13 Signs That You Might Be a Crunchy Childcare Provider

I’ve been called crunchy a time or two as a parent and I’m also a bit “granola” in my practice as an early childhood educator.

Now I can hear a few of you asking, “What does crunchy even mean?”

Well,  Wiktionary defines crunchy as “Having sensibilities of a counter-culture nature lover or hippie; derived from the concept of crunchy granola.”

Even though some people use the term crunchy with a sigh and an eyeroll, I’ve fully embraced my crunchy/granola/neo-hippy leanings. I think the kids in my class really benefit from the gentle approach I use as well as the close connection we share with nature.

Think you might be a crunchy childcare provider? I’ve compiled this handy list of signs below just for fun. Thanks for the help with it Lesley!

  1. Wearing a baby is your favorite fashion accessory, in fact you occasionally wear more than one!
  2. There is a jar of coconut oil in your medication box.
  3. You regularly meditate with 3 year olds.
  4. Kale chips are a treat.
  5. When you clean the guts out of a squash you save some of the seeds to grow in the spring.
  6. You’ve made your own yogurt for snack.
  7. You’ve also made your own granola and bread, often with the help of small people.
  8. Many of your students’ favorite toys are recycled materials or thrift store rescues.
  9. You’ve taken the children on foraging adventures.
  10. You’re not a farmer but you have (or want) backyard/play yard chickens.
  11. Single use plastics make you cringe so you make your own beeswax wraps for food.
  12. You have an essential oil for every occasion and know how to use them safely.
  13. You can sew or crochet just about any curriculum material.

What are some ways that you embrace your crunchy side in your program?

Moldable Beeswax

The days are growing shorter and though the leaves have just begun to show their autumn colors winter is already on my mind. As the weather begins to cool I find myself bringing more natural materials inside, preparing for the days when the cold is too much for the little ones to bear.

I gather acorns and pinecones to adorn the shelves of my classroom like treasures for little hands to discover, sticks and pressed flowers, and dried goldenrod are scattered about like precious jewels for the children to create and imagine with.

I love to include nature in my program, especially in the months when the weather can be too harsh for our adventures outdoors. Beeswax is my favorite natural material to explore with my little friends on cold dull days when we are stranded inside; the smell of honey reminds us of the plump bumblebees we observed flitting from flower to flower in their sweet, clumsy way in the warm months of summer. We’ve made candles and polish for our toys from beeswax but I just recently discovered a recipe for moldable beeswax and I think the children will absolutely love it.

Moldable beeswax is a learning tool often used in Waldorf programs; it is an amazing material that allows children to practice fine motor, creative representation, and planning skills. Play with moldable beeswax requires patience as well because it must be warmed in the children’s hands before it is malleable enough to use.

Moldable Beeswax Recipe

Ingredients

1 pound of beeswax
5 tbsp coconut oil
4 tsp lanolin

Materials

Crock-Pot or
Microwave safe bowl
Measuring spoons
Spoon for stirring
Muffin tin & liners

Directions

Melt the beeswax in a crock pot (or microwave safe bowl in the microwave), then mix in the coconut oil and lanolin. Take a small amount out to test (carefully as it will be hot); If your wax mixture is a bit too crumbly add more oil, if it is too sticky add a bit more wax.
When you’re happy with the way it feels pour your wax mixture into a lined muffin tin and allow to cool.

(craftingagreenworld)

To make moldable beeswax children nust measure, observe and combine materials to create something new; it’s a fantastic, organic way to explore math and science. There are so many opportunities for learning in such a simple activity.

Following the Rhythm of Nature in Early Learning Curriculums

There is a chill in the air this morning, a distinct feeling of fall in the crisp breeze whispering in through the open classroom window. It is the time of the year when we begrudgingly say goodbye to bare feet and bundle up in our warm sweaters; we practice the buttons and zippers on our coats and make sure our cubbies are stocked with extra socks and mittens.

As summer fades and begins to make way for autumn Mother Nature paints our learning with a brush of orange and red and brown. The children will soon begin to notice the beautiful leaves scattered on the ground like confetti and I wonder, will we sort them or gather them in to piles for jumping?

The rhythm of the seasons ignites the children’s interests with its myriad of changes and materials; it is a more rich curriculum than any you could plan or buy.

In the spring the children noticed all of the plants bursting to life and they were filled with questions! How did seeds sprout? What do plants need to grow? So we planted a garden, sprouted seeds in cups and sketched the roots, we made prints on fabric and the natural dyes from dandelions, we read stories and made discoveries together.

There were little birds in nests and tiny baby creatures scampering about during our forest trips and we were filled with wonder. We researched how birds hatch, what types of homes little creatures make, and documented our discoveries in drawings.

Water was our focus in the balmy months of summer; the cool stream in the woods became a welcome escape from the heat. We watched the gentle current guide little ships of wood and leaves, laughing as we chased them, our feet displacing the water and making big splashes as we ran through the shallow brook.

We used our tattered wilderness guide book to identify different plants and tiny beasts we found in the wilderness. We practiced pronouncing the big Latin names of species of trees as we climbed and explored together in the depths of the forest.

Then, one day, like magic there is a sudden frostiness in the air that feels like autumn and the leaves begin to change; green fades and orange and red takes its place in the towering trees. We find acorns and pinecones at our feet as the plants prepare to settle to sleep beneath a blanket of snow.

Winter brings with it frozen adventures as we explore in the beautiful sparkling snow and climb the branches of bare trees. We will wonder how the little creatures store food in the winter and talk excitedly about the animals that slumber through the cold months. The children will direct their learning, guided by their discoveries in this lovely icy wonderland, and every learning journey (even the familiar ones) will bring with them something new and wonderful.

Mother Nature is a creative and patient teacher, always carefully preparing the outdoor environment with rich and inviting materials for little hands to discover.

When we allow the pleasant cadence of the natural world to guide our curriculum, and give children the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in outdoor play, the opportunities for learning are endless!

The Importance of Nature Play in Early Childhood Settings

By Natasha Kocher, RECE & Ryan Hasbury
originally published in The Holistic Parent Magazine in August 2018

The forest is alive with laughter and joyful little voices as the children make their way down the path and into the trees. Huge logs quickly become balance beams and climbing structures to the imaginative explorers. Shoes are discarded, tossed with haphazard enthusiasm, to feel the squishy mud between their toes.

“Look a bug! He’s huge!” cries an excited preschooler. “I wonder where he lives?”

There are always new opportunities for wonder in this magical place.

A toddler nearby has discovered a stick that is perfect for scratching marks into the earth while another child lines up smooth stones from largest to smallest at the serene edge of a stream.

An infant, the youngest of the group, babbles happily as he freely explores leaves and twigs on the forest floor with chubby baby fingers. Tummy time at its finest!

Mark making, early math skills and literacy skills, observation, experimentation, risk taking and messy play; there are so many learning opportunities in this natural space.

This is a snapshot of nature based education.

Play in nature is truly one of the best ways for children to learn. It is unhurried and messy and sparks the imagination because there are so many materials freely accessible to use.

When contrasted with the asphalt playgrounds of some schools and childcare facilities, play in green, natural spaces is more engaging and exciting because it is always different. Even if you return to the same physical location or just use an unmanicured green space in your play yard, the changes with the seasons and weather can make it feel like a new place.

In the forest or any other natural space you have to rediscover the landscape with each visit. The children must build a relationship with these places, taking time to learn their nooks and secret spaces, and there are always new discoveries to be made.

With this in mind, many early learning programs are beginning to embrace nature play as an important element in their curriculum and this choice has had huge benefits for children.

“Children are happier and healthier! They have less stress. They learn to manage risk. They have opportunities for adventure! They are fitter and leaner. They have better eyesight,” says Diane Kashin Ed.D, RECE, author and nature play advocate. “Childhood is increasingly becoming an indoor culture. Never before in history has this been the case. The implications are scary.”

Kashin adds, “Children need to learn to love nature so that they can take care of it – they need to become stewards of the environment. It is important to them and it is important to us and it is important to the planet. Teachers can be leaders to reverse this trend.”

As educators in early learning and care we must advocate for nature play. We must become enthusiastic explorers, eager co-learners, wondering and discovering and playing with our students.

Don’t shrink away from spiders, don’t shy away from mud, and most importantly don’t say no when you can say yes!

Yes, you can splash in the puddle!

Yes, you can play in the mud!

Yes, you can search for fairies among the mushrooms and flowers!

Richard Louv, author of  Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, writes “We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole.”

Teach the children in your care to find beauty in the warty old toad and to bask in the welcoming shade of ancient trees, to follow their wonder wherever it leads them, take risks and learn with hearts filled to the brim with joy.

As our time in the forest draws to a close I watch my young students splashing in the stream, clothes dripping and damp, smiles wide and eyes bright, and I hope that I have given a glimpse of the splendor all around us. The splendor that they are an important part of.

I hope that I have taught them to love the little creatures, to care for the little plants and for each other.

I hope that one day they will be the stewards of the environment, driven in part by the memories of this special place.

We gather our things and slowly begin our journey back home. No one is ever eager to leave the forest, but naptime is calling us and everyone is ready for a rest.

Well, almost everyone.

A preschooler who never seems to tire dashes ahead of the group as we make our way down the path. They’ve found a stick-sword to slay a fallen tree that they’ve imagined in to a fearsome dragon.

One last adventure before we return to sleep at our little school.

“Can we come back again soon?” a very sleepy child asks, rubbing their eyes with dirt smudged fists.

Of course we can.