Hop-py Easter!!


Things to learn from the Easter Bunny!

  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
  • Everyone needs a friend who is all ears.
  • There’s no such thing as too much candy.
  • All work and no play can make you a basket case.
  • A cute tail attracts a lot of attention.
  • Everyone is entitled to a bad hare day.
  • Let happy thoughts multiply like rabbits.
  • Some body parts should be floppy.
  • Keep your paws off of other people’s jelly beans.
  • Good things come in small, sugar coated packages.
  • The grass is always greener in someone else’s basket.
  • To show your true colors, you have to come out of the shell.
  • Real treats are sweet and gooey.

May the joy of the season fill your heart with love, faith and hope.

Classes resume Monday, April 4th, 2016

Spring and Easter Parade

It has become a tradition at Toddler Tree to celebrate the coming of Spring and Easter with a special party. The event begins at 10:00am with families arriving at the park with a decorated trike, bike or vehicle that will be organized by group at the indicated location. Here are some examples of how Toddler Tree families have decorated different vehicles using paper, balloons, flowers, plush toys and other decorations.

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The kids can choose from a variety of activities the teachers have prepared and there will be time for an individual photo shoot with the Easter bunny, too. When everyone has arrived, Toddler Tree staff will blow the whistle to start the Parade. The kids will ride through the park on the sidewalk path in their decorated vehicles. Everybody will share a snack after that. Next week we will be preparing confetti stuffed eggshells for the Easter Egg Hunt that will take place after the snack. We look forward to seeing you there!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

We have been busy at Toddler Tree making Valentines cards and treats. Tomorrow is our Valentine’s Day Celebration and everybody is looking forward to a jolly party!

Make sure your child brings a bag or box for treats, and if he or she is bringing some for classmates and friends, please label only who it’s from. This makes it so much easier when passing them around.

We are expecting a visit from the mailman, a chance to hit the piñata, snacks provided by February Party hosts and playtime in the Post Office and Fire Station. It looks like a lot of fun for the little ones!

From home, please only send a thermos with water and something to collect Valentines in. Most of all, prepare your child to give and receive many hugs and kisses on this very special day!

Ways to Raise a Thankful Child

Keep gifts reasonable. As tempting as it is to shower—or allow others to shower—your child with gifts, there are two important reasons not to. First, as children grow, it can be challenging to teach gratitude if they receive everything they ask for.

Secondly, a lot of gifts are overwhelming for small children. They can’t focus on or appreciate any one gift if they get so many. Often, they don’t even make it through opening all of them before they lose interest! Instead, you might suggest that family members choose 1 or 2 gifts for children. Explain that the fewer gifts, the more children will play with and appreciate them. If you are planning a large birthday party, consider asking close family members to bring gifts to a smaller event before the big one starts. For the big party, you might ask attendees to provide book donations for a local literacy programs or toys for disadvantaged children. This can be a good way to communicate the importance of giving and gratefulness.

Look for ways to be involved in community giving with your toddler. Between ages 2 and 3, you can begin to talk with your toddler about how he can help others who don’t have as much as he does. Look for opportunities with a clear connection between your child’s efforts and the recipients.  Good choices include:

  • Helping dogs/cats at your local shelter: We are playing with these dogs and cats who need lots of love and attention.
  • Collecting canned foods for a local food pantry: We are helping people who need more food. They will eat the food we bring. Our food will help them feel strong and healthy.
  • Collecting jackets, hats and mittens for a local children’s program: The jackets we bring will help other children, just like you, stay warm during the winter.

Show thankfulness to your children. It’s easy to forget, but important to do. Thank you for cooperating at the doctor’s office. Thank you for getting your jacket when I asked. Thank you for coming right away when I said it was time to leave the park; I know it was hard for you to get off the swing. Thank you for your hug—it made me feel so happy!

Prompt children to use thankful words. Thankfulness is a complex idea. It will be a while yet before your child truly “gets” it. But reminding children to say “please” and “thank you” (beginning at about 18 months) is a good start. Because it will take some time for them to learn when to use these words, you’ll probably be providing prompts for a while.

Read books about what it means to be thankful. Books help children make sense of new ideas. Keep in mind that your child’s understanding of a book at 14 months will be different than what she gets out of it at 35 months—another good reason to share these stories over time. As she grows, talk with her about the stories and pictures and explore what it means to be “thankful.” Some age-appropriate choices for children aged 12 to 36-month-old include:

  • Biscuit Is Thankful by Alyssa Satin Capucilli and Pat Schories

  • Little Critter: Just So Thankful  by Mercer Mayer

  • Feeling Thankful by Shelly Rotner

  • Thanksgiving Is for Giving Thanks by Margaret Sutherland

  • I’m Thankful Each Day by P.K. Hallninan

  • Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Jake Swamp

  • All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan

Involve children in writing thank-you notes. While you can’t sit your young child down with a pen and a stack of cards, you can involve her in showing thanks in age-appropriate ways. Snap a photo of your baby or toddler playing with a new toy or wearing a new outfit and include it with your thank you note. Ask your toddler to draw a picture for the gift-giver and, again, include with your note. You can ask your toddler: Grampa got you a new truck. Do you like it? What do you like about it the best? Copy down your child’s words in the note you write. Toddlers can also be involved in sticking a stamp on the envelope and putting the note in the mailbox. Starting early makes this important tradition of gratitude an everyday part of children’s lives.

Start traditions for showing thanks. These traditions give children a lifetime memory of gratefulness and giving in the context of family. Some ideas:

  • Make a “what I am thankful for” tree. Use a paper towel tube for the trunk. Cut leaf shapes out of construction paper and write on each leaf something your child says he is thankful for. Glue the paper leaves onto the tube/trunk. Ideally, every family member who is old enough to participate should make a tree each year.

  • Begin dinnertime once a week with every family member saying something they are grateful for.

  • Instead of a birthday gifts, write your child an “appreciation letter” describing all the different ways your child has grown and changed that year, and all the things you love and appreciate about him.  These letters, beginning in each child’s first year, can be kept in a special binder in children’s rooms.

Think about what it means to be thankful in your family and culture. Share stories about gratefulness that are drawn from your family history, community and culture.

Mad About Halloween

What was your favorite childhood Halloween costume? Do you make costumes for your kids? You can find a large variety of Halloween costumes available at stores in your neighborhood. However, homemade costumes can be more original and fun, especially if you involve your children in creating them. Here are some crafty and cute costume ideas to make for your kiddo this Halloween…

People at Play

“Play is the royal road to childhood happiness and adult brilliance.” Joseph Chiltern Pearce

Children are playful by nature:

From a very young age children interact with the world around them using all of their senses, taking cues from those who engage with them and imitating their actions, sounds and behaviors. We as parents are our child’s most important and influential teachers and we are being watched, constantly. We are not all, however, instinctively good at knowing how to play with our babies and toddlers, especially if we haven’t had much contact with young people in our lives before becoming parents, but it’s easy to learn. Playing with our children is much more natural and much less scary than we realize. For example, almost everybody at some point just “knows” to play Peekaboo with a baby, and just think of all the skills that little game teaches a child! Communication, interaction, taking turns, cause and effect, humour, object permanence, eye contact, facial gestures, emotions and the list could go on! All from a simple, easy game that requires absolutely nothing but a willing, engaged parent.

Children develop their learning capabilities in the first 5 years:
I once went on a training course where they shared this information, and it was sobering to hear. A child’s brain develops more rapidly in the first 5 years of life than it ever does again, forming so many connections between the left and right side of the brain and essentially establishing its “ability” to learn new information in the future. A child left with no stimulation or enriching playful experiences is going to learn more poorly after the age of 5 than a child who has been played with, talked to, read to and stimulated on a regular basis. They need to interact with toys, materials, books, multi-sensory experiences and nature in order to develop real building blocks for learning. Too much screen time limits the sensory interaction, crushes creative, imaginative development and limits time spent communicating with others. Of course some TV and computer time is fine, as balance is so important, but some children’s activities tend to be top-heavy in this area.

 “There is nothing that human beings do, know, think, hope and fear that has not been attempted, experienced, practiced or at least anticipated in children’s play” Heidi Britz-Crecelius

How can we play with our children?
Playing with a young child takes on so many forms and we are familiar with them from our own childhood experiences. It doesn’t require anything extraordinary or expensive, and oftentimes it’s the natural or recycled resources that offer the most diverse and interesting play experiences. Playing with our children should be fun, relaxed, low-pressure and woven into every part of our ordinary daily routines. Here are a few examples of the types of play that we can engage with every day with our children.

Heuristic Play:  This sounds high-brow but really all it means is playing with “objects.” This is the type of thing our grandparents figured out a long time ago without any text books or websites to tell them what to do! Give a child a new toy and within a few minutes all he wants to do is rip the paper and twizzle the ribbon between his fingers. Try and set him up with a game in the living room and he follows you to the kitchen and happily pulls out all of the pots and pans, stacking and banging them together and making a wonderful mess! This all makes perfect sense because only by testing and exploring these real life objects can young children work out how to use them in life! It’s also a wonderful release for us as parents, because we don’t have to constantly fork out for the next expensive toy all of the time! (In fact, we’ll probably be doing them a favor if we don’t.)

Exploring a Treasure Basket of found and natural objects. Babies can start this from when they can sit up! Far more open-ended and stimulating than a plastic, electronic toy with one or two functions.

Playing with cotton wool balls and pads! Who knows why or what she’s thinking.

Filling and emptying a cake tin with cardboard tubes and opening and closing boxes.

Sorting and stacking with some nesting mixing bowls.

Sensory/ Messy Play:
This is by FAR the most important way that young children learn as it’s all about the senses at this stage of development. Indeed it’s mainly through taste and touch that they are discovering and making sense of the world in the first 3 years of life. And yet we often resist these activities because of the mess that it involves (and I totally understand this feeling!) However, you can always do these things in the garden, the bath, on the kitchen floor or in a deep, plastic tray to contain things a little bit. Your child will thank you for ever for giving them some of these experiences in early life!

Blowing and mixing bubbles in coloured water.

Playing with coloured shaving foam (in our outdoor water table!)

Sticking matchsticks and other objects into play dough. Play dough and salt dough are SO easy to make and offer such a rich variety of playing and learning experiences.

Simple water play fun, pouring and splashing and sitting in it! The bath is, of course, the world’s best water play facility!

Playing with (and indeed in!) packing noodles, shredded paper, hay, straw, sand, mud etc.

I’m a firm believer that a child needs to be allowed to get messy and that it really won’t harm them to do so! Too much anxiety about getting messy and eventually they won’t even want to do painting and glueing as they will be afraid of it. What a shame! (I’m not talking about children who have a genuine sensory problem here, of course.)

Imaginary and Role Play:
This develops younger than we realize as it’s all about imitation. Baby watches us cooking three times a day and soon enough baby wants to stir in a play saucepan and cook at a toy oven! There are some wonderful resources on the market for role play and imaginative play, such as toy cookers, dolls, shops, market stalls, tool kits, dolls houses and fire stations. You can also set up role play scenes for no money at all using a cardboard box to represent a car/ house/ shop/ space ship/ police station/ boat etc. The less pre-described toys and the greater the imaginative resources the child will have to draw on.

Having a picnic tea on the floor with a favourite teddy.

Delivering the mail in a cardboard post box!

Building on a building site using blocks, tape measures, tools and hard hats!

Driving a cardboard box car (filled with balls for an extra sensory dimension!)

Small World Play:

This is another form of imaginary play and dolls houses, police stations, fire stations, hospitals etc would all fit into this category too. Small world is exactly what it sounds like- a miniature play scene with figures, objects, scenery and a sensory element to enrich play and stimulate imaginative, creative and language development. Children as young as 2 and a half can begin telling their own stories through scenes like these.

A seaside small world scene with shells, pebbles and sand in a tray with some figures and a yoghurt pot for a boat.
Some beans, wood, real leaves, bark, dried pasta and play dough make up a dinosaur small world scene.

These sorts of scenes can be created by older children all by themselves and are totally absorbing for them to work on as a project.

Outdoor Play:
There is some powerful research that suggests the most important and special memories from our childhoods usually take place outside. When I think back to what mine are, this is definitely true for me. It was the summers spent playing outdoors, camping under sheet tents over the washing line, tramping through grassy fields on adventures, making mud pies in the garden and rock-pooling at the beach. Not a lot of the “best bits” happened inside. And, funnily enough, I don’t remember being cold out there. We don’t all have gardens but we do all live near at least a park or playground, if not a short distance from the countryside or seaside.

Running through a giant muddy puddle at the park! Oftentimes it’s just about getting the right all-weather gear for them to wear, and then wrapping up warmly ourselves!

Learning some new gross motor skills at the playground!

Playing in the garden together in all weathers!

Having a space of their own to dig and play without fear of messing things up.

Creative Play:

This covers art, craft, music making and dramatic play. These are some of the easiest activities to set up as there are so many great resources out there to buy for young children and a plethora of ideas to follow on the internet!

Babies can get involved too! Finger painting fun.

Colouring, tearing and sticking.

Painting and printing with everyday and recycled materials.

Making collages with scraps of fabric.

Creating texture in paint by dragging through forks, pizza cutters and other objects.

Painting and glueing sequins onto a pumpkin!

Making models from junk materials and using them for exploratory play. Rolling balls down tube slides in this case!

Reading books, story telling and puppet play:

These are so vital for a child’s development of language and literacy skills, not to mention just how much information about the world is picked up through every story or information book that is shared. Children should be surrounded by age appropriate books and also read to from slightly “older” books too to offer a rich and stimulating range of vocabulary, concepts and ideas. Rhyming books and picture books are fundamental staples for all under 5s. Ideally, books should be in most rooms of the house and in easy to access, low level boxes or baskets.

Reading in a cardboard play tunnel we made!

Finding your own spaces for looking at books. In this case, the washing basket!

Creating cozy spots for snuggling up together!
Playful childhoods create happy, independent, creative and imaginative children. Albert Einstein said “Imagination is more important than knowledge” which is a pretty mind-blowing statement if you take the time to think about it! We are the most important people in our children’s lives during these early, formative years and if we take the time out of our busy schedules to sit down and play with them, talk to them, make up stories and sing together we will be offering them the best scaffolding on which to build their later life experiences. We just need a range of good quality, toys, blocks and imaginary play items, cardboard boxes, recycled materials, art supplies, books and…most importantly…time!

And to sum up, perhaps my favourite play quote of all by George Bernard Shaw:

 “You don’t stop playing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop playing.”
So, let’s keep playing and stay young! 

Healthy Snack Ideas

Toddler Tree families have shared their ideas for fun and tasty snacks that are much better than the prepackaged ones. A little forethought will get your kids eating, feeling and growing better. Please email me to add your personal suggestions to this list and check the following links: Health AmbitionSnack Ideas for Kids and Switch Up Your Lunchbox for even more inspiration.

Fruits and Vegetables…

Mango, Papaya, Star Fruit, Cantaloupe, Honeydew Melon, Watermelon, Cherries, Pear, Grapes, Oranges, Plums, Kiwi, Grapefruit, Pineapple, Figs (good with goat cheese)
Cooked Green Beans, Jicama, Cooked Snow Peas, Frozen Peas, Mashed Sweet Potato (good with butter and cinnamon)

Good with peanut butter: Apples, Banana, Celery (and raisins a.k.a. “Ants on a Log”))

Good with  hummus: Apple (good with peanut butter), Carrots, Raw Cauliflower or Broccoli


Good with ranch dip: Carrots, Celery, Cucumber Slices, Cherry Tomatoes, Raw Cauliflower, Raw Broccoli

Good with yogurt: Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Peaches

Good with soy sauce: Avocado (and brown rice) or Edamame

You may want to try: Applesauce, Unsweetened Raisins, Fruit Leathers, Freeze Dried Fruit (like mango, banana, blueberries or strawberries), Dried Apple Rings, Canned Fruit like Mandarin Oranges (Native Forest brand does not use sugary syrups in their cans), even Olives!



Whole Grain Crackers (like Triscuits, Multi-Seed, Ak-Mak, Whole-Wheat Matzos, Brown Rice Crackers/Snaps, Whole-Grain Rye Crackers topped with cheese, peanut butter, or a cream cheese and jelly combo)

Popcorn (make it using “The Popcorn Trick”)
Oatmeal (served warm in a Thermos)
Shredded Wheat (look for brands that contain 1-ingredient)
Arrowhead Mills Puffed Whole Grain Cereal (corn, brown rice, wheat or millet variety)
Brown Rice Cakes
Whole-Wheat Pretzels
Whole-Grain Toast
Small, Cooked Whole-Grain Noodles

Nuts and Seeds…

Peanuts, Cashews, Almonds, Pecans, Walnuts, Pine Nuts (they are good lightly toasted), Pistachios, Sesame Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Nut Trail Mix including Dried Fruit

Other… Hard-Boiled Eggs, Garbanzo Beans, Cheese (cubes or sticks…with or without crackers), Plain Yogurt (flavored with a little honey or maple syrup and vanilla extract), Organic and/or Local Bacon


Homemade Granola Bars
Homemade “Larabars”
Whole-Wheat Toaster Pastries (a.k.a. Pop Tarts!)
Smoothies or Smoothie Pops
Whole-Wheat Banana Bread
Zucchini Chips
Whole-Wheat Zucchini Bread (made into muffins)
Whole-Wheat Pumpkin Bread (made into muffins)
Whole-Grain Cornbread (made into muffins)
Whole-Wheat Berry Muffins
Pecan Maple Breakfast Cookies
Easy Cheesy Crackers
Kale Chips
Homemade Powerballs
Whole-Wheat Biscuits (good with butter and jelly) or Buttermilk Cheese Biscuits
Cinnamon Glazed Popcorn
Whole-Wheat “Baked” Donuts