Fall Activities at “Lively Children,” by Molly Cannon

Molly writes: At our center we have a mix of seasoned and new caregivers, some who have been working with us over a year or two, and some who are really new. Obviously the newer people are just learning this quality of care. With this learning I encourage them to observe the more seasoned people and I give them lots of interesting articles to read. How they take up the work is exciting to see.

The article we are discussing amongst ourselves right now is titled, “The Wise Infant,” from an article about the Loetzy Center in Hungary.  And also another, “Our Unobtrusive Presence,” for parents and caregivers from Mothering magazine. These are about creating the healthy environment, the healthy mind-set in ourselves when we are with the children!

On a more practical level (sometimes more helpful, especially when getting started on this path) and more specifically for the Autumn season, we are focusing on simply sunflowers and apples. So far we have watched tall sunflowers grow outside our windows in our neighbor’s beautiful garden, and we are eating sunflower seeds. We created a sunflower picture from a paper plate (yellow paint, glue and sunflower seeds) when a little boy at the center noticed that our paper plates look like sunflowers! He is two years old…

We have not found or created a sunflower song yet, but one gifted storyteller-caregiver created a sunflower nature story for her group of two- and three-year-olds…simply about planting a seed and watching it grow, and grow, and grow…taller and taller….

I did buy some beautiful sunflowers at Whole Foods Market to enjoy, too (could not help myself).

The apple theme has more abundant resources.  We use local, Cortland apples, found at either farmer’s markets or a local natural market. This week we made apple sauce. Our two-and three-year-olds love to chop the apple slices with a dull butter knife. The preparation of the apple slices boiling or baking the apples part-way before the children chop is helpful with this aged child. They also like to nibble on the apples while they chop. Thinking about all of the steps in the process of making apple sauce and which of the steps the children may join is so helpful when bringing consciousness to our work with the children.

This week we will bake the apples after they have been cored and stuffed with walnut pieces. Then we add a pat of butter and maybe cinnamon and brown sugar or maple syrup. Cook on a cookie sheet until the apples are soft to the touch…I remember my mother made baked apples with us when I was a child. The adults need to core the apples; the two- and three-year-olds can put the walnut pieces inside the apples…and nibble… We have an apple peeler/corer that we often use at the table at snack time. One little boy nicknamed it the “rounder” because we turn the handle around and around to make it work.

Apple crisp and apple sauce are in our future, too! We are blessed to have two talented cooks in lead caregiver and assistant positions. One is even a former chef!  She is patiently learning how to involve the children in her culinary work… We are always learning, as it is always a process to figure out ways to include the children in our care of them and of the environment where we work and play together each day.

I must end here by expressing gratitude to my father and mother, who patiently created this blessed mood with us Cannon children.  It is easy for me to bring a repetitive, sweet and lively mood to the children from the example of my parents.  At 55 years of age, I grew up in a home where technology was not yet a part of the culture of raising children. Growing up in Madison, Wisconsin, we ran outside to play at will and created our own play environment with mother and dad nearby for safety, but not directly involved in our play. We lost our dear dad this summer, but he is present in my work with the children, especially when we are gardening and caring for a boo-boo. My father will always be with me in my work! Thank you Dad!

Molly Cannon, M.Ed., is Director, Caregiver and President of “Foundation for the Liveliness of Children, Inc.,” a non-profit organization which owns “Lively Children” Child Care Center in Louisville, Kentucky.