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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Torn Paper Collages

This activity is easy, inexpensive and uses only two material......colored paper and glue.

Tearing paper is a great activity to strengthen and refine fine motor strength. Younger children, with less fine motor control may end up with a less representational piece. Older children may be able to plan their piece in greater depth, giving greater detail to order (background and foreground) and representational objects.

In the scene above, a large, light blue piece of paper was used. The clouds were added first. then the brown mountains, tree, and then blue water.

Below is a self-portrait by a young artist

torn paper collage, torn paper collage kids

The artist below added some detail with a marker.

torn paper collage kids

A younger artist made a fall leaf collage.

Three of the four pieces were made in public schools where they know art projects don't have to be costly and the practice tearing translates to improved handwriting with increase fine motor strength and control, as well as open ended allowing creative expression :)


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Resources for Children with Special Needs

Before we begin this post, we want to be sure to talk about identification of children with special needs. Some disabilities are readily apprarent and are often diagnosed very early in a child's life i.e. Down Syndrome or Spina Bifida. However, many disabilities are less discernible and require a close look at development over time. If you are a parent of a young child or are a child care provider, be sure to closely follow development in order to catch any delay early in the child's life. Early Intervention is critical to help narrow the gap in development and is especially true during the first three years of life when the developing brain is most pliable and response to the interventions is greatest.

Visit the CDC's website for list of developmental milestones for children 0-5 years.

If you are a child care provider and have concerns about the development of a child in your care, you may be unsure of how to approach the child's family with your concerns. West Ed created a fantastic presentation entitled, "Talking with Parents When You Have Concerns About a Child in Your Care"  to help you navigate through this process. 

Age is important when accessing services

Concerns about children ages 0-3 should be directed to your child's pediatrician and/or the local California Regional Center. In Alpine and El Dorado counties the service provider is Alta Regional Center. Alta Regional Center administers the California Early Start Program and Alta Regional has an infant development specialist to provide a developmental screening. If the child qualifies an Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) will be created to help support the individual needs of the child. 

If the child has reached their third birthday, the local school district is responsible for developmental screening and services. On the western slope of El Dorado County, contact the school district in your area by viewing this map. In South Lake Tahoe contact the Lake Tahoe Unified School District. In Alpine County contact the Alpine County Unified School District. If the child qualifies an Individual Education Plan (IEP) will be created to help support the individual educational needs of the child. Certain children may also qualify for services through the Regional Center to help them meet their needs unrelated to education. Contacting the Regional Center, even if the child is 3 years or older, is always a good idea. 

Other great resources for children with special needs:

Warmline Family Resource Center is an Early Start Family Resource center which serves both El Dorado and Alpine Counties (as well as Sacramento, Placer, Yolo and Nevada Counties). Their agency provides resources and supports to families of children with special needs from birth to age 22. In addition to support groups and workshops they offer a toll-free hot line staffed by parents of children with special needs 1-800-660-7945. 

Disability Rights California and Wrightslaw are great resources for navigating through the process of setting up IFSPs, IEPs and IPPs ensuring children receive necessary services to support their development.

California Inclusion and Behavioral Consultation NetworkThe California Inclusion and Behavior Consultation (CIBC) Network is a professional development project funded by the Early Education and Support Division (EESD) of the California Department of Education (CDE) and is coordinated by the WestEd Center for Prevention and Early Intervention. The CIBC Network will provide technical assistance to early care and education programs related to inclusion and challenging behaviors. 

Special Quest Multimedia Training Library- Training videos to support inclusion are available at no cost with funding from the Office of Head Start. 

Technical Assistance Center on Social Emotional Intervention- TACSEI provides free resources to support the social-emotional outcomes in young children with, or at-risk of delays or disabilities. They have a great series entitled "Backpack Connection Series" related to behavior, emotions, routines and schedules and social skills. 

California's Map to Inclusion & Belonging- a cyber warehouse of resources related to caring for children with special needs. 

inclusion, children with special needs, goethe, potential
Give them every opportunity to be their best.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Apple Spice Play Dough

With colder evenings and apples in season it's the perfect time to bake up an apple pie. Or, save some time and mix up a batch of apple spice play dough, because we think it smells as good as apple pie.

apple play dough, scented play dough, apple pie play dough, fall play dough, homemade play dough, fall crafts for kids

For play group today we made apple spice play dough. With no apples anywhere in the mix, we were dubious this would deserve the "apple" in it's title. The brain and scents are a funny thing though. It does smell like apple- perhaps by association.

You will need:
2 cups water
2 Tablespoons oil
2 teaspoons red food coloring

2 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cardamon

Add water, oil and food coloring to a saucepan. Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl and add to the liquids in the saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the dough begins pulling away from the sides of the pan.

Add some fall themed cutters and other items and you have a sensory rich, open-ended play experience.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Trace & Paint Leaves

leaf crafts for kids, watercolor crafts for kids, nature crafts for kids

We were looking through Martha Stewart's Living October 2014 when we were inspired with this activity. In the magazine the leaves are traced lightly in pencil and filled in with water color. To make it easier for children, we traced the leaves in pencil and then drew over the pencil marks with permanent marker.

You will need:
green leaves
paper (we used watercolor paper)
paint brushes
permanent marker

First we collected leaves which can be just as fun as the painting portion. Alpine County is well-known for the fall colors in the aspen groves. We picked some green leaves off of various trees- including aspens. Green leaves are easier to trace since they aren't stiff and fragile. You will want to trace them within a few hours as they will dry out. To extend this time you could cover with a moist towel and refrigerate.

Trace the leaves. Older children can trace by themselves and younger children may want to lay the leaves in a pattern that pleases them and have you help them by tracing.

We used an ultra fine point permanent marker for two and a fine tip permanent maker for one (the aspen leaves)

Set up your paints, brushes and water......

Once this activity is set-up with the leaves traced, any level artist can participate. These would even look great with the entire page painted as they do with the paint over the lines.

leaf crafts for kids, watercolor crafts for kids, nature crafts for kids

leaf crafts for kids, watercolor crafts for kids, nature crafts for kids

leaf crafts for kids, watercolor crafts for kids, nature crafts for kids

An extension of the activity could be helping children identify the names of the plants and write the names next to each leaf.

Happy Leaf Hunting!


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Rescuing Children From Mistakes

As parents, we love our children and protecting them from discomfort and hardship comes easily. Sometimes this spirit of protection is misapplied. Feeling distressed and even culpable, watching them struggle with the unpleasantness of a consequence, we dive in and rescue. It feels like help, but in the long run it be harmful.

Each time our children are exposed to natural consequences, they are provided a priceless opportunity to learn. A natural consequence is something that happens as a result of something your child does (or does not do). The consequence is something that is imposed by nature or by society and not something you as a parent decide or set forth.

  • If you child refuses to wear a coat and it is cold outside (after countless pleas on your part), your child will be cold.
  • If your child forgets their homework, it will be late and points will be deducted. 
  • If your child doesn't take care of a personal item/toy and it will be ruined.

Natural consequences are great learning opportunities for your child. By allowing them to struggle and feel the unpleasantness associated with the natural consequence, their discomfort will drive them to avoid the consequence in the future and/or create a better plan.

If we jump in immediately and rescue them or solve the problem for them, we rob them of this invaluable opportunity to learn what they are capable of. Since the world will continue to offer your child it's own natural consequences in your absence as they grow older, you will serve your children well by giving them skills to cope with consequences while they are still in your care.

Keep love and connection in mind when guiding your reactions to their mistakes. The long term goal is to have them learn responsibility. Your child will still need your love and support during their struggle.

Rather than jumping in and taking control, let them take the lead while you take a more passive role. Acknowledge their feelings and offer empathy,"It must have been upsetting to forget your homework after you spent all that time on it last night." Help them create a plan but let them take the lead based upon their age or developmental ability. "What can you do next time to make sure you bring your homework?" Be supportive and present but don't offer the solution. Letting your child solve their problem with your supportive presence will allow them to feel capable and self-assured. By taking the lead and assuming ownership, they will develop confidence to deal with issues which are certain to arise in the future.

A word of caution:

  • Don't use natural consequences if it endangers your child or others. Keep love and connection in mind.
  • Don't use natural consequences if it interferes with the rights of others. (i. e. Letting them block a foot bridge preventing others from passing.)
  • Don't rely on natural consequences if it doesn't bother your child. If the natural consequence doesn't bother them, you are most likely dealing with a "parent-owned" problem. Read about it here: Using I Messages in Parenting.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Geometric Bottle Cap Prints

crafts with bottle caps, circle crafts for kids

We've heard there are endless ways to re-purpose plastic bottle caps so we have been saving them for a while now.....time to put them to re-use!

We were inspired by We Heart Art : Luli Sanchez Dot Paintings to use some of our caps as stamps for a print featuring circles in different colors and sizes.

You will need:
acrylic paint (we tried tempera and the paint just puckers and doesn't leave a smooth print like acrylic)
art paper
plastic bottle caps in various sizes
paint brushes

For younger artists you may want to mark with pencil where the circles will go, if they decide they want a uniform, grid like print. Otherwise, children can place circles wherever they like on the page.

Have children select 4 or 5 different colors.

Apply paint to the top of the bottle cap with a paint brush then press onto the paper.

Re-paint and press again. Repeat until they are satisfied with the results.

Children may want to vary colors in the first layer of circles. We used large circles in the first layer and smaller circles in the second layer, but there is no reason kids couldn't mix sizes as well as colors between each of the layers.

Be sure to have a small and large bottle cap and paint brush for each color so you don't have to wash between colors.

It is best to press the first layer of circles and allow to dry and then move to another layer to avoid smearing colors.

Be sure to wash your brushes while waiting for the painting to dry. Acrylic paint is more difficult to remove from paint brushes than tempera paint.

Apply second layer of circles.

bottle top prints, circle activities for kids

bottle top prints, circle activities for kids

bottle tops prints, circle activities for kids
crafts with bottle caps, circle crafts for kids
The best part about this project, besides the stunning prints, you can wash off the bottle caps and use them again for another project.