Tag Archives: play

Winter Yard 2

We plan go outside to play every day throughout the year in all types of weather. In winter there is only one restriction that I put on our outdoor time – we don’t go on long hikes. We do still go on some shorter walks on warmer days but on cold days we just stay in the yard.

In winter the weather conditions are unpredictable. Even on short walks we’ve discovered that what feels like a lovely mild winter day can suddenly feel like a blizzard when you round a corner and face the wind. Toddlers in particular can go from comfortable to too cold in a very short period of time and the return trip will be nearly impossible if we’ve wandered very far.

My yard is sheltered from the wind and faces South so it gets plenty of sunlight. There are very rarely days that we feel are too cold to go outside to play – in fact, this year so far there have been no days that we didn’t venture outside for at least a little time. There may be days that are too cold to sit or stand outside and do nothing, but the children don’t do this and neither do I. When we are outside I spend the majority of my time ‘sculpting’ the yard.

Yard sculpting is a continuous process which some of the children enjoy helping me create but most just ‘use’. There are some children who would still love playing in the snow if I did nothing to the yard at all. Others – especially the littlest ones – sometimes find the snow and ice frustrating. I don’t want them to become discouraged and end up sitting somewhere shivering – learning only that winter is simply a miserable cold season.

I have a fairly small yard – only about 650 square feet – so I make the most of it by ensuring there are some special places and enough variety that no one gets too bored. There are many different spaces and activities to keep the children engaged, moving, exploring and most importantly enjoying their winter play experience. The little ‘cave’ under the cedars which provides a natural shelter from the hot summer sun also provides shelter from the cold winter wind.

The tipi is a constructed shelter which also serves as a storage area for loose parts. All our warm weather toys are not available here in the winter but we still have our pots, sticks and pipes.

Instead of toys I’ve added some coloured blocks of ice. I thought the children might like to use them for building blocks but so far they mostly just use them as hockey pucks.

As the children run and play I use my shovel to clear snow from some areas and pile it in others. I don’t just have one path from the house to the gate, I have multiple interconnecting trails that allow the children to go over and around obstacles. There are places to climb, jump, roll or slide and places to build and dig;

There are six circles to run around, five tunnels to crawl through, a bridge to go over, many steps/stumps, four different elevations to provide a variety of viewpoints, some flat open areas for building or playing group games and two hills. All together there is roughly 250 feet of trail with many forks and endless route options.

When I’m not shoveling I’m packing the trails. My Fitbit has auto-recognized a 30 minute hike while I repeatedly walked all the circles and loops around my yard. It is not unusual for a little toddler train to follow along behind me while I traverse the trails. When people marvel at the super long summer hikes my toddlers are capable of, I point out that summer hikes are pretty easy compared to our winter adventures on ice and snow while bundled in layers of heavy clothing.

Most of the pictures in this post were taken before the last big snowfall so we do have a little more snow than what is shown here – we would still like much more though. Sure, we love the other seasons too but we’re not tired of winter yet so come on Mother Nature – let it snow!

Spring 2016

There is a thin layer of snow on the front sidewalk but I am stubbornly refusing to go sweep it off.  The temperature display on the weather station reads ‘0’ degrees at 6am so I am confident the sidewalk snow will melt soon – the snow on the steps has already melted.  Yesterday morning when we went out to play there was no snow anywhere in my back yard and there was a collective “Awww, there’s no snow” 😦 from the children so I’m certain this recent snowfall is Mother Nature’s response to that lament.

I like winter too and this past (present?) winter has been quite pleasant.  There have been a few indoor issues with running across the playroom and jumping in and out of the nature area.  I’ve tried several indirect measures to curb the reckless behaviour – most had limited effect but this has been quite successful;

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These cardboard circles used to be attached to the loft for toy storage but we no longer have the loft – of course I kept these ‘just in case’ I found another use for them… 🙂  The smaller children enjoy using the ‘tunnels’.  The school age children and I can step over.  Either way it slows down traffic – like the pot holes on the street.

Speaking of cardboard tubes, I can’t believe we still have these ‘binoculars’ made from plastic wrap tubes and tape;

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I quickly put them together for some toddlers who wanted them for a dramatic play activity they were engaged in two years ago!  I never expected them to stay in the playroom for more than a day or two but they are just as popular as ever and they haven’t been damaged yet.  I’ve considered making, or having the children make more, fancier ones but no one is really interested so these ones stay.  The current group likes to lay on the floor in the nature area and use them to look for butterflies and birds in the trees.

Another constant in the playroom is these eggs in this pot;

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Upon entering the playroom one of the toddlers will place these eggs in this pot and set it on the counter.  If at any point someone else moves the pot, puts other food in the pot, or puts the eggs is a different pot there will be a scuffle.  I can’t explain it but it has been like this every day for months now.  No one ever actually plays with the eggs in the pot and the toddlers will happily put them away at clean up time but they MUST be on the counter like this during play time.

However, there have been several complaints that I have not yet taken down the Easter decorations;

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Honestly, I’m happy leaving them up as ‘Spring’ decorations.  I have many window clings for Fall, Halloween, Christmas, Winter, Valentines, St Patrick’s Day, and Easter but for the period between Easter and Fall all I have are butterflies.  Butterflies are nice but I’d like to have some variation over the 5 month Spring/Summer period.  Flowers or birds would be nice.

Yes, there is snow on the ground – again – but summer is coming.  Check out our seedlings;

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We’ve started our peppers, corn and several types of squash.  The corn surprised us – we don’t usually plant corn but we found an old package of corn seeds in our seed collection – we were not certain they would grow.  I don’t usually buy seeds – most of our garden plants are grown from seeds we collect from our garden or produce from the store or CSA box.  Our peas and beans will be planted directly in the garden outside but it is too early yet – we’ve tried digging in the soil every time the snow melts but the ground is still frozen.  Some of us are very eager for Spring to arrive.

 

 

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.

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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.

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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’.

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

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Found you!

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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.

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

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We love our winter yard.

Winter Clothes

It is that time of the year again – sweaters, ski pants, hats, mitts, coats and boots.  All that clothing for every one of the toddlers in my group.  Getting ready to go outside to play now takes a large chunk of time out of our morning.  For some, the arduous process of getting dressed can briefly interrupt their excitement for outdoor play.

I usually lay out all the children’s clothing and then begin with the youngest child and start dressing.  When the youngest is dressed I move on the the second youngest who may, or may not have already started getting dressed.  The oldest child always gets the most time to get dressed independently – our ultimate goal.

This year, the two youngest children in the group both really, really dislike all the bulky, ‘tight’ outerwear and resist every step of the process.  The youngest child is sometimes so worn out from the struggle to get dressed that he will fall asleep while waiting for me to dress the second child.

So, I made a slight change in the routine.  Instead of dressing the first child completely before moving on the child two, I began alternating between these two for each step of the dressing process. Ski pants on child one then ski pants on child two.  Coat & mitts on child one then coat & mitts on child two.  Hat and boots on child one then hat & boots on child two.

Several shorter battle rounds with a break between each step allows the toddlers a brief period of time to adapt to the feel of one piece of heavy outerwear before another is added.  Throughout the process of dressing the youngest two, toddler three usually sits and waits patiently singing songs but making no effort to get dressed.

The oldest in the current group is fully capable of completing the task without assistance except for the jacket zipper.  She usually dresses, undresses, and dresses again several times while the others struggle through.  Occasionally, just to add a little excitement to an otherwise boring task, she’ll do something to annoy one of the toddlers.  Sigh.

Last week I saw a small glimmer of progress.  Toddler two put on his ski pants without any assistance.  Instead of just sitting and waiting, toddler three put her ski pants on too!  The resistance to getting dressed is lessening.  The oldest now sometimes feigns helplessness because she feels I have too little work to do.

Now things will change again.  We’re welcoming a new toddler into the group so we’ll have to adjust the routine a little more.  All the struggles are worth it though – we LOVE our outdoor play in all types of weather. 🙂

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Screen Time

Yesterday I read an interesting CTV News article about children and screen time.  I thought it was wonderful to compare screen time to nutrition – an analogy that puts the focus on the content of the programs.

Recently I was asked to speak to a group of Red River College students who were just completing their ‘Introduction to Family Childcare’ course.  As part of my presentation I included a slideshow of the past and present learning environments in my childcare home.

Screen time was briefly discussed during my presentation and the subsequent question period.  Yes, I used to have several computers available for the children in my program to use – and I did not even restrict the amount of time they engaged in the activity.

No, I don’t currently have any computers, tablets, or televisions that are available for the children to use at any time during the day.  The reason for the elimination of the ‘computer area’ was due almost entirely to the quality of content available and the fact that the children had no interest in ‘healthy’ content once they had experienced the ‘junk’.

Years ago when I first started my blog I wrote about the use of computers in my childcare program and their gradual elimination.  It is not that I don’t value technology – I use it all the time.  When the children have questions that I can’t answer we can find the answer on the internet – it is an invaluable resource in addition to their hands on experience.

Unfortunately I think the content of children’s media today has far too much focus on competition instead of collaboration.  The smaller screens further emphasize the ‘individual’ over the ‘group’.

I once had a discussion with the staff at my son’s school.  My son was extremely slow to engage in new situations and had a tendency to withdraw from social interaction.  They were concerned because he refused to use a new program they had recently introduced in their computer class.

I suggested that they should let him sit with and watch another child until he felt comfortable enough to try it himself.  They said that was not possible because it would be considered cheating and would not be fair to the other child. Seriously?!?! What were they hoping to teach?

The children and I have discussed the use of screen time – they all have access to screens at home.  They’ve described how they like to use their hand held devices when they are bored – it is easier than finding something else to do.  They’ve retold me all their favorite parts of the movies and shows they’ve recently watched.  If there are any ‘good’ parts in these shows I haven’t heard about them, the children  focus on the violent, destructive, mean or rude segments – that’s what they remember.

As I write this there are two children here – they are reading the label on a cereal box and debating the nutritional value.  Maybe I’d have screen time as part of the program if there were ‘nutrition’ labels on the content of every program.  However, I’m not sure I have the energy to break through their addiction to the junk so instead my program will continue to be screen free and really they don’t complain about the absence of screens when there are healthier options available.

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Liking the Space

It seems like I’ve been neglecting my blog.  Truth is, I’m feeling a little overextended at the moment.  Meetings, editing, writing presentations, paperwork, and other commitments have been eating up all my ‘spare’ time.

The 11 hours/day that I spend with the children has become my ‘quiet’ time.  Right now I’m supposed to be working on a slideshow presentation that I need to finish for tomorrow so I really shouldn’t be ‘wasting’ time playing around here but….

I wanted to share some of our experiences as we try out our newly renovated spaces.  There have been (mostly) positives and (a few) negatives from my perspective and the children’s too.

I haven’t really got the time to do this now so I’m just going to post a few pictures for now.  Here is a ‘magic’ tower;

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The blanket was successfully removed and replaced several times without knocking over the impressive structure hidden under it;

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In the nature area there has been a lot of interest in our new tree pieces – we now have several different sizes to choose from.  Here are some of the smaller ones that were being used to make a fence;

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The new art spaces have been popular too – for the preschoolers;

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And the school-age children too;

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Even the cats have been checking out the new spaces.  Malta has decided that the nap area divider is her property;

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However, there have been a few disputes about that.  Both cats have also claimed that the carpet under my computer chair belongs to them;

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I continually have to decide whether the paperwork is more important than disturbing the cats.  Maybe it is their way of telling me to go outside and play instead 🙂

Hopefully I’ll have time to write a ‘real’ post after things slow down a little.  Until then, I’ve got more work to do….

Surprise!

Sometimes the things that we do here don’t go the way we expected.  These surprises often end up creating even more interest than the ‘proper’ result would have.  For example, we planted sunflowers in the pots by the fence.  They were slow to start growing during the cool spring/summer but one of them has managed to grow taller than the fence;

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So far it is just a ‘sunflower plant‘ without an actual flower but its neighbour has a flower – you have to look closer to see it;

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We’ve had many discussions about ‘tall’ and ‘small’.  Our beans have created a lot of interest too.  There are so many of them in the garden;

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But look – over by the neighbour’s garage, there is something tall growing in the blue barrel with the carrots;

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Yes, the carrots look unhappy – they need some water.  We only planted carrot seeds in this barrel, what is that other plant?  It is taller than the roof of the garage.  Look closer;

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BEANS!  We didn’t plant any here – we assume this plant grew from one of the ‘loose parts’ beans we played with  last fall/winter.

We cut down all the sweet grass in the garden.  It is drying on the upper deck and smells wonderful.  Haven’t yet decided what we’re going to do with it all.

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But wait, now there is more sweet grass growing in the garden!

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We didn’t expect that.  Maybe the recent rain rejuvenated it.  We were invigorated by the rain too.  Some couldn’t resist taking off their shoes to experience the sensation of bare feet on the wet deck/grass;

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Notice her little friend?  Mister Slug rode around on her foot for most of the morning.  Every time he escaped fell off she carefully placed him back on the amusement park ride for another trip around the yard.

We also hoped the rain would help clean off some of the goop we created last month.  It is somewhat softer now but still very sticky and difficult to remove from surfaces;

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However, it seems to be a fabulous crack filler on the old logs;

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Surprise!