Tag Archives: water

Summer Recap

Every year, I take my summer vacation at the beginning of July so I can complete some big projects to prepare for all our summer activities. I don’t like to travel so going places is never on my vacation agenda. Relaxing is something I find difficult – maybe even stressful – I like to be busy. There are some types of ‘busy’ that I enjoy more than others and my summer projects are high up on my list.

Spring 2022 was so late, so wet, so…. depressing that it was really hard to get excited about summer projects. In fact, it was mid-June already when my husband asked, “What are your summer projects this year?” and I realized that I hadn’t even started making my list. Of course, there were things I wanted to do but nothing that I considered a BIG summer project – just a bunch of little things that I would normally plan as weekend projects.

The most obvious project to put on the summer list was the climbing wall – which I had purchased the supplies for last fall and planned to build as soon as the snow melted and have ready for when the school-age children were here for Spring Break – but it was still ‘winter’ when school was out for spring break. The climbing wall was probably the most noticeable vacation project and very popular with the children all summer.

child on climbing wall

The second most noticeable project was the roof over the corner house – and I don’t even have a picture of it. Creating the corner house to replace the tipi was one of my 2021 vacation projects that I didn’t have time to complete the way I initially envisioned. I had simply made a temporary lean-to type of roof last year. This year I designed and built a better roof and moved all the bus benches into the corner house. It was a very popular sit spot all summer – I can’t fathom why I didn’t manage to get a picture of it. *sigh*

I also didn’t any pictures of the new layout of stumps, logs, and steppingstones in the mulch area or the enlarged ‘river’ area. I spent three whole days rearranging the pathways to align with the bridges and entrances to the building and digging areas. It was a very labour intensive project but not something particularly noticeable if you hadn’t spent a lot of time in the yard.

The children and I found the new pathways to be much more functional – as did this little visitor to my yard – caught on my surveillance camera, he/she followed the new curvy path perfectly all the way from the back gate to the side yard. LOL

skunk walking through yard

I expanded the ‘river’ area to make space for a new dedicated area for water play. I added a hand pump so the children could get water for creating concoctions. There was a delay in getting this area ready for use. The hand pump I originally chose did not function properly and was eventually replaced with this bilge pump.

child using bilge pump

The trick here though is that getting water requires some communication as the pump is not near the spouts…

children playing with water
Child collecting water

This area is still a work in progress – we hope to add more pipes, hoses and storage for other concoction making supplies. Of course, we are still collecting supplies too! It was a very popular play area this summer.

I also added a new painting panel. We’ve had several built-in plexiglass panels in the past and I have found that they get damaged in the winter. The framework I built for hanging this one is permanent but the panel itself is removable, so the space is still multipurpose, and the panel can be safely stored when not in use.

Children painting

I love plexiglass for painting on – even better when you can access both sides – and with the garden as a backdrop the artwork is enhanced.

Children's artwork

Well, that didn’t seem like a lot of dramatic changes to our learning environment. Certainly not any major transformations. Still, there were enough little projects to keep me busy on my ‘vacation’ and some new spaces for the children to explore this summer. In my next post I will highlight a few of our summer activities.

Water Day

Every summer I schedule at least one ‘Water Day’.  Of course water play is not limited to just Water Day.  Water is one of the ‘loose parts’ that is seasonally available through spring thaw, rain, and water collected in the rain barrel.   Some of the children choose to incorporate water into all their daily outdoor play activities whenever possible.

However, Water Day is never a spontaneous activity – it requires planning, plenty of set-up time, and the right weather conditions – hot enough so soaked children do not get a chill.  On Water Day there is water everywhere in the yard which actually makes it a little difficult for me to take pictures but I still try.  Here are a some that I took on our most recent Water Day.

The water table;

15-07-water01  The rivers/water ways;

15-07-water02 15-07-water03 15-07-water04The bins;

15-07-water05 15-07-water06 15-07-water07And above us the mister hose covers the yard ensuring no one can avoid getting at least a little wet;

15-07-water08Water fun day 🙂

Cooling Off

My favourite summer temperatures range from 18 to 24 degrees Celcius.  Normally I would consider the recent 30+ degree weather to be uncomfortably hot but after a long spell of below normal temps it was quite welcome.

Last weekend I was able to get the deck painted – and dry before it rained.  The children love the new deck space and the slip resistent paint is wonderful;


Yesterday I added several water play stations around the yard.  Of course for the toddlers water and sponges meant – time to do some cleaning;



We finally got a chance to try out the new mist sprayer that I bought from Rona – love it!!  The children were thrilled that it also creates rainbows (which I couldn’t capture in the picture).


With several water stations there was plenty of opportunity to move toys – and water – from one area to another;


There was a brief issue when one of the containers sprung a leak;


After several attempts to block the hole with rocks and twigs the children came up with this solution;


When the pot filled up it was dumped back into the bin – aptly displaying the ‘We Recycle’ label. 🙂

Water play is such a great way to cool off on a hot summer day.


Removing Mountains

There is a mountain in my yard.  It is the last of the big plastic toys remaining since I began replacing them with more natural, open ended items.  At one time the mountain belonged to my own – now adult – children.  The mountain is about 20 years old;

Small cars are stored in the lid of the mountain and the children occaisionally use the roads and tunnels for driving or parking the cars on.  Back when the mountain used to be an indoor toy that was all it was ever used for.  It took up a lot of space for something that had only one main purpose.  After I moved it outdoors it got used for water and gravel too.

I want to remove the mountain from the yard.  It doesn’t ‘fit’ with the rest of our play space.  We don’t need it. The children drive the cars all over the yard and even build their own roads and bridges with wood and gravel.

They use other – better – tools for moving gravel and water.  I’ve put these pipe halves in the loose parts area for that purpose and the children experiment with them often;

The pipes can accommodate not only cars, gravel, and water but animals as well;

The pipes are not stationary so can be used in various locations as levers to lift and move gravel;

Usually the children need to work together and cooperate to get the result they want;

The other day they tried an Olympic inspired weight lifting event;

Water in the pipes adds another element to expeirment with – and the results are sometimes surprisingly different than when using gravel;

We don’t need that mountain.  I just need to figure out how to remove it from the yard.  I don’t think I can put it in the recycling bin but maybe I’ll put it on the boulevard for the next give away weekend.

Back to Work

The first week back to work after vacation was very busy.  There have been some periods of adjustment but I think we’re settling into a good routine.  I’ve already written about a few of our activities like the Reno Boxes and the Rona Parts but here is a short recap of the rest of the week.

A mini project from my vacation was the addition of the cat loft.  Mali likes the view from above as the children call her name and wave;

My goal was really just to get the cats’ beds out of the hallway but the cats are thrilled to have a new retreat to relax in;

One of the children made a roller coaster for the toy bugs in the playroom — Mali loved that too, purrr.  I think she missed having the children here to play with.

We had a full day of water activities with five different water stations.  This was the most popular one according to the younger children;

They were making coffee.  The older children preferred the boat locks – experimenting with using the pump to raise and lower the water level to get the boats to their destination.

But by far the favorite activity this week has been watching the leaf cutter bees;

There are two of them that have been diligently working to line their nest with leaves in preparation to lay their eggs.  I believe they are supposed to be solitary bees but both of them have chosen the same crack in a log;

The children have been very observant and have discovered which leaves in the yard are the ones that the bees like best;

And some of them decided to help out by building a ‘bee hive’;


Mud Day 2012

My vacation has officially begun so for the next two weeks it will be very quiet around here – except for the sounds of power tools and the odd bit of ‘language’ that occurs during renovations.  🙂 However, I wanted to first share a few of the highlights of our celebration of International Mud Day.

Of course being the last day before the holidays also meant that 75% of the children were absent but that didn’t stop the rest of us from playing with mud.  First we had a discussion about what ‘international’ means and then we started with dirt — feeling the texture and breaking up lumps;

Then we added the water and mixed;

It is during experiences like this that I miss having an area with lawn to run around on.  Mud and water makes the deck very slippery and we would loose all the mud in the gravel area.  We added a few toys to the mud bin;

And tried shaping and moulding the mud;

There were some cool hand prints;

The water table was originally going to be another mud station but with so few children we didn’t need the extra space so I just filled it with water which ultimately became more popular than the mud bin.  They love playing with water more than anything else.   The first bit of mud introduced to one side of the water table instantly turn the water black which prompted a half hour of “Come to the dark side” play.

In the end the dark side prevailed;

It was a fantastic way to spend our last day before vacation and we topped it off with a special snack – homemade frozen yogurt (plain yogurt + frozen fruit + blender);

Sun and Rain

Spring has turned to summer.  The weather throughout Spring was extreme at times – periods of blistering heat followed by long stretches of cold, wet weather.  Some days it was difficult to choose appropriate outdoor clothing.  This weekend the forecast is warm and sunny — I hope it continues next week too.

The past week we returned to our mix of indoor and outdoor play.  Indoor  nap times have been shorter.  The children would like to have more meals outdoors — I’ll have to work that into our schedule more often.  It will be easier once school is out and we have fewer time restraints.

We continue to spend the majority of our playtime outdoors.  One of the changes I made to the back yard this year was adding the sun shade;

Unlike the tarp I used last year, this sun shade is made from mesh so I can leave it up even when it is windy or raining;

The children have discovered that although the sunshade does not provide a dry area to play it does slow the rain down — allowing the water to pool together and then form streams which make collecting rain drops so much easier;

In light drizzle it took about 15 minutes of cooperation under the sunshade for them to collect this container full of rain.

It is a multipurpose sunshade/raincollector – perfect for our unpredictable weather.


Last week the temperature was mild — not quite warm enough to melt all the ice but comfortable for playing in the snow without getting soaked.

The children were curious, probing,  questioning and making discoveries.  It had not been cold enough to freeze the slush in the wok so it was still ‘soup’.

They wanted to add more ‘broth’ but the cool, cloudy conditions were not conducive to producing large volumes of liquid.  They searched, checking containers and valleys and anywhere else they thought water might accumulate.

Suddenly they noticed the slow drip of water from the downspout over the rain barrel and sprang into action.  First they tried using the big hose to channel the water from the spout to the wok but that idea was quickly abandoned as ‘too slow’.

Instead, they decided that it would be better to place a shallow container in the small space below the downspout.

I was not optomistic — watching the slow drip I was certain it would take a long time to fill their container.  A few minutes later they excitedly called me over to see the ripples that formed when the droplets landed in the container.

I was surprised that the container was nearly half full already!  They thought it was funny that I had doubted their method.  The next step was to get the water over to the wok.

They added the water to the soup and collected a little more before it was time to go in for snack.  Instead of adding the second batch they decided to leave it beside the wok as an ‘experiment’ for tomorrow.  Hmmm, what do you think might happen?

Is this what you expected?

There is still some water it the wok but there is only ice in the shallow container.  They broke it up so they could add it to the soup.

Now they wanted to add some ‘air’ to the soup too — I wondered how they intended to do this.  They had a plan.

Can you see the bubbles?  There were a lot of them but they were hard to capture with my camera.

It was a wonderful week full of “I wonder”…”what if”… and “let’s try”.  Investigating and collaborating.

Water Play

Without a regular water supply the childrens’ free play with water has been limited to  whatever water they can find in the yard after (or during) a rainfall.

Every summer we have at least one ‘Water Day’ where there are various water stations set up but these are somewhat structured water activities.  It has been one of my goals to incorporate water as a permanent feature of the loose parts area and by moving the rain barrel, phase one has finally been completed;

Water has become the ultimate ‘loose part’ and the children have been busy experimenting with it.  There was the familiar ‘soup’ which sometimes becames a swimming pool;

My son tried an experiment with sound and water;

One of the children expanded on it;

Those plastic jars with lids became very useful — shaking makes bubbles!

The jars also provide a way to transport the water to where you want to use it;

And you can ‘pour’ water down the slide without loosing the water;

Water and tubes and soup together — there were some issues with using dirty outdoor toys to blow bubbles (some of us were more concerned than others);

We practiced the ‘scoop and fill’ technique;

And experimented with obstacles in the path of water;

Taking turns trying both roles;

Since I was just wandering around taking pictures I got enlisted to hold the hose so it could be filled with water — I had to follow very specific instructions;

So the water ultimately got from jar to hose and then to another jar;

And of course ‘clean-up’ time has a whole new meaning now;

We have to make sure there is enough time to dry the toys too;

Good thing it was warm and sunny.