Category Archives: activities

Getting Back to Nature

Fall is the perfect time of year to celebrate nature and all of its glory. Many of us head outdoors to savour Autumn’s colours and the remaining days of sun before the really cold weather moves in.

But what if we allowed our children the gift of nature every day – rain or shine? Even in the cold and snow.

What would happen if our kids played freely in the forest, the meadow or the walking trail and witnessed each season’s changes first hand – up close and personal? 

Back to Nature 1

My colleagues and I recently had the opportunity to attend a Nature and Early Learning Conference with keynote speaker Marlene Power, Executive Director of Forest School Canada to answer those questions. During the conference, each one of us was taken back to that magical sense of wonder we experienced in nature as children.

When kids are exposed to and become familiar with natural settings, they form connections that reap immeasurable benefits. Repeated exposure to that environment allows them to build a relationship with nature – connecting them to something greater than themselves.

Natural spaces foster a sense of adventure, discovery, and wonder in all of us – but especially children. Outdoor play becomes about imagination, collaboration, dialogue and children directing their own learning process (emergent curriculum).

Back to Nature 2


At the forest and nature school here in Ottawa, children are encouraged to play freely outside, in a natural setting. They learn to navigate varied terrains, in all different kinds of weather. They develop a respect for nature and learn to map out their understanding of the forest. Other interesting observations from the Forest School is that outside, skills and abilities become more important, leaving materialism and social hierarchies with less currency. Imaginations take over and the children reinvent uses for found items. The ideas, physical skills and stamina developed from spending time in the forest enhance feelings of competency and esteem in the children attending.

“The evidence suggests that viewing, interacting with, and living in natural environments can have multiple effects on ‘reducing stress, increasing patience, increasing self-discipline, increasing capacity for attention, increasing recovery from mental fatigue, or from psychopysociological imbalance,’ (Russell et al., 2013, 9. 482)”

“Environmental education is linked to better performance in math, reading, writing, and listening and better critical thinking skills (Bartosh, 2003; Ernst & Monroe, 2004)” … “Play and exposure to green spaces can also reduce children’s stress levels, protect their emotional development, and enhance their social relations (Kuo & Taylor, 2004; Ginsburg, 2007; Weinstein et al., 2009; Children & Nature Network, 2012).”

~ Taken from Forest School Canada’s website.

Children can interact with nature inside too. Consider bringing the outdoors in for even more benefits!

Back to Nature 4

Here toddlers and preschoolers added found treasures to salt dough for an open-ended art activity.

For many more fabulous ideas on bringing nature into your daycare, Humber College and The Back to Nature Network produced an excellent guide called ‘Ready…Set…Wonder


Signature - Jo

‘Winter Heat’ Children’s Activities

Julie’s been heating up winter with her play-based learning children’s events. Here are just a few of the activities she had waiting for the little ones when they arrived at the CCPRN office earlier this week.

Winter Heat Build a Snowman 2

Children had so much fun building snowmen made from Styrofoam balls. This was a great activity for those gross motor skills, improving hand-eye coordination and sorting large and small.

Next up was a mitten colour match game. Toddlers got to practice their pincer grasp while sorting and matching the coloured clothes pins with the coordinating mittens.

Winter Heat Mitten Colour Match

Those little fine motor skills got even more exercise from hanging mittens on the clothesline. Caregivers discussed the different kinds of patterns found on the mittens such as plaid, diamond shapes and stripes.

Winter Heat Pics Clothesline Mittens

Kids of all ages love to manipulate goo and these extra-large Ziploc bags keep the mess inside for lasting fun! Inside were die cut foam snowflakes, beads, buttons, and the secret ingredient… hair gel!

Winter Heat Sensory Bags

Julie brought the outside in and filled our sensory bin with snow and these beautifully coloured balls of ice. Children delighted in playing with the cold snow as they discussed colours and hot versus cold!

Winter Heat Sensory Bin

To make the ice balls, simply put a good dose of food colouring inside some balloons and then add about 1 or 2 cups of water. Tie them off and place them outside to freeze (or in your freezer). Note that the balloons can take up to 2 days to fully freeze.

At the end of the event, the children enjoyed a snack while Julie told the story “Polar Bear Polar Bear.” They watched in awe as that silly polar bear changed colours throughout the story.

Polar Bear Polar Bear

There are still spaces available for some of Julie’s upcoming Winter Heat events so if you haven’t already, be sure to sign up!

Stay warm!

Halloween Play-based Learning and ELECT

Have you seen how CCPRN is using the ELECT framework to develop children’s events? Here we’ve shown how children learn through play, using our Halloween party activities as an example!

Halloween Felt Board Play Sets

Halloween Party Felt Board

We asked the children: “Can you dress the people in costumes? What costumes do you see?”

With this activity they had the opportunity to learn the following skills:

3.1 receptive language, simple turn-taking

3.2 expressive language

3.3 vocabulary

3.5 using descriptive language to explain

4.7 symbolic representation

4.10 classifying

5.1 gross motor coordination, reaching and holding

5.2 fine motor coordination, holding and using tools, pincer grasp

5.3 visual exploration, visual discrimination, tactile exploration

5.4 sensory motor integration

P is for Pumpkin Group Activity

Halloween Party P is for Pumpkin

We asked caregivers to recite the rhyme: “P is for pumpkin and much, much more. Take a peek when I open the door!” and lift the flap to reveal a picture underneath. The children were encouraged to name the picture.

With this activity the children had the opportunity to learn the following skills:

1.5 interacting positively and respectfully

1.6 co-operating

2.5 regulating attention

3.3 vocabulary

3.6 listening to others

3.10 phonological awareness

3.11 letter recognition

3.13 matching spoken words with written ones

4.5 observing

4.7 symbolic representation

5.1 gross motor coordination, reaching

5.2 fine motor coordination, pincer grasp

Leaf Counting Game

Halloween Party Leaf Counting Game

The children were asked to count the leaves and place the correct number in the box. With this activity they had the opportunity to learn the following skills:

2.5 regulating attention

4.2 problem solving

4.7 symbolic representation

4.13 determining quantity

4.15 representing numbers

4.20 completing simple number operations (one-to-one correspondence)

5.1 reaching and holding, gross motor coordination

5.2 fine motor coordination, holding and using tools, pincer grasp

5.3 visual exploration, visual discrimination

5.4 sensory motor integration

Spider Match Game

Halloween Party Spider Match Game

The children placed the spiders on their corresponding webs. With this activity they had the opportunity to learn the following skills:

4.7 symbolic representation

4.10 classifying

4.17 understanding two-dimensional objects

5.2 fine motor coordination, holding and using tools, pincer grasp

Face Patterning Game / Make a Jack o’lantern

Halloween Party Pumpkin Patterning Game

Children recreated pumpkin face patterns using the assorted shapes. With this activity they had the opportunity to learn the following skills:

4.2 problem solving

4.7 symbolic representation

4.17 understanding two-dimensional objects

4.18 identifying patterns

5.2 holding and using tools, fine motor coordination, pincer grasp

5.3 senses, visual exploration, visual discrimination

Creature Match Game

Halloween Party Chop Sticks

The children used chop sticks, tweezers and tongs to place little critters in the same coloured pail. With this activity they had the opportunity to learn the following skills:

4.10 classifying

5.2 fine motor coordination, holding and using tools, pincer grasp

5.3 senses, visual discrimination

Creature Creation Blocks

Halloween Party Blocks

Children were asked: “How many silly people can you make? Stack the blocks and see!” With this activity they had the opportunity to learn the following skills:

1.6 co-operating

4.10 classifying

4.12 counting

4.13 determining quantity

5.1 gross motor coordination, reaching and holding

5.2 fine motor, palmar grasp

Halloween Play Dough Mats

Halloween Party Play Dough Mats

The play dough mats provided an open ended art activity for this children. With this activity they had the opportunity to learn the following skills:

5.2 fine motor coordination

5.3 senses, sensory exploration

5.4 sensory motor integration

Treat Bag Decorating

Halloween Party Treat Bags

Children decorated their own treat bags as well and had the opportunity to learn the following skills:

4.3 representation

5.1 gross motor coordination, reaching and holding,

5.2 fine motor coordination, holding and using tools, pincer grasp

Skeleton Bones Puzzle

Halloween Party Skeleton Match Game

The children could lay out the skeleton bones by matching their numbers to the ones on the map. With this activity they had the opportunity to learn the following skills:

1.6 co-operating

2.5 regulating attention

5.1 gross motor coordination, reaching and holding

4.15 representing numbers

4.22 using spatial relations, maps

Click here to view or download your copy of the Early Learning for Every Child Today (ELECT) document and plan out your play-based activities!

Eye Spy Games

Eye spy games are a natural fit for young children and there are so many varieties to keep it fresh and exciting. These games foster a child’s curiosity, visual discrimination and language skills. Some promote fine motor manipulation, print motivation and sensory exploration.

Eye Spy Bottles

The beauty of creating eye spy bottles  is that you can choose smaller items that you wouldn’t normally give very young children to play with.

Recycle your plastic bottles or containers and fill them with all kinds of fun things. Pictured above (from left to right): oil and water with small plastic beads and food colouring – hair gel and googly eyes – oil and water with food colouring – tiny pasta (or beads with miscellaneous items hidden inside). Seal the lid with a glue gun (and consider taping  it closed with electrical or duct tape for extra security).

Eye Spy Boxes

These rugged little eye spy boxes were made from old cassette cases and are an ideal size for small hands to manipulate. Simply fill with small items (themed or by colour) and seal with packing tape! Consider making alphabet themed boxes for your preschool and kindergarten aged children.

Eye Spy Sensory Bin

You can even make an eye spy game by hiding related items inside your sensory bin. The possibilities are endless.

A very special thank you to CCPRN Board Member Laurie Boucaud for this picture of her bug themed sensory bin.

Eye Spy Pictures

Consider taking pictures of assorted items or of your sensory bin to create custom eye spy pictures to use at a later date. Simply print and laminate for a fun game that can be used again and again. This tool can be enhanced for older children by including a checklist of items to find.

Eye Spy Book

Eye spy books are a great option for incorporating literacy into fun! This is an ideal activity for quiet time as well.

I spy bags 2

Eye spy bags require some sewing skills, but if you have a sewing machine equipped with a walking foot, all you need is a small piece of clear plastic vinyl, fabric, and items to hide inside. These themed bags were filled out with flower arranging beads from the dollar store.

Your children can have so much fun with these homemade toys they won’t even know they’re learning!

Happy spying!

Signature - Jo

Daycare Science: Vermicomposting

What child doesn’t love to play with worms and dirt?!

Shelly Wright, a CCPRN home child care provider member is not only encouraging this kind of play, she’s using it to promote learning about life cycles and healthy environmental and nutritional practices.         And she’s doing it just in time for Earth Day coming up on April 22nd.

Being an avid gardener, Shelly purchased an extra compost bucket for this special project. The small bins from the City of Ottawa’s green bin waste program (available at Canadian Tire stores) are ideal for housing worms because they keep the light out but still allow for air to enter through the tiny holes on the lid. Using this kind of container, allows Shelly to store her composter indoors and use it year round.

vermicomposting 1

To start vermicomposting, Shelly put about 2 cups of earth from her garden into the bucket with some shredded newspaper and about half a dozen red wriggler worms*. She recommends placing just a small amount of food scraps into the bin every other day or so and adding egg shells to neutralize the acidity. It’s important to avoid putting in meat, dairy or animal waste.

Shelly involves the children by asking them cut the food scraps into small pieces with plastic knives and placing them into the bucket. They give it a stir and check up on the worms’ progress regularly.

Vermicomposting 2

Vermicomposting is just a small component of the many earth-friendly concepts that can be introduced to your children.

Children can observe and participate in using worms to create earth – which leads to using the fresh soil to plant seeds – then watching the seeds turn to vegetables we can eat – recycling the vegetable scraps to feed the worms – which in turn creates more earth!

 Shelly also put together a simple sensory bin on the composting theme to further enhance her daycare children’s learning through play.

Vermicomposting 3

She included dry soil, fake worms from the fishing section of her hardware store, pretend food, a magnifying glass, a bottle of water, spoons and cups for the children to play with indoors.

Vermicomposting 4

For more information about vermicomposting, check out these helpful sites:

Thanks for sharing Shelly and for inspiring us to do the same!

Signature - Jo

* It is important to purchase red wriggler worms.  Here in Ottawa we have been able to buy them from Arbour Environmental Shoppe,  but it has recently closed its Bank Street location. So in the meantime, you can check where to order from here:


Pete the Cat is in the House

Do you know Pete the Cat?

He recently joined us for some of our children’s events and he was a big hit with the kids.

Each event started off with reading ‘Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes’ ~ with everyone’s favourite part: Julie acting out the role of Pete!!

 She placed different coloured slippers into 4 different coloured buckets, each with a different picture on it – one of strawberries, one with blueberries, another with mud and of water.

When the story began, Julie was wearing a white pair of shoes (slippers from the dollar store). As the story progressed, she would step into the buckets and slip off one pair of slippers and replace it with another. So to the children, it appeared that her slippers changed colours!

Later, the buckets were used again for another activity. The slippers were replaced with grippy footprints on the floor and the children practiced their gross motor skills by following them along and carefully stepping in and out of the buckets.

After reading the first book, we read “Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons.”

Julie made this large Pete the Cat as a prop, and held up number cards as Pete’s buttons popped off.

Then, of course, when Pete lost all of his buttons….

…he flaunted his belly button.

Some of the activities that followed story time with Pete, included:

A colour and left/right orientation shoe matching game:

Play dough mats for fine motor manipulation, pre-writing and reading skill development:

A colour-match wheel where the children matched the coloured shoes to the colours on the wheel. We added a gross motor component by placing the shoes and the wheel at opposite ends of the room so that the children would have to bend down to pick up a shoe and walk over to the wheel to place it on.

There was also a sensory bin, shoe lacing activities, and a picture match game… and the kids just thought it was  “aaalll good.”

All of these activities were created as extensions to a favourite book. The learning comes naturally when you’ve got a child’s interest already! You end up with ‘planned’ curriculum instead of ‘canned’ curriculum (as described by Monique at the E.L.E.C.T. training earlier this month).

We’d love to hear about any activities you’ve developed around a treasured story.

Thanks for reading,

Halloween: more tricks, less treats

Halloween doesn’t have to just revolve around candy and scary things ~ it can be fun too! There are so many things you can do in your home to get the little ones ready and excited for the big day. 

– If you’ve got your pumpkins picked out already, it’s time decorate them! Young ones may not be able to carve them, but they can certainly turn them into eye-catching works of art! They can have just as much fun pasting and painting them too!

… if you still prefer the glow of candles in your carved pumpkins, why not use battery operated tealights inside to set the mood.

– Dig out and dust off a few extra items from the back of your closet to add to your dress-up bin. I just know you’ve got some things in there from past decades… give them new life!

– Involve the senses: Make some goop or slime for the children to play with. Or theme your sensory bin to Halloween. Include plastic bugs, worms and skeletons, or cotton balls and ghost felts just to name a few ideas.

– Play Halloween music and maybe even have a dance party with your group! If you have a laptop or computer in your playroom, it’s easy to create a *free* playlist of Halloween songs on (and yes they have the Original Monster Mash album in their extensive online library)!

– There is no shortage of Halloween craft ideas. Here are just a few of our own:

Children can decorate their own masks;

paper treat bags with paper, foam or felt shapes for toddlers and preschoolers;

or go one step further with fabric bags with fabric markers or paints for schoolagers.

For even more Halloween craft ideas, check out our pinterest page here.

And if you have a real sweet tooth and insist on having treats for your little ones this Halloween – have them decorate some cookies or cupcakes as an alternative that is fun to make!

Licorice, marshmallows, sprinkles and chocolate chips can jazz up any cupcake to make them festive!

Of course we all love to see our little ones dressed up in their costumes on the big day but they are often purchased with the cold weather in mind. They might be too warm to be worn indoors for long periods or they may be a couple of sizes too large to accommodate a bulky coat underneath. Consider having the kids dress in orange and black on Halloween so that they can still feel festive, even when they’re not wearing their costume.

For more info on Halloween safety check out Health Canada’s website.

Wishing you all a safe and happy Halloween!

A Must See: Butterfly Exhibit


There really is no better way to spend a rainy day than to visit the Annual Biology Butterfly Show at Carleton University. It’s happening this week through to Thanksgiving Monday and is in the Nesbitt Building of the Biology Department.



The show features 1300 butterflies representing 41 species. Your children can feed butterflies, watch them flutter about, and observe the chrysalis stage.

What to bring?

– Change for parking. There is metered parking nearby or parking lots. View the campus parking map here. Admission is free but donations are welcomed.

– Sliced oranges for the butterflies… and don’t forget some for your kiddos too!

– Your camera!

– Dress in layers – it’s quite warm and humid in the greenhouses. You can avoid overheating by dressing your children in layers that can be removed. Also, keep in mind that butterflies are attracted to bright colours and may land on you if you wear them.

– Patience. It’s a very popular exhibit so get there early and be prepared in case there is a line up.

The show opens at 9am and remains open until 4pm each day.



So why not head to the university this week to bring the science and wonder of butterflies into your daycare. For some of us, it has become a Fall tradition!

Want to pick your own apples?

I’ve made it a tradition to take my children apple picking every year.

We usually have to get all bundled up in our Fall sweaters to make the trek out to the orchard but we’ll be going in our shorts and T-shirts this year. If you’d like to do the same with your family or daycare children, we’ve compiled a list of some Ottawa-area orchards just for you –

Cannamore Orchard
1480 County Road 32, Crysler 613-448-3633

Harvest Moon Orchard
4625 Carp Rd (Carp) 613-839-0378

Kilmarnock Orchards
1182 Kilmarnock Road, Jasper (between Smiths Falls & Merrickville) 613-284-9843 or 613-283-8964

Log Cabin Orchard
6121 Cabin Rd (Osgoode) 613-826-5081

Mountain Orchards
10175 Clark Road, Mountain (near Kemptville) 613-989-5601

Orleans Fruit Farm
1399 St Joseph Blvd, Orleans

Pine Hill Orchard
1818 St Felix Rd, Bourget

Pinewood Orchards
101 Herzberg Road, Ottawa

Please note that Dekok Family Berry Farm has closed their apple orchard this year due to crop failure.

And don’t forget to pick up some fresh apple cider on your way out too! I’ll be drinking mine with ice this year, rather than warm. Delish!

We have apple and tree dies at the office also if you’d like to build on the apple theme and create some resources out of foam, felt or paper. Our current newsletter is filled with apple-themed songs, rhymes and activities to help you along.

If you’re not able to make it out to the office for die cutting, but are attending a CCPRN children’s event soon – let us know and we can bring prepared Fall die cut bags for purchase!

Happy picking!

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