Tag Archives: safety

Traffic Woes

I get excited every time I hear mention of lowering speed limits. At the moment it is only residential streets that the city of Winnipeg is considering lowering speed limits on but if I had my way it would be ALL the streets and lanes. If I were in charge back lanes would have a max speed of 20 km/h, residential streets would be 30 km/h, undivided main streets could be 40 km/h and only divided ones could be 50 km/h. Main roads with three or more lanes in each direction could have a speed limit of 60 km/h. Major roads with absolutely no pedestrian traffic could allow speeds up to 70 km/h. No roads anywhere inside city limits require any speed over 70 km/h – if you want to drive faster, take the perimeter.

I’m sure some people may be horrified at the thought of driving that slow and it may make you angry that I also think there should be traffic cams and photo radar everywhere. There is photo radar near my home – and there is also a guy that frequently stands on the corner and holds a cardboard sign to warn drivers of the camera ahead. I once told him he should just let them get a ticket – a consequence for their actions. He probably drives a black truck…I’ll explain why later.

It is no secret that I love to walk places – I do also drive, but whenever possible I prefer to walk in all types of weather. Actually, even in very cold weather I would prefer to walk than sit still in a frigid cold vehicle. Still, sometimes even I must drive instead of walking. Those drivers (and pedestrians) that choose to defy road rules cause me angst both as a driver and a pedestrian. Though sometimes even the drivers that are trying to be ‘helpful’ are really not.

My childcare home is located in a residential area that is bordered by several major streets. Even if we were to restrict our daily walks to the sidewalks in our little neighbourhood we would not be able to avoid disrespectful drivers taking shortcuts to avoid slowing down for traffic at the busy intersections. That is one reason why, throughout all our walks, in our neighbourhood and beyond, the children and I have constant conversations about all aspects of the environment around us.

Those conversation may be observations about decorations in someone’s yard/garden, birds, plants, people, animals and most definitely vehicles. Everything is a teachable moment – an opportunity to share an interesting fact, personal likes/dislikes, and of course identifying hazards. Is it safe to pet that dog without the owner’s permission? Is that tree/fence an appropriate place to climb or does if belong to someone else? Will that driver stop for us or should we wait?

Long before we have even reached an intersection we will notice if there are stop signs and count them. We discuss which direction we are planning to cross and whether the cars should be stopping for us or if they have the right of way and we should be waiting for them. Respect for drivers and pedestrians goes both ways. That is where we sometimes meet those ‘helpful’ (not) drivers that stop where they do not have a stop sign and try to let us cross – it is confusing for the children but luckily it doesn’t happen often.

Toy cars and people

I wish our encounters with disrespectful, anti-pedestrian drivers were as infrequent. As pedestrians we always follow the road rules – many of which already strongly favour vehicles over pedestrian. For example, at all the intersections with traffic lights in my neighbourhood my little group can barely make it all the way across the intersection before the light turns red IF we start instantly when it turns green AND we hustle all the way across. If our light is already green when we reach the intersection we won’t have enough time to cross and will wait for the next green light – another opportunity to observe traffic and discuss safety rules.

We have encountered drivers who are too impatient to wait for us to cross the street before they make their left turn and will try to turn in front of us instead of waiting for us to cross first. One driver actually thought it was necessary to turn into the oncoming lanes first before crossing over to the proper lanes just so he didn’t have to wait for us to clear the lane he should have turned into. He must have actually planned this in advance considering, like us, he had been waiting at a red light prior to entering the intersection and was most certainly aware of our intention to cross.

Another one of my personal opinions is that all slip lanes should be eliminated. Even though I put reflective safety vests on all the children when we go for walks near traffic, some drivers don’t see us – or choose to ignore our attempt to cross the slip lane. Other cities have some great ideas for replacing slip lanes. I’m certain the businesses on the corner near my home would appreciate the increased pedestrian traffic if the slip lane was removed.

Back lanes are another issue. I am sure that there are drivers that think pedestrians shouldn’t use back lanes – ever. Personally I think both pedestrians and vehicles can both use back lanes if they need to access property located on that lane. The children and I DO walk down my back lane to get to my back yard but we don’t travel down back lanes when we have no purpose to go there. Whenever we see a vehicle we move off the lane, into the nearest driveway, and stand still respectfully yielding right of way to the passing vehicle. This is easy to do IF the drivers are also respectful and obeying speed limits.

I am fairly certain that only the drivers who actually live on our lane obey the speed limit – which is still too fast. The drivers using the lane as a thoroughfare or shortcut to avoid the lights drive much faster than the lane speed of 30 km/h. In fact, there have been vehicles that sped down my lane so fast that I couldn’t tell you what colour the vehicle was because all I saw was a blur as they passed my yard.

When there is no snow the lane is wide enough to allow cars to pass us even if they don’t choose to wait for us to get off the lane. In warmer seasons we do always walk on the edge of the lane but we still try to move into a driveway when a car approaches. In the winter the piles of snow along the edges of the lane make it impossible to walk there and the tire ruts are treacherous. For this reason we tend to walk in the middle of the lane in the winter.

When there is ice and snow, we move slower and have fewer spaces to get off the lane when we see a vehicle. I always remain in the centre of the lane until all the children have reached a safe spot and are standing still so there is no chance they may slip back into the lane. Consequently sometimes drivers must stop and wait for us and some of them find this very frustrating – especially the ones that are using our lane as a shortcut to avoid the traffic at the major intersections. This is where we have met the driver of the black truck…

The first time we saw this particular truck approaching, I stood in the middle of the lane as usual however, when the driver did not slow his approach I grabbed the last child and jumped to the side of the lane as he swerved slightly around us. I don’t care how great you think your steering skills are, I still expect that you will also use your brake pedal! We have encountered this truck several times now and he has never slowed down.

We haven’t been for long walks since the weather got very cold so our schedule has changed. We’ve also taken to only walking the short way down the lane just in case the driver of the black truck chooses that route. Still, one day when we were almost to my driveway, the three-year-old ahead of me yells “Ackk, it’s him again! I don’t like that guy.” and then scurries up the driveway into my yard.

The black truck had just turned onto the far end of the lane ahead of us. I find it sad that a three-year-old can recognize a disrespectful driver from almost a block away. Just slow down. Please.

Autumn Adventures

I started writing this post so long ago then got too busy to finish it – almost winter now, may seem irrelevant to publish it but here I go anyway 🙂

Autumn is a period of change – the leaves, the weather, our schedule and much more. There are new discoveries to be made and even some new challenges. This year, the weather has impacted our activities more than usual – there has been so much rain. We like rain but when it is combined with cold then playing in the yard can be troublesome because it is so wet and sitting anywhere gets uncomfortable so we prefer to keep moving and go for walks.

Walks provide much more than just fresh air and exercise – on walks we have some fantastic conversations. Years ago I wrote about how our long walks enable us to have better conversations. However, this Fall going for walks has been a little challenging since all my older children have gone to school and I have no hand holding helpers.

In my current preschool group all the children are just one or two years old. The toddlers do like to walk together and hold hands but they are usually so engrossed in their own conversations that they don’t pay enough attention to their surroundings. Also, as ‘normal’ toddlers they often require significant processing time for verbal requests. The delayed response is very stressful for me particularly when it is related to road traffic.

So, this Fall I again began using the Safe-T-Line when we go for walks. I have previously written another post about using the Safe-T-Line. All these toddlers love holding the handles and have taken turns as line leader – some are better as followers.

Even though muddy puddles are a popular attraction for these little ones, ‘goose poop’ seems to be a major concern. Even when there is not a goose in sight every unidentified lump on the sidewalk or pathway gets dubbed ‘goose poop’ and is given a wide berth followed by “Ewwww, that’s disgusting!” and fits of laughter.

One of our favourite walks is through the Elmwood Cemetery – mostly because there are very few cars and very many squirrels, rabbits, birds, and especially geese. On one recent cemetery walk the grass was being mowed and there were large clumps of wet grass on the road. Initially they were of course labeled ‘goose poop’ but then there was an argument about the clumps being too big to have been made by a goose. So, after some discussion it was determined that these were in fact ‘dinosaur poop‘.

Yes, that is why I like taking toddlers for walks. We never find dinosaur poop in the yard. Now we just have to figure out where that dinosaur is hiding. Time to go for another autumn adventure.

The ‘Un’ Factor

‘Un’ is a prefix meaning “not,” freely used as an English formative, giving negative or opposite force in adjectives and their derivative adverbs and nouns.  In the field of family childcare we often use the words ‘unlicensed’, ‘unregulated’, ‘untrained’ yet for many government officials and people outside the field of childcare those ‘un’ words are not viewed as negative – simply a choice that parents should be allowed to make regarding the care of their children.

There are regulations governing the manufacturing of items like cribs, strollers, carseats, and toys etc so parents know they are safe.  There are regulations regarding the production, packaging, and labeling of food products to ensure they meet predetermined standards so people know what they are buying. Why do government officials and the general public think that parents should be able to choose unlicensed, untrained childcare but need regulations to assist them to safely feed, house, and transport their own children?

What other career field allows some businesses to operate unlicensed and/or untrained when others providing the same service are licensed?  What is the incentive for any business to be licensed if they can legally operate without any oversight?  Without any licensing/training requirements?  What if, like in childcare, they could actually make more money if they were not licensed/trained than if they were licensed/trained?

Let’s use truck drivers as an example.  The majority of adults have a class 5 driver’s license and have experience driving their own or a friend’s vehicle.  What if there were no restrictions on what size of vehicle you could drive and anyone could just decide “Hey, I’m going to buy a big truck and start a business delivering things for other people.”

Why, is an experienced driver with their own vehicle not allowed to start up a trucking business without additional training or license? Why don’t people argue “It’s his truck, he can do what he wants with it.  If other people are OK with letting him transport their stuff why not let him/them.  He’s never had an accident and doesn’t need a little piece of paper to prove he’s a good driver.”

What if that same driver or another class 5 driver then decided “A bus isn’t much different than a big truck.  If I had a bus I could earn money driving people around.”  What if you’d seen that driver on the street with his bus full of happy passengers and decided to take a ride on his bus.  Then imagine that one day there was an issue – something was wrong with the bus or the driver.  What if it is too late to get off the bus before the accident happened?

Some argue that licensing all childcare facilities and requiring training for all childcare workers doesn’t ensure quality – but it helps.  Just like trained bus/truck drivers in licensed companies will still have accidents there are standards and checks in place to limit them.  Why don’t we hear arguments that training/licensing truck drivers doesn’t prevent accidents so let’s save some money and not bother requiring them to be licensed?

Do we need more incentives for family childcare providers to become licensed or do we need to eliminated the option for them to operate unlicensed childcare homes?  Currently only licensed providers can accept government subsidized families but private paying families usually pay higher rates than the maximum subsidized rate so that isn’t an incentive to be licensed.

What about training?  Currently family childcare providers with Early Childhood Educator II/III training can receive slightly higher subsidized rates than untrained providers but those rates are still lower than the private rates most unlicensed/untrained providers charge so why bother?  Just think of all the tax dollars we could save if we had trained and untrained police officers  – both had the same duties but the city could pay the untrained ones less – but either trained or untrained officers could go work privately for more money without a gun permit or any other type of license.

In an effort to increase the number of licensed childcare spaces, the provincial government is considering lessening the requirements and ‘red tape’ needed to open licensed childcare homes.  Why, when there was a shortage of family doctors was it never suggested that we lower the requirements to become a doctor?  I don’t think lowering FCC licensing requirements will increase the number of licensed childcare spaces and I’m absolutely positive it won’t improve quality.

What part of licensing do they think is unnecessary?   Criminal record/child abuse registry checks? First aid training or a 40 hour course? Behaviour management, nutrition, safety and supervision policies? Adequate equipment? Developmentally appropriate activities? Documentation and record keeping?

I don’t think any part of the licensing process is difficult or unnecessary.  If fact, I’d like to see more.  I’d like to see MANDATORY licensing for ALL childcare homes.  Greater incentives for trained providers (possibly higher ratios).  MANDATORY annual professional development and more.  I’m thinking about the best interests of the children, not just convenience and the cost for quality and safety.

 

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Licensing Manual

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.

Nap Time

Wow, it has been almost four weeks since I’ve written a blog post — bad blogger. I’ve been super busy – full days with the children, practicum student visiting, conference, presentations, and several evening meetings every week. There has been plenty to write about but no time to write. I started this post more than a month ago so I better finish it before I move on to other topics.

Nap time. When my own children were young we sometimes struggled over nap time. The ones who I felt most needed naps were the ones who were reluctant to take them. There were battles. So, when I first opened my childcare home I was a little apprehensive about being able to get so many little ones to nap.

At first I had used the second floor bedrooms as nap areas – infants in playpens, toddlers on beds. The daily set-up and take-down process was arduous but generally everyone was cooperative. There were, of course, a few exceptions. My frequent trips upstairs to check on the (non)nappers were sometimes disruptive to those that were actually sleeping.

Before the end of my first year in childcare I relocated the toddler/preschooler nap area to the main floor using cots and the living room couches where I could supervise more easily. I continued to use playpens in the second floor bedrooms for the infants to nap. There was still a lot of time required for daily set-up and take-down and many trips up and down the stairs.

I found it interesting that the older children napping on the main floor often slept longer than the infants who were napping upstairs. Many parents seemed surprised too – most of these older children resisted napping when they were at home yet here they actually enjoyed helping with the nap time set-up, fell asleep quickly, and were often difficult to wake after nap.

There came a time when I began to question the safety aspect of having the infants napping upstairs. Yes, we did practice emergency evacuations monthly and sometimes even at nap time. The evacuation times were considerably longer at nap time and although the older children were cooperative during drills – waiting patiently while I ran upstairs to get babies – I wondered if they would do so if there was a real emergency.

It wasn’t something I wanted to risk. I relocated the playpens to the main floor – giving up a little play space but giving my family back the privacy of their own bedrooms. I chose to leave the playpens set up – losing a small amount of space vs. a large amount of time. I detest setting up playpens.

In my most recent renovation I expanded the space allocated to the playpens. My intention was to eventually replace the playpens with cribs. Eventually came earlier than I anticipated because I found some affordable – compact – cribs at Quality Classrooms. In all my year of perusing equipment catalogues I had never noticed that some of the cribs were compact – taking up no more space than a playpen – and on wheels too.

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The extra space is now used to store the preschooler’s cots so they too are out of the way when not in use. Nap time set-up and take down now takes less than five minutes and all the children are visible while I complete the task. When not in use the cribs and cots are out of sight behind these rolling room dividers.

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My intention is to use these dividers as easels for art activities but we haven’t tried that yet.

The best part is that all the napping children are within 12 feet of my centrally located desk and within 20 feet of an emergency exit. I’ve come to another conclusion too. As I’ve observed the children as they settle down for nap time I’ve noticed that there are no arguments when they can see me. They lay happily in their beds, talking or singing quietly, occasionally smiling and waving at me until they fall asleep.

I wonder if nap time struggles are not really caused by resistance to napping but rather by the feeling of being left alone in a ‘quiet’ space where the children may actually feel abandoned. Or, maybe these children sleep so well because they’ve been busy playing all morning and getting plenty of outdoor time too.

Added Features

Last week I wrote about how I renovated the playroom to improve the walkway issues.   As always, no renovation is ever truely complete so now I want to tell you about some newly added  features.

First, I was a little concerned about the corners of the items attached to the loft post;

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This photo angle may show it better;

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It didn’t cause any problems the first week after the renovation but I was concerned that it may at some point in the future.  To address the possible problem I added some pieces of pipe;

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One is there to soften the pointed corners but both of them are used for play.  The words ‘vertical’ and ‘diagonal’ have been used often in our daily conversations this week.  The toddlers have been experimenting with what toys slide best through the tubes;

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I used some pieces of the leftover pipe to create some more tool storage in the workshop area too;

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A mesh curtain was also added at the entrance to the block area;

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Which I have been informed now makes it a pirate ship 🙂

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That’s just a few of the added features – there will be more.

Outdoor Babies – With Gravel & Rocks

There has always been gravel in our outdoor play space.  Way back in 1997 when I first opened my childcare home we didn’t have a ‘natural’ outdoor area.  We did however have pea gravel as a fall surface under the wood and plastic play structures.

I’ll admit that back then I was one of those ‘OMG, what if they eat the gravel?’ people.  Consequently I never let babies play in the gravel area.  So today, when parents seeking childcare visit/tour my childcare home and express concern over the letting their babies play with gravel and rocks, I can honestly say ‘I understand’. There was a time when I only let babies play here;

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There was a two foot tall fence dividing the deck area from the gravel area and I never let the babies go past the fence.  I even had some wire mesh on the bottom portion of the fence so they couldn’t reach through the fence boards and get a handful of gravel.  I was keeping them ‘safe’.

In fact, it wasn’t just infants and toddlers who were prevented from entering the gravel area.  I considered children ‘old enough’ to play in the gravel area when they could reach over the fence and open the latch without assistance – most children were three or four years old before they could ‘pass the test’.

Looking back now I realize that the ‘test’ was ridiculous because their ability to open the latch is irrelevant to what they may do with the gravel.  In fact, I discovered that the longer I prevented them from playing in the gravel, the more harmful their behaviour could be. Overexcitement in the new environment meant throwing gravel was a major issue.

In the last ten years since I began allowing the infants and toddlers to play with gravel and rocks I’ve discovered that many of them actually never try to eat it.  Those that do occasionally put gravel in their mouths do so for only the first week or so and then move on to more constructive gravel activities.

Activities like making ‘gravel rain’

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Testing gravel on an incline plane

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Lying in gravel to get the ‘full body’ experience

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Gravel is the ultimate ‘loose part’

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I thought this little girl’s ‘Rock Eyes’ were very imaginative

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Walking on gravel and rocks can be a challenge for young children and gives them the opportunity to further develop their balance and gross motor skills.

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Yes, eating or throwing gravel can be an ongoing issue for a small percentage of children but it isn’t limited to infants and toddlers.  By not allowing young children to experience and experiment with gravel and rocks we’re not ‘protecting’ them.  We are preventing them from learning about textures, weight, gravity and more.

With a combination of supervision, guidance and opportunities for experimentation gravel and rocks can offer many benefits for the infant and toddler development that outweigh any concern for safety.

Safety

I’ve got plans for six or seven projects that I hope to have completed this spring/summer.  Some of them are minor changes that may be completed in a single weekend.  The bigger projects will have to wait until my vacation or at least a long weekend.

Some of these projects will involve changes to the daycare spaces.  As I make the plans and supply lists for these projects I always consider safety.  What types of materials will I use?  Where will I need a gate or door to restrict access to off limit areas?  What latches or locks will work best?  I try to envision all the things the children may do in the space.

As I consider the various options I briefly reminisced about an entry I wrote for my CBA portfolio.  My advisor had suggested that I create a safety checklist for my home. I used a variety of sample checklists to develop my own safety checklists.  I considered many of the items on these sample lists to be somewhat ridiculous. Items like ‘make sure stairs are free of clutter’ and ‘turn pot handles inward when cooking’ – not because I didn’t think they were unsafe but they were things that I considered to be common sense and certainly didn’t require a checklist to ensure I did them. In fact, even the items that I did include in my checklists would take less time to correct than the time required for me to complete the checklists.

In my evaluation of the checklists in this CBA portfolio entry I stated; I can see the benefit of having a simplified safety checklist for substitute providers who are not family members.  If a substitute is unfamiliar with my home and our procedures a checklist may be helpful to remind them to keep baby gates and doors closed’.

Possibly the director of a large childcare centre would find safety checklists to be helpful.  If there are many staff members there may be confusion as to who is responsible for safety checks and a completed checklist could provide evidence that staff were doing regular safety inspections.  Even then, I still think that safety checks should be a regular habit for everyone and you shouldn’t need a checklist to tell you what is dangerous and when to fix it.

Then I recalled an occasion a while back when I was visiting the home of an acquaintance.  Although we spent some time sitting in her living room she periodically went to the kitchen to check on the progress of the meal she was preparing.  Every time she stirred the food in the pots she would leave the pot handles sticking out past the front of the stove.  Each time I entered the kitchen I would automatically turn the pot handles inwards.  After doing this several times it occurred to me that maybe this was not a hazard that she recognized.

This brings me back to my original topic.  I do not ensure that my childcare home is as safe as possible.  If the environment was as safe as possible there would be no need for the children to think about safety.  I want them to learn to assess possible hazards and take reasonable risks.

There are some uneven surfaces.  Certainly there are gates to prevent infants and toddlers from climbing up or falling down an entire flight of steps.  However, there is also an unprotected single step at the entrance to the nature area.  Occasionally a child will trip on it if they forget it is there or they are not paying attention.  Sometimes a crawling baby will tumble off the step – I show them how to turn around and back off the edge safely.  I teach unsteady toddlers to hold on to the wall when then step down – don’t rely on me to hold your hand, I may not always be near enough. This single step is an acceptable risk – the opportunity for learning outweighs the chance of injury.

Before the children arrive I don’t walk around with a safety checklist and check off boxes.  During the day, if I notice something unsafe I don’t block off the area or make a note to deal with it later.  In fact, I often point out unsafe situations to the children and enlist their help to determine what should be done about it.  Rain or frost will make the deck and other surfaces in the yard very slippery.  This doesn’t mean that we cannot play outside – we just need to be aware of situation and adjust our activities to suit the conditions.

I don’t allow running or jumping indoors – there are too many obstacles so the risk is not an acceptable one.  Out in the yard we do run and jump.  As a child climbs onto a stump and prepares to jump I ask them ‘what do you see?’  They check for any objects that may be in their path and pose a hazard to them or others – I assist if necessary.  They are taking acceptable risks – they are learning.  Learning about textures.  Learning about space and distance.  Learning about force and speed.  Learning about responsibility.

If we live in a ‘safe as possible’ bubble we never learn to be aware of our surroundings, observing the environment, assessing possible dangers and taking necessary precautions.  Learning safety is a process and it requires practice – practice requires taking risks.

Writing Time

It has been very difficult to find time to write — we have been so busy.  My morning writing time has been shortened due to the early arrival of several of the children.  My weekend writing time has been eliminated due to some major projects — I’ll write about them soon but for now you’ll just have to wait.

Today all I have time to write is a little snippet of some of last week’s  observations.  First, I’m very pleased with the progress of the plants in the garden.  Last year the cucumbers made it only part way up the trellis but the children still enjoyed relaxing there;

This year the beans have grown to the top of the trellis and beyond;

Most of the herbs are growing well too but sadly many of the children enrolled this year seem to have little interest in exploring the garden.  They do like to water it though.

I’m quite interested in some of the plants that are growing in the bare spots that we never got around to planting anything in.  I wish I was able to identify some of them – I assume they are weeds.  I pull the thistles but others I think are pretty so I leave them to grow.  Maybe someday I’ll find out what they are – do you know?

The baby loves the gravel area — I’m glad I no longer restrict the little ones access to this area.  Some day I’ll write a post about my transition from keeping babies ‘as safe as possible’ outdoors vs ‘as safe as necessary’.  One of the babies favorite activities has been to slide her feet back and forth until she buries them completely;

Then she picks all the little gravel pieces out of her sandals – without asking me to help 🙂

Finger knitting has become the favorite quiet time activity for the school-age boys – the girls have little patience for it;

But everyone loves painting on the plexiglass outdoors;

Moving the plexiglass easel was part of the major project this past long weekend.  Stay tuned for more of the project details when I find some time to write….

Ice & Snow

We love playing in the snow.  We climb up and slide down mountains of snow.  We sculpt and build with chunks of snow.  We dig tunnels and dens as homes for all sorts of creatures.  There is no end to the things we can do with snow – when we have some.

This winter we have had far too little snow.  Just look at this picture, taken last year, of the pathway through the garden;

It was one of our favourite hiding places.  This year it looks like this;

Last year the snow was piled high on the deck.  To get from one side to the other the children had to scale mountains that were taller than they were;

This year the snow pile poses little challenge other than making sure you lift your feet so you don’t trip as you cross the deck;

It is pointless to bring out the shovels since the temperature fluctuations have caused the snow to melt and freeze so often that it is now mostly ice.

There are some benefits too – for example, last winter we couldn’t even find the stumps but this winter we can still use them for balance games and follow the leader;

Did you notice the layer of ice on the top of the stumps? The children have.  In fact, in many of their games they have ‘safety inspectors’ whose role it is to point out hazards to the others.

Interestingly a ‘hazard’ doesn’t mean the area is off limits.  It simply means that when one child begins to jump across the stumps another child will stand on the ground beside them to ‘catch them if they slip’.  I guess this could result in two injuries instead of just one but they have also modified the speed and other factors in this familiar activity.  I think many drivers on the road today could learn from these children and modify their driving habits based on road conditions.

The children have also created some new activities with the abundance of ice instead of snow.  One of my favourites is the ‘music’ activity where they throw ice chunks against the gong.

Notice the skill it takes to pick-up/release ice chunks and hit the centre of the target while wearing bulky mitts.  I’d also like to point out the incredible photography skill, um, amazing reaction time, unbelievable luck it took for me to capture this picture. 🙂

Whatever the conditions are there is always something to do outdoors so get outside and play!