Tag Archives: exploration

The Destination

Going for a walk or hike is one of our favourite things to do.  Whether planning a short walk or a full day outing we rarely have ‘destination’.  We have some preferred routes but we often deviate from are original plan when we find something interesting.  Walks are time for exploration.

The children are involved in the planning of our trips but I don’t usually ask ‘where’ do you want to go – implying that there is an end point.  Rather, I ask ‘which direction should we head’ and at various points I’ll ask ‘which way should we turn’.

Walking through the cemetery is one of their favourite routes – they like to look for owls in the nest boxes. Last fall on one of our cemetery walks they noticed this park on the far side of the river – “Can we go there?”

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Hmm, some day maybe.  I was not very familiar with the area on that side of the river and although I had a rough idea how to get there I would need to scout the trail without children first.

Earlier this spring my husband and I went on an evening hike to check out the available routes.  The park wasn’t actually difficult to get to – just a short detour off one of our familiar trails.  However, to make a full loop back to my house was not possible that day because the spring river levels were too high and parts of the trail were under water.

Last week the children and I made our first trip to the new park – not the playground, I rarely go to playgrounds (read why here). Parks are full of nature and so many things to explore and discover.  We left early and took our morning snack and picnic blanket with us;

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It is a little difficult to see in the photo but the children were easily able to locate the cemetery across the river from our picnic spot;

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The new park also has an amazing forest and riverbank to explore;

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The boys like to look for bears and wolves in the forest – this trip resulted in a very exciting discovery;

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Probably just a dog tracks but HUGE like a wolf!

I was impressed when these three and four year olds noticed – and correctly identified this bridge by name.  It is one of five bridges we frequently visit but we have never approached it from this side.

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Crossing the bridge on our way back they stopped as usual to look at and talk about this ‘house-shaped’ cement barricade/structure (please leave a comment if you know the real name for this thing).

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When we pass this way we often discuss the river levels at various times of the year.  This day they were talking about how the driftwood got stuck up there in the spring when the river was higher.  Then they noticed something even more interesting in the driftwood…is that a nest?  Why would she want to have a nest there?

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We’ve visited the new park twice now.  On our second trip the children eagerly anticipated seeing this goose again – and maybe babies.  She wasn’t there, however there was a pair of mallard ducks.

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While we were watching them they jumped off the cement into the river below.  The children were thrilled and now refer to this as ‘the diving board’.  I suppose that’s better than ‘house shaped cement thing that I don’t know the real name for’.

Picnics in our new park and the exploration along the way have been full of adventure and discovery.  I’m sure there will be many more to come.

Hiking in the City

It has been just over a week since I returned home after Nature Summit 2016.  I’ll admit that for the first few days I did seriously consider putting my tent up in the backyard because I really missed spending all day, every day outside.  Summit was fabulous as usual – I got to participate in many outdoor workshops.  I went for a ride on a zip line, climbed almost to the top of this;

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And of course I did a lot of hiking through the woods.

I know I really enjoy a nature hike and so do the  children in my care.  I also know that, even in the city, there are many places where we can hike and feel like we are out in the wilderness.  However, a city hike can be pretty special too – especially to a group of boys who can tell me the name and purpose of almost every type of construction vehicle. 🙂

My little group and I have spent the last few months exploring the the nearby neighbourhoods.  Our city hikes vary in length from just a few blocks to up to 8 km.  They can take anywhere from a half hour to several hours and it is rarely the children that suggest we’ve been walking too long and it is time to go back.  Pretty amazing when you consider that these are 2 and 3 year olds.

So, what do we see when we go on an 8km city hike?  Back hoes, buses, dump trucks and trains.  Cement trucks, front loaders, street cleaners and cranes.  Yes, there is a lot of noisy traffic but there are also many quiet spots too.  In fact, one of our favourite paths takes us through the cemetery.

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We look for birds – the children know where all the nest boxes are located (there is a nest box in the above picture but it is hard to see).  We listen to the wind in the trees and watch the river in the distance.  Inevitably the river sparks the topic of bridges – which one will we cross today?  Within walking distance of the cemetery there are FIVE bridges we can go over, and THREE that we can go under.

There are several more bridges we can explore if we pack a lunch and make it a day long hike but that tends to be too much even for this active little group.  Once this past summer we did make it to two distant bridges but the children were obviously tired and there was not much excitement.  Besides, when we stick to the familiar, nearby areas there is a whole more to our hikes than just walking.

In some cases we can cross one bridge and examine the structure of another bridge at the same time.

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There are bridges for people, bikes, cars and trains. Only some of our bridges cross over water.  Others cross over roads or train tracks and give us a whole lot more to talk about.  The children often complained that there were never any trains on these tracks when we crossed over them – but twice this summer there was a train here!  So of course we had to stop for a while to watch.

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One time the train was moving so very slowly that we were able to continue our walk, loop around and walk under the same train we had just been standing over.

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Standing under a train bridge while a train slowly squeaked and creaked, clanged and banged overhead was a new experience.  Trains on bridges sound much different than cars on bridges. The children also enjoyed yelling ‘ECHO!’ as they do every time we venture under bridges.

We don’t spend all our time on noisy city streets.  For contrast we also explore parks and riverbanks along the way.  We get to hear and smell the difference between the roadway and the forest.  On this particular hike the ‘big’ boys were with us and the ‘littles’ enjoyed showing them all our favourite spots.

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Just as we use the bridges to compare the traffic and trains from above and below we can also do the same with the river.  Standing on the bridge we watch the water flow, count geese and ducks, and watch sticks and other debris float by but there is the noise of the traffic crossing the bridge too.

It is amazing how just a few steps away from a busy road can feel like a totally different world.  What can you hear now?  Our river bank trails offer another perspective of the water.  We can get closer to the water – but not too close, this is not a swimming river.

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There is a tree they want to climb.  Normally I’d say yes to a tree climbing adventure but a quick risk assessment resulted in a ‘No’ to climbing on this tree;

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Yes, I love a good nature hike but a city hike offers something special too.  We could read books or watch videos and memorize facts about cars and trucks, trees and birds, rivers and roads or we can go for a city hike, experience it, and begin to understand the impact we have on the natural environment.

Exploration

The bees love the giant hyssop in the garden and the children love to watch the busy bees.  Yesterday we were excited to have a new visitor who stayed for most of the morning;

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The children have been busy too, there are so many new spaces to explore in our yard.  The toys and loose parts are now spread out around the yard so the storage area isn’t so congested.

One of my vacation projects was to re-purpose our old rain barrels into loose parts storage bins. The two that cracked this past winter are now located in the North-East corner of the gravel area;

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The oldest water barrel – which has been waiting for years to get a new purpose – now stores all the larger pieces of scrap lumber.  It is located in the South-West corner of the yard by the tipi.

 

This ‘new yard space’ was created in what used to be the parking area and is now the children’s favourite space.

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The toy bin is in the South-East part of the gravel area.  I’ve trimmed the lower branches off the cedars and this is where the babies like to play.

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I took some close-up pictures of various objects in the yard and used them to create ‘Where-Am-I’ cards.  The children enjoyed searching the new spaces to locate each item on their card.

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These are also useful for learning to recognize our plants by the shape/colour of their leaves or the texture of their bark.

Most recently the upper deck has been transformed into a outdoor art area.  Yesterday was the first time the older children got to use it during quiet time when the little ones were napping.

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We’ve enjoyed exploring all the new spaces and are looking forward to many more adventures.

Outdoor Babies – Introduction

I’ve started and scrapped this post several times over the past few months – it has been a difficult one to approach.  I originally planned to discuss the pros and cons of having infants of various ages in our outdoor play space.

In the last six months I’ve enrolled several new infants into our group and I’ve done a lot of reflecting about the intricacies of outdoor play with very young children.  Many of the new parents have voiced concerns about what their babies may do when they are allowed to freely explore the natural spaces in our yard.  After all, it is sometimes wet/cold, always messy, and there are so many possible hazards.

I began by trying to decide whether it was more difficult to allow a crawling baby to explore vs. one that is already walking – and climbing. Then I decided that it depended on the season but as I started to compare ‘winter babies’ to ‘summer babies’ I realized that there was another problem.  Every time I tried to write a generalized comment I’d immediately remember all the children I’ve encountered who were ‘the exception’.

Up to this point I had been trying to base this post on the child’s age and the conditions in the outdoor environment – but there’s more.  The child’s developmental level, temperament, and mood that day are equally – if not more – important factors that will affect their explorations and my response to it.

So, instead of being a single post about taking infants outdoors this is just the introduction.  The first in a series of posts about letting babies freely explore and experience the less than perfect world outside.  I plan to write more about my experiences with babies with sticks, babies with rocks, babies in gardens, babies in snow and much, much more. Stay tuned, and if there’s something in particular that you’d like me to address then please write a comment below….

On the Move

Yesterday the preschoolers were enthusiastic explorers.  They went on many adventures using different means of transportation.  There was the popular off-road vehicle that could conquer any terrain;

Then there was the amazing flying saucer — who wouldn’t love the opportunity to fly through space on a burger bun;

Of course they included my personal favorite way to travel — on horseback;

The only problem with horses is that the need so many potty breaks.  These ones discovered that even horses have to line up and wait their turn to use the potty;

All these adventures fascinated the baby.  He doesn’t crawl yet so he relies on me to place him in the optimum position where he can observe all the action.

But wait…. hey, that is not where I put you…how did you get over there.  Hmmm seems someone has discovered the butt shuffle 🙂

And I’m thrilled that his favorite place to travel to is the sensory wall.

So many interesting things to touch and feel;

And while I haven’t yet purposely added any ‘sound’ items to the wall, someone discovered that a baby hand can make the coolest squeaky noise ever when you slide it across this;

Of course some of us are not as enthralled by that squeaky noise especially after hearing it several hundred times!  Oh well, soon we’ll be moving on to something else.