Tag Archives: Playgrounds

Indoor Exercise

We usually spend a lot of time outside so there is plenty of opportunity for the children to engage in active, gross motor play. During the long winter months our outdoor activity is occasionally limited by extreme weather conditions so I add some indoor physical activities like yoga, resistance band exercises and obstacle courses. I have a a bosu ball, a small balance beam, some balance pods and tunnels that can be used to enhance these activities but outdoors remains the preferred space for gross motor play.

Summer 2021 was a particularly active period as I temporarily used preschool spaces for some additional school age children. Having a group of older children meant our schedule was more flexible – we could go on longer outings and more organized group games/activities were possible. However, in the fall when the older children all returned to school I enrolled three new infants which resulted in a drastic change to our schedule.

We still had some long periods of outdoor time in the fall but I was a little concerned that by winter the two remaining older preschoolers may not be able to get as much outdoor play/exercise as they were accustomed to. It was a bit of an impulse purchase when I stumbled across an ad for this Swedish ladder/stall bar/jungle gym/exercise wall – and I had the perfect space to install it too.

Of course the children’s initial excitement about the ‘indoor play structure’ was anticipation for somewhat reckless behaviours that I wouldn’t let them do indoors – news flash – still can’t. The various activities were introduced gradually so it wasn’t overwhelming and we could discuss the necessary safety rules.

They soon discovered that using the monkey bars, rings, ladder and climbing rope were not easy activities. They needed to develop more skills before they would be able to get far on these. Even the school age children were surprised at how difficult it is to use only strength without the assistance of momentum like they could on a large outdoor play structure.

Luckily the stall bar allows us to do strength and flexibility exercises any time throughout the day without the extra time to set up the fall mats and other equipment. The children and I have done strength training exercises with resistance bands in the past.

However, we’ve had some limitations on which exercises we could do because we had very few anchor points available and the children are different sizes. The stall bar provides various anchor points for the resistance bands so it is easy to switch from one exercise to another and to adapt the exercise to the height of each child.

They are very interested in watching their reflection in the mirror and sometimes have difficulty focusing on the actual exercise because there is so much giggling. The infatuation with the mirror reminds me of some of the guys I’ve seen at the gym – hilarious!

This handstand backwards walk up and down the stall bar is definitely one of their favourite activities – and it is so great for the vestibular and proprioceptive systems 🙂

Another favourite exercise is the leg raises – great for core strength!

There are bars low enough for the toddlers to use if they want to try and high enough for me to use to demonstrate the exercises. The system is strong enough to support my adult son doing pull-ups from the top bar – I can’t reach the top bar without a stool, nor can I do a pull up LOL.

Stretches are popular too. I model stretches often during the day especially after spending prolonged periods sitting on the floor with the children or carrying cranky babies.

We use a minute timer for our stretches. It is so rewarding when after practicing the same stretches every day the children go from ‘It is too hard, I can’t do it’ to ‘What!? That was a minute already?’ when the timer beeps. They also realize that if they stretch on an ‘easy’ bar for a minute first, then they can sometimes reach a higher bar afterwards – one that was not initially possible.

We discuss the importance of choosing the bar height that is an appropriate stretch for you – not competing with others. Someone who is tall may not be as flexible as someone who is shorter so their height does not necessarily determine which bar they use. There are not many of us that can naturally do this;

When I first installed the stall bar I was a little apprehensive that I may need to be constantly redirecting children who tried to climb the wall – and I really prefer indirect guidance so I worried I may be setting them up for failure. I have been pleasantly surprised that it hasn’t been an issue.

Even the babies – who like to climb on the toys shelves – don’t climb the bars. Their favourite activity is rolling things down the ramp.

Sure, we still much prefer playing outdoors but this purchase has provided a lot of indoor fun too – and it doesn’t have a screen.

Wonderful Playground

I recently went to check out the new playground over by the Living Prairie Museum.  I don’t know if this playground/park is actually part of the LPM property or if it has a different name.  It is located just outside the prairie fence and seems to be more of a ‘manicured’ park but it has a ‘nature’ theme so I love it!

In fact, I would love my yard to look like this playground.  Thanks Kristi for letting me know about it or I may not have ever gone to explore it.  Now my absolute favorite part of the park is this;

That is such a perfect climber for a ‘natural’ playground.  I’m already tring to figure out where/how to get something like this for my yard too.  Here’s another view;

There is another area of the playground with rocks and stumps — I love this area too.  I particularly like that it combines both the natural and imitation elements. I don’t have nearly enough room for this in my yard but I can dream 🙂

I’m not certain if work on this playground is complete yet because there are still some ‘remnants’ laying around;

I consider these ‘bonus’ items — I want them too!  Then there is the big pile of dirt and sod that I believe is from the areas they cleared for the sand and bark around the play zones.  I’m secretly hoping they are actually going to leave the dirt pile there as an additional play feature.  I think someone else has the same wish;

‘Cleaning up’ would mean destroying this little guy’s home 😦

Special thanks to my son for coming to explore with me and for taking these pictures with his fancy new camera.


It was two years ago that we took down the playstructure in the yard to make room for a more natural playspace.  As usual with any of my projects, we reuse or recycle as much as possible.

The 4 x 4 posts that  had provided the main support for the playstructure were big and bulky so at first I just left them in the gravel area of the yard.  The children loved them; they walked on them, sat on them, drove cars on them and so much more.

As work on the new playspace continued the 4 x 4’s got moved around often to get them out of the way but they never got removed from the yard.  Why would I ever take away a piece of play equipment that was so popular?  I’m certain the children would have objected.

The problem was that there simply wasn’t enough room to keep them in the gravel area once we brought in all the new stuff.  So, I moved them onto the deck and that is where they remain.

Several years later they continue to be popular.  Last week the 3 and 4 year olds spent all morning on the beams.  They walked up, across, and down;

They also did it in reverse — the photo doesn’t really capture it well but he is walking backwards along the beam;

They crawled too — they like to pretend to be cats;

And this method — on hands and feet — proved to be the most difficult of all;

They were so persistent.  I’m glad we kept those 4 x 4’s.  In fact, when they get too old I’m certain I will buy more to replace them.  I think everyone should have a few in their yard. 🙂

Making an Exception

In my last post I wrote about some of the reasons why I dislike play structures and therefore do not take my group to play on them.  However, there are times when I may make an exception.

There are play structures located in many of places that we visit.  The school has one but we never go there to play – we are usually at the school just to pick-up or drop-off someone or something and we are on a limited time schedule.

Every park we encounter also has a play structure of some sort but when we visit parks we are there for a different purpose.  We go to explore the gardens and forest trails.  We collect nature related items, or play tag and ball games in the big open fields.

On our last field trip we went to Kildonan Park – an excursion we usually make at least once each summer. This is place we are very familiar with but we still manage to find things we’ve never seen before.  Like this year when we found this massive old tree;

Holding hands together we couldn’t even reach halfway around it but we still tried to climb it.  There was also something else new to discover here on our visit this year.

Last year when we visited we had watched from our favourite picnic site as big tractors tore out the old play structure – how exciting!  This year when we parked the van and disembarked on our adventure we saw the new playground.  It covers a vast area compared to its predecessor – but I’m not sure why they chose to have it so close to the main roadway.

It was because of the road that I was originally going to say no when the children asked we could check it out but I was curious too.  This year the majority of my group falls in that 5-12 year old range and the youngest is three.  So, instructed to stay together we checked out each of the separate areas.

The first area is geared toward younger children.  It has a small pirate ship structure – typical ladder and slide – the boat could provide some play value but my group was uninterested.  Everyone was immediately drawn to the sand ‘box’/table – but certainly not for the purpose that it was intended for;

It makes a terrific balance beam and the sand is nice to jump into – just aim for the middle not the edge.

I do love the pathways and the little bridges over the dry creek beds (except that some are so close to the road);

I think it would be nice if some were arched instead of flat.

I detest the ‘baby’ swing since my 3 year old couldn’t see over or around the gaudy yellow plastic restraint.  I can’t imagine any baby that would be happy confined in it.  I loved the little forest area with the brightly covered toadstools;

It was popular with everyone in my group for climbing on, sitting on, jumping off and more;

And right in the middle there is an awesome tree;

This toadstool forest was the favourite area for my group and they would have stayed here longer but it was time to move on if we were going to see everything we had planned for today.

The next area was the largest and contains an expansive play structure.  There are many ramps and ladders and more slides than I have ever seen on one structure.  A child could practice going up and down all day.  There is a short video of the new playground available here.

I have no good pictures because it  is an enormous structure and there were several young children playing on it.  All of them well below the age stated on every one of entrances;

Most of my group of children did not even venture onto the structure and those that did were there for only a couple minutes.  However, they did appreciate the difference in heights of the various areas because it allowed them the opportunity to do things like this;

The older ones in my group did enjoy the three separate climbing structure – which interestingly were too difficult for the younger children to limb.  Finally, a structure that offers a challenge!

We liked this six foot tall climbing rock too;

But even youngest was able to climb it with ease;

So, we’ve tried out this new playground and liked some aspects of it.  The parts we liked most were probably those that cost the least to build. Will we be back?  Not likely – at least not often.  There’s more to explore in the forest.

What We Saw, What We Think

I’ve heard so much about the new Nature Playground at Assiniboine Park which opened this Spring.  Since they first announced the plans to build it I knew I would have to check it out.  Any place that combines children and nature and I’ll be there.  Of course the boy wanted to come too 🙂

The front gate was impressive;

Once inside we were immediately attracted to the awesome snake;

The giant bird nest was really cool too;

I grinned when I overheard a young mom tell her child he couldn’t climb on it but she couldn’t catch him before he did.  Of course you’re supposed to climb on it.

Likewise, my boy and many others were compelled to do this;

The playstructure and slide were far to busy for me to take any pictures of while respecting the privacy of those playing there.  I did however get some pictures of the green rubber hill;

I’m really not sure how I feel about.  I’m certain it will wear well and be clean and safe — but seriously, a rubber hill?  I may not be the only one who feels that way since it didn’t appear to be that popular.

The water and sand area certainly was appreciated;

And I just loved these;

Except for the ‘DO NOT TOUCH’ signs which don’t belong in any children’s garden.  I was also a little confused by these structures (one pictured but there is another one too);

The boy and I thought they’d be great for climbing on but they were placed in the middle of flowerbeds so we assumed they were ornamental?!?  Apparently everyone else thought so too — a waste of a great opportunity.

We’d only been here for about 20 minutes and I felt somewhat let down.  Then I realized that I had lost the boy.  Where did he go?  Oh, there he is;

Still inside the gate but he’s wandered off the path — and he’s found all the cool stuff;

A child in a true nature playground. Ok, I know what you’re thinking — he’s 17 years old, not really a ‘child’.  But he was just 2 years old when I opened my childcare home and has embraced his role as ‘evaluator’ of everything.  I trust his judgement because if he is bored the others will be too.  He knows nature and adventure — where it is, and where it isn’t.

The History of Our Yard

Fourteen years ago when I first opened my childcare home this was what the backyard play area looked like;

There was also a ‘deck’ area – old pallets covered in plywood – that is not visible in the above photo.  You may also notice the lack of soft surface under the play structure but the cribbing is there because adding pea gravel under the play structure was something I had to do for licensing.

Back then my view of outdoor play was essentially unstructured, high energy, physical activity.  My own children had played here – two of them are in this picture.  They usually played outside by themselves for hours.  I rarely ventured out with them until ‘supervised outdoor play’ became part of my childcare program.  Then I regularly watched the children play – and I was afraid.

Seven years ago my yard looked like this;

There was a large deck area with riding toys and space to play organized games.  There were no toys in the gravel area – just the climbers. After all, someone might trip over a toy if it was buried in the gravel.  It was here in this playground that we had the only injury that required medical attention.  I pondered over the question on the incident report “Was there anything you could have done to prevent this injury?”   I had been three feet from the child that fell from a two foot high platform onto twelve inches of pea gravel.  Maybe I shouldn’t let them play outside.

Actually, the children probably wouldn’t have argued if I had decided to ban outdoor play from the program.  They didn’t like to play out here for long.  Often it took only about 15 minutes before someone asked if it was time to go inside yet.  I took a long look at the outdoor play space and started to see everything that was ‘missing’.  All the things they liked to do inside that they couldn’t do outside – and I’m not talking about TV and video games.

This is my yard today;

Places to climb and crawl;

Places to balance, jump and explore;

Places for science experiments and imagination;

Places for art, music, and sharing stories with friends;

And so much more.  It is a lot like indoors – only better.  Now we can’t wait to go outside.