Indoors or Out

We’ve had some crazy weather recently.  Some days the temperature has been above zero but within days it is back to a frigid -30C. We’ve even had days where my sheltered back yard has been whipped by wind.

This weather has resulted in the daily dilemma — ‘Should we stay indoors or go out to play?’  Actually, the question really is how long we should stay out since only once have I decided we should not go out at all.  Some days we’ve only been outside for 10 or 15 minutes but usually it is much longer.

The cats seem to think they’d like to go out;

But that’s really only because they want the neighbours ‘pets’;

When the children and I are inside we work on projects like these sun catchers;

Outdoors we’ve made cakes;

I love the ‘fire’ that the children make — they sit here to ‘warm up’

Their biggest complaint is the lack of snow.  They spend a great deal of time relocating the little snow we do have to the area of the yard they want to play in;

Indoors or out — working together and having fun.

Versatility

I have designated the ‘living room’ of my home as the main play space for the children.  The sunroom is used for arts and crafts as well as group activities.  Other than the kitchen there is only one other room on the main floor of my home and it serves many purposes.

Located just off the kitchen it is used mainly as the dining room but it has other functions too. The dining room is only 9 feet wide and 13 feet long and has built in cupboards along one end wall so that leaves just 99 square feet of floor space. This small multipurpose room must be versatile in order to meet all our requirements.

Most of the time all three pieces of the large table are arranged like this;

Allowing room for five older children or adults to sit here for a meal or snack.

The preschoolers have their own smaller table and chairs;

When not in use this small table uses up a lot of valuable floor space so, I stack the chairs and flip the table onto one side;

And slide it into the cabinet;

Once the toddler table is put away and the cabinet doors are shut this area serves as the entertainment center;

Arranging the tables and chairs like this the multipurpose room is now ready for my husband and I to relax and spend the evening reading, listening to music or watching TV.

Of course, sometimes I host committee meetings in the evenings too.  Then the pieces of the large table get arranged like this;

Additional folding or stacking chairs may be brought in as needed;

By connecting my notebook to the TV everything is now ready for the meeting;

That’s not all though.  Since this is also the only room in the house where I can easily clear up a section of open floor space, this is also sometimes used as an indoor workshop for building projects. 🙂

Dining room, living room, boardroom or workshop – this is a versatile room.

Stuck!

It was more than five years ago that I first made these;

I used three different sizes of heavy weight cardboard tubes from plastic wrap and tin foil. After cutting the tubes in half I wrapped them with self adhesive shelf liner in a variety of colours.  Later I added some Velcro strips to the ends of some of the tubes.

It was originally an activity that I used as an entry for my CBA portfolio.  Having used ‘disposable’ supplies to create these, I did not intend to use them for so many years but I have been pleasantly surprised.  Maybe because I regularly rotate toys in and out of the playroom they don’t get constant use and last longer.

I put the tubes in the playroom as ‘loose parts’ with no specific purpose and let the children decide what to do with them.  The list of things they come up with is endless. This child has built a ‘robot’ complete with a ‘face’ using a Velcro pineapple from the housekeeping area.

The tubes are also used to make zoos for animals and obstacle courses for cars;

Recently the baby has been making some discoveries with the tubes;

Reaching for one and getting more.  Trying to figure out why they stick together and how to get them apart;

Sometimes finding that it is not only the tubes that get stuck;

Adding a little more challenge to developing mobility.

Productivity

Yesterday on Twitter I wrote “reorganized the filing cabinets, filed six months worth of loose papers and did eight loads of laundry – productive weekend so far!”  It was a somewhat impulsive comment and I’m certain that if anyone read it they would probably wonder why I felt compelled to blurt that out.  In fact, afterwards I wondered why too.

Actually, I did a whole lot of stuff this weekend that I didn’t tweet about.  I had my customary ‘To Do’ list for the weekend and I completed all the items on the list.  The laundry and filing were not items on the list – they were extra items.  Possibly I felt they were items that were worth bonus points because I had not planned to do them.

Secretly I wondered if I was trying to justify my distractibility. You see, I did some paperwork and cleaned off my desk – tasks that were on my list – and added some papers to the ‘To Be Filed’ file.  Yes, I have a special file for papers that are waiting to be filed in the files that they really belong in.

Don’t ask – it’s probably a process that only makes sense to me.

Anyway, I felt a little guilty about how full that file was getting so I decided to empty it.  When I opened the drawer to the filing cabinet I was immediately annoyed.  The files are all facing the wrong way and I have to turn around and stand on the dog bed in order to read the file labels.  This problem is a result of last summer when I rearranged the sun room and turned the filing cabinet around.

Instead of putting up with this situation any longer I chose to correct the orientation of all the files in the cabinet and re-organize them too.

I also determined that the cover for the dog bed needed to be washed and my quick search for anything else that I could throw in the washer resulted in eight loads of laundry.  Hence the tweet “reorganized the filing cabinets, filed six months worth of loose papers and did eight loads of laundry – productive weekend so far!

Would I still have considered it to be a productive weekend if I had only completed the items that were actually on the list?  Were the other things I did this weekend – leisure items like playing the piano – not productive because they were not chores?  What determines productivity and the usefulness of a task?

When we watch children play or work in school how do we decide if they are being productive?  Did they begrudgingly complete all the tasks they were required to do?  Did they get distracted from the assignment, use initiative and do something they were not asked to do?  Did they have fun and enjoy what they were doing?  What determines productivity?

My Problem With Lego

Recently there has been a lot of chatter on the web about the new line of Lego designed for girls.  Here and here are two of the many articles that I have read.  Most of the articles question the gender stereotyping and argue that girls like ‘boy’ themed Lego too.  Yesterday Lego released this response.

My complaint isn’t related to gender specific themes – and I’m not alone.  You see, it was about eight months ago that I added ‘Lego’ to my list of blog post ideas.  The subject came up when we had a drainage issue with our main sewer line and called Roto Rooter.

I’ll give you a moment to try and figure out how those two things are related…..

Did you guess that Lego was causing the blockage?  Wrong. The topic of Lego came up when the Roto Rooter service tech went down to the basement and noticed this;

I have a 10 foot long by 4 foot high wall of bins that store the toys that are not currently in use.  The Lego bins are here because the pieces are too small for the infants and toddlers so I cannot leave it out in the main playroom.  However, the Lego is often chosen by the older children as a quiet time activity when the little ones are napping.

The Roto Rooter tech could hardly contain his excitement.  He wanted to buy my Lego from me.  He explained that he had a young son and wanted to start building a collection of Lego for him to use when he was older.  He complained that he had been unable to find ‘real’ Lego – the kind he grew up with – without a ‘theme’.  Lego that you can build with.

For those of you who don’t already know, I have five children ranging in age from 17 to 29.  I opened my family childcare home 15 years ago. I have accumulated, and kept, a wide variety of ‘good’ toys.  My initial licensing coordinator said my home was better equipped than some childcare centres.  I browse educational toys and supplies online and at conference trade shows but I haven’t been to a ‘toy’ store in a very long time.

So, I made a point of wandering through toy departments and visiting big toy stores to see what is available.  I was astounded – and not in a good way.  With the exception of a few small toys for infants I saw absolutely nothing with any real play value.  I know there are good toys out there but apparently they are not being stocked on toy store shelves.  All the Lego had some sort of theme. Even on the Lego website there are very few basic sets.

When I was a child, Lego was the ultimate toy.  It topped my Christmas and birthday lists every year.  I never got any because it was ‘too expensive’.  I did get some red and white Lego wannabes but they were made of a soft plastic and were easily distorted so they never really fit together properly.  They were so frustrating and I vowed that my children would get real Lego.

Building with Lego continues to be one of my favourite activities.  When I bring out my Lego bins for the children I cannot resist joining in.  However, the thing I find disconcerting is that very few children today – girls or boys – are prepared to build with Lego.  They are accustomed to using the themed sets.  They put the scenes together once – according to the instruction sheet – and then use it to re-enact a specific story.

Sometimes, when they first see my Lego bins there is a moment of stunned silence.

‘Where are the instructions?”

I threw them out, along with any specialty pieces that couldn’t be used for more than one purpose.  I also don’t have any Lego characters — if you want people you have to build them.  The children watch me build things.  They try to copy what I make.  They gasp when I take it apart.

‘What if you can’t remember how you made it?’

Eventually they create something of their own.  After a while they begin to work together and make things like ‘Lego Llama’.

Who was the mascot for all of Llamaland and a whole series of adventures that needed no instructions at all. It was built by children using their own imagination and creativity.

Lego for girls vs. Lego for boys isn’t the problem.  I think Lego may have forgotten what they were good at. Instead of being the best construction set ever, they have become action figure wannabes.

Winter Walk

I must apologize for the lack of posts recently.  It certainly isn’t due to lack of inspiration — I have definately had things I wanted to write about.  Over the holidays I’ve even had a bit more ‘down time’ than usual so I have also had time to write.  The problem, I think, has been getting the ‘time’ to coincide with the ‘inspiration’.

Today I vowed to post something and given how long it has taken me to get to this point I think a ‘mostly photos’ post is a more realistic goal.  So, here’s a picture story of our winter day at Fort Whyte Alive;

The -2 C temperature would normally be considered very nice but we’ve been spoiled by record breaking warm temperatures lately.  We started out along the trail;

We stopped to play in this fort constructed from hay bales (not enough snow on the ground to build any snow structures);

There was a blurr that we were sure was a rabbit — it is hiding in here somewhere but we couldn’t find it;

So, we spent some time drawing pictures in the snow;

We stopped at the bird feeding station;

and watched this little guy as he waited for the squirrels to vacate the bird feeders;

We used the posted sign to identify our friend as a ‘Hairy Woodpecker’

We stopped here and stood really still and quiet to see if we could spot any other wildlife;

All we saw were other children playing in the bush — not exactly the wild life we were hoping for 🙂  We continued on our journey, thankful for the shelter provided by the trees;

In open areas the wind was unrelenting as it pelted us with icy snow.  We hurried to our lunchtime destination;

Inside there was shelter from the wind and snow;

We wished we could have started a fire. Hungry as we were we welcomed the sandwiches and veggies but warm food would have been even better.  Imagine what it would be like to live like this all the time…

We watched the bison getting covered by snow — they didn’t seem to mind;

We briefly played a game of tag and of course couldn’t resist a few runs up and down the hill;

A wonderful winter walk — the perfect end to a fun filled holiday break.  Some are looking forward to going back to school.  Others are not — maybe they would prefer a classroom in the woods.