference between flint corn and sweet corn.

And you still have your corn husks to make a doll......

Visit teachersfirst.com for a great tutorial on how to make a corn husk doll. 


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Apples: Fruit/ Vegetable of the Month

"An apple a day keeps the doctor away" is a proverb you have probably heard before.

Perhaps testing the proverb, many studies have been conducted on the health benefits of apples. The results of these numerous studies show that eating apples helps protect against heart disease, diabetes, asthma, multiple types of cancers and neurological diseases like Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.
Most of the health promoting benefits of apples such as the fiber and antioxidants are located in or just under the apple skin, so be sure the eat the skin and meat to get all of the proven benefits.

Apples are native to China and were brought over to North American by the colonists. China is the top world producer of apples, with the United States in second place. The U.S. grows over 2,500 different varieties of the worlds 7,500 apple varieties.

Store apples for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator where they will last at least 6 times longer but store away from foods with strong odors, since they will take those odors on themselves.

While children love applesauce and apple juice, most of the health benefits in apples are in and just under the peel. It is best to serve children apples with the peels on. Dice apples and toss in green salads, in yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, etc. Thinly slice apples and serve with nut butters or spreads, add to sandwiches- like grilled cheese, peanut butter and turkey cheese.

We made apple "cookies" by spreading peanut butter and topping with chocolate chips, raisins, dried cranberries and roasted coconut chips. Make a "cookie" version yourself by spreading a nut butter or any type of spread and toppings to taste.

If you are child care provider in California you can receive cash reimbursements for providing healthy food to the children in your care. If you are a child care provider in El Dorado, Alpine, Placer, Nevada or Mono county our agency can help you enroll in the California Child Care Food Program.

Recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables varies with age.
Children ages 2-3 need   1- 1.5 cups of fruits and 1- 1.5 cups of vegetables each day.
Children ages 4-8 need   1-2     cups of fruits and 1.5-2.5 cups of vegetables each day. 
Children ages 9-13 need 1.5-2  cups of fruits and 1.5-3.5 cups of vegetables each day.
Teens ages   14-18 need   1.5 -2.5 cups of fruits and 2.5-4 cups of vegetables each day.

Keep in mind that fruits and vegetables are rich in essential vitamins and minerals needed for optimum growth and development. Check out  CDC's fruit and vegetable calculator for an more accurate recommendation based upon age, sex, and activity levels.

Remember your plate.......

Friday, November 7, 2014

Block Printing with Craft Foam

Our Alpine County office purchased supplies for clients to come in and make a one of a kind tea towel, meant to give away as a gift during the holidays.

For this activity we used:
cotton flour sack towels (about $1 each)
satin acrylic paint
fabric paint additive
small foam paint brushes
foam board
self-adhesive craft foam
craft cutting mat & craft knife

We purchased a five pack of flour sack towels at our local discount store for $5.
We washed and ironed them prior to painting.

There a large number of ways to embellish a flour sack towel. For this post, we will focus on using homemade blocks made from foam board and self-adhesive craft foam. With most children, the adult will need to set up the block for the child. We used a blade and cutting mat to cut the foam so that was definitely an adult's job.

Begin by cutting a block of foam board. They can be any size the artist can hold easily in their hand. Ours were around 3"-4" on each side.

Kids can help set up the adhesive craft foam on their block.
 The foam pieces on the blue block on top were cut and place there by an 8 year old child. 

Block prints aren't limited to fabric.
Use them on paper, on blank cards, on craft paper for wrapping paper or transform lunch sacks into gift bags.

Embellish with permanent marker.
Heat set the paint with an iron. Set the iron on a medium to hot setting. We had to issue with paint transfers, ironing directly onto the dried, painted surface.
Be sure you don't use steam and your iron's water reservoir is empty. You want dry heat for setting the fabric paint.

Stay tuned for more project photos since we have an open craft table set up in our Alpine County office this month for people to stop by and create one-of-a-kind tea towels.