Monday, March 30, 2015

Notes From A Daycare Provider: The One Question You Should Be Asking During Daycare Interviews

There is one question I realized I am never asked as a daycare provider during interviews and admittedly, I fail to ask this question of potential families as well:

"Why did your last daycare child leave?" (for providers, asking the similar question: "why did you leave your previous daycare?").

I get asked numerous questions during daycare interviews: if our house is up to code, schedules, what food I feed the kids, sick policies, discipline policies, pay schedule, but never have I been asked 'why did your last daycare child leave?'

This question can give answers to many questions and can raise the red flags if there's any to be raised. Mostly it can give insight as to whether or not the daycare is a good fit for your child and your family. This question is also a  great gateway to other questions you may not have thought to ask and additional conversations.

If you are a parent looking for a daycare provider and ask this question, don't expect an incredibly detailed answer. Daycare providers shouldn't be giving out too personal or private information. It should be concerning if the provider gives out specific details (names, ages, medical information, etc.), instead of explaining in generalizations. Likewise, if you are a daycare provider and ask this question, this can provide valuable information providers should be concerned about: issues at home that the previous provider was having issues with, issues with paying on time, behavior issues, etc.
This question has been moved to the top of my list when interviewing new families. I've overlooked the importance of this question the past four years, but my daycare provider friends and I agree that this question holds significant value in asking for both families looking for care and the provider(s) taking a new child.

Also a few other things to take into consideration while interviewing in-home daycare for your child(ren):

  • Don't expect a clean house in the middle of the day. I usually have dishes overflowing in the sink because I haven't had time to unload the dishwasher and toys will be covering the floor from the kids playing. What you shouldn't see: dirty diapers laying around, used tissues or napkins not in the trash, dirty toys, or anything else that could spread germs.
  • Ask about safety procedures and what baby proofing has been done to the house. Are doors kept locked or open? Windows? Cabinets? Outlets? Where are knives kept? Are baby gates used? After three years of doing daycare, I was asked if we kept any guns in the home. I had never once thought of this question and was really impressed by it. This should be one of the top safety questions to ask a provider.
  •  Ask for an example of food served (meals and snacks). Fruit snacks are not an appropriate snack for daycare's to give kids every day.
  • How nap times work, where your child would be sleeping, and check the condition of what he/she would be sleeping in/on (pack n' play, crib, cot, nap map, couch, etc.). Also check how old/new all equipment is, how often it's replaced, if sheets and pillow cases are used.
  • Open door policy. Be weary of the provider that wants notice whenever you'll be showing up at their house.
  • Ask about any emergency situations: what happens if a child is hurt, chokes, etc.? Ask if anything has happened before (again, they shouldn't go into great detail). This can give insight how closely the kids are being watched and monitored.
  • If there are any pets in the home, ask about any past situations involving the pet(s). All pets at an in home daycare should be up to date on their shots and be seen by a vet regularly.

Choosing a daycare provider for your child(ren) is never easy. These questions are things that should be gone over with anyone who would be caring for your children, but often times, are forgotten to be asked.

Want more insight about life as a child care provider? Click here to read my previous Notes From A Daycare Provider!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Week In Review: March 23 - March 27

 This daycare week seemed very quiet and calm compared to last week's busy week (read more on that here). We did a few Easter themed crafts, did our usual story times, play time, counting time, snacks, and meals. The kids spent a lot of time playing Hide N' Seek and building with Duplos. We worked hard on table manners, not interrupting our friends, and keeping hands to ourselves. 

Here's a brief look at a few of the highlights from the week:

 Elizabeth has been boycotting naps lately. I heard a noise in her room when I thought she was sleeping. I walked in to find her like this.

 Max picked out a cook book from the school's library this week. He wrote down a list of recipes he wanted to try out and spent his spare time cooking after school.

 The younger kids didn't completely understand how to paint their pictures, but most of the older kids figured it out. We've done these before and I really don't recommend them for kids under the age of 5 (maybe 4).

 Cookie cutter paintings-purple butterflies and white jumping bunnies.

 The kids used Do A Dot markers to decorate egg shapes.

 I found these wooden Easter theme door hangers in the dollar spot at Target. They came with paints, but I had the kids use markers because as I learned the hard way, the paints that are usually packaged with such activities, are not the most washable of paints.

Playing ice creams hop with the Duplos. Check out this set for creative building fun.

 Last week, the kids and I painted Easter salt dough ornaments. I finally got around to hanging them up this week!

 The kids wanted a race track and weren't satisfied with any of the race tracks I had. So they got creative and made their own!

 Painted Easter eggs. 

 We have a small rubber Easter bunny that the kids been playing Find The Bunny (much like hide n' seek, but one child hides the bunny and the other kids find it) with the past couple of weeks. The bunny was tore apart by little hands so the kids started playing hide n' seek. It was pretty entertaining to see 2-4 year old versions of how hide n' seek is played!

Painted egg shapes with Crayola Neon paint.

Next week will be a short week, but we'll be quite busy with our daycare Easter party and egg hunt, playing in the backyard, and doing the last of our Easter crafts and activities.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Egg Carton Chicks

These were the cutest, easiest little crafts to do for the Easter season. All you need:
  •  Paint (to use on the egg cartons)
  • Scissors (to cut egg carton)
  • Yellow Pom Poms (for the chick)
  • Googly eyes
  • Orange construction paper (beak)
  • Glue (for the googly eyes and beak)
* If you don't want to make your own chick, Michael's carries creepy looking little chicks you could use as well

Friday, March 27, 2015

Love With Food in Kansas City

This post is sponsored by Love With Food.  All opinions are my own.
After one of the coldest winters I remember, my little family was ready to get out of town and spend some more time outside for spring break!  We decided to head about three-hours south to Kansas City for some shopping and a couple museums in the 75-degree sunshine.  Our family has been more mindful of our meals and snacks lately, and I certainly didn't want our getaway to turn into meal after meal of fast food.  Sure, burgers at Five Guys was on the itinerary, but we needed convenient healthy snacks for in the hotel and car. 
When the folks at Love With Food reached out, they certainly piqued my interest.  A monthly snack shipment full of natural or organic goodies sounded great; but the real icing on the cake was how they pay it forward.  For each box delivered each month, Love With Food provides a meal to a hungry child in the US.  Food insecurity effects 16.2 million kids in our country, or one out of five children.  As of today, Love With Food has donated over 400,000 meals to food banks and has no plans to stop until they've ended world hunger.
Before packing up the car Wednesday, my teenager and I were excited to open our shipment and I couldn't believe how much they fit in that small box!  If we had stopped at the grocery or convenience store, we easily would have spent $15-20 to replicate everything in our $10 box!  Plus these were much healthier options!

With multiples of a few items, we knew these goodies were the perfect snacks to share on our trip.  Over the next few days we tried the sweet and crunchy Cookie Chips, the not too sweet/not too salty Kettle Corn, the dried figs, granola, and the chocolate goodies.  There were sweet items, salty items, and savory; no matter your preferences, there was something for each of us in this box.  Many of the items were the perfect size for sharing and would keep well in the car for quick snacks for young kids.  Plus the 30-meal Rachel Ray cook book they included was perfect reading material for me as the passenger.
The awesome folks over at Love With Food want to hook you up with a FREE box, all you have to pay is $2 shipping and handling! 
Use discount code FLICKA or this link to redeem!  But hurry, this is a limited time offer!

Spring Break in Kansas City!

While she played video games a few weeks ago, the teenager looked across the living room and asked "What are we doing for spring break?"
"Well, since 33% of our household gets a 'Spring Break,' what do you want to do?" I asked.  
I got the usual shrug in reply so I offered the choice between Kansas City and Minneapolis.  Both cities are around 3 hours away and have enough to keep our family entertained for a few days.  She mulled over her options for about 5 seconds when she announced her preference for Kansas City as she had already been to The Mall of America a "bunch of times."
When traveling for business, I've been loyal to a certain brand of hotels; but after eight years on the road, I've actually run out of hotel points for free stays!  I've used points for free nights on every personal trip since 2007, but as my career has progressed, my travel has died down.  I lost all status on airlines and hotels, and now I'm free to stay wherever! 
Ashlen suggested I checkout where I booked a fairly nice hotel for around $60/night!  We did have a couple customer service concerns and were disappointed to be met with "well, you booked through Hotwire, so..." even when we asked if it was customary for housekeeping to knock and try to enter a guest room at 7:30am on a Saturday.
This morning I shared some of the goodies we took with us from our friends at Love With Food (don't forget to sign up for your free box here, just pay $2 S&H!) which were super convenient to have in the car on our short trip and the hotel room during our stay.  And if you follow me on Instagram (@laurenkidspert), you saw a quick video from the road here.
I did have to work a bit Thursday afternoon, so my husband and the teenager met up with one of her friends who moved to the area while I logged in for a meeting from the hotel room.  Dinner was at Pei Wei's, a casual eatery by P.F. Chang's that would be great for young children.  We rounded out our dinner with a stop at a local game shop and the nearest half price books.  
Friday morning included my favorite part of both Minneapolis and Kansas City - IKEA!  As a Swede, I jokingly refer to IKEA as The Swedish Embassy, where we had breakfast and made some decisions on future living and dining room furniture. That afternoon we visited our Nation's World War I Museum which was very well done and absolutely worth the trip.  Tickets include 2 days for the same price, and it would be easy to spend two days to see every single item on display.  There is a nice outdoor space at the museum; I could totally picture a family enjoying a picnic along the landscaping and letting younger ones stretch their legs.
After a big breakfast Saturday, we made our way downtown to the City Market.
While it's still a bit early in the year for the farmers market, we did snag some baked goodies and a boba tea as we walked around.  Just to the right of this sign in the home of The Arabia Steamboat Museum,  home to a cargo Steamboat that sunk in the Missouri River in 1856 and was excavated from a farm field in 1988 by the Hawley family.  Midway through our informative and entertaining tour, we got a chance to chat with David Hawley!  The museum was really neat and I think kids would really enjoy seeing and touching such cool artifacts! 
After a late lunch at the famous Arthur Bryant's for BBQ, it was time to head on home.  This trip was a great mini-getaway and left us very excited for more trips this summer!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Weekend Planner

Welcome to our weekly Thursday morning post about what's going on in the Des Moines, Iowa area. We'll share what we'll be doing, great finds, restaurants to eat at, shops to drop some cash at, and just all the great things Des Moines has to offer families.
What We'll Be Doing:
Other Things To Do this weekend:
  • The animated kids feature "Home" comes out this weekend.My favorite theater in Des Moines: Cobblestone Carmike Cinemas.
  • Walk around Gray's Lake. It will be a bit chilly, but a good, crisp, spring walk is good for anybody, including energized children.
  • Furry Tales at Franklin Avenue Library from 11 a.m. - noon. Get more info here.
  • Another place to eat: Jethro's (any location). We had a great experience there this past weekend (read more here) despite a wait time.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

An Easter Bunny Filled Weekend


 The minis got to see the Easter Bunny twice in one weekend! They spent Friday with Grandma and Grandpa Harmeyer and visited the Easter Bunny at Valley West Mall (our favorite E.B. set up of all the malls), went to lunch, and spend the afternoon outdoors. Saturday we took in "Cinderella" at Flix Brewhouse and Sunday we ran errands, tried out Jethro's Bacon Bacon for the first time, and went to a friend's Eggstravaganza.

 We went to Flix Brewhouse for the first time since it opened and took in a showing of "Cinderella." Loved that I could enjoy a mimosa while watching a Disney movie! The food was good, service was good, the facilities were great, but my biggest and only complaint is that our food wasn't all served at the same time. However, since we were enjoying the movie, it was hardly noticeable. 
If you're interested in checking out Flix, here are a few tips:
  • definitely go a half hour early as recommended
  • seats are reserved, so make sure all parties are present before buying tickets
  • this is not your typical super quiet, no talking movie theater. Great theater to take the kiddies to.

 Elizabeth's outfit of choice while shopping at Costco.

 Twisty Twigs kept my kids more than interested while waiting for our food at Jethro's.

 Only my daughter orders a platter of bacon and fries.

 Ribs for the boys.

 We had a blast at a friend's Eggstravaganza. If you're looking for a realtor in Des Moines, check out Betsy Sarcone Real Estate Team.

 The kids loved coloring with the E.B.

Great weekend with a lot of great happenings!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Week In Review: March 16 - March 20

It was a BUSY daycare week! The big kids were home from school on spring break, so there were a few extra kids running around. We may have had a full house, but we managed a lot of fun: Flower Shop Day (read more here), St. Patty's Day party, pajama/movie theater day, and a Beach Day (read more here).
Here's a look at our week:

Flower Shop Day was tons of fun! The kids mostly enjoyed planting their own garden in the muddy yard and enjoying the 80 degree day.

A Leprechaun came and hid plastic gold coins (found at Michael's) all around the house! The kids went on a coin hunt during our St. Patrick's Day party.

Our St. Patrick's sensory table became our spring sensory table! (Read more about our sensory table here).

Green pancakes for breakfast on St. Patty's Day!

I had the kids color paper plates, cut the middle out of the plate, and put St. Patrick's Day stickers on green pop bottles. Then they played ring toss with them. However, they called the game "Hot Bottle" so naturally, no parent s had any idea what they actually played!

St. Patrick's Day was one big party! We listened to bagpipes, danced Irish jigs, did St. Patty's crafts, played games, and had a fun day. 

Shamrock tattoos (found at Michael's).

                                  Rainbow cupcakes and fruit tray for snacks.

The lovely sign Hubs made for the front door with the window markers.

Using Crayola Window Markers, the only brand of window markers I trust because they easily wipe off of wood work, carper, couches, and kid's faces!

We turned the living room into a movie theater! Complete with popcorn (bags found at Dollar Tree), special Easter cups to drink their water, and an extra special surprise of getting to eat their lunch in their movie seats!

Easter bunny grilled cheese.

The kids got creative and worked together to perfect their "animal playground" made from Crystal Climbers.

                     Beach Day was a total blast! Read more about the fun here.

The kids got creative building a "castle racetrack" for the Little People with the jumbo blocks. Our two favorite sets are Melissa and Doug cardboard blocks and a Color Your Own set.

The kids ended their week running around the backyard playing Find The Coins (coins were from the St. Patrick's Day party). After kids left and mine were in bed, I ended my week with a cold one, basketball, and relaxing!

It may have been a busy week and I was exhausted, but I'm definitely going to miss having the big kids around until summer. This next week, I'll try to enjoy how quiet the house will seem without the extra littles running around, enjoying Easter activities and books, and hopefully getting in some outdoor time!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Beach Day

The weather turned chilly again here in Iowa, but we kept things warm inside with Beach Day! We played with sand in the kitchen, played with water beads, made hand print fish, had a beach picnic in the living room, and had the most fun of all playing beach volley ball!

 "Surfin' U.S.A." Pretending to surf while listening "The Beach Boys" on Pandora.

 Being sharks in the ocean.

 The kids love Kinetic Sand! Our favorite set is one like this, but it comes with several different colors of sand (we bought our's at Target for $35). I also scored shimmering purple Kinetic sand (like this) that the kids thought was "so cool!"

 The best game of "living room over the couch beach volleyball" I've ever witnessed!

 The kids were very excited to try out the Ugli fruit for snack.

 Lunch on beach towels in the living room while they watched The Little Mermaid.

 Our fish craft for the day. The glitter paint didn't show up well, but the kids insisted on using it.

Water beads and sea creatures in the water table.
The only thing the kids were disappointed about was the lack of swimming on Beach Day. They went as far as requesting an indoor swimming pool for next time! This was a fun day to warm up with while the kids were disappointed with the chilly day outdoors. I particularly loved all of the imagination and pretend play (such as being sharks on the floor) the kids brought to the day.