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Tara's Toyland Home Daycare

Where Learning is Fun and Friendships Flourish



After 30+ years professionally working with children I have a lot of knowledge and ideas to share.  These blog posts are a way to go in depth into a subject and spotlight my thoughts. Even though I consider myself and expert in my field there are always chances that new information or a particular insight changes my thoughts so these blog posts are to be considered in that context in regards to publication date when reading.

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Posted by tarastoyland on 7 April, 2015 at 15:55

I am on a home daycare bulletin board and someone asked why child care workers insist on saying that the kids are "friends" even if they aren't.  Some said that we were forcing them to be friends with kids they didn't want to be friends with.  Or that we had no right to say who was or who was not their friend.   I thought this was a very interesting perspective and had never even considered NOT calling them friends.  My feeling on this is that these are their first friendships.  Our job is to teach them to be a friend to everyone and to have them get along with everyone.  At this age friendship is very much in the moment anyway and as long as someone is nice then they are a friend.

 I'd rather assume that all the kids were friends and feel that every one of us would be better off if we had that assumption.  So, here at Tara's Toyland, we are friends!

Inside of Me Theme Unit

Posted by tarastoyland on 7 April, 2015 at 15:05

We had a super time learning about the things inside of our body like blood, muscles, bones, tendons and organs.  There were lots of science experiments during this unit.  

Here are two kids exploring blood, well, not real blood, but a model of blood.  The red water beads represent the red blood cells that carry oxygen to our body parts.  The white ping pong balls represent the white blood cells that attack germs.  The pieces of red craft foam are the platelets in our blood - they help form scabs and clots.  Last the red liquid is like the plasma which is what helps our blood slip and slide through our body.  I explained that this container would be like one drop of blood enlarged a whole bunch.

To learn about how digestion happens we used a peanut butter sandwich.  First we cut it with scissors, this like your teeth cutting into the food to chop it up in little bits.

After it was cut up we added some milk, because we have milk with our sandwich, and water to be our spit.  The fancy word for spit is saliva.  Then we used a masher to mash up the whole thing like our molars would do.

When it was all mashed up it was poured into a baggie, just like going down our esphogus into our stomach.  Then we added a can of soda pop to show how the stomach acids work on the contents of our stomach.

The last step is our intestines - the liquid coming out the sides is the nutrients our body uses, the rest that is in the stocking is the waste parts - they come out when we use the bathroom.  This was such a wonderful way to learn about how the food travels through our body - the kids really enjoyed all the unit, and unfortunately I forgot to take pictures on some days!

When the provider is sick

Posted by tarastoyland on 2 April, 2015 at 10:45

It's spring break week and I have been meaning to get so much done. I started out really great, well, kinda.  I had set up for a cleaning lady to come in and do some cleaning.  This was a first for me, never have had someone else do my cleaning and I am so glad I did.  She got tons done.  But only upstairs.  I ran a ton of errands and did straigtening and laundry that day.  But I was not at 100%.  I have a super bad cough that started last Thursday.

On Tuesday I went to the doctor and got some heavy duty cough syrup and an inhaler for the bronchitis.  I managed to get the stairs vacuumed and wash the daycare room floor.  It's THURSDAY already and that is about all that has been done.  I had such plans.  But my body is telling me to just rest.

When I was at the doctor she asked what happens when the daycare provider is sick.  I told her that luckily this week I was already scheduled off. 

But what does happen if I'm not scheduled off when I am sick?  Well, sometimes I have to close - when you are not able to leave the bathroom you can't really take care of little kids after all.  I had to close last year cause I sprained both my ankles really bad and had to have heavy duty pain killers to make it through those first few days.  And I closed for kidney stone surgery.   This school year though I have not closed once.  And I would not have closed for this illness either.

As a daycare provider out of my home I have a bit of an advantage - I can be lazy and have a TV day if I need, or just supervise the kids as they play if the group is a more mellow group.  During nap time if everyone sleeps I can rest on the couch.  I have my tea ready to make right here, and lots of water.  I don't take heavy duty cough syrup if kids are in attendance though because I do need to be alert.  As a general rule home daycare providers try not to close if at all possible because we know it's a hardship on a lot of different families.

I know of some providers who only took a weekend off after giving birth.  Others I know feel guilty over having to close even though they are having a major health crisis and they should go to the ER.  And I know of others who do end up closing and the daycare parents complain to them about it.  I, luckily, have not had that happen in a real long time.  

Picky Eater Plan

Posted by tarastoyland on 28 March, 2015 at 9:30

There is a great book by William G Wilkoff, MD called Coping with a Picky Eater that every parent or provider of kids should read and have a copy of.



This book has what I call the Picky Eater Plan. I have used this plan with kids that literally threw up at the sight of food and within 2 weeks they were eating normal amounts of everything and trying every food.



First you need to get everyone who deals with the child on board. If you are a provider it's ok to make this the rule at your house and not have the parents follow through but you wont' see as good results as what I described up above.



The plan is to limit the quantities of food you give the kid. When I first start with a child I give them literally ONE bite worth of each food I am serving. The book suggests that every time you feed the kids (breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner) you give all 4 food groups. So, for lunch today I would have given the child one tiny piece of strawberry, one spoonful of applesauce, 3 macaroni noodles with cheese on them, and 2 oz of milk. Only after they ate ALL of what was on their plate would you give them anything else. They can have the same amounts for seconds. If they only want more mac and cheese, they only get 3 noodles then they would have to have more of all the other foods in order to get more than that. If they don't eat, fine. If they don't finish, fine. Don't make a big deal out of it, just make them stay at the table until everyone else is done eating. They don't get more food until they are sat at the next meal and they only get what you serve. When I first do this with a child I don't serve sweets at all. So no animal crackers for snack but rather a carrot for snack. Or one of each of those. I don't make it easy for them to gorge on bad foods in other words. Now if they had a meal where they ate great then I might make the snack be a yummy one cause I know they filled up on good foods.



Even at snacks you have to limit quantities of the good stuff or else they will hold out for snack and just eat those snacky foods. I never give a picky eater the reward of a yummy snack unless they had that great lunch prior to it.



It really is that easy.



ps - proper eating schedule for under 5 yrs old - times are just for demonstration purposes to give amount of time between things 7 eat breakfast 8:30 snack 11 lunch, followed by nap 3 snack 5:30 dinner, no further food for the day unless under 2 yrs old, then a bedtime snack is ok

5 S's and EASY - under 12 mos old sleep help

Posted by tarastoyland on 27 March, 2015 at 9:30

Here's my reccomendation for sound sleep in under a year old:

using the Baby Whisperer's EASY method for a schedule, and the Happiest Baby on the Block 5 s's method. Those two combined will make cio not be a needed thing (at that age)


EASY - when the baby wakes up it Eats. After you feed it, then it has Activity - bouncy seat, tummy time, sitting up and playing with toys, swing, exersaucer, etc. When the baby gets fussy check the B's - boredom, butt or burp. If it's none of those then off to Sleep. Don't wait for the baby to do more than get the tiniest bit fussy, then see what is causing the fusses - if it's just that they needed their diaper change do that, but if it's not the activity is boring, the butt is dirty or they have to burp, then put them down. This may happen after as short as 45 minutes, don't freak, it really means they are tired.


Now, to get them to sleep use the 5 s's. Swaddle the baby, hold the baby on their side and sway as they suck on something (paci, your knuckle or their finger/thumb) and make a shush noise. This will calm your baby. When the baby is calm, but not asleep yet, keeping them swaddled lay them in the bed. I like to pat them instead of sway after a minute or two cause you can still pat after they are put down but you can't sway, so pat the baby and continue patting gradually decreasing it as you put them in the bed. Also continue the shushing as you put them down, again gradually getting quieter.


If you do these two you will find a well rested, easily managed baby in no time.

My true calling

Posted by tarastoyland on 26 March, 2015 at 20:00

December 1, 2011 originally published


This week has been a GREAT week with the daycare kids. On Wednesday I listened to the 16 month old have deep belly laughs as the 4 year olds danced for him. He tried to imitate their moves and soon we were all just laughing. The day was a perfect mix of group and individual activity. The kids improved their fine motor skills and creativity with an art project. It was too cold to go outside but we worked up a sweat using the parachute. We read stories together. Some kids built a huge wooden block castle while others played with the soft barn toy. There were the normal arguments, and a few bumps and falls, but the day sailed along. Everyone gobbled up lunch, which contained a perfect combination of grain, fruits, veggies, milk and protein. Then after a smooth transition of potty and books the kids were soon tucked in bed for nap time. And in no time at all all seven of them were in dream land.



It's days and weeks like this that make me happy in my career choice. There are the total opposite kinds of weeks sometimes. Kids can have their off times, and in this job it sometimes happens that every kid (and myself) have a crabby day and nothing goes right. But then there are days like today where we match lids to boxes then sort them into "cubes" and "cylinders" before we count and compare which group has the most. These days should be caught on film and documented, then wrapped in a bow so that when those crabby days happen we can pop in a DVD of a good day and get back on track.

Kids sleep deprived

Posted by tarastoyland on 25 March, 2015 at 9:25

February 14, 2012


Study: Kids have been sleep-deprived for more than 100 years


Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times


LOS ANGELES -- Worried that your children aren't getting enough sleep? You're not alone. As one prominent educational psychologist put it, "Physicians and writers on school hygiene agree that children are likely to receive less sleep than is needful to them."



That assessment was offered way back in 1913, and it came from Lewis Terman, who went on to develop the Stanford-Binet IQ test. Terman's concern for sleep-deprived kids tapped into a longstanding source of parental angst.



It turns out that experts have been fretting about tired children since at least 1897. According to an article published online Monday by the journal Pediatrics, 32 sets of sleep guidelines for kids -- containing 360 distinct recommendations for children of specific ages -- were published between 1897 and 2009. During that time, the amount of recommended sleep fell by an average of 0.71 minutes per year. That added up to about 70 fewer minutes of suggested nightly sleep over the course of the 20th century.



And how well did parents of yore live up to those recommendations? Not very well, according to the Pediatrics article. Of the 360 sleep recommendations made over the years, Australian researchers found data that corresponded to 173 of them. In 83 percent of the cases, children were falling short of the ideal -- and doing so by an average of 37 minutes. Overall, the actual amount of nightly sleep for children fell by an average of 0.73 minutes per year.



Among all the expert recommendations put forth, the researchers could find only one case for which the expert guidelines were rooted in medical evidence of a need for a particular amount of sleep. That was a 1926 study that measured the actual sleep of 500 kids between the ages of 6 and 15 who were deemed "healthy." Other than that, it seems that experts simply looked at the amount of sleep children around them were getting and figured that they really needed a little bit more, the authors wrote.



And what's to blame for all this pediatric sleep deprivation? Why, new technology and the increasingly rigorous demands of modern life, of course. "The hurry and excitement of modern life is quite correctly held to be responsible for much of the insomnia of which we hear," according to an editorial published in the British Medical Journal way back in 1894.



As the Australian researchers explain, "In the early 1900s, artificial lighting, radio, reading and the cinema were considered to be the causes of delayed bedtimes. By the late 1990s, video games, television viewing, the Internet and mobile telephones were largely held responsible for such delays."



(c)2012 the Los Angeles Times

Sometimes it's NOT a disorder disorder

Posted by tarastoyland on 24 March, 2015 at 9:10

October 13, 2012 at 10:12am


DISCLAIMER - I am not going to respond to comments on this. You the reader can decide if I am off base and have never dealt with what you are dealing with, or spot on. I will not argue my point any further then what is stated below. You can leave comments if you want, you can unfriend me if you must. But I do hope you read with an open mind and consider that perhaps I may be right.





I follow a few parenting boards and a recent one had a question about a preschooler not liking new clothes or having to go from summer short sleeves to winter long ones or vice versa. The mom is investigating therapists cause of the tantrums such things ensue.



Other questions mention a child lining up the toys as a sign the child is autistic. Or that they don't interact with strangers, or that they don't talk yet. Sometimes it's a severe tantrum tendency that drives a diagnosis of some disorder. Don't eat certain foods? Must be a sensory disorder.



It's so hard to read these and not shout "they are just being a kid, stop freaking out and let it go. Tell them to stop it, give them enough sleep and make sure they aren't having eye/ear/sickness issues, then fix those. If nothing is physically wrong then buck down and tell the kid to get over it."


Cause if you shout that out "you don't understand" or "you don't see what we see, he/she was acting really good that day" or "I know my child, and I know this is not normal." If you even mention those thoughts out loud you are no longer a friend. Or if they are a client they will go somewhere else instead of face the facts. In today's world you can not have a child who's behavior is just bad behavior, it is a disorder now.



Sorry, in almost every case I have seen that there is not a disorder. There is something going on but it is not autism or sensory processing disorder or OCD or ADHD even. In almost all of these "cases" I have noticed there are other reasons. The lining up objects is a common thing in almost all kids. I have so many pictures of it by just plain ole' kids. The focusing on one subject to the point of obsession. Yep, again, a plain ole' kid thing. Allowing that obsession to become the ruling factor of their lives is determined by the parent's reaction to that obsession. If your kid likes dinosaurs, or sea life, or outer space, or insects, or whatever, and you overload them with everything related to that anytime you see it, then yes, their obsession will become out of proportion to normal kids' obsessions. That does not make them have OCD or Autism or any other disorder.



Some kids who were diagnoses as autistic really have hearing or speech issues. If you can't hear and you are a toddler you are going to appear to not interact to not pay attention to the world, to be "autistic". And miracles of miracles, after their ears are cleaned out they get so much better. Must be the therapy they also started. How dare I say this? Well, my older daughter was truly advanced speech wise. She said, "will you please play outside with me, Gareth" clear as day to her cousin at 13 months old. By 18 months she had a 400 word vocabulary. I found my list and it's amazing what she said. What makes it even more amazing is that by 24 months old she had lost all but 5 words. Must have been autistic - she was advanced, then lost skills! Nope. She was deaf from ear wax compaction in both ears. 100% deaf. She had her ears cleaned out and slowly regained words. It wasn't until she was 3 1/2 that she was truly up to age level cause she had lost so much in those 6 months. It killed me to see postings of kids singing songs or saying advanced things, cause she had done that at 17 months but at almost 3 she couldn't anymore. She ended up with a speech issue from it that was hard to fix, she couldn't say r controlled vowels to save her life and her l's were messed up as well. By fourth grade she was finally speaking clearly again. I have seen similar stories, even from those with "autistic" kids. They start speech therapy, and have that ear wax removed, all in the same week. Yet their frame of mind already shouts "it's autism" so they credit the therapy, not the cleaned out ears, for the child saying the first words ever. Try stuffing your ears with cotton for a weekend and see how different you start acting. Did you just become autistic?



Other kids with a disorder are really sleep deprived. If they were grown ups in the military they would be put on medical leave they are so overtired. If you are overtired, at any age, then you get crabby (extreme tantrums and meltdowns may occur), you can't think as well (you may space out randomly, or perhaps not be able to figure out simple puzzles, sometimes you can forget the simplest of facts), you do not interact as well with your environment or other people. Sleep deprivation in children makes them unable to concentrate and hyper. Sound like ADHD to you? Does to me. If your grade schooler is getting less then 11 hours of sleep a night, they are not getting enough sleep. An overtired child does not fall asleep, instead they get hyper. If your kid has hit the slap happy stage, you have missed the window of sleep and are at the overtired stage. Consistently being overtired, nights and nights of being hours short of sleep, and the child becomes permanently in the hyper, unfocused state of being. Too bad the people that study behavior don't actually take care of kids, cause I would really like to see a study about average number of hours of sleep as compared to disorders.



One boy who I had in daycare was very inconsistent. Some days he was spot on, could do a puzzle, answer what a cow said and really knew almost everything a boy his age should know. But then other days not so much. In fact other days he was literally two years behind on skills. After investigating I found out that it was directly tied to amount of sleep. When he spent a weekend missing naps and going to bed late he paid for it by lack of skills later. At age 4 he should have been getting 13 to 14 hours of sleep in a day. He was getting more like 9 some days. Can you function on 5 hours less sleep after a few days? I see this over and over, the child starts sleeping more and their skills improve. Of course the "autistic" also have "insomnia". Perhaps the Insomnic have Austism is more like it. All kids at one point fight sleep, perhaps those that are getting less then what used to be recommended 14 years ago would benefit from getting the right amount and be "spot on" every day. Weeks, months, years of sleep deprivation have been proven in scientific studies to lower IQ, lower physical ability and lower memory skills. If your ten month old should have been getting 16 - 18 hours of sleep in a day, and they are only getting 14, or even less, they will not be able to do as well as the child who gets the right amount of sleep. I know, I know, they don't nap, they can't sleep at night, you've tried everything. I'm sure that I'll have comments saying that. And I don't believe it. Cause every kid that has come to my daycare and been forced to nap every day, (yes, forced, cause they are in a very dark room with music playing at the same time every day no matter what), happily takes naps until the day they start school in the afternoons. Those that don't take naps at home, do here. The only kids that don't nap here get enough night time sleep that they are ok. That means a minimum of 13 hours at night. One of my parents doesn't do a morning nap for their 16 month old, but it turns out the child sleeps almost 14 hours every night, no matter what, so they do not need a morning nap. But almost always lack of sleep is a problem that causes other problems. Solve the sleep and a host of other issues just disappear. Oh, wait, I'm sorry, a host of other issues are fixed.



If you are allowed to do whatever you want when ever you want, then when rules are required you won't know to follow them. If at home meals are where ever the toddler wants then they won't understand ias a five year old that the social norms in a restaurant are different and they will not act properly. If as a toddler you were allowed to hit your parent then you will not learn that hitting isn't allowed no matter how much you are told when you hit another child, cause after all you can hit your mommy. If your toddler is only told in a meek voice to not run into the street, then they will keep running into the street. All kids test rules and boundaries, some parents fail that test and that kid will not see any boundaries after a certain age. What started out as a kid being a kid, has now become a "disorder".



Other "autistic" kids, or those needing occupational, developmental, or whateveral therapies, really just need to be forced to do things and not be allowed to be the boss. Or be exposed to the information. If no one has told you a cow says moo, then you do not know that fact. Or perhaps if they told you and you were too overtired to process the information, or your ears were clogged with fluid and you really didn't hear that information. If your parent has always dressed you then at age 4 you will not have the skill that the majority of kids do have, and you will be "behind". Go to school like that and wow, you may have a disorder. If your parents never required you to eat what they eat, and went with your whims, then you may have eating issues. Every kid will focus on certain foods if you let them. It's up to the grown up to determine if that becomes a sensory disorder by allowing it, or just a phase by not allowing it. This means when your kid will only eat hot dogs, you stop serving hot dogs. Amazingly that kid will eat other things pretty quickly. I have "cured" so many sensory disorders at my daycare lunch table, I'm "gifted" like that.



I could go on, but by now the ones who have kids with disorders are beyond pissed at me and have responded with all those things I mentioned above. Some of them are daycare providers and have seen many kids. To convince them to consider other reasons for the disorder is an uphill battle that I can not win. So most of the time I just smile and say I'm sorry they are dealing with it. I ignore the postings about how that type of child sees the world. I bite my tongue.



To that question about the clothing I gave the following answer, "My now 10 yr old was really bad as a preschooler about clothing, and my 13 yr old at that age was not so bad but still had a few issues here and there. Almost all the daycare kids are to some degree have the change of season clothes issues.



I am irritated that the modern way of handling this is to assume a disorder of some sort. How bout a kid just not liking how something feels? Or being a kid and exerting some independence? Or being so sleep deprived from years of not getting the right amount of sleep that they can not possibly function. Honestly, just tell the kid, tough, or let them deal with the consequences and let it go. If the child goes to a school enlist the teacher for help - I have had to email my younger daughter's teacher and say, "can you tell the class that coats, hats and mittens are now required every day?". And guess what - she gets over it and each year it's a bit less. Now that she is older I know to make her try on every clothing before we buy it, I know she doesn't like collars around her neck or lace anywhere it touches the skin. But this does not make her having sensory disorder. It just means she is normal. Do YOU like every clothing you have ever tried on??



Let it go. Stop concentrating on it. It's really not that big of a deal."



And that is what I would love to say to some others but can't cause they know me personally.



So, if you are my friend with a truly "special" kid, of course I'm not talking about you, I'm talking about someone else. Because your kid is of course really having that disorder.

************  when I originally published this one comment was that I do not have an MD, this was my response to that

when I was a lead teacher at a daycare in my mid 20s I was insulted when the director said to me that I would never be a good daycare provider until I had kids. Then I had kids and realized she was right. Being a mom is ten thousand times harder and more intense then working a 9 hour day with the kids. There are so many aspects of the job that I didn't see before in the light that I do now.


I feel that doctors have the same issue. Seeing a child for 15 minutes does not make them an expert. Until they have lived a week in the shoes of a parent of each age of child they can not be a truly good guide to parents. I think it would be a great idea for all pediatricians to spend a week with a family who has a newborn, then a week with a 2 yr old's family, then a preschoolers. They would get such a more thorough idea of what reality is.


I have more experience with more children from more families then lots of people, and lots more then most doctors. I have seen overtired kids vs rested kids. I have seen kids "cured"."

The value of Mean Based Standardized testing in Early Child Education

Posted by tarastoyland on 23 March, 2015 at 9:05

originally written in December 2012

Recently on a forum a mother asked how to improve her child's fine motor skills. All sorts of good (and a few not so good) suggestions were given. The mother was saying the child could do everything that we suggested. This didn't seem right. From what she reported as the teacher's comments I thought perhaps the mom had blinders on. I offered to evaluate the child to see where he really was skill wise and give the mom some sense of what to do. *note to self, stop being so spontaneously generous*



Last night I had the child over to my house. He and I spent about an hour going over what he knew. I started with the test for fine motor since that is what the teacher said he needed to work on. I like using the LAP-3 test. It's great at telling you exactly what age, to the month, a child should be able to do something. For instance by 24 months they should be able to put one inch blocks into a jar with a 1 1/2 inch opening. Standardized. FACT, not opinion.



In talking with the mother I found out that this child missed kindergarten cut off date by a few weeks. The brick and mortar chain preschool he went to said that he was "way behind" and should not go to kindergarten next year but rather have another year of preschool. (which would mean in the first month of his kindergarten year he would turn seven!) Then I found out the worse part of the story. Last year, the boy who had just turned FOUR was in the two year old room. This is TWO years below his age level. Due to his birthdate he should have been in the older three year old room. I explained to the mom how horrible this was, If you took a two year old and put them in the infant room would you expect them to be taught age appropriate things? Would you expect that two year old to start drinking out of a normal cup when he was the only one in the room not on a bottle? That is what that school did to this kid. Because I do home daycare and have multiple ages every day I separate my daycare room so that there is a big kid area where the older kids can do age appropriate things without worry. There's nothing worse then building a nice big block tower only to have a two year old that doesn't understand come over and knock it down. But in a room of only two year olds you would not have the protection of a safe building zone. So how could you learn to build towers from blocks like a four year old should?



It gets worse. They had a conference and told the mom that the child was basically dumb. Oh, they didn't use those words but they may as well have. She was told he needed INTENSIVE help. I expected this child to not even be able to hold the pencil the right way from what I had already read honestly. Before she arrived at my house I was worried that I was going to have to break it to the mom that her child was not the sharpest tack in the box.



I started on fine motor. After a bit I had to tell the mom to go to the other room, she didn't understand there was a reason I was explaining what to do the way I was. He soared through the skills. Soon we were at 36 months and he was not blinking an eye at what I asked him to do. In no time we were at 48 months. Yes he is a young five which would put him at just over 60 months, but he has another year before kindergarten so schooling wise he is at about 51 months as the target. I told his mom he was not behind long before I stopped the testing at 65 months. This kid was not behind at all in fine motor.



Maybe the teacher didn't identify the skill set properly. So I told the mom I would go over some other things in the test to make sure he wasn't behind in any other area. In every test he was at least 50 months old skill set, and in all but three things he was above 60 month skill set.



He was behind in writing his name. CHRONICLE AGE wise. School age wise he was exactly on target for this time in the school year. His only skill that he was behind at all was writing letters. I am sure that is because he was in the wrong class setting last year. The other skill he needed to work on was putting on his shirt and socks. This obviously is not a skill that kindergarten teachers care about. He can zip his coat even. The mom left here with concrete suggestions to improve those skills - 1.) give the kid 20 minutes before bedtime, hand him his clothes and tell him to put them on, he'll figure it out, 2) buy the Kumon handwriting books for upper and lower case, no other brand approaches the METHODOLOGY of handwriting like they do, and do a few pages a night, 3) buy Leap Frog Letter Factory DVD and have him watch it 3 times a night for 2 weeks straight to learn all letter sounds and lastly 4) practice writing his name one time each night with the laminated sheet I sent home. (see method below)



That is all this boy needs. The teacher he had now, and it turns out the director also, did not use an accurate test to decide where this boy was. Maybe the kid didn't have his glasses yet, or was sick on the day of the testing, perhaps the day of testing that they did he was being difficult, or shy. Maybe the school isn't to blame for the test, I will admit that. But they should have seen once he was there for any length of time that he was in the wrong class and moved him back to the proper age group. If the test failed the child the teachers should have stepped up. The teachers failed him too. I was mad that this school was hurting children in such a way. I was sad that this bright, awesome little boy was almost subjected to another year of people thinking he was dumb.



Last night the test showed his skill levels. Not Miss Nora, not my opinion, not what I had seen from knowing other kids in the 4K age level. A test that any teacher in any state can use and we could compare kids objectively was given and that test showed that this boy would have done just fine in kindergarten THIS year if he had gone.



My final recommendation to the mom was to find him a new school cause the one he has now sucks.

Bucket list for a child under 24 months old

Posted by tarastoyland on 22 March, 2015 at 9:20

originally written April 2012

Below is my bucket list for a child under 24 months old. This was written out to the parents of Avery who had a terminal genetic disease and didn't  live to her second birthday. They were asking for a bucket list of things for her to do while she is still alive. Lots of the things on the list were not aimed to an infant and toddler. Yes we may like to go white water rafting some day, but not when you are under 2 yrs old. So, I created a list for her that is more realistic and that SHE will enjoy.



*pet a cat, dog, horse, goat, hamster, bird, rabbit and as many other animals as you can

*splash in a puddle, a pond, a stream and a lake

*play in the rain, feel a nice warm rain on your face

*listen to the wind as you lay under a tree and watch the leaves

*paint with your hands and feet

*watch a sun rise in the morning, the sun set at night and the moon rise (a full moon)

*see the stars from somewhere there are no lights so you really SEE them

*collect worms

*watch a butterfly flutter, see if one can land on your hand

*pet a stingray, and a dolphin

*catch snowflakes on your tongue, make snow angels

*play in a ball pit

*color with a crayon, a marker, a pen, and a pencil

*eat chocolate, drink hot chocolate and eat as many foods as you can in that time period. ((If I knew I only had a few years to live I would try to not eat the same food twice. May not be possible for her though))

*listen to as many kinds of music as you can, classical, rock, raggea, jazz, African, etc.

*hear each instrument as an individual sound, then all together as a symphony

I work with children under 2 yrs old a lot, and as many of the 5 senses as you can stimulate the better experience they will have. So my list is geared towards what I wish every child under 2 gets to do.


Why I am glad I sent my kids to kindergaretn at 5

Posted by tarastoyland on 22 March, 2015 at 8:55

this was originally written July 2014

When I first started daycare in this house Elise was 4 months old. She couldn't sit up yet, let alone crawl, walk or talk. One of my first daycare girls was Kelsey who was 15 months old. She was talking, walking and doing toddler things. Five and a half years later Kelsey and Elise started kindergarten on the same day. Elise had just turned 5, that day, Kelsey was a month away from turning 6. Both started by the legal cut off start date for the district, but was Kelsey at the same level as Elise? Obviously not, she was 11 months older. So, should kids wait till they are closer to 6 yrs old or start when they are able to by age, most being 5 years old? This note is to examine that issue.



As they say, hindsight is 20/20.


I was reading some articles on why parents were going to "red shirt" their child by not sending the child who is 5 yrs old before the district guidelines to kindergarten. Since I have summer birthday kids who are now about to enter 7th and 10th grade I feel I can speak on this in the hindsight view. Tara was 5 years and 2.5 months old when she started kindergarten, Elise started kindergarten on her 5th birthday. Additionally I do home daycare so both of them had only ME as their first teacher. We did make sure to have them experience other adults in charge through library story time, swim lessons and other sports, but I was the primary teacher in their lives.


I must say that they both had the most amazingly fabulous kindergarten teacher, Miss Nowak. I think that was essential in their schooling going smoothly that first year. Neither of them had any anxiety over school, only excitement. Tara started with a speech problem not being able to say her /th/ or /y/ or r controlled vowels. Elise had lots of fevers and missed about 30 days of school each year up until 4th grade when she had kidney reflux surgery. They were average as first day of kindergarten kids, but very confident in themselves and in being away from home for school. Our kindergarten is a half day here so they still had lunch at home that year.



So, today I am reading articles about redshirting. I often read such things because although my kids are old I work with parents of preschoolers. Here are some reasons the parents gave to not send their child to kindergarten as a 5 yr old, and my hindsight view.


1. Wanting their child to be the oldest. My children are tiny, skinny, and short. Sorry kids, you know it's true. But they never suffered for being the last to grow tall, the last to develop. Yes it was hard when Tara was in 6th grade and only wearing a size 12.5 shoe and finding shoes that weren't Dora, sparkly or little kid looking was next to impossible. And it was irritating that both girls were told in 6th grade gym class they MUST have bras on even though they were not anywhere near needing them. But there were other girls that didn't need them yet either. The girls that had issues were those that started having to wear a bra in 4th grade, or those that started their period in grade school. Those kids were friends with my girls and hated being the mature ones. Next year Tara would have taken Driver's Ed, but instead she is going to a school that won't offer it and will be so academically challenging that she isn't going to even try to take it until after she is 16 anyway, driving is not something she wants to do yet just like half the kids her age.


2. Wanting to wait to start their formal education. As the person who taught my kids for preschool I knew my kids were ready academically for kindergarten. They knew all their letter names and sounds, they could count out objects, add and subtract, count by 2s, 5s and 10s, do patterns, and many other things. One of my daycare boys missed the cut off and spent an extra year of preschool with me, he was reading by Thanksgiving just like the kids that went to kindergarten. He's now about to enter 5th grade and doing math and reading at the 6th or 7th grade level and luckily is at a school that will let him do that, otherwise he would have been bored or had to skip a grade (which is harder to do then holding back a grade). Tara went to school with a set of twins that were literally hours younger then her. They struggled in school and repeated 3rd grade. It was their choice and they are about to enter high school confident and academically ready. It was no big deal for them to stay back that year, no one teased them, they made new friends easily and fit in fine. Being held back a year was easier then skipping ahead, we had to fight to get Tara into advanced classes and she was never "allowed" to be in the gifted program but is going to an elite high school this fall and is 2 yrs ahead in math. So, starting sooner or later can go either way but from what I've seen it's easier to repeat a year of school instead of skip ahead. I didn't want to hold my kids back. Oh, that boy who missed the cut off - the day he turned 5 he thought he would be allowed to start kindergarten even though it was a month into the school year, the poor boy was so upset that he wasn't allowed to start school with his friends who were only months older. I think this was harder on him then starting kindergarten early could ever have been.


3. I want my oldest child to stay close to her younger siblings. Really? Maybe it's cause my child went to afternoon kindergarten but it has not hurt their relationship at all. Elise napped when Tara went to school. There were some very cute photos of Elise waiting at the corner of the yard for her sister to get home from school, but it just made the bond between them stronger.


4. I want her to be a leader in school. My daughters have both been leaders, and some of the older kids in the class have not been. It has nothing to do with age, everything to do with personality.


5. Along the same lines as 2, I want my child to be able to enjoy childhood longer. My kids were lucky in that I do daycare I guess, but they played with toys until they were 11, their friends would come to our house to play cause we still had lots of toys. And as recently as last week they were playing on the swings out back.


6. I want her to be more emotionally mature. My girls were very emotionally mature, again, personality more then age.


7. (The parent) is just not ready. Who is schooling for? The parent or the child? As a parent there are many times that we must make a sacrifice in order for our children to get what they need. In the case of my kids this meant me letting go of them when they had just turned 5. As an early education expert I have looked at actual research, peer reviewed studies, and those say that starting them when they are legally able to (usually at 5 yrs old, it varies by state with when cut offs are) is the best option.



Now MY main reason for sending kids to school at the age they qualify is, as this article

so clearly states - the one main way to increase academic success is by being IN school. I had a daycare boy who had a spring birthday who was very behind in skills. No matter how I tried this child would not understand and retain information. I encouraged his parents to send him to kindergarten on time, knowing full well that his new daycare would say the exact opposite. My main reason for saying he should go was that in a formal school setting he would get the help he needed from people trained in that area of education. Being in elementary school was the best thing that could happen to him, it would give him daily academic help in ways he needed. Another year of daycare, even good daycare, would not do what he needed. I have not researched this subject since 2004 when Tara was turning 5, so I revisited the studies to see if my earlier findings were still true, that the studies prove it's best to send them with their cut off age. It seems that the studies still support my view.




this article seems to indicate that poor families should hold their kids back, but for non poor families it doesn't matter

this study says that it's other factors instead of age that need to be considered, and that knosing the age of the child makes the teacher biased in expectations

another article, I found this one interesting because it follows kids that were born in 74. Page 161 in the report (it is not that long, just think it was in a journal that had it there in the magazine) shows the results. Basically saying that redshirted kids have MORE issues. However if kids were redshirted for them to "get more mature" it seems that this would mean that they did not need that year to get mature, they just were more prone to behavior issues. This article followed kids through college graduation and first years in the job market and surprised me when it said that younger students did better on test scores in high school. Page 171 states that there is no difference in economic status or gender of child either.

this article shows results of long term studies, and sorry, redshirting hurts kids in the long run



this article is much more current, 2008, and says any edge disappears by 8th grade

this article talks about a 1998 study, but it says there are mixed results



and here is a list of cut off dates by state that I thought was interesting

and this one had a few different dates on it



referenced links


Outer Space Theme Activities

Posted by tarastoyland on 19 March, 2015 at 15:35

We had so much fun learning about outer space.  Here are some pictures from our unit.

Very blurry picture of the solar system mobile we made.  We talked about the size relationships of the planets and the sun, it was hard to imagine so we found some youtube videos that showed how big the sun is compared to our planet.

Sun painting

I found this idea on pinterest and LOVED it so much!!  The yellow ball is the sun, it lights up one side of the moon and the other side is dark.  The child puts their head  in the middle and turns to look at each moon and they can see the phase of the moon.  One issue I had during this unit was a book that I had bought from Scholastic that said the wrong information about why the moon has phases.  I can't believe that the book was allowed to be published with such wrong information.

I have a set of Toy Story aliens and the kids found lots of ways to play with them.

Playing toy story aliens version of kerplunk

We made moon dough and then the kids used the astronaut play set to pretend they were on the moon, we talked about the moon rover, how many people have landed on the moon and watched videos of the moon landing from 1969

Our model to show how the moon goes around the earth, and the earth goes around the sun

Home Daycare Benefits

Posted by tarastoyland on 16 March, 2015 at 8:00

I've been working with children professionally since 1987.  I started babysitting way before that.  Over the years I have worked as a nanny, in multiple corporate centers, as a babysitter, as a substitute teacher, a regular teacher, and aide in a classroom.  After I had my daughter, Tara, I went back to working in a daycare center.  While I was working there a co-worker was talking about doing daycare in her home.  I never had even considered that as an option.  A few months later I opened up my home daycare and have never regretted that decision.

I have found so many benefits for myself and the families I serve in the home daycare environment.  I'll list some of the family and child benefits first, then I'll list some of my personal benefits.

Families and Children Benefits

*The children have the same care giver from the time they arrive until the time they go home.  This means that one person knows everything that has gone on with that child during the day.  They know the mood they arrived in, the foods they ate, the things they learned, the friends they interacted with and how those interactions happened, how naps went and the mood they woke up in.

*The children have other children here who are older or younger.  This allows for the child to hear different language opportunities then if the children were all the same age.  It allows the older children to learn to help the little ones.  The older children get to practice compassion, they teach the younger children how to do things and they learn to monitor their own behaviors since the little ones learn from the older ones.  The younger children learn from the older children directly and indirectly.  One time I had a group of 5 kids that were potty training and one girl who had just turned a year old.  Because all the other kids were sitting on the potty she wanted to sit too.  By 14 months old she was going pee and poop on the potty on her own.  She could barely walk but she went to the bathroom door and knocked on it to let me know she had to go.  She couldn't talk yet but she would pull on her diaper to let me know she had to go potty.  The older children often teach the younger ones how to build with blocks or to count.

*The child is with me for years, sometimes from 6 weeks old until they go off to kindergarten.  This means I know what the child knows and needs to learn at all times.  I know the family situations, I know the stresses the child or parents are under.  I can tailor the day according to the needs of each child.  I know how they ate last week and last year.  I know if the child sleeps on their side or their tummy, if they like to cuddle with a lovie, if they wake up easy or hard.  Because they are with me for so many hours, so many years, I love the kids more deeply then I ever did as a center employee.

*The family saves money by using a home daycare over a center.  This does have a draw back in that if I am throwing up there is no daycare that day, but the overall savings usually negates that.

MY Benefits

*Commute of 16 stairs

*If I get barfed or peed on I just go upstairs and change my clothes.

*I get to pick the toys to be played with, the themes to do, the lessons I want to do, the set up of the room, the families that I enroll.

*When my kids were younger I got to spend all day with them and I was able to teach them all the skills they needed for school and know that they had mastered those skills.  I wasn't able to be lazy on parenting because I had the daycare kids that needed lessons and structure so I was forced to be a better parent.  My kids got to sleep in and had way more awesome toys then they would have had if I didn't do daycare.

*My dress code is whatever I choose.  I hated working at the few centers where dress clothes were required, it did not make any sense to me.

*I get to buy cool toys and not feel guilty.

There are lots more but those are the ones I came up with today.  

Outer Space Theme

Posted by tarastoyland on 15 March, 2015 at 19:25

I had so much fun getting ready for the Outer Space Theme!  I got the loft all spaceship looking by covering it in foil, putting up black garbage bags to make it more enclosed and dark and covering the things up there in foil too.  On the play kitchen I duct taped a light up ABC toy to be their control panels, put a circuit board inside the oven so they could "fix" the rocket and attached another circuit board to the outside.  I also hung LED light strips that changed colors.  The kids LOVED it!! 

Being Proactive

Posted by tarastoyland on 12 March, 2015 at 20:00

"J has been saying your name lately at home now too (he says it so cute). He even just went to the door and said "Miss Nora". I said "no J, she's at her house, not here". He then said (what sounded like) "go see Miss Nora"

I know it's been a long time coming, but he sure does love his Miss Nora! "

This is a facebook message I got this past weekend from a daycare parent who's child has been with me a few days a week for the past year.   After he was here for a while I realized his language and some other skills were behind.  I suggested last spring that she call Early Intervention to have him evaluated.  He was about15 months behind on language last fall, so really NO language at all at almost 2 yrs old.  His progress is amazing, and I must admit his mom's comment had me on cloud nine and crying with joy.

Although all children learn different skills at different rates there are some skills that should be met no later then a certain age.  It is extremely hard as a parent to accept that your child may have a problem but identifying a  delay early can mean a child gets the help they need and a small  problem disappears instead of becoming  a big  problem. 

Occasionally I will recommend a child get evaluated by Early Intervention or the child's home school district.  The only outcome of such an evaluation is a positive one - either you will be told your child is right on track or your child will get extra help to get them on track.  Getting help for your child is never a negative thing, but rather a chance for your child to excel in different ways then they currently are.  This child is a perfect example of how positive intervention can be. 

Not all parents take it that well.  Somewhere out there in the web-verse there is a negative review of my childcare.  It hurts to have someone say your program, your house, yourself are terrible.  What she said was not true but she was lashing out because I had told her that her son should be evaluated.  I only want what is best for each child and he was behind in multiple ways.  When he enrolled I had another child, S, who was getting speech and developmental therapy.  The therapists came to my house and when this other boy started both of them suggested he get evaluated.  They instantly confirmed what I saw.  But the parent was hurt by the recommendation and never returned.  It's been years since that parent was here and I wonder about that little boy and hope he did get help. 

S's developmental therapist only had to work with him for a few months.  About the time he got services he went to full time here.   She said that I did more then she ever could and that she had learned many techniques from me.  Pretty cool to have a specialist say they learned from plain ole' me!  

Working with kids that have skills below the average can be a challenge.  With a multi age home daycare group it's easy to just teach them at their level.   Some behaviors or disabilities are out of my expertise though, so there have been times that I have had to say that I am not the right spot for a child.  My concern is always that the child is able to have their needs met while I am still meeting the needs of the group.

Upon request or if the group needs dictate I will perform a standardized developmental test to determine the skills needed for further advancement.  After administering this test many times I have come to know when children are lacking or ahead in most areas.