The Squirrels’ Nest views children as being competent, capable, curious and rich in potential. We will strive to develop each child’s sense of curiosity and capabilities and help them grow as competent individuals full of self-worth. This will be achieved by providing rich and positive learning environments that respect children for their individuality, provides a variety of challenges and experiences, engaging in open-ended conversations, allow children to take risks, provide guidance, understands that children learn at their own pace, recognizes each child’s competencies and sense of curiosity and excitement in learning.
The Squirrels’ Nest uses “How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years” (HDLH) as one of our resource documents for directing our programs approach to learning.
‘Belonging, Engagement, Expression and Well-Being” are the four foundations of learning we use as our guiding principles to ensure optimal learning and development, to inform and recognize the goals for children and the expectations of the program.
The ‘Early Learning for Every Child Today” (ELECT) is a document also used in our program which focuses on age-appropriate developmental areas that support the children’s learning and is incorporated into the daily program planning.
The Program Statement will encourage parent involvement and community partnerships while promoting and supporting positive and responsive interactions and relationships among the children, parents and Child Care Educators (“Educators”).
Program indicators (a-j) are expectations that the Squirrels’ Nest Educators use to develop the program. Goals are established (the what) and the approach/method used (the how) to support the indicator. The indicators are as follows:
a) Promote the health, safety, nutrition and well-being of the children
Will strive to promote an environment that supports the health, safety and nutritional well-being of the children in our care.
Squirrels’ Nest provides a safe and nurturing environment supervised by caring, supportive, dedicated, responsive professionals whose connection with each child gives them a sense of belonging and security.
Squirrels’ Nest is a nut-free and smoke free environment. Defibrillator on site.
The Parent Handbook, pages 18-22 gives details of ill children Policies and Procedures which includes but not limited to the Health Policy, Illness Policy, Outbreak Policy, Communicable Diseases, Reportable Diseases, Sanitary Practices and Procedures, Medication Administering Policy, and Life Threating Illnesses.
All Educators hold a current Standard First Aid and CPR-C certificate which is renewed every three years.
Educators, students and volunteers are trained in the individual children’s anaphylactic action plans. Educators will carry the epi-pen in a fanny pack for anaphylactic children in the Infant to Preschool programs. Anaphylactic children in the Kindergarten to School-Age programs will carry their own epi-pen in a fanny pack.
The allergy and food restrictions sheets are updated quarterly or as changes occur, they are posted in all children’s classrooms, the kitchen and staff room. A copy is placed in the emergency bags for access on the playground or off Centre property.
The Educators and children have up-to-date immunization records kept on file. If an Educator or child/children are not immunized a signed and notarized copy of an affidavit must be provided.
The Educators follow the posted Toronto Public Health (TPH) sheets for sanitary practices and procedures which includes toileting, diapering and hand washing.
Toys are placed in a commercial sanitizer for disinfecting. Each program’s toy cleaning schedule as required by TPH as follows:
· Infant Programs – Daily
· Toddler & Preschool Programs – Weekly
· Kindergarten & School-Age Programs - Monthly
All rooms use a bleach to water concentration of 1 to 100 to sanitize all hard surfaces. The Infant program also uses the bleach concentrate to clean the toys throughout the day. The concentrate number of bleach to water increases in the case of an outbreak.
The Squirrels’ Nest is annually inspected by TPH.
The Centre is cleaned Monday to Friday by a janitor, the services include but not limited to mopping, vacuuming, dusting, cleaning the washrooms and any other general cleaning.
Carpets are steam cleaned and shampooed monthly.
Child Care Educators provide the children with enriched, varied and age appropriate activities that allows each child to have a confident sense of self and be active and engaged learners who explore the world with their healthy minds, body and senses while promoting self-help skills.
Squirrels’ Nest has video camera surveillance in the vestibule and both playgrounds.
The main entry door is locked at all times. A fob card is used for access into the building provided only to the families and staff.
Visitors press the intercom button and state their reason for visit.
Exit doors remain closed and locked at all times.
The Infant and Toddler Playground door has a numbered entry pad.
Children will not be released to anyone without permission by parents.
Pick-up person must provide photo identification and be minimum of 16 years of age.
Fire drills are conducted monthly. All rooms are evacuated and the Educators follow the fire drill procedures posted in the classroom.
Emergency lockdown procedures are put into place when there is a physical or visible threat.
In case of an emergency, the evacuation site is Birkdale Community Centre.
All Educators have up-to-date Criminal References Checks which are renewed every five years. Educators provide a signed Declaration Offence of Innocence every year until the fifth year of renewal.
All Educators are Health and Safety and WHIMIS trained.
Educators strategically place themselves in the classroom and on the playground to ensure the children’s safety.
Prior to the children going outside in the morning or afternoon a playground inspection is conducted. An Educator uses a Playground Safety Checklist which must be initialed and dated once inspection is complete. If there are safety concerns the Educator must inform Centre Management immediately and note it on the checklist.
Age appropriate toys, equipment and materials are provided for the children and checked regularly for safety.
Rooms are kept clean and free of clutter to ensure safety. Furniture is strategically arranged to meet the child’s needs, interest and safety.
Working in smaller teacher to child ratio groups provides the children with safety, more attention and more opportunities to get more from the program.
Squirrels’ Nest ensures that the children receive nutritious meals and snacks that promote good eating habits and develop healthy attitudes towards food.
Squirrels’ Nest is catered by Food for Tots who provide hot nutritious lunches and afternoon snacks. Morning snacks are provided by the Squirrels’ Nest. All meals follow the Canada Food Guide and are dietician approved.
Food for Tots are inspected by York Public Health and Squirrels’ Nest by Toronto Public Health annually.
A minimum of two staff members are trained in Food Handlers Certificate program which is renewed every five years.
Vegan, halal and vegetarian menus are some of the food substitutions provided. If your child has an allergy and or food restriction, please inform Centre Management.
Seasonal menus are posted for a 4-week cycle.
b) Support positive and responsive interactions among the children, parents, educators and staff
Will foster an environment that supports positive and responsive interactions among the children, parents and child care educators by building a foundation of trust.
Squirrels’ Nest foundation of trust is established by fostering an environment that supports inclusion, service equity, is barrier-free and provides cultural and racial harmony through the celebration of diversity.
Our goal is that all families feel comfortable and have positive and responsive interactions with the Educators when communicating about their child’s day. This will be made possible by the Educators engaging in informative, respectful, polite and meaningful conversations while remaining professional, non-judgmental, supportive, responsive and sensitive to the needs and concerns of the children and their families.
The diverse backgrounds of our Educators, conducting website searches for simple sentences in different languages, learning basic sign language and using the daily pictorial schedule throughout the day supports families where English is a second language.
An orientation is provided to potential clients which includes a Centre tour and a review of all Centre Policies and Procedures.
Each program has age appropriate educational material and resources available for families. A pamphlet wall of resources in different languages provides parents and families information about Child Care and Health and Wellness, located in the hallway beside the office.
The Squirrels’ Nest website www.squirrelsnestchildcare.com provides families with current updates, Ministry of Education & City of Toronto links, special Centre events, Program Statement, Parent Handbook and recall items.
c) Encourage children to interact and communicate in a positive way and support their ability to self-regulate
Will strive to encourage children to positively interact and communicate with others. A partnership with Educators, parents, families and additional support Agencies (if necessary) provides children with the necessary support required to give them the ability to self-regulate.
Throughout the day the Educators observe children’s interactions and conversations with their peers. During those teachable moments, Educators’ will role model and demonstrate positive social behaviours, interactions and effective verbal and non-verbal communication strategies.
Through daily observations and ongoing documentation, the Educators recognize situations that may cause anxiety in some children and use positive guidance strategies to provide those children with the necessary support, skills and coping mechanisms to work through and gain control of the challenging and stressful situation.
The Nipissing District Developmental Screen (NDDS) is the resource tool used by the Educators to document each child’s development.
The Educator informs parents of the strategies used to support their child’s needs and by working with the families to develop an action plan.
If the guidance strategies and the action plan is not effective the Educator will make a recommendation to the parents for additional support from Aisling Discoveries. If permission is granted the Resource Consultant will conduct an initial Centre visit to observe the child in the classroom setting. The Resource Consultant will meet with the parents, Management and Educators to discuss concerns, strategies etc. and develop another action plan. Follow up meetings will be conducted to check child’s progress.
Aisling also can connect families to other agencies and or specialists for example Speech and Language Pathologists.
d) Foster the children’s exploration, play and inquiry
Will strive to provide an enriched, stimulating and engaging environment for the children to explore freely and encourages their sense of curiosity and wonder.
The Educators will provide an environment that has natural and multicultural materials, spontaneous resources, gender and bias free materials, open-ended age appropriate activities which allows the children to facilitate discovery, investigate, ask questions, encourage critical thinking, and the freedom of exploration and creative expression. An environment that allows the child to follow their own learning path and is instrumental in the direction of how their play will occur.
The environment is adaptable, flexible and ever changing allowing for different opportunities and experiences for the children to explore the world around them in or out of the classroom through play.
e) Provide child-initiated and adult supported experiences
Will strive to provide child-initiated and adult supported experiences in or outside of the classroom.
The Educators programming and classroom set up supports the observed cues and interests of the children while ensuring that they meet their developmental stages.
The variety of materials and activities made available in the classroom provides children with the freedom to make multiple spontaneous choices throughout the day based on their interests.
The Educators do not impose any expectations or limitations on the children’s play but will provide support, guidance or additional materials to extend and enhance the play experience and build upon the children’s interests and encourage more conversation and questions which translates into more learning.
f) Plan for and create positive learning environments and experiences in which each child’s learning and development will be supported.
With support from parents and families we will strive to plan for and create positive learning environments and experiences while supporting every child’s learning and developmental stages.
The environment created is calm, positive, stimulating, comfortable and safe. There is a correlation between the home and Child Care environments and materials and items commonly found at home are placed in the classroom for example family photos, plants and warm natural colors and materials.
The toys, materials and equipment are age appropriate and adaptable to the skills levels and capabilities of the children. The adaptation of the materials builds self-confidence and self-esteem in the child.
The Nipissing District Developmental Screen (NDDS) is the resource tool used by the Educators to document and identify each child’s developmental stages.
The Educators regularly review and discuss the Nipissing with parents and goals are developed to support their child’s continuum of development.
Goals are reviewed and revised as child achieves success in the developmental areas.
g) Incorporation of indoor and outdoor play, as well as active play, rest and quiet time, into the day, and give consideration, to individual needs of the children receiving Child Care
Will strive to take each child’s individual needs into consideration while incorporating indoor and outdoor play, active play, rest and quiet time throughout the day.
The daily schedule is designed to meet the individual needs of every child while providing a balance of activities throughout the day that include indoor and outdoor play, active play, rest and quiet time. Children thrive and are confident when they know what occurs daily.
Less transitions from activity to activity allows for more continuous uninterrupted play.
By working in small groups the Educators provide more individualized attention to each child.
Indoor and outdoor play is incorporated in all activities for example Group 1 - collects branches on their walk to use in the classroom as paint brushes, while Group 2 - is creating a nature collage from the items they collected on their walk earlier.
The Infant, Toddler and Preschool children daily are offered a rest period as well as two hours of outdoor time weather permitting. Indoor gross motor space is provided for inclement weather.
The Kindergarten and School-Age programs outdoor time/gross motor time requirements are as follows: Thirty minutes on instructional days and two hours for non-instructional days.
h) Foster the engagement of ongoing communication with parents the program and their children
Will strive and ensure that we foster the engagement of ongoing communication with parents concerning the program and their children.
As Educator’s we understand the important role parents play in their children’s learning and the supporting role Educators play in parent’s absence.
Educators engage daily in positive and informative ongoing communication with parents concerning the program and their child.
In the Infant and Toddler programs, Educator’s keep a daily record of the children’s day for parents to review. Each child’s development is reviewed with parents regularly or upon parent’s request.
Parental input is welcomed on the weekly observations sheets posted in your child’s classroom.
Other strategies used for engagement and involvement include being on the Board of Directors, Fundraising Events (Fun Fair, Chocolates etc.), Open House and Parent Meeting.
i) Involvement of local community partners and allow those partners to support the children, their families, educators and staff
Will strive to ensure that our involvement with local community businesses allows a partnership that supports the children, their families and educators at the Centre
The Squirrels’ Nest recognizes the benefit of our partnership with local community businesses and agencies as a valuable resource and support to children, families, Educator and the program.
By participating and networking in the local community meetings, round-table discussions and conferences it provides us with an understanding and knowledge of how the Squirrels’ Nest and the community partners work co-operatively for the success of the community.
Aisling Discoveries Child and Family Centre provides support to families for children with Special Needs.
A positive working relationship has been established with the principals, secretaries and teachers of the two local schools (St. Victor’s Catholic Elementary School & Edgewood Public School) because we have the same children who attend both the Squirrels’ Nest and one of the schools.
We are in partnership with Community Colleges to provide Early Childhood Education students with co-operative work placements.
The Birkdale Community Centre seniors volunteer to read to the children and provide Centre donations.
Students and volunteers will never be left unsupervised with the children and are not counted as a ratio staff.
Toronto Public Library provides Educators the resources and materials to enhance the program and books to expand the children’s imagination and learning.
Atlantic Packagers provide a monetary donation annually.
Pizza Pizza provides tours of their facility and the Real Canadian Superstore provides cooking lessons for the children.
j) Support provided for educators, staff or others who interact with the children in the child care in relation to continuous professional learning
Will strive to support and encourage Squirrels’ Nest educators to be responsible for their continued professional growth and learning in relation to the children in the Child Care setting.
The Squirrels’ Nest is committed to Educators ongoing pursuit of their professional growth and learning.
Centre Management is responsible for providing the Educators daily with continued guidance, support, leadership and mentoring which is an important component in the Educators continuous development, growth and learning.
Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECE) are required by the College of Early Childhood to participate annually in Continuous Professional Learning (CPL) programs to strive for practice of excellence.
Child Care related resources and notifications of workshops and seminars are provided to the Educators.