I was excitedly anticipating winter this year – every year actually, but this year in particular. We loved all the little play areas that were created during my 2021 yard renovation. Sure there were a lot of fun things to do here in the warmer weather but, when I first designed the plan for the play spaces in the backyard, I was actually also considering how we would use it in the winter.
We love snow – climbing on snow piles, digging tunnels and dens, building with ice and snow. I’ve written posts about our winter yard in 2016 and 2019. Sometimes though, we have had issues with the ‘climbers’ wrecking the towers built by the ‘builders’ or the ‘diggers’ destroying the mountains created for the ‘climbers’ etc. Sure, problem solving and dealing with social disputes are important skills but sometimes we just want to engage in our favorite activity – uninterrupted by those who prefer different activities.
The yard renovation provided an active play area with swings, pathways, stumps and logs perfect for the climbers and jumpers – and also for creating pathways around mountains of snow. The yard renovation had a separated area for digging in gravel – or snow – and a large building area with plenty of loose parts – or ice blocks and snow. The plan was to allow space for longer term/larger building projects without infringing on the needs of the climbers and the diggers.
We have a different problem now though – there is too much snow. For the past several years we’ve thought there wasn’t enough snow and we spent more time hiking to parks etc looking for spaces with more snow. I think the last time I complained about too much snow was in 2014. However, in 2013 I wrote about a year we had the perfect amount of snow for that yard configuration and the group of children enrolled at that time.
I first started writing this post – and took the pictures – in January and we have received a lot more snow since then *sigh* I have no desire to take updated photos before I publish this post so these older pictures will have to do. In the active play area we have two climbing hills and over 100 feet of ‘hiking’ trails around all the snow hills and other structures.
OK, in the picture the ‘mountains’ don’t look huge but they have been packed solid by the climbers. I can’t make them any taller because they can’t go any wider. Besides, when the preschoolers stand on the snow hill under the arbour they can touch the beams the swings hang from in the summer. I usually need a step stool to hang the swings – now the beams are at my shoulder height. The problem is that the ‘pathways’ between the hills are actually almost 18 inches high. I haven’t had enough time to clear all the pathways between snow falls this year.
The picture above shows the bench the babies usually hold on to when they reach up to spin the wheels on the fence. The wheels are now baby hip height and that snow pile in the back is NOT for climbing on. It is on the area of the deck I usually keep clear so the babies have a flat space to practice walking in heavy boots. Besides, if you climb over that hill you will be in the neighbour’s yard.
Above – another view of the pathway between the climbing hills to the gate and beyond – to what should be the digging area. It is downhill all the way from the back door to the gate now – though in the summer it is slightly uphill. Below is the gate to the toy shed and garden area.
Note: as part of my summer renovation I changed the hinge point of this gate – it used to open inward which had posed a problem because I couldn’t open it to clear the snow to the shed. Now it opens outward and although I’ve cleared a path to the gate I’ve given up trying to clear a path beyond it and can no longer get to the shed. I have managed to keep one half of the compost bin clear enough that I can partially open the lid and dump the compost pail when it is full.
I’ve only managed to clear less than a quarter of the building area but not all the way down to the rubber mat.
I made dozens of coloured ice blocks for winter construction projects – we found a few to include in this photo but the rest are buried too deep. The recent snowfalls have hidden these ones now also. All of the ‘convenient’ storage bins full of wood and loose parts for building are not accessible now either. No one has any interest in building anything here – barely enough space to sit – and don’t stand up or you’ll be stabbed by a tree branch.
I do love the trail to the digging area, past the cedars and into the little house in the back corner of the yard.
That area on the right is the digging area – I don’t clear that area. I figured the diggers would like to do that – but they can’t find the shovels…or sticks…or buckets…or even the table or anything else other than snow.
Arriving at the entrance to the little house is like finding a secret little hideaway.
It is so peaceful and sheltered inside the little house. I’ve tried to persuade the babies this is a great place to sit and play – no wind, little snow, level ground – but they don’t seem to like it when I bring them in here.
I think maybe they feel trapped when we sit inside the little house. If they have to be outdoors they would rather just sit in the sled – I’d prefer if they were more active – you will be warmer if you keep moving. To them, from this viewpoint it probably seems like a very long, arduous journey to get back indoors where all the bulky outerwear is unnecessary.
When I took this photo there were infants and preschoolers playing in the yard between me and the house but I can’t see them. You know what would be fun in this yard – a game of hide and seek. I used to have a group that loved to play hide and seek all the time but there were no good hiding spaces in the yard at that time. Some of these children don’t like it if they can’t see me and the ones that like to hide are probably doing something I’ve asked them not too….
Yep, too much snow.