Tag Archives: Hiking

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.

A Lovely Autumn Hike

We have a new favourite park.  I’ve passed it often in the car but for some reason always thought it was too far away to take the children hiking there.  I failed to realize that it was really just a block passed some of our other routes.  Yes, it may be too far away for some toddler groups but my current group has no problem with the distance.

The weather was wonderful on Friday – it was hard to believe it was October already.  The park was quiet;

15-10-fall01We headed to the bench.  This was the halfway point of our planned route so it was the perfect place to take a break.  It also offered a relaxing view of the river – the children all sat quietly, mesmerized by the scenery;

15-10-fall02We met some new friends – they were wary but let us get fairly close;

15-10-fall03The children got very excited when they saw a ‘new’ bridge.  We have never walked over this one and wouldn’t today either but we got close;

15-10-fall04We did stop by one of our other bridges on our way back but we couldn’t sit on the bench this time;

15-10-fall05As we passed under the big bridge we listened to the echo as usual.  One of the toddlers expressed concern that he couldn’t see our shadows anymore.  We walked a little farther and there they were again – he insisted that I take a picture now that they were back;

15-10-fall06It was a lovely Autumn hike in the city.

Walking & Talking

We’ve all seen/heard them. Many of us know one personally. Some of us even have given birth to one of our own. They are the high energy, strong willed, emotionally intense children that challenge everyone and everything.

When these children are fully engaged in something they love to do it is magical to watch. It is a little scary too because if they are interrupted or become frustrated or bored with the activity the magic may turn to mayhem in a matter of seconds. They are impatient and easily over stimulated.

In my current little group of preschoolers I have three – yes three of these ‘difficult’, ‘spirited’, whatever you want to call them, children. Each one of these children is challenging but put all three of them together for an extended period of time and things can become volatile very quickly.

Even when, or especially when they all have the same goal they struggle to cooperate – too impulsive or competitive to work together they tend to destroy any progress that another has made. Their own intense reactions – happy, sad or mad – are further fueled by the reactions of the others. It is not that they purposely want to disrupt activities but the reaction they get from the others is exhilarating.

They all enjoy active, gross motor play but it never seems to tire them out. In fact, like little crank-up flash lights, the more energy an activity requires the more power they seem to build up. They seem to have better self control during quiet activities but tension builds silently and will eventually explode.

Five hungry children enjoying a peaceful lunch. A single noodle slips off a spoon and plops back onto the plate. Splat! That was a funny noise – someone giggles. Two children try to recreate that sound by scooping and dumping spoonfuls of noodles. Excitement and volume increase exponentially. Someone’s milk gets knocked over and they begin to cry. At this point lunch is over. No amount of talking, redirecting or reprimanding will return this situation back to a peaceful lunch.

Forget any type of circle time activities. These children love to talk. All of them have amazing vocabularies but they don’t seem to hear/understand anything anyone else says. It is far easier to get children to focus when they are outside but even in a natural outdoor environment these children will struggle with a group circle time activity. There is always someone on the other side of the circle who is smiling, makes a silly face and waits for the reaction. Of course they get it – positive or negative doesn’t matter – it was a reaction.

This is why we walk.

It is no secret that I love to go hiking. Walking alone through a forest is for me the most precious time. It is an introspective period of imagining, reflecting, dreaming, discovering. I often take children hiking but for each child/group of children the purpose of the hike is different. For some it is all about the destination. Others need the exercise or the change of scenery.

This current group of children is different. Their endless energy is never depleted – none of them ever complain that they are tired of walking. They are not concerned about our destination or the length of time it may take us to get there. For this group when we walk – we talk – and more importantly, we listen.

Maybe it is the motion or the rhythm of our steps or the constant drone of the vehicles on the street but as we walk these children and I have some of the most amazing conversations. Conversations we have never been able to have while sitting in a circle.

We talk about the things we see. We tell stories about places we have gone and things we have done. We talk about our likes and dislikes. We sing songs – together instead of competitively. We take turns talking and sharing. There are few interruptions and no pushing/grabbing/hitting because we are busy walking. Sometimes we walk for hours – they have a lot to say but it is hard for them to talk when there are too many distractions. So we walk…and talk.

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Bridges

I like to provide plenty of opportunities for the children to explore nature.  Even though we are near downtown and there are many major roadways we still manage to find nature in the city. We go on many, sometimes lengthy, hikes around the neighbourhood in all types of weather. On our last post storm adventure the toddlers walked 4.4 km in search of puddles to splash in – we traced our route on Google Pedometer when we returned.

If I was the only one choosing destinations we would always be hiking through forests but the children often have other interests and I let them lead.  One of their favourite destinations is the river – particularly watching it from the middle of the nearby bridge.  We often go up one side of the bridge, stop in the middle to watch the river flow away and then hike down to the corner so we can cross the street at the intersection before heading back down the other side of the bridge to watch the river flow towards us.

We see the changes in the river as the ice begins to form in the fall and as it breaks up in the spring.  The children notice – and express concern over the things we see floating down the river.  Sometimes they prefer to sit on the hill in the park to watch the river – the ‘stuff’ in the water is less noticeable from there.  It is also much quieter without the all the traffic noise from vehicles on the bridge.

During the beautiful summer weather we have been venturing further away – our longest hike this summer was 7.8 km.   On many of our longer walks we have gone to ‘the other bridge’ – which is actually TWO bridges  – bonus.  Even though it takes longer to get there there are two reasons we love to visit this bridge.  First, the children get really excited as we approach the bridges.

20150825_095622It is here that they begin calling out “Echo, Echo where are you Echo?” Their excitement and volume increases dramatically when we are directly under the big bridge.  Here the echo is fabulous and they can see the little bridge too!

20150825_095826The little bridge is for pedestrians only so it is much quieter than the busy bridge we usually visit and it doesn’t shake when big trucks pass over.  That feature of the old bridge is a little scary for some of the toddlers.  There are also several lookout points on this bridge – of course our favouite one is right at the top in the middle of the bridge.

20150825_095930As we head to the top of the bridge we stop to look at the boat, our shadows, and today there is a fisherman too;

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At the lookout point the children may spend as long as they want watching the river.  On this particular day they were looking for submarines and unicorns.  Rivers and bridges are magical places. 🙂

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Going for a Walk

I love hiking.  My favourite outings to take the children on are those that allow us to explore our neighbourhood, nearby parks or hiking trails in forests and nature preserves around the city. Adventures like collecting leaves in the fall, following footprints in the snow in the winter, watching the activities of the birds in the spring or checking out the trees and plants in various seasons.

Many years ago I used a Safe-T-Line when out walking with a group of young children.  It looks similar to this one which is available at Quality Classrooms

15-04-walk01Mine has twelve pieces in total – two adult belts with a long lead, two additional extensions which can be attached to the adult belts, and eight children’s belts with clips.  I usually wore both the adult belts and fitted each toddler with a waist belt before we headed out.

Most of the time the children roamed freely through familiar trails and open spaces. However the walking line came in handy for the parts of the outing where we encountered busy roadways, major intersections or large crowds where noise and distractions made it difficult to communicate.  I could quickly attach the toddlers belts to my belts to ensure we all stayed together until we reached an area where we could explore independently again.

It was like having extra hands and the best part was that all of us had our ‘real’ hands free to pick up treasure along the way, point out exciting things we saw, wave at passing motorists, tie shoes etc.  It allowed the toddlers to venture freely within an acceptably safe distance.  They could begin to learn self control and to follow verbal directions.  Even the strong willed toddlers who balked at holding hands and staying with the group seemed to feel independent.

Then, a few years ago when my coordinator was here for a licensing visit she informed me that I was not allowed to use the safety line as it was designed because it ‘restrained’ the children.  I was instructed to make the belts into loops and have the children hold the loops with their hands – as long as they were free to let go when they chose to.   Sigh.

I don’t really mind not being able to use the safety line but it has limited our outings.  When new children are enrolled our walks are very short – just out the front door around the block and in the back yard to play.  Once I am confident that they understand the safety rules we expand the distance we can travel a block at a time.  I never take the entire toddler group beyond our secluded residential area and I rarely let the children decide the route – those major intersections are so enticing.

Recently, curious to see if my new coordinator would have the same response as the previous one, I asked for her opinion on the safety line.  She reiterated that the children could hold on to the belts with their hands but the belts could not be attached to the children as this would be considered restraining the children.  Just to clarify I then asked if it was acceptable to put them in a stroller with a belt.  She said yes.

So, I still can’t use the safety line as it was designed but I could go for a ‘walk’ if I piled my group of toddlers into one of these.

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Apparently a five point harness in a vehicle that doesn’t allow the children to touch the ground or anything else is not considered a restraint.

I would disagree.

Entertainment

Yesterday we spent the day at Kildonan Park.  We’ve been there before – many times – and I wrote a post about their playground here.  This time however, we didn’t spend any time at the playground  – we were otherwise entertained.

We began our outing by going for a hike. Stopping for snack along the way – cheese quesadillas, applesauce and water — plenty of water.  The scorching temperatures and high humidity meant many breaks for water and rest in the shade.

Some people had to work outdoors in the heat.  We noticed some workers on the other side of the road were preparing to take down a tree in the park.  The children were fascinated as we watched from a distance.  First they cut some notches;

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Then they brought the tractor;

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To push the tree;

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Down to the ground;

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We continued on our hike and then stopped to rest and play a little soccer;

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We continued on to our lunch time shelter and were thrilled to have more tree falling entertainment right beside our table!  First the notches again;

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We were waiting for the tractor to move closer but then we noticed the rope. This time the tree was pulled down instead of being pushed;

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When it landed it was VERY loud;

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One of the children didn’t notice – sleeping through the whole show.  After lunch we took some time to draw pictures of the flowers;

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The gardens were pretty but I prefer the ‘natural’ look the coneflowers we saw by the creek on the way back to the van;

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It was a great day at the park with plenty of entertainment.