Once there was a tree...and she loved a little boy. And every day the boy would come and he would gather her leaves and make them into crowns and play king of the forest. He would climb up her trunk and swing from her branches and eat apples and they would play hide-and-go-seek. And when he was tired, he would sleep in her shade. And the boy loved the tree...very much.
From Shel Silverstein's classic children's book, The Giving Tree
Sharon's Giving Tree Family Dayhome is a non-smoking home located in the tree-lined subdivision of Brentwood in Sherwood Park, Alberta. Kindergarten buses from both local school divisions pick up and drop off at my door. We are a half block away from the Brentwood School, and have easy access to the school playgrounds, ice rink, playing fields, and a couple of acres of bush where I take the children on nature walks. In the summer, there is a spray deck that runs on warm afternoons. We only have to cross one street to reach a cul-de-sac playground that we have named "The Secret Playground" because it is so quiet and hidden. Further afield, we have another eight school or park playgrounds, Broadmoor Lake Park and spray park, the County Library and community centre, the local fire station, the BriarPatch Family Life Education Centre, Maplewood strip mall and Eastgate Mall, all within a 25 minute walk by foot/stroller/wagon. I always carry my "playground phone" when we are on the move so parents can track me down, if necessary. In the winter, I try to arrange regular playdates with other dayhomes in the area to combat cabin fever. We go outside regularly when the weather is above -20 degrees and when winter cabin fever sets in, we travel by van to Milennium Place for a morning of exercise at the indoor playground.
My home is an older child-friendly bungalow shaded by elm trees -- see the photo album page of this site for pictures of house and yard. We have a caged pet bunny, and occasionally fish, caged budgies, or a worm compost bin, but no pet dogs or cats. The children primarily play in our living room play area and a large, bright playroom, bathroom and bedroom play area downstairs. I have a storage room and outdoor sheds to contain my large collection of educational toys, posters and games. I rotate them regularly for the children's use, creating play centres and keeping the number of toys available at any one time from being overwhelming. The playroom contains a table and shelving area for snacks, art and activities, a reading area with comfy couch, bookcase, a large active play area covered with mats, toys and cushions, and other materials for sensory/water play that I rotate in as needed. You can find books in every room of my house and books in the backyard in warm weather -- I consider reading at least two books a day with every child to be as important as feeding them healthy food. My children are in a French Immersion school, and, while I do not speak French very well, I do try to support second language learning in my home.
My fully-enclosed backyard has a large play yard, castle play house, log cabin playhouse, child-sized picnic tables, and many outdoor toys, all on a safe base of pea gravel and grass. Children love to play in the gravel with diggers and dump trucks on warm spring afternoons! There is a lawn for t-ball, races, teeter-totter, soccer and hula hoops, and a large cinderblock patio for chalk drawing and riding toys. We have acontainer vegetable garden area and we involve the children in the planting, growing and eating of organic vegetables right here at home! My yard has been pesticide-free for many years and is planted with vegetables, herbs and non-toxic plants.
Best of all, there is an English oak tree, a raspberry patch, saskatoons, haksap berries, strawberries, cherry trees, and two mature apple trees, and not a day goes by that I don't bless the original owners of the house for planting them! In August and September, the children and I watch squirrels collecting acorns and make crafts with the acorn caps we find on the ground. We pick fresh raspberries and snap peas for snacktime. We pick organic apples off the trees, make applesauce, apple juice and apple butter, and never head to the playground without an extra apple in our pockets!
Watching the children enjoying the appletime every fall always reminds me of the beautiful relationship between the tree and the boy in one of my favorite childrens' books, The Giving Tree. In that spirit, I try to make my dayhome a peaceful, beautiful and nurturing place, where children can play, learn, eat, rest, dream, and grow. So much of life today is hectic, especially for busy families who have to juggle work and childcare. I want to give the children in my care a simple place where their bodies, minds, and souls will be protected and nourished. I want to give their parents the confidence that their child is being cared for in a safe and loving home environment full of quality opportunities for active play and learning.