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.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Painted Paper Kimonos

painted kimonos, paper kimono craft, japanese crafts for kids

Kimonos are commonly worn in Japan for celebrating New Year's Day. 
This project is a great visual spacial activity as well as focusing on having children crossing mid-line (for example right hand painting from left side to right side). 
Activities in which mid-line is crossed are great for helping the left and right hemispheres communicate, needed for many life functions, including reading and writing. 

You will need:
art paper
paint - we used tempera
paint brushes
india ink (may substitute black tempera if you are concerned about staining)

Provide paper, paint and brushes and have children paint one side of the by blending the colors together and painting in one direction from right to left (or left to right) across the page. 
Let this side dry and then paint the other side using the same technique. Using contrasting colors for the front and back side gives a visually stunning result. 
When it is dry have children paint decorations such as blossoms, dragons or cranes with india black ink or black paint. 
In the pieces below, the children used cotton swap tips to paint the blossom of the tree. 

Fold the kimono being sure the lay the decorative side is face up. 

Begin with a sheet of paper. 
In this example we have a regular piece of 8-1/2" x 11" of copy paper. 
Fold the top about 1-1/2"-2".

Fold the sides in using the same measurements of 1-1/2"-2".

Pull the side and top fold down in the corners to form a triangle.  
Do this for the other side as well. 

Below, children used stamps made out of endive ends with gold paint and a red dot inside using a cork and red paint to make kimono buttons. You can substitute a small, new potato cut in half for the endive.

Happy New Year!


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Shape Gingerbread Men

This month our Play Group session was at the Markleeville Library. We found a great gingerbread man activity on No Time For Flashcards. We also read "The Gingerbread Man" and ate gingerbread men who didn't run away from us.

You will need:
brown card stock paper, a paper grocery sack or brown construction paper
glue sticks
googly eyes
bright paper cut into shapes
small circle craft punch

We printed out a gingerbread template we liked on the web, traced and cut our gingerbread men using brown stock card paper.

We cut 1 inch squares, 1 1/2" x 1" rectangles and obtuse triangles.
We used craft punches to cut the circles, flowers and hearts.

Children glued shapes on their gingerbread man allowing plenty of conversation about colors and shapes and body parts.

Run, run as fast as you can! You can't catch me I'm the gingerbread man!


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Oil / Paint Sharpie Mugs

We offered this activity for a wide range of ages for our Homemade Holidays gift making series. 

You will need:
Oil/paint sharpies (less than $3 each)
White mugs
rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer

This activity was really fun for both the children and parents who attended our Homemade Holidays workshop: Design Your Own Mug. Although we printed out a few designs from the web, most of the participants needed little help with inspiration. This is a quick and easy activity with relatively little mess. 

There is a downside...heating the mugs in the oven at a high temp gives off a very unpleasant odor. Plan on baking these on a day you can get plenty of ventilation from the fresh air and perhaps heading out on a brisk walk while they bake. 

Tip: we found out we could erase any errors with rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer. Have some cotton swabs ready for repairing any smudges or mistakes. We also prepared the surface of the cups by wiping down the outside, rim and handle with rubbing alcohol prior to painting. 

Here are some of the designs.....

A mug for a teacher.

A Hunger Games themed mug "May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor" with an arrow.

For the cat lover....
Write your name on the inside rim.

All smiles here!
Note on the far right: all of Dad's favorite teams as an inspiration.
Not pictured was a mug with a bicycle and dad's name written as a seat...for an avid bicyclist.
Family members names on the stems of flowers. 
And from a mom who heeded our parenting workshop advice "Nagging makes it your problem, silence makes it theirs".
Since we weren't in a hurry, we waited a few days for them to dry and ensure the paint set.

Then we placed all the mugs in a cold oven, heated to 425 degrees F. Once the temperature reached 425 degrees, we let them cook for 30 minutes and then turned the oven off, leaving the mugs in the oven to cool slowly. Once fully cooled. we wrapped them up. 

After cooking the colors deepened. Pink became purple and orange became brown. Black was a great color all around, looking sharp after baking. If you want to decrease the cost of this activity, purchase and work with only a black pen. 

There are different reports about how these types of mugs fair over time. We washed in a dishwasher and the drawings held up. How they might fair overtime, we haven't tested yet. To be safe, you may want to hand wash with a soft cloth to prolong its life. 


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Stick 'Em Christmas Cards

We got this great idea from Learn to Play At Home, a versatile fine motor activity with supplies you most likely have on hand.

christmas tree cards for kids

You will need:
Large sequins, a small circle punch and paper or stickers
Glue stick, glue squeeze bottle or glue dots
Yellow paper or star stickers (star punch optional)

We adapted this activity for a child with fine motor challenges. We placed glue dots on the back of each sequin and star and placed all of the items on a piece of parchment paper. (You could also reuse the paper the glue dots come with.)

We glued a green tree shaped triangle on a folded piece of stock card and offered the card and decorations. This activity allowed the child to be successful with decorating each tree by picking up each item with a pincer grasp and placing on the tree, especially since he had a number of people to create cards for.

If you have children with more developed fine motor skills, you can forgo the glue dots and offer them a glue stick or squeeze glue. Gluing and placing the sequins offers a great bilateral coordination opportunity, using one hand for gluing and one hand for the sequins. 

We had fairly large sequins on hand so that is what we used. If you have a small circle punch, you could provide paper circles for gluing. Bright neon colors or Christmas print paper would look great. 
You could also purchase stickers and have children place those on the tree as well.

If you don't have a star punch or star stickers, just draw a star on the back of the paper and cut with a small pair of scissors. 

Another variation is using sequins and markers to create dangling ornaments. 

Writing on the inside of the cards was great for fine motor practice along with reading and spelling practice. 


Monday, December 15, 2014

Child Care Providers: Build Social Connections for Parents

Much has been written about parent involvement in Early Childhood Programs but less attention has been given to the importance of social connections between parents. Parents who have supportive friends and family have an easier time taking care of themselves and their children and are therefore at a  lower risk for child abuse and neglect. 

Why are social connections so important?  
Parents who have a support system are able to:
  • Share the joys and challenges of parenting
  • Trade child care
  • Share resources
  • Vent frustrations
  • Give and get advice
  • See other parents “in action”
  • Talk about children and parenting
Early Childhood Educators have an excellent opportunity to facilitate friendships between parents. The relationships that develop when children are young may continue well into the school age years. 

Some ways your programs may encourage interactions between parents may include:
  • A comfortable place for parents to meet and chat
  • Time for parents to connect during special activities such as celebrations, field trips, fundraisers, etc…
  • Sharing information about outside activities that parents can do together such as fun fairs, library events, …
  • Introducing parents who may have similar interests, or circumstances such as twins, infants, special needs, or parents who speak the same language.
  • Personal contacts and invitations to social events.
  • Modeling positive social skills by welcoming all families. 

Being aware of the importance of social connections may help you create more opportunities for parents to interact.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Celery: Fruit / Vegetable of the Month

Celery is more than a virtuous dip scooper, a low-cal food for dieters, or an inexpensive filler for a party tray. Celery is a nutrient powerhouse in it's own right, containing multiple health promoting phytochemicals known to prevent or stop cancer growth, improve blood vessel health and improve cognitive functioning.

Celery didn't always have such a stale reputation. In the middle ages celery or smallage as it was called was used as a medicine to treat many different types of illnesses. Winning Olympic athletes were given bunches of smallage rather than flowers as an honor. The Italians were the first to begin using celery as a food in the 16th century. In the 19th and 20th centuries celery was a considered a delicacy consumed during the Christmas holidays by the Victorians.

Enjoy celery for its unique crunch and the flavor it adds to foods, in addition to its health promoting properties. Beyond the powerful phytochemicals it contains, celery is also an excellent source of vitamin K needed for blood and bone health and a good source of folate and vitamin A. Because of its fibrous nature, celery is a great prebiotic source, providing benefits beyond gut health. Celery is a great food for children since all of the chewing required provides great oral motor feedback helping with speech skills.

Now that you know the amazing health benefits of celery you can feel great about offering children plenty of ants on a log. Celery also tastes great filled with a soft cheese mixed with dried fruits of your choice. We made one with dried apricots and ricotta cheese that was fantastic! Also try a more savory option by serving with cream cheese sprinkled with paprika. Dice celery with apples in chicken or tuna salads. Celery also pairs nicely with sweet pears and radishes for a savory pairing. Feel confident adding this amazing vegetable to your soups, stews and salads and feel a sense of pride and recognition when you serve the celery on your next party tray.

If you are trimming the bottom of the bunch all at once, save the end to make a beautiful rose stamp.

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.......