Category Archives: Outdoor Play

Toddlers in the Yard

The toddlers have been doing an amazing job with their curriculum planning.  They spent most of one morning diligently moving gravel from one corner of the yard to another.  They started by using the shovels to place the gravel on the little tree slices;

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Then they carried the tree slices from the NE corner of the yard – carefully so the gravel didn’t fall off – past all the obstacles;

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Around the hill to the SW corner of the yard where they dumped the gravel into a bowl;

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Sure, if they were into ‘products’ it would have been easier to just sat here and fill their bowls up quickly but they like the ‘process’.   This process involved fine motor, gross motor, cognitive skills, cooperation and a whole lot more.

Then there was the music – banging pots and pans;

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Creating rhythms with sticks on drums;

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Singing through the big hose to create special sound effects;

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At one point all four of them were involved in a rousing rendition of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ – it was amazing – just ask my neighbours 😉

Then there was ‘gym class’ where they practiced climbing up, dancing on, and jumping off the big stumps;

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Over in the garden there was story time – they love to tell Grandpa Tree amazing stories;

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Grandpa Tree is a wonderful listener – waiting patiently all day long to hear anything you want to share with him.

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Yes, the toddlers planned the perfect curriculum – I couldn’t have done any better.

Letting Go

September….Back to School…..Schedules….:P

I’ll admit that having the children heading back to school is not my favourite time of year. Maybe I’m a little greedy – I really like to have them here all day.  I think what bothers me most about back to school is the many hours that the children will spend trapped indoors – in class, indoor recess due to weather, on a bus or in a car.

As a child I walked to school, alone or with friends. I don’t remember ever seeing parents walking with their children – or driving them. What I do remember is the sights and sounds of the neighbourhood, the feel of the sun, the rain, and the icy wind throughout the seasons. This daily walk was a period of transition between home and school. A time when I prepared for the day ahead or reflected on the experience.

My own children walked to school by themselves. When we first moved into this neighbourhood I walked to school with my older two children (then aged 8 & 11) for the first four days – to help to familiarize them with the route. On the Friday of their first week at school they walked by themselves. On their way home they made a wrong turn – and when they realized their mistake they asked a stranger for directions and made it home 15 minutes later than expected.

My younger two children were already familiar with the area by the time they started school. They walked alone the very first day of grade one – at their request. I’m not going to say I didn’t worry – I’m their mother – that’s what I always did.

Every day I pictured the directionally challenged one wandering miles from home with no idea where they were. Every day I worried that someone would suggest something stupid to the somewhat gullible one and they would do it. Every day I worried that the shy/anxious one would panic, run and hide, never to be found again. Every day I worried that the adventurer would get lost in some imaginary world and forget that they should be in school.

I also won’t say that none of those things ever happened. Sometimes they did, but the actual incidents were never as bad as the ones I envisioned and we learned from them. We learned things that we wouldn’t have learned if I had insisted on walking or driving them to school every day.

We learned that they were fully capable of walking a few blocks – four times/day – in all types of weather. We learned that even in elementary school they were capable of being responsible and getting to and from school on time – if they are given the chance to.

The exercise, the outdoor time, the independence were all invaluable parts of their education – equally as important as any of the learning that was done in the classroom. As I watch all the students heading off to school I can’t help wishing they all had the opportunity to walk every day. The opportunity to be outdoors. The opportunity to be independent. The opportunity to learn.

This September my ‘baby’ heads off to university. Today is also his first day at his new job. I didn’t fill out his application for him. I didn’t go to his job interview. I will not be driving him to his classes. It is not that I don’t want to but rather, I know that it is important that he do this on his own. It is important that I let go and let him demonstrate his independence.

I also know it isn’t any easier this year than it was when he was heading off to first grade.

 

In just over a week I’ll be heading off to the 2014 NATURE SUMMIT!!!!
Our Friday keynote will be Lenore Skenazy of Free Range Kids. She will also be speaking on Thursday September 11 at Isaac Brock Community Center 715 Telfer St N – this event is open to the public so you don’t have to attend the entire summit to hear Lenore speak. Let me know if you want tickets.

Creative Summertime Freeplay

This has been a quiet summer.  Quiet meaning the children have needed very little direction from me.  This year’s group is very independent which has left me plenty of time for observation.

Indoors the trains have been neatly organized in the tubes instead of the block bin with the train tracks.  It was not my idea but I like it 🙂

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That is the only indoor picture that I have because we’ve been playing outside most of the time.

All the loose parts have provided endless opportunities for creativity and symbolic play.  These ‘eggs’ are neatly arranged by size;

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Of course there were many picnics and restaurants;

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The little tree cookies were used to create paths between and around the larger stumps;

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There was an ice cream shop with a wide variety of menu choices;

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A grand pony expedition – I love that these children can use action figures creatively without following a movie script;

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There was also an elaborate dramatic play activity involving the whole group.  The main characters were ‘sabre tooth grizzly birds’ and since I had trouble envisioning what they would look like I asked for a picture of one;

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This picture was made possible thanks to an accessible outdoor art area.

I also asked them to make a list of art items they’d like to have available.  There is plenty of paper so I was a little surprised by the size of the list they made;

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Even our outdoor snack time has been a creative activity;

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And finally, this little pine cone family has been waiting patiently all weekend.

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I wonder what they will be doing when the children return…

Summer Holidays

So, today is the last day before my ‘holiday’ begins.  As usual I have a HUGE list of projects to complete this summer.  Some of them are smaller projects that will be done on weekends.

The ‘big’ project will involve rearranging the parking area, moving the fence,  and an overhaul of the gravel area and loose parts storage.  I wrote about the plans last Spring – read about it here.  We already built/moved the sheds but ran out of time last summer to complete the project.

I’ve had nearly a full week with my new summer group and it was wonderful.  Everyone is settling in to our routine and the lack of a school-defined schedule has greatly improved the ‘flow’ of the day.

Outside I have all the new stumps stored in the corner of the yard waiting until the yard project begins.  Interestingly, the older children have deemed this to be the ‘perfect cooking spot’.  Hmmm, I’ll have to modify my plans a little so we can continue to accommodate this;

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The old stumps are still as popular as ever.  The lone boy in the group seems somewhat concerned about all the climbing and jumping about.

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Later he put on the construction helmet and did this;

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‘No climbing here’ 🙂

I found a dead moth and gave it to the insect lovers.

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Turns out it wasn’t dead – just injured – so it was rushed to the emergency room. For nearly an hour a team of dedicated medical personnel worked to save the moth – or at least make it a little more comfortable.  Here is his x-ray/chart;

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As excited a I am about all the renovations I have planned for the next two weeks I am also going to miss these kinds of activities too.  However, I’m certain we’ll have many more adventures when we return.

Fluffy Rain

One of my fellow family childcare committee members coined the term ‘fluffy rain’ in reference to the white stuff falling from the sky during our meeting last Thursday.  Maybe it was positive thinking or maybe it was just denial – none of us wanted to believe that it was snowing again at the end of April.

There was no school on Friday and although not all the children were here we still had a larger than normal group.  The ‘fluffy rain’ did not dampen anyone’s mood – outdoor play in any type of weather is still preferred over being stuck in a classroom all day.

Most of the morning there was an elaborate dramatic play activity involving an eccentric designer, an art exhibit, and various other characters.  I was assigned the role of ‘photographer’ to document the event – perfect because I was taking pictures already.

There was artwork everywhere;

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Then someone discovered the steady stream of water running out of the rain barrel overflow spout;

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Eventually we had to go back inside because it was too cold for soaking wet toddlers (my decision, not theirs).  Before that though we still had some more time to play with wet fluffy rain – on the plexiglass;

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One toddler was super excited to discover ‘flowers’;

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Hmmm, those ones might be remnants from last summer.  However, the pasture sage has been eager to get growing this year.  It has been active for a couple weeks already.

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Hopefully it won’t be deterred by a little fluffy rain – after all, it is a hardy native prairie plant.  It, like the rest of us Manitoba prairie dwellers, should be used to this by now.

Snow Days

More snow.  I’m beginning to wonder if this winter will ever end.

I’ve tried to keep the pathways clear but there is no where left to pile the snow.  Usually I clear the full circle through the garden but this year it is barely one quarter done.  Just enough to walk in and turn around;

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The second entrance to the garden is completely blocked but occasionally one of the little ones attempts to go this way;

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Some of the snow in the garden was originally on the shed roof but my husband cleared it off the shed and into the garden – good thing the little one are not great climbers or they might attempt to get on the roof;

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I have cleared the full circle around the hill in the ‘gravel’ area;

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That center snow pile is over four feet tall – if the little ones are on the opposite side they can’t see me.  ‘Where are you?’ is the most popular question.

I usually clear the snow from around the benches and stumps so we have places to sit and play.  This year we just have the single file circle path to walk on.  I have cleared the snow from the tunnel entrances but there’s not enough room for any of us to crawl through;

SD06There is a small pathway to the tipi and the snow around it has created a nice cozy shelter – we like it;

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The biggest snow pile is on the ‘grass’ area adjacent to the deck.  The older children like to climb up and slide down towards the deck – there are obstacles on the other three sides so there is no sliding or rolling down them 😦

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The little ones have tried to climb up but it is too steep for them to make it all the way to the top.  We have too much snow – and we got a whole bunch more after these pictures were taken.

Of course there is a plus side to the recent snowfall – the rural schools were closed so a couple of our ‘old’ friends came to spend the day with us.  It was a really nice way to spend a snow day 🙂

Sixteen Days & Counting

Page G4 of the Best Practices Licensing Manual For Family And Group Child Care Homes  contains licensing regulations and guidelines regarding outdoor play.

The Regulations state:

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The Guidelines include;

Guidelines

This has been an extremely harsh winter.  So far there have been sixteen days that were too cold for us to go outside to play.  That is well above the two days we had to stay indoors last year and this year isn’t even over yet. Still, I know providers who have only been outside a handful of times this year – probably due to the source of their weather information.

The chart below shows a small excerpt of data I’ve been collecting to compare the conditions at three different sites – the Winnipeg Airport, The Forks, and the weather station in my back yard.  All of the conditions were recorded at the same time on the specific day during a two week period.  The ‘Feels Like’ temperature is the wind chill effect – a combination of temperature and wind.

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As you can see here of the six dates shown there were four days that would have been too cold to play outside at the airport or The Forks but only two days that were too cold in my yard.  I even have my weather station mounted in the windiest part of my yard – high on the pergola, above the height of the shed or garage where there is the the most wind and the least amount of shelter.

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Yes, if your yard is a wide open field with no shelter from the wind then the weather conditions at the airport would be similar and therefore a good source of weather information.  If you don’t have your own weather station there are many other options available besides the airport or the Forks.  Weather Underground lists 26 weather stations in the Winnipeg area – just click on the ‘station select’ button and find one near you that has a similar environment to where you go to play.

That way the children have the opportunity to learn from experience. They can notice that it feels warmer when they stand in the sunny area than in the shade.  They can discover what objects offer the best protection from the wind.  They can experiment and instead of standing at the window ‘looking’ at the cold they get a chance to ‘feel’ it.  Even if it is only a few minutes before they determine it is too cold to be fun and we head back inside.  It is still a better learning opportunity than using a screen to tell you it is cold outside.

We’ll continue to play outside whenever possible because we certainly don’t want to be stuck indoors all day every day. However, there is one thing we don’t miss this year – waiting for the school bus.  Luckily I don’t have to walk any children down to the school bus stop this year.  Standing at the corner waiting for the school bus is a totally different experience than playing outside and we don’t enjoy it much.   They don’t cancel the school bus until the wind chill reaches -45°C.  There are a lot of cold days that the buses are running – they’re just late so we have longer to wait outside.