Category Archives: Outdoor Play

The Summer Yard

So, I was looking through my ‘Blog pics’ directory – the place where I store the pictures I plan to use in blog posts – and realized I had taken a lot of pictures of the yard space but had never written a post about last summer’s yard renovation.  A mid-winter post about the summer yard might be just what we need 🙂

It was back in 2013 that I first wrote about the plans  to move the fence that separates the gravel area and the parking area.  You can read more about those plans here.  We didn’t have enough time that summer to complete that renovation so it was slated for summer 2014 instead.  This is a ‘before’ photo taken from above;

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And this is an overhead view of the yard after the fence was moved;

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It is a little difficult to see but we lost a small triangle section of the gravel area on the left side of the picture but gained the same amount of space near the lane past the neighbour’s garage – where the tipi is now.  This extra space allows us to see what is going on outside the yard which was nearly impossible when the fence ended at the corner of the garage and our van parked perpendicular to the lane.

Here’s the view as you come down the steps from the house to the deck;

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As I walk across the grass area and look left toward the garden;

 

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and right toward the covered seating area;

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Walk through the covered seating area and enter the gravel area looking towards the right side of the hill;

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Then look through the gravel area to the left of the hill towards the corner of that used to be playspace alongside the carport;

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Now in the gravel area looking back toward the house and deck – here you can see the old water barrels which have been re-purposed to store the loose parts;

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Turn around and look toward the ‘new’ playspace past the hill where the tipi is now;

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This is the most popular space.  Even in winter the tipi is the favourite sit spot – as snow is cleared from the parking area it is piled behind the tipi making it a cozy little spot;

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We love our outdoor play space in every season.

Winter Clothes

It is that time of the year again – sweaters, ski pants, hats, mitts, coats and boots.  All that clothing for every one of the toddlers in my group.  Getting ready to go outside to play now takes a large chunk of time out of our morning.  For some, the arduous process of getting dressed can briefly interrupt their excitement for outdoor play.

I usually lay out all the children’s clothing and then begin with the youngest child and start dressing.  When the youngest is dressed I move on the the second youngest who may, or may not have already started getting dressed.  The oldest child always gets the most time to get dressed independently – our ultimate goal.

This year, the two youngest children in the group both really, really dislike all the bulky, ‘tight’ outerwear and resist every step of the process.  The youngest child is sometimes so worn out from the struggle to get dressed that he will fall asleep while waiting for me to dress the second child.

So, I made a slight change in the routine.  Instead of dressing the first child completely before moving on the child two, I began alternating between these two for each step of the dressing process. Ski pants on child one then ski pants on child two.  Coat & mitts on child one then coat & mitts on child two.  Hat and boots on child one then hat & boots on child two.

Several shorter battle rounds with a break between each step allows the toddlers a brief period of time to adapt to the feel of one piece of heavy outerwear before another is added.  Throughout the process of dressing the youngest two, toddler three usually sits and waits patiently singing songs but making no effort to get dressed.

The oldest in the current group is fully capable of completing the task without assistance except for the jacket zipper.  She usually dresses, undresses, and dresses again several times while the others struggle through.  Occasionally, just to add a little excitement to an otherwise boring task, she’ll do something to annoy one of the toddlers.  Sigh.

Last week I saw a small glimmer of progress.  Toddler two put on his ski pants without any assistance.  Instead of just sitting and waiting, toddler three put her ski pants on too!  The resistance to getting dressed is lessening.  The oldest now sometimes feigns helplessness because she feels I have too little work to do.

Now things will change again.  We’re welcoming a new toddler into the group so we’ll have to adjust the routine a little more.  All the struggles are worth it though – we LOVE our outdoor play in all types of weather. 🙂

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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.