Tag Archives: Nature

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;

16-09-hike0

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.

16-09-hike00

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.

16-09-hike01

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.

16-09-hike02

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.

16-09-hike03

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.

16-09-hike04

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.

16-09-hike05

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;

16-09-hike06

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.

Winter Yard

Last summer I rearranged the stumps in the yard to create a path to and over the rocks on the little hill/tunnel.

16-01-hill01

At that time I wasn’t thinking about winter but now that the snow is here we have been creating a BIG hill in the yard by piling all the snow inside the stump circle.

16-01-hill02

This picture was taken before the recent snowfall.  Yesterday we spent nearly two hours adding more snow to the pile so now the hill is much bigger 🙂 Watching the children play on this hill makes me dream of permanently filling that stump circle so we have a big hill in the summer too – but I would miss the inner stump circle and the tunnel too.

With all the snow piled up one side of the tunnel is now blocked so the ‘tunnel’ is actually a ‘cave’.

16-01-hill03

This cave is now a favourite – not so secret – hiding spot.

16-01-hill04

Found you!

16-01-hill05

Another favourite space is inside the tipi.  In summer it is nice to be able to see through the tipi and into the lane beyond the fence.

16-01-hill06

In the winter I pile snow behind the tipi and it becomes a wonderful place to sit when you want shelter from the wind.

16-01-hill07

We love our winter yard.

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.

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;

20150825_100044

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. 🙂

20150825_100336

Planting

Our gardening adventures are not always very successful if you value production – most of our crops tend to fail.  Sometimes it is weather, sometimes it is insects, often we don’t know the cause.  Our beans and grains have been our most plentiful crops but even they have failed a few times. Other crops like our sunflowers and zucchini were fabulous the first time we tried them but we’ve never been able to repeat that. Luckily we prefer the process over the product and every year we are stubbornly optimistic that this year we will have the best garden ever.

As usual, this year we started some seeds early – tomatoes, peppers, purple tomatillo, spaghetti squash, sweet dumpling squash, and zucchini – to give them a head start indoors before transplanting outdoors.  We usually plant dozens of each of the seed types we would like to grow in hopes that at least one of each plant will survive to maturity.

15-06-planting01

We always have beans, peas, grains and various herbs in our garden. Some of the bulkier plants we plant in my daughter’s yard – it is about a five minute walk away but there is more room there for the plants to spread.  We make many trips over to weed and prepare the garden bed.

15-06-planting03

There is also time to engage in another one of the toddlers favorite activities – running circles around the fire pit;

15-06-planting04

Last week we took the somewhat sad looking seedlings over to plant in the garden;

15-06-planting02It always feels like a parade when my little troupe crosses the busy intersection carrying all our tools and supplies.  The drivers and passengers in all the cars seem very amused.  This week we headed back to water the seedlings again…..I could only find four out of the dozens we planted?!?!

The children were happy to water the four teeny, tiny seedlings and the empty patches of soil and of course they also ran circles. I was quite perplexed about the plants.  Back home I told my husband about our ‘missing’ crop.  There were no wilted remnants of dead plants – I couldn’t explain what happened to the seedlings.  My husband replied “Probably rabbits ate them”…..

Great, yet another threat to our crops.  Least they could have done was stay to play with us.  Good thing we’re persistent.

The Window

When I first opened my childcare home I had used the dining room of my home as the main play space.  In 2009 I rearranged the spaces so the living room became the new and improved play space.  This renovation gave the children access to the North-facing front window of my home and a whole new world of things to observe. Watching neighbourhood events like cutting down the old tree became a favourite activity.

The play space by the window is our indoor ‘nature’ area – here you can read more about the evolution of our nature space.  Due to the placement of the shelves containing our mini nature scenes some of the toddlers were not tall enough to see out the window so I had created a wooden stool which looked like a stone bridge over the imitation river;

14-08-NS00Over the past few months the bridge has caused some issues.  The toddlers who are tall enough to see out the window still like to stand on the bridge.  Those who are too short to see out become upset – there has been a lot of pushing and jostling for the premium spot.  The bridge can accommodate three cooperative toddlers but not all toddlers are cooperative and I have more than three.

As much as I like the design of the bridge I’ve been working on a plan to eliminate the need to use it to see out the window.  Two weeks ago I completed another small renovation so the shelves are no longer blocking the lower portion of the window.  The North wall now looks like this;

15-05-nature00The shelves have been moved to the East and West walls;

15-05-nature01Access to the full six foot window ledge is now level.  Most of the toddlers are thrilled.  Some are still adapting to the loss of their ‘power position’.

Variety

Sometimes I feel like I should be writing more posts.  I reflect on why I haven’t been writing.  Have I been too busy? It doesn’t always take long to write a post but if I haven’t got a solid hour of time to commit to it I usually don’t start.

Lack of inspiration?  There is always some type of activity or a change that I have made to our play space but sometimes I hesitate to write about it – again.  Maybe I’ve written about a similar activity with a different group of children.  Also, I make so many changes to our environment sometimes I wonder if readers get tired of hearing about them all.

Mostly, I think it is a matter of ‘not enough’ for a full post.  A cute story, exciting activity or pictures for which the description is just missing something.  Sometimes I just can’t explain in a post what was going on and why I thought it was interesting.

Today I simply have a few photos that I want to share along with just a sentence or two – not enough for a full post for each but things I like.  A small variety of pictures such as this one of the toddlers using twigs to go ‘fishing’ in the snow;

15-02-like00

And this one I took when all five of the little ones spontaneously decided to cozy up on the step together and read books;

15-02-like01

And when I brought out the sensory bin with sweet grass, dried herbs, and animals etc  and as the children played the 3 year old stopped briefly, closed her eyes and said “Oh Cheryl, I love it – it smells like your garden.”

15-02-like02

Yes, I love that too. 🙂