Are You Appealing To All Five Senses
In Your Daycare Or Home?

Written by Pamm Clark

What do you think of when you smell the Thanksgiving turkey? How about when you see and read your favorite childhood book? Is there a song that triggers a memory for you?

Now, ask yourself what trigger do you want the children you care for (and your own children) to remember you by? The smell of bleach? You're saying, "No, no!"? How about a certain painting? The smell of lavender? Kenny G music?

I began thinking about all five senses and what I want the children I care for to remember from my house. Keep in mind changes don't happen overnight. It took baby steps to change things; things are still slowly changing. Here are some of my thoughts:


Sight Sound Scent
Taste Touch Sleepy Time


Sight


Let's start with the walls. Look at your child care area. Chances are you have lots of primary colors on the wall as well as commercial characters from Disney, Sesame Street, Barney, etc. It seems child-oriented, but is it?

Think of all the marketing targeted to preschoolers through their favorite characters. There are videos, clothing, shoes, dishes, toys, books, etc. The kids are bombarded with this stuff all over. Well, I took a stand and will have much less of that on my walls! I'm working on weeding commercialism out of the toys and books and videos, too. I can't control all of their lives, but I can control what they are exposed to during the time they have here.

So what is on my walls? I'm currently looking for posters of real art. You know, posters of paintings by famous painters. For now I have a flag poster with the Pledge of Allegiance, a few preschool posters (colors, numbers, and sign language), the children's art, and a poster of desert flowers. After taking that other stuff down, it's much warmer and more inviting.

Lighting is another area to work on. Try for as much natural light as possible. Lamps are good, too. Stay away from fluorescent lighting.

Use as much wood and wicker as possible. Try to stay away from bright-colored plastic stuff. I know this sounds contradictory, but these changes can soften up the mood of things. Use wood-toned shelving, tables, chairs, etc. Switch to wicker baskets for storage of art supplies, small toys, etc. Thrift stores and yard sales are great for this.

Bring in fresh flowers as much as possible. Even silk flowers and trees are good. Try to stick with earthy stuff. You will be surprised by the difference and the calming effect it has.

You can take a look at the playroom here.

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Sound


Record your child care for a half hour or more. What do you hear? The TV going? Radio? You yelling, "No, no! Stop! Quit! Quiet!"? Children's music? Babies' cries? Frustrated children? "Mine!"?

I turn off the TV more. I'm experimenting with background music. I want to try classical, jazz, etc. and not on the radio or TV--too much chit-chat.

Talk to and LISTEN to the children. Talk about what you're doing.

Sing, sing, sing. Sing church songs, children's songs, any song! Don't think of it as a performance, but sing to the air.

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Scent


Think back to odors or aromas that trigger memories: Thanksgiving turkey, a favorite teacher's perfume, Pine Sol, new books on the first day of school, etc. When you're somewhere and you smell your favorite teacher's perfume it immediately brings you back.

What kind of memory do you wish to trigger? --Poopy diapers? Bleach? Of course not!

I went to the health food store and purchased essential oil of Lavender. I wasn't sure what to do with it, but I knew I wanted lavender because it is calming. I read about aroma therapy and found I could put 25 drops of the lavender to 16 oz. of water in a spray bottle. I spray this every morning all around the rooms we use for daycare and on the children's pillows and bedding. I do it again during lunch on the children's bedding. Sometimes I do it to freshen up things. (Also see Sleepy Time).

I also bought a Potpourri simmer pot at a thrift store. I was hoping to simmer the lavender and the whole house would fill up with great lavender scent. It turns out you have to use so much that I couldn't afford to keep doing it. I'm looking for inexpensive ways to simmer in the simmer pot. My husband peeled a lime and I threw the peel in there with some drops of orange oil and that worked better. So far I plan to try apples, orange peels, and lemon peels. I did try vanilla and my kids asked me all day if I was making cookies :). It's too expensive, also.

Commercial or chemical potpourri won't work for us. DH is allergic to that stuff. Besides, do I really want to expose these children to more chemicals?

Someone suggested to make a pot of coffee every morning even though no body drinks it. I have a problem associating coffee smells around children.

There are factory-made rings you can get to go around light bulbs and I know people put vanilla in there. That may work and take less vanilla and may be cost effective. I really don't have any lamps that it would work on.

I'm working hard on this search and hope to find more ideas that work.

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Taste


I plan to serve the kids' favorite foods often and introduce new tastes. When the parents sign up I have them list some of their child's favorite foods. I try to serve as many as I can on their first day.

Something I'd like to try is to have the children bring a favorite snack. This encourages them to enjoy variety.

You can find some menu ideas here.

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Touch


I try to provide toys of different textures. There are hard chairs and soft places to sit.

We used to have a little "couch" (it's a crib mattress with a king size pillow for a back). It was great for a place for adults and children to read a book together.

I try to provide a reassuring hug (or touch on the arm) often.

There are many activities with various things to touch: shaving cream on a table or in a baggie, play dough, sand play, water play, etc.

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Sleepy Time


For nap I try to make the children comfortable using all their senses:

    *Dim the light and draw the shades
    *Play an Enya or Kenny G CD
    *Spray lavender water on their pillows, bedding, and throughout the room
    *Provide a water bottle or cup if needed
    *Rub a few backs after providing soft, comfortable bedding

You can't expect little ones to fall asleep if you have a radio blasting. The same goes for a day when it's sunny outside and you don't attempt to darken the room. You need to set a mood for sleeping.

Click to view our Nap Room.

For more ideas visit The Sleep Lady.

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