Category Archives: daycare

ABCs for Young Children

Have you ever wondered what might be the best order to introduce letters to young children? There is no standard for which order to teach the alphabet. Some educators use a letter-of-the-week method that may or may not be based on letter frequency, while others follow the alphabet in order.

ABC Literacy

Very young children may already have some print knowledge. Typically they are motivated by the letters in their own name. When introducing the alphabet to young children, here are some things to consider in your planning.

The two greatest predictors of reading success are knowledge of letter names and letter sounds (phonemic awareness) in the early years. Once children begin to have an understanding of these concepts, they can grasp the relationship between sounds of speech and letters (alphabetic principle).

It is easier to predict the sound of some letters than others. When a letter’s sound can be extracted from its name, it is easier to build an understanding of the alphabetic principle. The name of the letter E, for example, can be heard in its sound. However, when W is spoken, it does not sound like its name: ‘double-u.’ So when choosing which letters to first introduce to your group, consider letters that have an obvious correlation between letter name and letter sound such as: A, B, D, O, T, V, and Z.

There has been much debate about whether to introduce uppercase before lowercase letters. One could argue that most print is in lower case and therefore children should be taught how to read these letters first. But when it comes to learning to print, it is easier for young children to reproduce uppercase letters. These letters are larger and can be more easily reproduced with their predominantly straight lines. With limited pencil control, young children can print large letters with vertical and horizontal lines more easily than smaller ones with curves and diagonal lines. Begin with letters that have vertical and horizontal lines such as H, L, I, and E.

To help you decide what order to teach your children the alphabet, here is a look at what is age-appropriate:

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  • Toddlers can learn to sing the alphabet song and should be read to daily. This age group enjoys simple, rhyming stories and songs.
  • Encourage toddlers to recognize the first letter of their name.
  • At two years of age a child may be able to produce vertical strokes, and horizontal ones by two and a half years.
  • Expose toddlers to print and model adult printing for them.
  • Encourage the development of the fine motor control needed for printing through scribbling, manipulatives and play dough.


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  • Preschoolers may be able to learn to recognize and name some of the letters of the alphabet. To strengthen their understanding of this, focus on beginning letter sounds of a word. For example blue, berry, brown, bag.
  • They can develop dexterity and pencil control through colouring, tracing letters, and completing simple mazes. Children this age may scribble, create mock letters that are unrecognizable, or string random letters together to represent words. Typically at three years old a child can draw circles, print a cross at age four, and a square at age five.
  • Continue to expose children this age to increasingly complex stories. Ask them questions about the stories to encourage development of their narrative skills.

Keep in mind that writing tools for young children should be small. Short, thin crayons are recommended over thicker ones.

Literacy is a journey that takes time and cannot be rushed. Encourage print motivation (an interest in reading) by providing a child-centered environment that is rich in literacy. Incorporate the interests of the children into their learning.

Each child develops at their own pace and there are many cognitive and fine motor skills needed before the process of reading and writing can begin. As educators, our role is to set a strong foundation for success and foster a love of reading in the early years.

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References: Lucy Hart Paulson, Ed.D, CCC-SLP Communicative Sciences and Disorders University of Montana. Taken from Niagara Speech Services Emergent Literacy Conference 2015.

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

Professional Development Opportunities for IPCs and RECEs

Def of Learn

This month, the College of Early Childhood Educators (CECE) introduces its Continuous Professional Learning (CPL) program for Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECEs). It stems from the College’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, stating that “Early Childhood Educators value lifelong learning and commit themselves to engaging in continuous professional learning to enhance their practice.” The program is designed to encourage child care professionals to engage in social networking, self-study or study groups, and planned professional discussions with colleagues.

CCPRN is proudly hosting bi-monthly meetings for a brand new Professional Development Study Group. Join other Independent Professional Caregivers (IPCs) and Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECEs) at the CCPRN office to develop your professional portfolio and discuss best practices, professional readings, and current issues facing the child care industry.

The first meeting will be held on Tuesday, November 11th, from 7-9pm to discuss the new document: How Does Learning Happen? Ontario Pedagogy for the Early Years

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Join Laurie Boucaud and Michelyn Maloney in this exciting new professional development opportunity and help us build a strong social network within our community.

Registration is required at There is no charge to attend. Prior reading of the document is mandatory.




Resource Packages

This summer we reached out to our members and Facebook followers to ask what kind of resources they’ve been looking for. Then our little CCPRN worker bees went to work developing new and unique die cut packages to sell. So if you’re looking for some fresh new resource kits in time for Fall – you’ll be impressed by these new ones!

Resource Packages Froggy Gets Dressed

Coming soon: Felt sets based on the Froggy Gets Dressed book by Jonathan London – a funny way to look at putting on all those extra layers once again. Use these props to visually enhance your storytelling and then have your children play with the set to retell the story themselves.

Resource Kits Little Cloud

Felt packages based on the Eric Carle Book Little Cloud are a great addition to your weather theme.

 Resource Packages Halloween Costumes

Halloween Costumes play kits were designed by Sharon Cunningham of Story Time Felts for your little ones to play with and dress up the felt dolls.

Resource Packages Farm Kit

A farm theme is a natural fit around Thanksgiving and it can be used to enhance so many different learning concepts. This very special limited edition farm felt kit was created by former CCPRN President Andrea Gingras. She embellished each of the die cut pieces by hand. The attention to detail in each piece is really quite something. These kits are a bit more expensive than our regular ones but they are absolutely gorgeous and come with an extensive handout of farm stories, circle time songs and rhymes.

For crafting purposes we also have the following seasonal paper kits for Halloween, weather, and Fall:

Resource Packages Paper Weather Resource Packages Paper HalloweenResource Kits Paper Fall

These kits and more are for sale at the CCPRN office. Call and book a time to come into the office to browse through all of our resources! * Please note: kits are subject to availability.

Signature - Jo

Book: Show Me a Story

Show Me a Story Book

I recently discovered this book that inspires new storytelling ideas and techniques. Show Me a Story, by Emily K. Neuburger, is jam packed with ideas to spark the imaginations of young and old. Inside you’ll find Story Starters and suggestions for encouraging imaginative play for children of all ages. Setting a fancy table for a royal meal, transforming a cardboard box, and going on a walk in search of 5 interesting things are wonderful invitations for open-ended imaginative play – just to name a few.

Show Me a Story offers many ideas for home made props for storytelling too. As an added bonus, the Story Starter prop ideas are simple enough to get your school-aged children involved in their creation.

Show Me a Story - Story Stones

Story Stones

Print images and glue onto stones, wooden blocks, or even wooden disks.

Story stones can also be used to retell a favourite story, like the classic There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, for example.

There Was an Old Lady 1


Here the old lady was made out of paper mache using a basket as the base. Then an image of each animal that she swallowed was glued onto a stone.

Another one of my favourite suggestions in the book Show Me a Story is to set the scene for a story within a jar. Or try creating a scene on a mat or blanket on the floor.


Show Me a Story - Story Jar

Storytelling and invitations for dramatic play foster the imagination, language, and narrative skills of young minds. CCPRN has purchased the book Show Me a Story for anyone interested in borrowing this great resource from our library. It is also available for purchase through Chapter’s online.

Happy reading!

Signature - Jo

Nutrition and Food Safety for Young Children

Feeding children can sometimes be challenging but proper nutrition is essential to their development.

For the pickiest of eaters, exposure to new foods is key. Children may need to be exposed to an unfamiliar food up to 8 times before they are willing to try it. When introducing a new food, serve it alongside foods the children are already familiar with and like. Maintain a positive attitude and model sampling new foods in front of them. Best practice is to offer no disappointment or praise when a child refuses or tries the food.


Allowing children to choose how much they would like to eat (if at all) is best so it’s important to offer a variety of healthy foods and textures. When possible allow children to serve themselves by offering a buffet or assisting them to pass dishes around the table.

Canada’s Food Guide recommends that toddlers and preschoolers eat the following each day:

Children aged 2-3 years: 4 servings of vegetables and fruit, 3 servings of grain products, 2 servings of milk/milk products and 1 meat product

Children aged 4-8 years: 5 servings of vegetables and fruit, 4 servings of grain products, 2 servings of milk/milk products, and 1 meat product

Note that one serving is considered the typical amount a child of that age will eat in one serving, and is not necessarily a portion size.

In order to achieve these nutritional goals, aim to include all of the 4 food groups at each meal and foods from at least 2 food groups for each snack. This can be as simple as serving raw vegetables with hummus for dipping. Add a glass of milk to add a third food group!

healthier choices include:

– choosing wholegrain for more fiber

– steaming or baking foods instead of frying

– selecting foods that are unsweetened, low in sodium and fat

– choosing at least one dark green and one orange food per day – these options are high in essential vitamins (folate and vitamin A)

For more information on ~feeding children, 

~ food safety, visit: (I love their food storage chart)

~ the NutriStep (Nutrition Screening Tool for Every Preschooler), check out:

Thanks for reading!

Signature - Jo

Storypark and ELECT

I want to share with you a new website that child care professionals can use to document and preserve observations of their daycare children – in a safe, fun, and organized way. With this exciting new tool, daycare providers can create an online portfolio for each child, capture special moments in a child’s day and then share it with that child’s parents. This collection of recorded observations – or stories – not only makes a keepsake for families, but can also be used by care giving professionals to plan play-based curriculum, reflect on their practice, and develop partnerships with parents.


Once registered with the Storypark website, users are given unique usernames and passwords to protect each child’s information and maintain their privacy. Caregivers post stories to the site and parents receive an email alerting them when a new story about their child has been added. They can then log in and check it out at their convenience. Parents have the option to comment or even share the story with friends and family.

Storypark Vim at work looking at stories

Each child is given their own profile in which their stories are saved, creating an organized collection of observations in chronological order. In cases where a story contains more than one child, the caregivers can easily save and share that story with several families at one time. This tool is also a convenient way for providers to share information in situations where parents share custody of a child.

Early Learning for Every Child Today (ELECT)

Because Storypark is a tool used to record observations over a period of time, it supports and enhances any child care provider’s work within the ELECT framework. Sharing a snapshot with a short anecdote about a child’s day is a great way to open the lines of communication and promote parent engagement (one of the six ELECT principles). Sharing these moments and insights about a child empowers parents to be actively involved in their child’s development and gives them the opportunity to support learning strategies at home.

Child care professionals can use Storypark as a resource to track each child’s development and mastery of new skills. By observing the development and interests of a child, caregivers can plan learning activities with those interests in mind. Documenting these observations is useful for planning curriculum that furthers meaningful play-based learning concepts centered around the interests and learning goals of the children. 

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Storypark is a great resource for caregivers to demonstrate their professionalism, validating their important work with children. There is a small fee to use this service, but it can be offset as a business expense for operating a home daycare business. CCPRN members will also receive a discount for using this software!

On March 31stStorypark is offering a free information session by webinar. You can either attend this by logging in from your home, or joining us at the CCPRN office from 7 to 9pm. There will be a home child care professional currently using the Storypark platform at the office to answer your questions as well as an online demonstration. Registration is required for either option.

For more information about the benefits of Storypark for parents and caregivers click here.

To sign up for your 30 day free trial of Storypark click here.

Thanks for reading,

Signature - Jo

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!

There’s a need for home-based daycare. Here are four ways to improve it

~ as published in the Globe and Mail.
The death of 2-year old Eva Ravikovich and her parents’ lawsuit charging the Ontario Ministry of Education with failing to adequately protect children in illegal child-care settings has cast a spotlight on independent home child care and sparked an important debate about how to ensure the safety and quality of care for our children.

Home-based child care providers are ready to work with parents and the Ministry to provide top-quality child care. However, we need a child care system that encourages partnership and empowers everyone to ensure that our children’s early years provide the best foundation for optimum child development.

A safe, reliable and high-quality provincial child care system does not have to be costly or complicated.

Independent home child care providers are most working parents’ choice for child care. Parents choose it because this setting provides a more personal, loving, home-like environment where there is a greater flexibility and children benefit from the close bonds they need. Home child care also provides personalized options that are suited to parents’ ethnic, cultural, dietary and other child rearing philosophies.

In order to find and choose the right setting however, parents must understand how to define the type of child care they need, where to find it and how to express these needs to their child’s caregiver.

Home child care is woven within the fabric and culture of each unique community. This includes care provided in a family’s own home by nannies or relatives and care provided in other homes by relatives and home child care providers. By its very nature, home child care adapts itself very differently in rural and remote settings, in suburbs and in urban downtown cores.

Independent home child care providers are accountable for the quality of the care they provide. They are motivated to be part of a system that recognizes their uniqueness and empowers them to provide the best possible care. However, to provide the highest quality care possible, they also need provincial child care health, safety and welfare standards, with an emphasis on developmental learning.

This system is affordable and would be easy to manage. It can be affiliated with existing provincial programs such as the Ontario Early Years Centres and above all, it should encourage co-operation between all stakeholders. We are all working towards the same goal.

We must all work together to build an affordable, high-quality child care system that will ensure our children’s early years provide the foundation for a lifetime of growth, development and positive achievements. This can be done in four steps:

Step 1: Establish provincial early learning and care health, safety and welfare standards for home child care.

Step 2: Share these standards with parents and independent home child care providers through a province-wide public education campaign.

Step 3: Establish a provincial registry of home child care providers to unite them and connect them to the appropriate provincial support and resources. Core features should include basic caregiver qualifications, training and membership in a support network such as the Child Care Providers Resource Network (CCPRN), ongoing training and resources for parents and all home child care providers.

Step 4: Set up a voluntary system of accreditation built on a common framework which will ensure that all independent home child care providers provide optimum high quality care. This program would assure parents that their caregiver is committed to meeting standards and continuously improving the quality of the service they provide. Accreditation can promote a standard of care based on and exceeding the Day Nurseries Act while incorporating the E.L.E.C.T. (Early Learning for Every Child Today) framework.

Ontario’s children are our most precious resource and our future. Every single one of them has the right to the best possible care. Parents often use their hearts to make decisions about where to place their children, but they also need the knowledge to research options and make an informed choice.

There is room for all types of child care within our society and it is absolutely possible to develop an excellent, transparent and publicly managed system of child care in Ontario. This system does not need to cost taxpayers billions of dollars or levy a huge administrative burden to government.

Let’s focus on co-operation and empowerment to improve the child care system in Ontario. After all, aren’t those the same principles we use to raise our children?

Brenda Burns is president and Doreen Cowin is executive director of the Child Care Providers Resource Network of Ottawa-Carleton (CCPRN).


Books to get Your Children Excited about School

Today’s the first day of school for many kids! While it marks a fresh start for returning children, it means a time of transition for many of our littlest ones about to begin new school experiences. It’s an exciting milestone, but the start of school can also mean anxieties for what’s to come. Separation anxiety and nerves about new routines and even new friends.

Books offer a way to address the changes occurring in a child’s life. Stories with characters children can relate to and events that are relevant to their lives can provide some reassurance when faced with big life changes.

There are so many books written with a school theme to choose from but I’d like to share with you my personal favourites.

Pete the Cat Rockin School Shoes

Pete the Cat Rockin’ in My School Shoes, Created and Illustrated by James Dean, Story by Eric Litwin

In this book, our beloved blue cat is heading off to school and takes it all in a stride, reassuring us that “it’s ALL good.” Pete the Cat books are positive, catchy and rhythmic, so this school-themed edition is perfect for even little ones entering preschool. See also Pete the Cat Wheels on the Bus.

If you take a mouse to schoolIf You Take a Mouse to School, By Laura Numeroff, Illustrated by Felicia Bond

This is a typical Laura Numeroff book about a child-like character progressing through a silly sequence of events. Numeroff’s “If you” books keep a child’s attention as anticipation builds throughout the stories. In this school edition, we read about what could happen during an average school day when a boy brings along a loveable little mouse.

There was an old lady who swallowed some books

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Books, by Lucille Colandro, Illustrated by Jared Lee

That little old lady has been swallowing more things – this time books and school supplies! Like the Laura Numeroff books, the Old Lady series also promotes a child’s narrative skills with its distinct sequence of events. The rhyme and repetition make these books fun and engaging for children and are a great addition to any home library.

The Kissing Hand

The Kissing Hand, By Audrey Penn, Illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak

While this book may be too long to hold the attention of some very young children, this endearing tale of a mother preparing her child for the start of school is ideal for school-aged children. This is a must read for any child embarking on a similar journey and who may be experiencing some fears and separation anxiety.

The Dot

The Dot, Peter H. Reynolds

While this book isn’t necessarily about going back to school, it does take place in a school setting. The main character is a student that learns a valuable lesson from her art teacher. This book is inspirational and beautiful in its simplicity. It ranks among one of my most treasured children’s books – I love everything from its message to illustrations.

Thanks for reading and best wishes to all your little ones starting school this year!

Signature - Jo

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