Tag Archives: imagination

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.

Miscellaneous Things

From time to time my collection of ‘Photos I Want to Blog About’ accumulates a number of pictures that by themselves don’t manage to become full posts but I still like and want to share them.  Here are a few of them;

15-09-misc01This was a new soup I offered the children – I’m trying to add some new items to our menu.  I combined many of their favorite foods and made what I called ‘Southwest Chicken & Rice Soup’.  Sadly the children were unimpressed – even the less picky toddlers were reluctant to eat it.  They did all like the onion bread I served on the side.

15-09-misc02One of the toddlers enjoys crawling on the stumps.  In the years since the stumps were first introduced to our play space the children have enjoyed climbing on, jumping off etc but crawling on them was something I haven’t seen them do before.  Fantastic coordination!

15-09-misc03The baby was very focused on this old stump so, trying not to interrupt, I went to see what had captivated his attention for so long…..

15-09-misc04OOoooh…..Spiderwebs! 🙂

15-09-misc05There are plenty of old pots, plates, bowls etc in the yard but the children still really like to use the bark pieces instead.  Love it!  Of course the pots still get used too.  Every day this summer at some point there would be a pot sitting here;

15-09-misc06This group has decided that the tunnel makes a great ‘oven’ so they continually place stuff here to ‘cook’ while they go play elsewhere.  They come and check on it often and there is always plenty of excitement from the group when the ‘food’ is deemed ready – they all rush to the table.  Maybe I should ask the cook for their recipe – it might make a good addition to our lunch menu.

By Design

Many, many years ago I had a large plastic kitchen in the housekeeping area;

15-08-design01My biggest issues with this kitchen were that it was bulky, a horrid colour and it was unstable. It was so easily pushed/pulled over by small children leaning on it or trying to open the doors that I always had to have it strapped to a nearby wall or heavy object.  The thing that amused me was that the children often used the microwave as a washer – stuffing dress-up clothes inside the teeny tiny space to clean them.

In 2009 I replaced the plastic kitchen unit with wooden appliances built into the housekeeping area.

15-08-design02a (2)Along with the fridge and stove I also included a stacking washer/dryer and the dress-up clothes were conveniently located nearby;

15-08-design02I had designed this washer/dryer unit because the children had previously shown interest in doing laundry during their dramatic play activities.  They did use the new washer occasionally to wash clothes but the dryer was rarely used to dry clothing unless I suggested it.  Maybe it was because the children were not familiar with seeing a dryer stacked on top of a washer but from the day it was first introduced the children used this ‘dryer’ as a microwave oven.

When the playroom was rearranged a couple years later I created a separate dress-up area and moved the washer/dryer away from the kitchen area and placed it in the new space.  The children diligently continued to bring their food from the kitchen all the way to the ‘microwave’ in the far corner of the play room.

15-08-design03During my most recent playroom renovation I was unable to find a good location to put the washer/dryer unit.  I wasn’t concerned about eliminating it since the children rarely used it.  However, I did disassemble it and reuse some of its pieces.  The ‘dryer’ door was added to a shelf in the housekeeping area to create a new ‘microwave’.

15-08-design04The children were thrilled.  For weeks now they have been using this new ‘microwave’.  Occasionally they cook food in it but mostly they think it makes a great garage for parking the cars which they bring here from way over from the far side of the room.

15-08-design05Maybe I should design a garage – I’m curious to see what that could become 🙂

Outdoor Activities

Spring is here and I’m finding it difficult to stay indoors.  Still, there is a lot of indoor work to do so sometimes I have to.  Luckily the children and I have been able to spend several hours outdoors each day.  Instead of spending too much time sitting here writing I’ll just post a few pictures and a brief description of some of their recent activities.

One day during spring break the children built ‘bridges’ all around the gravel area.  This activity was initiated by one of the children but all of the others joined in.  Everyone used the bridges/walkways.  Everyone helped create and modify the paths as needed.  There was no bickering, grabbing/pushing, or screeching ‘MINE!’ when pieces were rearranged.

15-04-bridge01The cooperation was amazing 🙂

15-04-bridge02Last week there was another magical cooperative activity.  The three-year-old built a ‘fire’ and roasted ‘marshmallows’;

15-04-marsh01She then shared them with her friends who were eager to accept her invitation to join the camp out;

15-04-marsh02On Friday we went for a super long walk up and down every street in the neighbourhood.  These toddlers are becoming expert hikers!  They are also very observant.  These one and two year olds were easily able to spot the woodpecker when they heard the sound.  The bird was barely visible so high up in the tree that my phone camera on maximum zoom could not capture it.  Still the toddlers focused on it and stood silently for over five minutes watching the busy bird.

15-04-walk01They also got excited about a ‘spaceship’ – this one took me longer to locate and not all the toddlers could see it but at least one was really thrilled about it;

15-04-walk02Love the imagination.

Robots

Lately the toddlers have been infatuated by robots.  Originally it was just one of the children but the others have caught on and now they incorporate robots – or at least the word ‘robot’ – in all their activities.

In one of my favourite observations the 2-year-old boys were bouncing about chanting “Ro-bot, ro-bot, ro-bot”.  They do this on and off all day, every day, indoors & out.  Sometimes the girls join in briefly but most often it is just the boys.  On this particular day the 2-year-old girl joined in as a “robot butterfly”.

As the boys bounced around chanting, the girl ‘floated’ around gently waving her arms and whispering “robot butterfly, robot ballerina butterfly”.  It was beautiful – mesmerizing – I couldn’t stop watching.  Even the boys stopped briefly and stared.  They looked at each other and then continued bouncing around the room madly waving their arms a shouting “ROBOT BUTTERFLY”.  There were no ballerinas in their description.

The robots are not limited to active play.  There are musical robots and cooking robots and animal robots too.  Almost everything they build is at some point called a robot even if it starts out as a tower or a house…

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Last week they started using the shopping baskets as robot helmets. The basket is placed upside down over someone’s head and the handle is used as a chin strap.  It is interesting because this has been done by many other children throughout my 18 years in childcare (the baskets are more than 20 years old & originally belonged to my own children).  I’ve never suggested that they could be helmets and often there is a lapse between one group of ‘robot children’ and the next so the helmet idea is not passed on as a ‘learned’ activity.

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Yesterday I gave the toddlers some foam shapes and let them design their own robots;

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These are their finished creations;

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I think there may be some robot engineers in this group of toddlers 🙂

February Donkey

There are five calendars hanging in various locations on the main floor of my house.  I don’t buy calendars – a few get mailed to me, others I receive from businesses that I frequent.  Some years I have more calendars than I have spaces to hang them – in that case only my favourite ones will get hung up.

My favourite calendars have pictures of animals or nature scenes.  For February the calendar in the playroom has a picture of a badger.  The one in my office has a flock of Mallard ducks and the one in the kitchen has a donkey.

The calendar in the kitchen is visible to the children when they are washing their hands and often garners the most interest.  Some children will make the same comment about the picture every time they wash their hands throughout the month as part of their familiar routine.  Others will develop stories about the pictures – stories that evolve over the course of the month.

The concept of time is beyond the scope of the preschoolers so they don’t really understand how long a month is.  Most of them are familiar with the names of the months and know that each page on the calendar has a different name however the names are just words.  They don’t know how long it takes before the page turns to a new month.

There is always excitement when they notice a new picture on the calendar.  At the beginning of February the 3 year old squealed with delight as she washed her hands “Oh Cheryl, I LOVE your unicorn”.  I eagerly went to see what she was talking about because – hello – unicorns are awesome, almost as fantastic as dragons.

I was a little disappointed when I realized that she was looking at the calendar picture.  “You mean the donkey?” I asked automatically.  Now , sadly, she looked disappointed too.  Unicorns are sooo much better than donkeys but my adult brain just ruined it for both of us.

She didn’t comment on the picture again for over a week but every day she stared at it as she washed her hands.  Finally, with much less enthusiasm she asked “Why does your donkey have a thing on the front of his head?”.

“That’s his ear.  He wants to be a unicorn.”

I want him to be a unicorn too.  I might change the calendar to March early because now that donkey is just irritating both of us.

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Reflecting

Today is special.

Today is the last day of 2014 but that isn’t really why I think it is special.

Today is quiet.  As usual I’ve been up since 5:00 AM – normally the first children arrive at 6:30 but today there won’t be any children here until 8:00 AM.  My husband and adult children have no reason to be up this early so they are all still sleeping.  It’s just me and the cats who are curled up on the mat under my chair as usual;

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I know, some of you are wondering ‘WHY?’

Not ‘Why are those cats sleeping on that mat where there is a good chance they will be run over by the chair wheels?’ – I don’t know the answer to that question.  The question many of you are probably wondering is ‘Why did you get up so early if you didn’t need to?’  That question has an easy answer.

There is nothing, NOTHING, I cherish more than a few hours of uninterrupted silence – preferably first thing in the morning.  When my family asks me what I want for my birthday this is what I ask for.  The only way to make this better is to be alone, outside in the forest.

There are no distraction – just me, reflecting.  In fact, when asked ‘What do you remember most about your childhood?’ this is it.  I spent hours upon hours alone in my room, or out in the yard, or wandering through the neighbourhood doing nothing but reflecting.  Imagining.  Dreaming.

Today I sit at my computer – a distraction I suppose, but at the moment it is only this blog post which is really just a record of my musing.  I wonder what types of things I would have written if, as a child, I had ever carried a journal to record my thoughts during my vast periods of solitude.

Today my thoughts center around the past few weeks and the beginning of the new year.

  • Many of the children were away for the holidays so most days I only had three children here.  Those three children do not usually choose to play together when the whole group is in attendance.  Each of those three children have other friends that they would much prefer to play with – but they were away.  It was very interesting to watch this group of three interact – surprisingly their behaviour was more cooperative than usual.
  • I’m loving the new playroom/nap area set-up.  There are still a few modifications I want to make but overall it is working very well.
  • I enjoyed hosting my family Christmas dinner this year.  I made way too much food for 10 people – didn’t cook again for three whole days.
  • I want to use my new smart phone more – I’m still learning what it can do – it is limited by me.  It could be a journal….
  • I have a four day weekend with no specific plans yet – will have to catch up on paperwork – I promise.
  • I’m excited that we have three more providers interested in joining the Family Childcare Committee.  Add them and the two new members that already joined this year and our committee has doubled in size 🙂
  • I want to get rid of some junk – there is so much stuff here that we don’t need/use but it takes so long to go through everything.
  • I hope it is not to hard for the children to return to their regular schedules – change is so hard for many of them
  • I want to do more art stuff

It is almost time for the children to arrive.  I’ve enjoyed my special quiet time.  Happy New Year!