Tag Archives: gravel

Outdoor Babies – With Gravel & Rocks

There has always been gravel in our outdoor play space.  Way back in 1997 when I first opened my childcare home we didn’t have a ‘natural’ outdoor area.  We did however have pea gravel as a fall surface under the wood and plastic play structures.

I’ll admit that back then I was one of those ‘OMG, what if they eat the gravel?’ people.  Consequently I never let babies play in the gravel area.  So today, when parents seeking childcare visit/tour my childcare home and express concern over the letting their babies play with gravel and rocks, I can honestly say ‘I understand’. There was a time when I only let babies play here;

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There was a two foot tall fence dividing the deck area from the gravel area and I never let the babies go past the fence.  I even had some wire mesh on the bottom portion of the fence so they couldn’t reach through the fence boards and get a handful of gravel.  I was keeping them ‘safe’.

In fact, it wasn’t just infants and toddlers who were prevented from entering the gravel area.  I considered children ‘old enough’ to play in the gravel area when they could reach over the fence and open the latch without assistance – most children were three or four years old before they could ‘pass the test’.

Looking back now I realize that the ‘test’ was ridiculous because their ability to open the latch is irrelevant to what they may do with the gravel.  In fact, I discovered that the longer I prevented them from playing in the gravel, the more harmful their behaviour could be. Overexcitement in the new environment meant throwing gravel was a major issue.

In the last ten years since I began allowing the infants and toddlers to play with gravel and rocks I’ve discovered that many of them actually never try to eat it.  Those that do occasionally put gravel in their mouths do so for only the first week or so and then move on to more constructive gravel activities.

Activities like making ‘gravel rain’

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Testing gravel on an incline plane

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Lying in gravel to get the ‘full body’ experience

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Gravel is the ultimate ‘loose part’

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I thought this little girl’s ‘Rock Eyes’ were very imaginative

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Walking on gravel and rocks can be a challenge for young children and gives them the opportunity to further develop their balance and gross motor skills.

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Yes, eating or throwing gravel can be an ongoing issue for a small percentage of children but it isn’t limited to infants and toddlers.  By not allowing young children to experience and experiment with gravel and rocks we’re not ‘protecting’ them.  We are preventing them from learning about textures, weight, gravity and more.

With a combination of supervision, guidance and opportunities for experimentation gravel and rocks can offer many benefits for the infant and toddler development that outweigh any concern for safety.

Removing Mountains

There is a mountain in my yard.  It is the last of the big plastic toys remaining since I began replacing them with more natural, open ended items.  At one time the mountain belonged to my own – now adult – children.  The mountain is about 20 years old;

Small cars are stored in the lid of the mountain and the children occaisionally use the roads and tunnels for driving or parking the cars on.  Back when the mountain used to be an indoor toy that was all it was ever used for.  It took up a lot of space for something that had only one main purpose.  After I moved it outdoors it got used for water and gravel too.

I want to remove the mountain from the yard.  It doesn’t ‘fit’ with the rest of our play space.  We don’t need it. The children drive the cars all over the yard and even build their own roads and bridges with wood and gravel.

They use other – better – tools for moving gravel and water.  I’ve put these pipe halves in the loose parts area for that purpose and the children experiment with them often;

The pipes can accommodate not only cars, gravel, and water but animals as well;

The pipes are not stationary so can be used in various locations as levers to lift and move gravel;

Usually the children need to work together and cooperate to get the result they want;

The other day they tried an Olympic inspired weight lifting event;

Water in the pipes adds another element to expeirment with – and the results are sometimes surprisingly different than when using gravel;

We don’t need that mountain.  I just need to figure out how to remove it from the yard.  I don’t think I can put it in the recycling bin but maybe I’ll put it on the boulevard for the next give away weekend.

Look!

There were so many interesting things going on in the yard.

I observed the two-year-old as he practiced fine motor skills and began to understand gravity – he studied each pebble as it dropped to the ground after he placed it in the space between the boards on the bridge.

The six-year-old showed me the pictures she had been creating with gravel too;

Then the boys excitedly called me over to see what they had discovered over by the fence – so beautiful;

We wondered who that belongs to?  Maybe this HUGE spider who was happily munching on a wasp over in the covered seating area;

And we are all really excited that only five days after the seeds were planted the grass is beginning to grow.  I think that is pretty amazing considering there have been eight children running around on it every day;

So many marvelous things to see 🙂