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Archive for February, 2012

than playing with water?  I got the paint brushes out so the boys could paint the house with water (a favourite activity) but they soon put their own boy spin on it and started to ‘splatter paint’ the fence. Very Pollock.

Mini Jackson Pollock in the garden

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I love how quickly preschoolers learn, and how they are able to draw on their own past experiences to discover new things for themselves.  And the natural world is a great place to see this process in action.

On a hike last week we gave The Monkey a bay leaf to smell.  Since then he’s started thinking more about what he can smell when we’re outside and today he discovered a lavender bush all by himself. He was so excited to be able to show me something he’d found and so proud of his growing ability to explore his world.

Smelly

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The boys really enjoyed this hike after the rain.  There were plenty of mud and puddles, and the wet really brought the wildlife out.

The exhilaration of a muddy trail

Hard to beat the views

Wet moss. It's even better than dry moss.

A little friend among the leaves

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Hiking with kids walking is different and far, far slower than hiking with adults.  They want to look at everything along the way.   This week we managed a relatively long hike–2 miles!–with both boys walking. It took two hours though as they both needed time to explore.

I’m gradually learning to see the blessings of this slow pace.  I notice many things that, were the boys not with me, I would hurry past without a glance. Had we not tarried so long by a dried up pond on saturday, I would not have heard the frogs calling in the bushes, and had we not spent 15 minutes listening in a woody clearing on sunday, I would have missed the pleasant experience of sitting with nothing but the wind in the branches and the creaking of the trees to disturb me (the boys were too busy really listening themselves to make any noise).

Quiet for once

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Hidden Villa is one of our favorite local spots and this week we paid it a spring visit.  Hidden Villa is an organic farm and wilderness preserve founded by the Duvenecks in 1924 and dedicated to the cause of environmental education.  It’s a wonderful spot for toddlers.  There’s an awesome, enclosed Education Garden with rows of different plants and lots of natural playhouses, tunnels and hidden animals for kids to “discover”. My boys will play happily there for well over an hour, running in and out of the tunnels and playing ‘house.’

chasing the hens through the tunnel

Making lunch in the playhouse

More tunnels

Further down the path there are animals to visit: cows and sheep by the barn, and chickens, goats and pigs beyond that.  Both boys love going into the field with the chickens where they can often get close enough to touch the birds.

Chicken Chasing

Lambs

 

We go to Hidden Villa fairly often as it changes so much throughout the year. Last time we were there over Christmas, four piglets had just been born. This trip we were able to see how much these babies had grown. The boys remembered the piglets and how they had acted last time and were able to make comparisons with their behaviour this visit.  Plus, the farm had just welcomed a bunch of lambs, some in the last two weeks, and the boys were delighted to watch these little “baas” (as The Puppy Dog calls them) frolicking in the muddy field.  I love having a place like this close by to visit where the kids can see the cycles of nature in action and note the changing seasons.  It’s a great value day trip – Hidden Villa just asks for a $5 donation per car.

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On our hike this morning we came across an old plank and fallen tree branches settled in the bottom of a dried-out old pond. The boys wanted to play and the possibilities were endless.

First we made a see-saw

Nature see-saw

Then we experimented moving the fulcrum so that Daddy and The Monkey would balance each other. See, I said there was science involved!

Give me a fulcrum and ...I'll move Daddy

Then we experimented to see how we could get all four members of the family balanced on the plank with both ends off the ground. (This is the view from my end).

A well-balanced family

Then we practiced our balance as we took turns to walk along the plank/see-saw.  So much fun!  The boys were sad to leave at lunchtime, but waved goodbye to their new toy and hoped that other children would be along to play with it soon.

Tipping Point

Me too!

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Amazing little guy

This little chap has been visiting us almost daily. The boys love watching for him. Finally caught him on camera.

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So you know those blogs that give the impression things with kids go wonderfully all the time, the ones where gorgeous, happy children play/create/build contentedly with their joy-filled mothers in beautiful homes, well, this blog isn’t one of those.  Sure, I want to show how much fun it is to get outside with your kids, but I don’t want to pretend it’salwayseasy or that things don’t sometimes go wrong.

And today was one of those days when things just went wrong.  We went for a toddler trek this morning in a large group of kids and adults, and The Puppy Dog cried pretty much the whole way. Not pleasant. And also not that common. He usually enjoys being outside and loves to run along the trials.  So I thought a post-mortem was in order.  Why did things go so wrong this morning? What can I learn from the experience?

1. Hiking in big groups with kids is hard.  The problem is that kids like to meander along the trail examining whatever catches their fancy. In a large group it’s hard to let kids do this however.  Trying to get your kids to keep up with the group means they get frustrated that their own needs are not being met.  That was definitely part of the problem this morning.  The Puppy Dog wanted to spend time playing in the dirt but his older brother wanted to run with the big kids.  This resulted in a pace that was too quick and too steady for the Puppy Dog to explore as he wanted.

2. Knowing the trail is key when hiking with kids.  I’d never done this trail before and it wasn’t terribly suitable for kids: too narrow and not too much to look at.  It was so narrow, in fact, that kids couldn’t stop to look at their surroundings without holding everyone up.  Made for a bit of a joyless trudge.

Basically the big group dynamic and the nature of the trail turned the hike into work rather than play. It just didn’t work.  Ah well, we live and learn.

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We’ve been marvelling for a few days now that the daffodils in the front garden are already in bloom, and that buds are appearing on all the fruit trees. I’ve grown accustomed to the idea that we’re not going to get a proper winter this year and am trying to embrace the first signs of spring.  So this week we put the new annuals in the ground: some beautiful pansies that should bloom right through till summer.  Last year they actually kept going through October.  I do love this spot of early colour in the garden.  It also felt fitting to do this on Valentine’s Day: planting new life and tending the garden the whole family enjoys are surely acts of love.

Popping the pansies in

Watering the garden

This is the second year that The Monkey has been involved in planting the spring flowers and he knew exactly what to do, fetching his trowel and confidently making holes and lowering in the baby flowers.  I love that he’s already getting a sense of how the seasons change and how patterns repeat. It’s steadying for him to know that spring always comes and we always plant the flowers in the same spot, and affirming for me to notice the confidence this experience gives him.  It’s something we all need.  And it seems another defence against the unpredictable, novelty-worshipping culture outside the garden that I find so unhealthy.

Watering baby feet

What are you planting this spring?

 

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My boys love to build.  Beaches full of driftwood are a real favourite with our family and keep everyone occupied for hours.

First you have to select your materials:

Good sticks

Then it’s time to build

Focus

And then this bit goes there

Then relax and enjoy the view

There are many things I love about this activity: it’s outside, it engages the boys’ creative thinking, it’s pretty much self-directed and it pushes their imagination.  The fort doesn’t have to be entirely ‘finished’ for them to enjoy it.

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