The Magic of Storytelling

Written by Julie Bisnath, BSW RSW

Oral stories are powerful things—they can teach, entertain, evoke emotion, elicit memories, develop imagination, provoke deeper thinking, and prompt reflection.   Most importantly though, they bring us together and keep us connected.  Stories transcend time and space, have the power to evolve, and are free to give and receive.  Pretty impressive if you ask me.

Storytelling is also very natural—we do it all the time without even thinking about it—when we recount an incident or event, when we reminisce, when we tell a joke, and when we use examples to teach or reinforce a moral or value.  What’s more, is that oral storytelling—many stories existed well before the printed word—with children is universal.  And for good reason!  Oral stories are hugely important to a child’s cognitive and emotional development.

“Telling and listening to stories provides a bridge between the oral language skills of early childhood and the more formal language of print. With the ability to tell stories develops the ability to talk about things outside the here and now, to understand how we use language to express cause and effect and to talk about feelings and motivation.”

Did you know that by the time a child is 2 ½ years old they are usually familiar with the basic structure of storytelling?  They know how to sequence basic events, understand the purpose of place and time, and can organize characters.  Amazing! But why—and to what end? Telling stories helps children solve problems and work out concerns.  Just as we might see them acting out a worry with dramatic play, children will tell stories (not necessarily to others) to help make meaning of an event or incident.  Storytelling also plays a role in how children view and understand themselves within the context of their family, and their community.

We know that children express themselves in many ways.  When we support the development and expression of communication in all of its forms, we are telling children that we see them as capable and competent.

What stories are being told here? Who are the storytellers and who are the story-listeners? Look at the connections and togetherness created during these moments.

So, what can we do to encourage storytelling in young children?

  • Have lots of conversations using rich vocabulary and a variety of concepts
  • Introduce and expose children to a wide variety of story mediums—written, oral, theatrical, etc. and story genres.
  • Encourage storytelling and story-listening all throughout the day—mealtime, bath time, naptime, in the car, out for a walk…have children narrate stories about their play and about their art. If you can, transcribe their stories or take a video.
  • Tell them stories about themselves, children love to be the central character in their own story!
  • Practice re-telling a familiar story together—based on a real event or a popular tale.
  • Use the tools of rhyme and repetition—children love hearing the same story over, and over, and over…!
  • Ask open-ended questions: Who are the people in the story? What happens next?
  • Model storytelling using various props. A felt board and felt shapes (take a look at Frosty Fun our new Winter Mini Felt Kit!), simple masks, a story apron, story stones or discs (check out our Wooden Wonder Collections!), all add to the storytelling and story-listening experience. 
  • Play with puppets—puppets no matter how simple, can provide a “third voice” (separate from the narrator and audience) adding to the dramatic interest. Puppets often have the freedom to say and do things that we might not, making them excellent teaching tools.  Simple puppets might be as easy as using your bare hands.  Other puppets might be made out of paper bags, paper and popsicle sticks, paper plates, photos, socks, fabric, etc.  These can be made by an adult or child.  More elaborate puppets can be purchased commercially.  For a unique and beautiful addition to your storytelling tools consider one of CCPRN’s handmade story puppets (Coming Soon!)—crafted to include a puppet pocket and puppet accessories, these pieces are sure to inspire.
  • Don’t forget to think about your tone of voice, volume, body language, and gestures. Using these effectively is what makes the story come alive.
  • Invite the children to enjoy a story table, story basket, or story sensory bin: Using the script from a familiar picture book, children manipulate the materials to act out and re-tell their own version of the story.
  • Try something new: cut and tell stories are fun and engaging! This one is simple yet captivating:
  • Introduce reflection with occasional comments: “Hmm, I wonder how that makes him feel?”, “I was thinking about that story you told earlier…”.


Most importantly, listen attentively and participate actively when a child tells you a story (even if you’ve heard it 50 times before!). Enjoy the beauty and magic of the moment.

Create and Craft Christmas–Art Ideas and Inspiration

Written by Julie Bisnath, BSW RSW

I think for most of us, we know deep down that art is good.  We know that children learn from doing.  We appreciate the artistic talents of others.  We have good intentions and great ideas (thank you Pinterest!).  Where we sometimes get bogged down is in the logistics, the preparation, and most importantly, the mindset:

  • Making the commitment to offer more process oriented art.
  • Allowing the children to come and go from the “art table”.
  • Having them decide what materials to use, how to use them, how much or how little to use, and when to stop.
  • Understanding that art is not always about having a “finished piece” or “product”.
  • Knowing and preparing for the fact that there might be some mess.
  • Accepting that art ideas and interests are as subjective as the art itself.
  • Embracing the learning and creativity that comes from consistent, unstructured (not unsupervised!), access to art.


When we really challenge ourselves to shift our mindset and include art as a part of our children’s daily experience, we open the door for them to explore, express, innovate, create, craft, discover, wonder, imagine, question, problem-solve, enjoy, and so much more.  We build confidence, pride, and self-esteem. We instill and nurture a sense of agency, mastery, accountability, self-efficacy, and ownership.

If providing daily access to open-ended art seems difficult or unmanageable, start with changing only one or two small aspects of your usual art activity/routine.  Try to increase access to art.  Try to include new or different materials.  Think about how to arrange your time and space to be “art-friendly”.  Follow the interests of the children.  Extend books or dramatic play onto the “art table”.  Invite the children to suggest ideas.

Offer art activities often, provide variety, and modify as needed.  Follow the cues from your group.  Consider the age range of your children, their varied abilities, and their individual interests. Most importantly—is there joy? Are the children curious? Is there wonder and delight? Lead with a happy heart, be open to new experiences, and share in the learning—enjoy the opportunities and your children will too.

Many of my favourite holiday activities involve art, crafting, and creativity.   Here are a few ideas for inspiring art and supporting the artistic and creative expression of young children:


Ideas for Encouraging Process Art:

  • Messiness is ok and to be expected! This does not mean that the children are permitted to paint your walls or each other! Have them wear play clothes so no one has to worry or feel anxious about getting dirty.  Talk to parents ahead of time and explain the concept (and value!) of process art.  Have clean up items (towels, wipes, water, etc.) readily available.
  • Provide access to open-ended materials—paint, fabrics, water, shaving cream, glue, markers, chalk, paper, pompoms, collage items, clay or play dough, bits and bobbles, etc. You do not have to provide all of the materials at the same time! Too many options can be overwhelming.  Large amounts can also be too much—start with a little and add as needed.
  • Supervise without providing instruction. Lead by example.  Enjoy exploring and creating with the children.  Try new things.  Get messy!
  • If it’s easier—go outside! This is especially true for glitter! Or go outside just for fun and to experience process art in a different environment.
  • Introduce materials and tools found in nature: twigs, stones, leaves, grass, etc.
  • Use recycled objects: bottle caps, sponges, containers, toothbrushes, bubble wrap, etc.
  • Try to allow for long periods of time and/or have the art materials available for children to access and explore throughout the day.
  • Comment occasionally on the specifics of the process and/or ask questions: “I noticed that you are using the toothbrush to move the paint around on your paper.” “You mixed glue with paint. What happened to the colour? What does it feel like?”
  • Let the child decide when they are done and whether or not they want to keep the end result. Do they want to include their name? If so, where?


Ideas for Encouraging Product Art:

  • Keep the project age appropriate and set the children up for success (i.e. pre-cut any difficult shapes, pre-measure any difficult ingredients, etc. but let them do as much as they can themselves).
  • Provide several models so that the children have a guide but also know that their product does not need to look exactly like one specific model.
  • Offer choices: colour/texture of material, added ingredients (raisins or chocolate chips?), glue stick or glue pot and spreader, etc.
  • Explain the steps and do the project together (each person can do their own or it can be a combined group effort). Provide visual aids and examples of each step.
  • Help the children understand that with some projects following the steps and directions are important. Ask questions. Encourage problem solving.  Give them opportunities to learn and practice new skills.
  • Do not correct or fix their work—3 eyes and 5 legs are ok! For older children, if the product didn’t quite turn out (to THEIR expectations) that’s ok too, focus on what went well and encourage them to try again.  Learning any new skill takes perseverance and lots of practice!
  • Focus on positive outcomes: “We did it! We followed all of the steps and now we each have a duck! My duck is yellow, with one eye, and green feathers. Tell me about your duck!”


Examples of Christmas Process and/or Product Art

These ideas can all be modified to better suit the age of the children:

  • Marble, golf ball, or jingle bell painting (on plain or pre-cut paper to have a product)—use a tray or closed container (place the paper inside the closed container).
  • Bubble wrap prints (on plain or pre-cut paper to have a product).
  • Collage of various Christmas materials and textures (fabric, paper, old cards, ribbon, etc.).
  • Paint using evergreen branches.
  • String beads on pipe cleaners to make an ornament.
  • Provide a sensory experience and offer to make prints on paper or pre-cut shapes.
  • Use Christmas cookie cutters to stamp with paint.
  • Make and paint salt dough or clay ornaments with the children.
  • Spice art: the children apply glue and then sprinkle on spices (ginger, cinnamon, clove, etc.). Use plain paper or a pre-cut shape.
  • Paint with various tools (spray bottles, squeeze bottles, droppers, pompoms, fingers, Q-tips).
  • Provide contact paper and a variety of Christmas bits (sequins, glitter, ribbon, etc.).
  • Use the end result from process art to make a card or framed piece of art.


What about Art? A post for parents

Written by Julie Bisnath, BSW RSW

In recent years, professionals in the early learning community—both centre based and those in home child care, have been shifting their perspective when it comes to art.  You may have noticed that your child is coming home with little or no finished art.  Not to worry! The fact that they haven’t brought home a beautifully cut and glued paper craft does not mean that they aren’t being creative or that your home child care provider is not introducing them to art.  Indeed, the opposite is likely to be true.  All early learning professionals are being encouraged to provide young children with opportunities for process art—instead of, or in addition to, the more traditional product art.

“Process art” or “open-ended art” is art that focuses on the experience of doing rather than the finished product.  It allows children the freedom to explore various materials and mediums without the constraints of “producing”.  Process art often does produce beautiful, interesting, and unique results but this is not its purpose. Children may or may not want to keep the end piece.  The successfulness of process art is measured in terms of the child’s joy, wonder, and curiosity during the experience of doing—the process of creating.

“Product art”, also known as “crafting”, is art that focuses on the end product.  There is usually a specific set of instructions and if followed correctly, each person’s end product should be relatively the same.

Process art teaches children to value the creative experience and to value experimentation.  It allows them opportunities to explore with their senses, and to experience materials and mediums as they relate to one another.  It provides inquiry based learning and the opportunity to use, manipulate, explore, and express with a variety of tools and techniques.  It teaches children that there is no right or wrong way to create art.  Process art is meant to be a calming and relaxing experience.  Children make decisions regarding how much, how little, where, when to stop, etc.  It teaches children that their art is their own.

Product art teaches important skills too.  Patterning, math, problem solving, planning, sequencing, reading, following instructions, working towards a goal, perseverance, and determination to name a few.  When we introduce and expose children to simple crafting (product art) we are setting the foundation for later skills and abilities used in everyday life: completing a recipe, putting together furniture, writing an essay, etc.…we are teaching children that these skills are important and take practice.  Learning to hone a particular craft also develops its own skill set and is valuable in and of itself—think of baking, quilting, knitting, woodworking, crocheting, jewelry making, food preserving, etc.—all types of product art and all requiring the skills listed above.  Finally, crafting often has strong generational and/or cultural roots.  Sharing these types of activities with children fosters a sense of belonging and values family traditions.

Beneficial when the intent is to teach a skill, introducing product art at child care does come with some challenges:

  • Younger children are easily frustrated: “I can’t do it”
  • The child care provider is heavily involved, often the one completing the craft
  • It is a more stressful activity for everyone: “Am I doing it right?”
  • Children feel upset when their craft does not look exactly like the adult-made model
  • There is often more advanced preparation required by the caregiver to cut out parts, etc.
  • The creative process is restricted by the steps involved to make the craft


Depending on the caregiver, and the ages/stages of the children in the group, your home child care provider may or may not regularly incorporate product art into the programming. It might be scaled down with modified expectations or it might only be offered as an occasional activity.

Instead, your home child care provider is likely introducing your child to art materials and mediums such as painting (with fingers or brushes or random tools), collaging (papers and fabrics of various textures), art with materials found in nature (twigs, leaves, sand), art with recycled materials (bubble wrap, plastic forks, old toothbrushes), or art with mixed mediums (shaving cream, glue, paint, foil, sandpaper).  To support your child’s learning be sure to dress your child in play clothes and pack an extra outfit or two—not having to worry about getting dirty will allow your child to fully experience the creative process: touching, mixing, poking, smelling, etc. 😉

So what’s the real take home here? Product art definitely has some benefits but should not replace the wonderful opportunities provided by process art for children to create, experience, and express themselves freely—without the expectation to please others or re-create a final product.  There may or may not be an actual “take home” and that’s ok!

Holiday Resource Kit Reveal

Written by Julie Bisnath, BSW RSW

This year has been like no other—a rollercoaster ride of emotions—and we know that the holidays will be just as challenging.  Our goal at CCPRN is to help you spread a little cheer and happiness.

With the holiday season right around the corner, CCPRN has been busy developing new Imagine.Create.Play Resource Kits designed to make your holidays merry and bright.

Take comfort in knowing that when you support CCPRN you are supporting a locally run business with more than 40 years of delivering quality services to home child care providers and parents across the province.

With your health and safety in mind we offer:

  • Convenient online shopping
  • Contactless pick up
  • Shipping across Ontario–and beyond!


Here’s a look at some of our new products as well as a few seasonal favourites that we’ve restocked especially for you:

New! Personalized ICP Kit: The Gingerbread Friend

  • The Gingerbread Friend is an adapted version of the classic tale “The Gingerbread Man” by Jim Aylesworth.  Our unique version is customized upon order to include your name, the names of one or more children, and possibly pets.  Whether it’s purchased as a gift or for use at home/child care, this kit provides many opportunities to celebrate and focus on the four foundations of How Does Learning Happen? —Belonging, Well-being, Engagement, and Expression.
  • Your kit includes the personalized story, wooden story pieces (customized with your photos!) for re-enacting the story and/or creating a new adventure, your choice of Gingerbread Friend—either felt or wooden, a foam gingerbread for decorating, a resource handout and, as a bonus—the board book version of “The Gingerbread Man” (while quantities last).
  • These wooden story pieces can be gently cleaned with a lightly saturated disinfecting wipe.  As with all small/hand crafted items, children must be supervised closely when playing with these sets.
  • Kit pricing starts (includes 5 story characters) at $20 for members and $25 for non-members.  Orders must be placed by December 4th at the latest.


New! Wooden Santa Ornaments

  • Original art transferred onto wood…a beautiful ornament to give as a gift or enjoy for yourself. Optional custom photo added to the other side.  These are $7 for members and $9 for non-members.

New! Wooden Wonder Collections

  • Perfect as a gift or to use at home or daycare.  Inspire play-based learning with our Wooden Wonder sets.  Use to re-enact a story, tell a new story, spark imaginative play, add to a sensory bin, build vocabulary, and more.  Add Velcro to use on a felt board or magnets for the fridge.  Buy two identical sets to play a game of Memory or to practice matching and counting.  Buy two different sets to play Tic Tac Toe (i.e. Dinosaurs vs Unicorns), or to create extended stories and dramatic play opportunities.
  • Once again, these wooden discs can be gently cleaned with a lightly saturated disinfecting wipe.  As with all small/hand crafted items, children must be supervised closely when playing with these sets. Also please keep in mind COVID-19 restrictions and best practices.
  • All images credited to: Jane at Digital Artsi
  • Pricing starts at $10 per set for members (or 2/$16) and $15 per set for non-members (or 2/$24).

Christmas Tree & Gingerbread Person Playscapes

  • Back by popular demand! This kit includes either a large felt Christmas tree or large gingerbread person and a multitude of decorations. We have also included a set of numbers (1-5) and some circle time songs and rhymes, making this a very versatile kit!  Can be used with the very young as well as kindergarten age children.

Christmas Tree: $20 for members and $30 for non-members

Gingerbread Person: $25 for members and $35 for non-members

Christmas Paper Die Cut Collections

  • Invite your children’s creative Christmas ideas to shine with paper die cuts of gingerbread houses, Christmas trees, candy canes, wreaths and bows, pine tree cards, Santa, reindeer, sleighs, and lots of mini accessories such as lights, stars, and candies. Enough materials for six children and comes with a list of ideas and suggestions for free play, games, puppets and more! $10 for members and $15 for non-members.


ICP Kit: The Mitten

  • An all-time favourite, this kit includes the board book “The Mitten” by Jan Brett and some pretty adorable wooden props including a sewn fleece mitten and “animals” to hide inside. The Mitten, a fanciful story based on a Ukrainian Folktale, is fun to read and perfect for re-enacting. $30 for members and $50 for non-members.

ICP Kit: The Snowy Day

  • This kit is based on the board book by Ezra Jack Keats. Winner of the 1963 Caldecott Medal, Keats’ story of a young boy experiencing the year’s first snowfall is a delight. The kit contains the book, 2 felt dolls with 4 different winter felt outfits (total), crochet snowflakes, snowballs, smaller felt people, and playdough mats. Great for free play, imaginative art, and circle time activities.  $41 for members and $61 for non-members.

ICP Kit: Snowballs

  • This kit is based on the board book by Lois Ehlert. This is a great book to read to a group, search for various items, and use as a springboard to design unique snowscapes. The kit contains the book, felt pieces to create your very own snowscape, play dough mats and open-ended play/art pieces. The hand-out has suggestions to help extend the play. $31 for members and $51 for non-members.

ICP Kit: Tap the Magic Tree

  • Tap the Magic Tree is an engaging and interactive book about the changing seasons and one special tree in particular. Tap, rub, jiggle, wiggle, and more to see what magic takes place. Perfect for all seasons with beautiful and brightly coloured artwork— children will love the magic and whimsy of this simple story. Your kit contains the hard cover book, 4 beautifully hand-painted wooden peg dolls each representing a season, and 4 coordinating, hand-stitched felt leaf pockets.  $37 for members and $57 for non-members.

You won’t want to miss out on these unique products, sure to inspire curiosity and delight.

Head on over to our e-store to place your order today!

Spread joy, shop local, and support CCPRN

Baby Doll Circle Time™

Written by Julie Bisnath, BSW RSW

“Circle time” has always been one of my favourite times of day—as a child and as an adult too.  I love to sing and to sing along with others.  When I was in elementary school we’d often have sing along assemblies and growing up, hymns were my favourite part of our weekly church service.  Family gatherings often included one or more instruments and I’m no stranger to a good old kitchen party.  I love to sing.  I’m not great at it but I love it just the same.

Last year, I wrote a more general Circle Time Resource Guide that CCPRN members received along with their 2020 memberships.  If you’d like to take a look, you can read it here:

Today, I want to focus more on a specific type of circle time called Baby Doll Circle Time™.  Baby Doll Circle Time™ combines my love for singing with my passion for teaching empathy, kindness, and caring.  Baby Doll Circle Time™ was developed by Dr. Becky Bailey and is a trademark of Conscious Discipline®.  The theory behind Baby Doll Circle Time™ is that children develop best within the context of caring relationships.  Baby Doll Circle Time™ provides the opportunity for young children to experience being the nurturer by interacting with their baby dolls (or teddy bear) in the same ways that we as caring adults might interact with them.  As the children play with their dolls, they relive and strengthen the attachment and connection that they have with their caregivers and parents.

The goals of Baby Doll Circle Time™ are to:

  • Enhance attachment
  • Increase self-regulation
  • Promote trust
  • Foster attunement skills

It also provides a wonderful opportunity for young children to develop, experience, and practice compassion towards others by building connection.

Baby Doll Circle Time™ focuses on building connection through:

  • Eye contact
  • Gentle, appropriate touch
  • Being present in the moment
  • Playful interactions


There are 5 main steps to a successful Baby Doll Circle Time™.  The first is to transition into the circle and to have the children “get their babies”.  You can transition to circle in your usual way—with a song or a visual cue, etc.  Next you can incorporate having the children “get their babies” by having them close by (I find a bin or basket works well) and then singing the song “Get Your Baby” written for this purpose:

Get Your Baby (tune of Oh My Darlin’ Clementine)

Put out a basket of baby dolls.  Use eye contact, joint attention, and gestures as you sing to invite the children to take a baby.

Get your baby, get your baby, get your baby, it’s time to play.

Get your baby, get your baby, get your baby, it’s time to play.

You may need to sing this more than once to give the children enough time to get their baby and then sit back down.

Once everyone (including you!) has a baby doll or stuffed animal, it’s time to sing the songs that fall under step 2 “beginning awareness”, step 3 “connection”, and step 4 “cuddling and soothing”.  You can follow along with my version here or make up your own.  The idea is that the songs all promote caring and gentleness.

Step 5 ends Baby Doll Circle Time™.  I always end by putting the babies to bed and then transitioning to Sleeping Bunnies but you can do whatever works for your group.

Goodnight Song (tune of Good Night Ladies) Use a soft and then an even softer voice.

Night, night, babies. Night, night, babies.  Night, night, babies, it’s time to rest your eyes….shhhhh

Night, night, babies. Night, night, babies.  Night, night, babies, it’s time to go to sleep….shhhhh

“Goodnight baby, I love you”.  (Place the babies back in the basket)

Transition to Sleeping Bunnies: “Now that the babies are sleeping, you can find a spot to lie down and we’ll do Sleeping Bunnies!”


It may sound a bit complicated but trust me it’s not.  It’s fun and lovely.  Most children really enjoy the interactive component of having a special doll or stuffy to care for during circle time.  Here are some simple strategies for implementing Baby-Doll Circle Time™ with your group:

  • Be consistent, follow the same circle time routine, especially in the beginning while the children are getting used to the concept.
  • Model the actions and attunement by having a baby doll for yourself too.
  • Use familiar songs, rhymes, and social games—those that you might use with an infant or toddler in your care–or ask their parents for ideas.
  • Talk about gentleness and the importance of being kind and caring.
  • Notice and comment on the children’s participation: “I love how you are holding your baby doll so carefully. Your baby will feel safe with you”.


If you’re still feeling a bit unsure, you can view my Baby Doll Circle Time™ demo video here: and/or access my full song list (and lyrics!) here:

For those of you looking to do a French version, Lise Beauchemin has created a lovely “Le cercle avec poupée” which you can find here:

If you’d like more information on Conscious Discipline® or to see official Baby Doll Circle Time™ promotional videos you can take a look at these resources:

I really do hope that you’ll give it a try—whether you are a parent with one child or a home child care provider with a full group, Baby Doll Circle Time™ is a wonderful activity to enjoy together.

Yours in caring and sharing.

Loose Parts Play

Written by Julie Bisnath, BSW RSW

Coined in the early 1970’s by Simon Nicholson, the concept of “loose parts” came from his belief that the use of open-ended materials in childhood was strongly linked to creativity and critical thinking skills later in life.  It has since become a central component of many early learning environments and you can find lots of research and information pointing out that loose parts play does indeed develop skills across the entire continuum of development.

Children need opportunities to be creative and inventive in their environment, manipulating and constructing their ideas through play. This result can be achieved through the introduction of unstructured play with loose parts.”

Essentially, loose parts are any open-ended bits and pieces that have no intended purpose or specific play goals.   They can be moved around, added to, organized, taken apart, and used in many different ways allowing children to be creative, to explore, to investigate, and to learn from their own experiences manipulating the pieces.  Basically, any collection of natural or man-made materials can be thought of as “loose parts”.

Home | Loose Parts Play

Natural environments automatically provide a rich assortment of loose parts.  Think about the ocean side with water, sand, shells, and rocks or a lush forest bed filled with sticks, stones, leaves, dirt, pinecones, moss, and bits of bark.   The opportunities for play and learning are endless.  Children are invited and encouraged to use their imagination (the stick is a wand!), to develop analytical skills (which pinecones are sturdy enough to support a bit of weight?), and to test out their own ideas and hypotheses (small rocks float and big rocks sink).  They use the materials in new and inventive ways.  With no right or wrong way to play, children enjoy the freedom to explore and create without the typical constraints of store bought toys meant to do one or two specific things.  Loose parts play also fosters self-confidence and builds resilience as children are free to re-use the materials and experiment with a variety of ideas.   It gives them the opportunity to try and try again.

loose parts in the forest - Nature Connect

Loose parts pave the way for critical thinking. It allows the children to have their own ideas, to make things the way they decide, and to figure out for themselves how to make their idea work.” .

No need to take a day trip though (although how wonderful to spend the day lakeside or in the woods!)—you can incorporate loose parts play right in your own backyard or indoor play space.

A simple way to get started is to use what you already have at home: blocks, large pompoms or cotton balls, large popsicle sticks, balls, and recycled paper towel rolls set out on the floor are perfect for toddlers.  Older preschoolers might enjoy a variety of smaller loose parts added in: clothes pins, gems, shells, rocks, pinecones, and spoons.  A sensory bin filled with miscellaneous materials sets out an intriguing invitation.   Another option is to try table top loose parts—have the children sit at the table each with their own tray or shallow box of loose parts to examine and explore.  This works well with a mixed age group as you can tailor the items specifically to each child, following their interests and abilities to manipulate the loose parts safely.  This set up is also helpful if you are trying to minimize having the children touch or share common items.   Perhaps you have kindergarten or school age children who would enjoy some gross motor, outdoor, loose parts play?  Scavenge your basement, the garage, or ask your local hardware store for discarded materials: old tires, broken bricks, bits of lumber, large industrial rolls (sturdy cardboard inside large bolts of plastic or fabric), recycled yogurt containers, milk crates, and rope make a good start.  Recycled materials (containers, cardboard boxes, plastic bottle caps, etc.) are free and also helpful when it comes to clean up—no need to wash or disinfect, when the children are done playing out into the bin they go.  Dollar shops and thrift stores are another great place to look for loose parts—think about wooden napkin rings, bits of hardware, craft supplies, bins, baskets, etc.  Know someone who likes to sew? Ask them to set aside the empty spools.  Friendly with a local merchant? Ask them to keep the inside plastic piece from the cash register paper rolls.  Going out for a walk? Bring along a bag to collect pinecones, rocks, sticks, leaves, etc.

open ended gross motor play in 2020 | Eyfs outdoor area, Outdoor play spaces, Outdoor play areas


Just as there is no right or wrong way to play, there is no right or wrong way to offer or set out loose parts.  Through trial and error, you’ll discover what works for your space, and what works for your children.  Follow their lead and enjoy the limitless potential of loose parts play.

Interested in buying a ready-made loose parts collection? We have 2 left for sale–head on over to the e-store for a closer look!

Pic of ICP Loose Part Kit

As always, children need to be closely supervised when playing with loose parts.  Be sure to select items that are age appropriate and suitable to the child’s skills and abilities.

A sample list of bits and bobbles from: Loose Parts Play

Stones, rocks · Tree stumps · Logs · Pebbles · Gravel · Twigs · Sticks · Washers · Planks of wood · Coconut shells · Corks · Ping pong balls · Pegs · Bulldog clips · Duct tape · Straws · Marbles · Decorative stones · Spoons · Curtain rings · Paperclips · key rings · chains · tape measures · Pallets · Balls · Buckets · Baskets · Crates · Boxes · Rope · Tyres · Shells · Seeds & seed pods · Pine cones · Old CDs or DCDs · Ribbon, string tape wool, lace · Metal tops from bottles & Jars · Cardboard cylinders · Raffia · Cable reels · Feathers · Pasta · Costume jewellery · Pots · containers · Glass beads · Cable ties · Guttering & drainpipes · Garden trugs · Tarpaulin · Nuts & bolts · Bark & moss · Leaves · Coins · Old bike wheels · Small slices of logs · Empty food cans (not sharp) · Netting · Garden canes · Dried peas, beans, rice · Wood off cuts · Torches · Cameras · Dice · Gourds · keys

How Does Learning Happen?

For parents; written by Julie Bisnath, BSW RSW

Good question! Important too—how can we support learning if we’re not exactly sure how it happens?  When does it happen?—what underlying conditions need to be met for successful learning to take place? The Ontario Ministry of Education must have been wondering about these exact questions.  In 2014, after extended consultation with community partners, system leaders, experts, professionals, and practitioners from the early years sector and through individual dialogue, local focus groups, and various provincial forums, How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years  was finally developed.  It is a professional learning resource guide that addresses and reflects upon that very question: How Does Learning Happen?

The very over-simplified answer? Learning happens within the context of supportive relationships. With kind, compassionate, and attuned adults, children feel calm and ready to learn.

“Evidence from diverse fields of study tells us that children grow in programs where adults are caring and responsive. Children succeed in programs that focus on active learning through exploration, play, and inquiry. Children thrive in programs where they and their families are valued as active participants and contributors.” (pg. 4)

How Does Learning Happen?  helps educators and home child care providers focus on the interrelationships between the child, the family, and the educator, within the early years environment.  It defines strong and positive views of children, families, and educators; outlines four guiding foundations with goals for children and expectations for programs; and prompts questions for reflective practice.

“How Does Learning Happen? sets out goals for children and expectations for programs, organized around four foundations that are central to children’s learning and growth. The goals for children provide a basis for thinking about and creating the kinds of environments and experiences that are meaningful for children. They are not meant to measure children’s development but rather to guide what you do on a daily basis. The expectations for programs provide ideas and examples of what you can do to create environments, experiences, and interactions that support the goals for children in your home child care program.” (pg. 5)

The Four Foundations:


An Introduction to How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years–For Home Child Care Providers outlines many unique opportunities for home child care providers to support how learning happens: (adapted slightly, from pages 7 & 8)

  • by being flexible in the daily routines and building on children’s natural curiosity about the world around them;
  • by thinking about the home environment and neighbourhood as rich in possibilities for children to learn through exploration, play, and inquiry;
  • by enabling children of varied ages to develop strong relationships, learn together, and care about one another;
  • by connecting with the community and participating in its programs and accessing its resources (e.g., visiting and using local libraries, recreation centres, parks, and family support programs);
  • by having conversations with licensed home child care agency staff (or other home child care providers or other early years professionals—including the staff at CCPRN!) as co-learners in which you ask one another questions and together reflect on the goals for children and expectations for programs;
  • by building relationships in which children and families feel secure, and using personal experiences with the children to help the program evolve as the children grow and mature;
  • by engaging in self-reflection, and participating in professional learning coordinated by licensed home child care agencies, your municipality, or other early years programs in your community—such as CCPRN.

Questions for reflection:

  • How do you view the inter-relationships between your child, your family, and your home child care provider?
  • What are each person’s unique strengths and/or experiences—yours, your child’s, and your home child care provider’s?
  • Do you feel valued as an active participant and contributor to your child’s home child care program?
  • What are your child’s interests?
  • How is your home child care provider already supporting the four foundations?
  • With regards to your child’s learning, what do you want to know more about? What questions do you have?

As a parent what can you do to support your child’s learning?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Take advantage of workshops and webinars offered through community agencies such as Child Care Providers Resource Network.
  • Ask your home child care provider! What do they need from you as a parent? What can you do to support them in their role? How can you work together to embrace the elements of How Does Learning Happen?

Rag and Bone Puppet Theatre—Online and Awesome!

Written by Julie Bisnath, BSW RSW

I’ve known about Rag and Bone Puppet Theatre for some time now.  I’d heard from parents and caregivers rave reviews and my own children experienced the Rag and Bone “magic of live theatre” while in elementary school.  Recently, however, I got to experience this magic myself and want to share a bit about the company and the performance with you.

First, from their website, is their mission:

“Our mission is to create and present intimate and innovative theatre experiences of high artistic quality for school and family audiences. We believe in simple, aesthetically beautiful effects that encourage imagination and new ways of looking at things.”

Second, a look at the people behind the productions:

“Rag & Bone Puppet Theatre has toured across Canada and the U.S. since 1978. Founders John Nolan and Kathy MacLellan are joined by musicians Russell Levia and Ainsley McNeaney in productions of exceptional creativity and value for young audiences. Over 100 performances a year take the company to schools, libraries, children’s festivals, and theatres. Kathy has also written for many children’s TV shows, including Mr. Dressup, Under the Umbrella Tree, and Theodore Tugboat. John appeared as Jackson on the YTV show Crazy Quilt. Numerous awards include an ACTRA award and a Citation of Excellence in the Art of Puppetry from UNIMA, the international puppetry association. Russell Levia and Ainsley McNeaney are frequent Rag & Bone collaborators. They bring their considerable musical expertise to our shows.”

So now that you know a little more about the theatre company, I want to jump right in to my experience with their latest show: Hippity Hoppity Snippets—a performance featuring stories about rabbits. Here’s a peak at John and Kathy mid-performance:

“Snippets is a series of staged readings, bringing words and pictures alive, using snippets of puppetry, masks, acting, music, and jokes.”

Due to COIVD-19, and restrictions on gatherings, Rag and Bone adapted this show into a virtual, online performance.  Comprising of three small acts, or “snippets”, John and Kathy host the session and interact with their audience between each story.  The Zoom format was engaging, and the pre-recorded acts were run seamlessly.  I loved the mix of costumes and puppets and the inclusion of music and sound effects.   For a children’s performance, John and Kathy had me laughing out loud with their acting and antics.  The Zoom format also allowed me to see some of the other audience members—watching the children enjoy the show and react to the performers was a pretty good measure of the show’s success.

In partnership with Rag and Bone, CCPRN offered this event for free.  FREE! While it ran at 50% capacity (we had capped it at 20 caregiver groups), and was enjoyed by those who attended, I couldn’t help but think that so many were missing out.  So, here I am to tell you: Rag and Bone are planning their next virtual performance Strange Snippets of Halloween and I highly recommend that you register for this event.    Running with support of the Ottawa Community Foundation, this event will also be FREE for CCPRN caregivers and their children.  While their in-person shows were previously limited to Ottawa area members, the best part about a virtual performance is that caregivers and children, both near and far, can now enjoy.  How awesome! Please follow us on Facebook and keep a close eye on our Events page for regular updates. You won’t want to miss out.

Here’s what some of the Hippity Hoppity Snippets audience had to say about how their children felt after watching:

  • They loved the whole show!
  • They were acting out the characters after the show- bear and bunny voices
  • They really loved all the rabbits and they liked when the bear was looking for the red hat
  • They liked when the adults got dressed up too and laughed at the noses and funny hats


Enough said! A huge thank you to Rag and Bone Puppet Theatre for producing this show and sharing it with us.  I really can’t wait for the next one!

To learn more about their style of puppetry, called open manipulation, check out the About Us section on their website.  To read up on their past performances visit Shows and Workshops.

Attachment: Nurturing the Connection

Written by Julie Bisnath, BSW RSW

It’s 3am and the baby’s crying…again.  Your toddler is having a massive meltdown.  Your preschooler is hurt and is panicked by the sight of her own blood.  Your older child worries.  A lot.  At midnight, your distraught teenager comes to tell you that they are in crisis.  Parenting is exhausting–emotionally and physically draining, there’s no question about it.  Yet we persevere. We push through. We figure out how to give more when we once thought there was nothing left to give.   This is the work of parenthood and of caregiving– caring for and meeting the needs of our children. Responding to those needs, especially in times of distress, in a kind, caring, and swift manner, builds and maintains what experts call a secure attachment.

Attachment can essentially be described as the component of an adult-child relationship relating to the child’s safety and security.  It is the profound and enduring connection that a child forms–usually with their parent and/or primary caregiver.  A secure attachment develops from a consistent, reliable, responsive, and caring relationship.

It is within this secure attachment that young children first learn to trust others.  It also provides them with a safe place from which to explore and investigate the world.  Feeling secure and having a strong sense of belonging allow children the freedom to learn and grow. As they mature, it is important that the secure attachment with their parent/primary caregiver be nurtured and strengthened.    They still rely on us to be responsive and sensitive to their needs—to show affection, to model resiliency, and reinforce self-regulation skills.

Here’s what we know from the Ottawa Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Initiative:

  • Infants are hardwired to develop strong emotional connections or attachments to primary caregivers through face-to-face interactions and eye contact.
  • Babies need to feel safe, cared for, and protected. When a parent or caregiver responds consistently in a manner that is warm and sensitive, a secure attachment develops.
  • The parent or caregiver are the anchor from which young children can safely explore their world and develop to their full potential.
  • When secure attachment needs are met, children develop trust and gain the knowledge that they are loveable and important.
  • Children require a nurturing parent or caregiver to protect them from harm and the effects of toxic stress.
  • A secure attachment is foundational to positive developmental outcomes and future relationships with peers and partners.

Attachment can also be nurtured at child care–especially in a home child care environment where a child might spend several years with one caregiver.  Over time, and with a sensitive and responsive adult, a child learns to depend on their caregiver to meet their needs.  Trust is established, and they feel safe and cared for.  This can be particularly important if the child’s attachment to their parent is not secure.  In her book Rest Play Grow, Deborah MacNamera states that “more than 60 years of attachment research has demonstrated that what every child needs is at least one strong, caring adult to attach to”(2016, 77).  She uses Gordon Neufeld’s definition of attachment—“the drive or relationship characterized by the pursuit and preservation of proximity” to explain that attachment is the greatest need of a young child.  Instinctively, children ask “Who will take care of me?” (pursuit) and “How can I be close (physically and emotionally) to that person?” (preservation of proximity).

Neufeld’s theory describes attachment as unfolding in six sequential phases whereby children seek to attach to others.  Each phase is deeper and more complex than the one before it and should “deliver a new form of pursuing someone and being able to hold them close” (MacNamera, 2016, 81).

As children move through the phases, they develop roots, strong and deep, essential for maturation.

Neufeld’s Six Sequential Phases of Attachment—(MacNamera, 2016, 81-94)

  • Attaching through the Senses—At Birth—with close contact, sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch
  • Attaching through Sameness –Age 1+ —with imitation and mimicking, wanting to be “the same as”
  • Attaching through Belonging and Loyalty—Age 2+ —displaying possessiveness over people and things, staying close by following rules, enforcing rules with others, and taking sides.
  • Attaching through Significance—Age 3+ —needing to feel special, longing for approval, needing to be seen and heard, to matter
  • Attaching through Love—Age 4+ —with emotional intimacy, and vulnerability. Tenderness and caring emerge—frequent proclamations of love
  • Attaching through Being Known—Age 5+ —with the development of a separate consciousness, they actively seek a psychological intimacy—an inclination to reveal themselves—for example: the awareness that they could keep a secret but choose not too in order to be close —paving the way for truth telling, authenticity, and personal integrity


If you aren’t familiar with Neufeld’s “Attachment Roots”, I highly recommend watching his webinar for a more thorough overview of these phases of attachment and how they relate to a child’s behaviour.

We’ve touched a bit upon what attachment is and how children might move through the phases, but what about the why? Check out this pretty impressive list…

According to The Circle of Security Intervention (Powell, Cooper, Hoffman, & Marvin, 2016, 20), research has shown that children who are more securely attached:

  • Enjoy more happiness with their parents.
  • Feel less anger at their parents.
  • Get along better with friends.
  • Have stronger friendships.
  • Are able to solve problems with friends.
  • Have better relationships with brothers and sisters.
  • Have higher self-esteem.
  • Know that most problems will have an answer.
  • Trust that good things will come their way.
  • Trust the people the love.
  • Know how to be kind to those around them.


In contrast, when an adult’s responses to a child’s needs are repeatedly (over time) and regularly inconsistent and/or insensitive, the attachment is not secure.  This impacts the child’s developing brain negatively and can result in profound difficulties with emotion regulation, cognitive development, activation of the stress response system, lifelong learning, and/or behaviour.

Developing a secure attachment starts with safety and connection.

“If children feel safe, they can take risks, ask questions, make mistakes, learn to trust, share their feelings, and grow.”  ~Alfie Kohn

But what exactly does “feeling safe” mean?  The notion of safety is processed in the brain as a basic, instinctive, reaction to fear—used to protect us and ensure our survival.  It is this part of the brain that activates our fight/flight/freeze responses and triggers our stress response system.  We know and understand that this survival state can be triggered by a threat to our physical safety.  It can also be triggered by a threat to our psychological and/or emotional safety.  MacNamera comments that if “attachment is our most preeminent need; therefore, separation is perceived as the greatest threat and can activate a strong alarm response” (2016, 179).    She goes on to explain that facing separation can be overwhelming for young children and that the separation alarm is “rooted in the loss of contact and closeness” (2016, 180).  In other words, children don’t feel safe when they experience the actual or anticipated threat of not being with, not belonging, not being liked, not mattering, not being loved, or not being known as they relate to their closest attachments—parent/caregiver/grandparent etc. (MacNamera, 2016, 180).

So, what can we do in the early years to encourage a secure attachment? Here are some key strategies provided by Infant Mental Health Promotion for both parents and caregivers (download the full handouts here–

  • Be engaged and engaging—cuddle, sing, talk, and play. Be available and interested.
  • Be sensitive—listen, follow cues, acknowledge likes/dislikes, preferences, and feelings. Provide choices and support when trying new things.
  • Be consistent—build routines that are predictable. Set limits, be consistent with rules. Be patient.
  • Be responsive—respond quickly, use touch, your voice, your eyes. Be a play partner.  Comfort and reassure.
  • Be enjoyable to be with—take the time, enjoy the moment, cherish, and take pride. Be emotionally available.  Keep your own emotions in check, ask for help if you need it.
  • Be the baby’s/child’s voice—be the advocate, give words, intervene as needed, offer support. Be close and model handling big emotions.

To learn more about attachment, attachment theory, and nurturing the connection, please take a look at the references and resources below.

“If we who are responsible for children can give a sense of belonging, a sense of significance; if we can hold onto the heart and make it safe, if we can give them a sense of being known…this creates the womb for maturation.” ~Gordon Neufeld


  • Kohn, A. (2006). Unconditional Parenting. Atria Paperback.
  • MacNamera, D. (2016). Rest Play Grow Making Sense of Preschoolers. Aona Books.
  • Powell, B., Cooper G., Hoffman, K., & Marvin, B. (2016). The Circle of Security Intervention. The Guilford Press.


Online Resources:

Keeping You Informed: COVID-19 & CCPRN Service Delivery—Policies, Procedures, and Protocols

Written by Julie Bisnath, BSW RSW

It’s September 1st and CCPRN is excited to announce that we are actively planning the fall calendar of events.  While many workshops and programs will be offered virtually, we do hope to offer some in-person events.

Although service delivery methods have shifted as a result of COVID-19, CCPRN will continue to deliver programs and events to empower, support, and connect individuals who offer child care in a home setting.

To that end, we have developed comprehensive policies, procedures, and protocols based on the Ministry of Education document: Operational Guidance During COVID-19 Outbreak EarlyON Re-Opening August 2020 and in consultation with Ottawa Public Health recommendations.  The policies and procedures (and this post) will be modified as applicable should Provincial restrictions be lifted and/or amended to reflect new advice from either the Ministry of Education or Ottawa Public Health.

In addition to being posted on the CCPRN website, an electronic copy of this blog post will be emailed to all in-person event participants.  We want to make sure that our enhanced health and safety measures are available and accessible to those of you attending our events and/or programs.

Current Provincial Limits for Indoor Gatherings: 50      Outdoor Gatherings: 100

Effective September 1st, 2020:

  • CCPRN program participants will continue to register, in advance, for all CCPRN events and programs.
  • Registration for all in-person events and/or programs will include an acknowledgement of risk relating to COVID-19 and a release of liability.
  • All individuals including children, caregivers, parents, staff, volunteers, and visitors must be screened before participating in a CCPRN in-person event or program.
  • Screening questions include:
    • Do you have any of the symptoms outlined below: Fever, new or worsening cough, shortness of breath? Other symptoms including – sore throat, difficulty swallowing, new olfactory or taste disorder(s), nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, runny nose, or nasal congestion (in absence of underlying reason such as seasonal allergies, post nasal drip, etc.) or other signs/atypical symptoms:–pneumonia, unexplained fatigue, delirium (confusion, changes to memory, and odd behaviours), unexplained or increased number of falls, acute functional decline, worsening of chronic conditions, chills, headaches, croup, or conjunctivitis (pink eye)?
    • Are you awaiting COVID-19 test results, have received a positive COVID-19 result, or have received an inconclusive laboratory diagnosis of COVID-19?
    • Have you travelled outside of Canada in the last 14 days?
    • Do you live with, or have provided care for (without appropriate PPE), or spent time with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, is suspected to have COVID-19, has an inconclusive laboratory diagnosis of COVID-19, or who has symptoms that started within 14 days of travel outside of Canada?
    • Have you lived in/worked in/visited an institution, group home, or other facility known to be experiencing an outbreak of COVID-19 (e.g., child care centre, long term care, prison)?
  • Participants not able to complete an electronic questionnaire will be required to complete a hard copy prior to participating in the event or program.
  • Parents and/or caregivers are responsible for completing the screening questionnaire for the children in their care.
  • Participants exhibiting signs or symptoms of illness (or who answered “yes” to any question on the screening questionnaire) will not be permitted to attend/remain on-site. Symptomatic children and/or adults will be referred for testing.
  • Hand sanitizer will be placed at the in-person screening station for mandatory use prior to entry/participation and will be made available for adults to use throughout the event or program. Participants are also welcome to use their own, scent-free, alcohol-based hand sanitizer immediately prior to entry/participation.
  • All adults are encouraged to perform and promote frequent, proper hand hygiene.
  • Adults will be responsible for the hand washing and/or hand sanitizing of the children in their care.
  • Hand washing using soap and water is recommended over alcohol-based hand rub for children.
  • CCPRN will maintain event records of any person (staff, volunteers, caregiver, parents, child, visitor) entering the in-person event or program space (within reason for outdoor events) and the approximate length of their stay. Records (e.g. name, contact information, time of arrival/departure, screening completion/result, etc.) will be kept up-to-date and available to facilitate contact tracing in the event of a confirmed COVID-19 case or outbreak.  Upon request, Records of Attendance will be provided to Ottawa Public Heath.
  • Outdoor programming is strongly encouraged as a program delivery model as it can easily allow for safe, physically distanced activities for children, caregivers, and families.
  • CCPRN programs and events will be planned considering the following guidelines:
    • planning activities that do not involve shared objects or toys
    • limiting the use of CCPRN toys and equipment
    • planning activities that can be spaced out by caregiver groups (i.e. Storywalks)
    • removing and not using any toys made of porous materials
    • offering only single use art and/or sensory materials to be disposed of at the end of the event or program
    • avoiding indoor singing activities
    • encouraging physical distancing among all participants
    • planning and arranging adult workshops and training to allow for physical distancing
  • All CCPRN staff and/or volunteers are required to wear medical masks and eye protection (i.e. face shield) while facilitating an indoor event or program.
  • All other adults (i.e. caregivers, parents/guardians, and visitors) are required to wear a face covering or non-medical mask while attending an indoor event or program.
  • Masks are not recommended and not required for young children under the age of two. The wearing of non-medical or cloth masks is encouraged, but not required, for children over 2 years of age while attending an indoor event or program. School-aged children in grade 4 and higher are required to wear non-medical or cloth masks indoors.
  • Exceptions to wearing masks indoors include circumstances where a physical distance of at least 2 metres can be maintained between individuals, situations where a child cannot tolerate wearing a mask, and/or reasonable expectations for medical conditions.
  • CCPRN staff/volunteers will ensure proper cleaning and disinfection of all CCPRN toys, equipment, and materials.
  • In the event of a positive COVID-19 test result, any person directly, and recently involved (staff, volunteer, parent, caregiver, child, visitor) in a CCPRN in-person event or program will be expected to disclose, to Ottawa Public Health, this recent participation (within the past 14 days).
  • Disclosure of a positive COVID-19 test result (of a CCPRN volunteer, visitor, and/or participant) to the CCPRN Program Coordinator, is voluntary. In the event of a voluntary disclosure, the CCPRN Program Coordinator will consult Ottawa Public Health for advice and direction.
  • Voluntary disclosure of a positive COVID-19 test result will be kept confidential by the CCPRN Program Coordinator.



Original Post Date: September 4, 2020