Tag Archives: Weather

My Problem With Winter

I have a problem with winter and it may surprise you that my problem is related to the weather.  I know, that statement makes me sound like a hypocrite since I so often promote outdoor play in all types of weather.

Yes, we do play outside every day and we love it – climbing, digging and building with snow and ice.  However, we spend considerably less time outdoors in winter than we do in other seasons like summer when we spend the majority of our day outdoors.  There are parts of our program that I’d prefer to do outside but in winter we need to keep them inside.

So, my problem with winter isn’t really our time outdoors, it is the increased time indoors.  Day after day with extended periods of time playing indoors and I begin to remember all the things I wanted to ‘fix’.  All those parts of our indoor environment that were bothersome last winter but I put off tackling.  Once spring arrived we again spent more time outdoors and all those thoughts faded away.  Now it is winter again and I remember.  With prolonged time indoors the space issues are becoming apparent again.

For example, the sunroom;

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The sunroom is where we do art activities and other types of messy play.  I can easily move the small toddler table and then there is a 8′ x 8′ open space where I can put down a tarp for messy play activities.  During quiet time when the little ones are napping in the playroom the older children play and do art in the sunroom.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is the wall opposite the windows.  The wall that is home to the dog bed and the green house.  The problem is that I have four infants and toddlers who love painting, and playdough and sensory bins – and the dog bed.  The toddlers love every activity that I set out on the table or in a bin for them but after a few minutes one of them decides that it would be even more fun if they moved it to the dog bed and soon everyone wants to join in.  Playdough and dog hair, paint and dog hair, bird seeds and dog hair – everything is better with dog hair! Hey, what if we add it to the dog’s water…

Here’s another ‘before’ view that includes the green house;

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The green house is where we are supposed to put the things we plant but mostly it just collects ‘stuff’.  In the above picture I’ve already started the ‘reno’ so the miscellaneous stuff is all over the room – just like the way the toddlers prefer it.  The green house is actually pretty easy to assemble and disassemble so I’ve decided to put it away until we actually have plants to put in it and that way the empty shelves won’t be tempting me to fill them.

So now the sunroom looks like this;

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There is still enough open floor space for a tarp and messy play but there is no dog bed – I love how the sunlight shines on the toddler’s art table here;

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The dog bed is now on the other side of the filing cabinet by the back entrance – the back entrance area now has more space too – bonus!

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So now we have a better space for art and messy play until the weather improves and we can move all our activities outdoors again – and I can paint that filing cabinet.  The green doesn’t match anything else in the room but I can’t paint it inside and it is too cold to paint outside….

In, Through, On and Under – Outdoor Babies in Snow

By the middle of December we had a really nice amount of snow.  There was enough snow in the yard that we were able to create some hills to climb and pathways to explore.

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Some of the babies were not sure this was a good thing.  Boots and snowsuits limit mobility even on a flat surface. I kept a section of the deck clear of snow so the little ones could practice and build their confidence before they tackled the hills and deep snow.

The older children are already trail blazers – eagerly marking the path through all the fresh snow in the garden;

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Still, some days the little ones just quit.  They lie on the deck and wait until it is time to go in.  I try to persuade them that they’d be warmer if they moved around like the others.  Some of them cannot manage to climb the stairs to the door.  Others scramble quickly to the top – proving to me that their outerwear doesn’t slow them down if they have enough incentive to move.

My husband looks at me as I bring the troupe back inside.  ‘Why do you even bother?  It takes so long to get them dressed and you’re only out for such a short time’. I answer, ‘The same reason I keep giving them vegetables at lunch – it is good for them even if they are a little reluctant to try it.’

Last winter my older group enjoyed hunting for coloured ice cube ‘gems’. This year I decided to go bigger.  There were squeals of delight when the babies first saw the bricks of coloured ice.  Everyone scrambled up on the snow hill to investigate.

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The little ones are not interested in hide and seek games with the coloured ice bricks.  Instead they like to collect any ‘strays’ and pile them together with the others.  Each day when new bricks are made I put them in areas of the yard that are slightly beyond the babies’ comfort zone.  Once they’ve been collected and stacked with the rest of the bricks the babies are done for the day.

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It’s a start.  They now have a purpose to venture out into the snow and it is something they enjoy.  Hopefully they will not be deterred when they return next week and see all the new snow that has accumulated in the yard.  Our new task will be to search for the lost city of ice…

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Cold

I’ve had a weather station in my yard for the last eight years.  This has allowed me to get a more accurate idea of the actual weather conditions before we head outside.  Windchill factors in my sheltered yard are considerably different from those reported at the airport or the Forks.

Last month my weather station ceased to transmit data and replacing the batteries didn’t solve the problem.  So, I was very excited to find a new weather station at Costco.  It has even more features than my old one did.  You can read more about it here.

With or without a backyard weather station our recent weather conditions would be described as ‘unseasonably cold’.  We have not been spending much time however the temperature has not been the main reason for our limited outdoor time.

With four infants/toddlers I need allow a minimum of one full hour of time to get everyone dressed, outside, and back in.  Even then some days that ‘hour’ is really only 10 minutes of actual ‘play’.  Between arrival’s, departures, meals and naps there are rarely any time periods long enough to accomplish any more than 30 minutes of outdoor play even when they don’t argue about getting dressed.

Outdoor play is still a very new experience for this group and so far they are not so sure that the fun factor is worth the effort to get dressed. It would have been easier if we had a more gradual decent into cold winter weather.  Hopefully we will soon have some milder days when we can acutally enjoy spending some time playing in the wonderful mountains of snow that have accumulated in the yard.

There is another interesting ‘cold’ result.  Last month I wrote about how I rearranged the playroom.   In the old arrangement the ‘refrigerator’ had been located on an interior wall but it is now located on the exterior wall.

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The walls in my 100 year old house don’t have a lot of insulation and when the refrigerator doors are closed  that section of the wall doesn’t get much warm air from the room.  Consequently, as one of the children recently pointed out, when you first open the refrigerator doors the items inside are actually cold.

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I didn’t even plan for that – it’s just one of the benefits of our Manitoba climate 🙂

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!

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;

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

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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).

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

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

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

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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.

 

Thwarted Again

I’m not usually one to complain about the weather.  Truthfully, I love all types of weather – in moderation.  However, the recent weather has been somewhat disappointing.

Daytime high temperatures in the low 20’s (Celsius) are normally something that I would consider perfect weather for just about anything.  The problem is that we don’t reach those temperatures until late afternoon.  The bulk of our outdoor time is in the morning and lately it has been cold in the morning.  Very cold.

Of course, sometimes we don’t dress properly for the weather – stubbornly wearing shorts and T-shirts because it’s supposed to be SUMMER.  Shivering and trying to find a small patch of sunlight to sit in (the sun shades are set up to protect us from the intense rays of the sun).  Even when we wear sweaters or jackets we want to find a sunny spot to sit.

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As part of this summer’s yard reno we moved my husband’s workshop/shed to the side yard to open up more play space on the deck.  The remaining portion of the back yard shed now houses daycare supplies such as all the water toys which I can now access easily even when the children are here.  Unfortunately it hasn’t been warm enough to take advantage of this and have a full blown water day event.

After my vacation the shed/deck/garden area still looked like this;

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The following weekend we cut out the garden window and built the new bridge over the sweet grass;

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The children call it ‘the dock’ even though there’s no water under it.  It connects the new deck area to the garden path;

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This past long weekend I had planned to paint the somewhat ugly deck with a new type of paint that I found at Home Depot.  It’s called Behr Deck Over and I was really excited by the prospect.  The product needs 72 hours to fully cure so I figured the long weekend would be the perfect chance to complete this project.  Wrong.  Cloudy, cold and even a little rain.  The deck is still ugly.  I did however use some of the paint on the shed.

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I love the results.  The old OSB normally tends to flake off but this paint seems to have sealed the surface very well with only one coat;

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I love the texture – wish it was warm enough to do the deck.

A Glimmer of Hope

We love outdoor play – in all types of weather – but this has been a very, very long winter.  On the positive side, this slow-to-warm-up spring has allowed the snow in the yard to melt without creating huge puddles of water.  Soaking wet children cannot stay outside in cool temperatures.

Yesterday the gravel area was almost dry and there are just a few patches of stubborn snow left.  We checked out the visible soil in the garden and on the hill;

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Close inspection resulted in the discovery of some very tiny bits of new growth.  Baby plants – how exciting! There is some Yarrow – always the first one to show up here;

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And even more exciting is this one;

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It is growing where the Prairie Coneflower used to be.  The coneflower didn’t grow last year – I thought it may have died.

There are also some tiny sprouts of Giant Hyssop but the pictures were too blurry.

We can’t wait to go out today and see if the sprouts are bigger or if there are some more.  There is finally a glimmer of hope that this long winter may be over soon.