Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Unstructured Play’ Category

I love summer – always have: long days with nothing scheduled, nowhere to go and plenty of time to relax outside. My kids seem to feel the same. While I had been a little apprehensive that they would find all this ‘down time’ a little dull after the busy school year, they’ve really embraced the slower summer pace and are enjoying pottering around the garden inventing their own worlds and games.

That said, a day in the garden with a baby, a two-year old and a four-year old is a long time and they do sometimes look to me for entertainment.  Partly out of necessity (the Bug is currently learning to sit up and requires constant attention) and partly inspired by my educational philosophy (that preschoolers need invitations to creativity rather than organized games) I’ve been trying to find play prompts that capture their imagination, lead to long play periods, and don’t need to much adult intervention. I thought I’d share our more successful outdoors play ideas in case there are other families in need……

The Busy Town Garden Game

My older two (both boys) are interested in logistics, maps and transport. They also love the Busy Town books and have in past weeks used this books as a spring-board to ask about town organization.  To combine and extend these interests, and to keep them happily engaged outside, we invented the ‘Busy Town Garden Game’.

The Suburbs

The Suburbs

 

One afternoon I cleared the patio, took out a box of chalk and drew three boxes on the ground each a few feet apart. I labeled one the ‘school’, one the ‘shop’ and one the farm. I told the boys this was the start of their own ‘busy town’ and invited them to complete it.  They took to the idea immediately, connecting these ‘buildings’ with roads. And then the game took off and they thought about what other buildings and institutions a town needed and added them to the patio.  Over several afternoons, the map has grown ever larger with increasingly specialized businesses and vast suburbs. The boys added cars and traffic signs to the town and are asking to start building structures out of boxes tomorrow to add to their project.  I love how this has stirred their imagination. I also love how busy it has kept them.

'The Busy Town 101'

‘The Busy Town 101’

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

I’m pleased to announce that camping season is now underway!  Last weekend we decided that the evenings are sufficiently warm to take the boys out overnight and headed to Big Basin Redwoods State Park with a couple of other families for two nights in the woods.  This was an unusually luxurious trip for us as we stayed in the park’s tent cabins rather than in our little tent.  And it was a lot of fun.

The Park

The park itself is stunning. After the winding approach (and, be warned, 236 is windy enough to make kids car sick!) you feel as if you are in the middle of no-where when you finally reach the park headquarters.  All around are towering redwoods and sunny forest glades.  The campsites themselves are great – some of the nicest we’ve seen in a state park.  Each site is well set apart, spacious, private and characterful, with its own arrangement of redwoods, stumps and logs to be explored. The amenities are pretty good: hot and cold running water, coin operated showers, a ranger station selling camp basics, and even a coin operated laundry. The only real down-side is the super-aggressive squirrels: don’t keep any food in your cabin or tent unless you want visitors.

Big Basin is enormous and has miles of interesting hiking that is just too long and too remote for little legs.  But it also has some great trails for small people.  The weekend docent-led ramble along the Redwood Loop Nature Trail that leaves from the park HQ is perfect for toddlers.  The path is wide, flat and fairly even, and winds past some interesting sights that appeal to little ones.

lots of tall trees on this trail

Our ranger, Norm, was really informative and pitched his talk to the adults or the kids in turn, or to whichever combination happened to stay still at each spot on the way. He was knowledgeable and unflappable amidst the toddler chaos. Even the Puppy Dog learnt something: at the end of the hike he pointed to a redwood and said, in a rather serious voice, “tall tree Mama!”.

hanging on Ranger Norm's every word

It was amazing to see near 2000 year old trees, to learn about the forest ecology and about the cultural history of the park (did you know there used to be a dance floor and swimming pool there under the stars?). We also enjoyed the route along the creek from the Huckleberry Camp ground.  It was narrow in places, and the drop precipitous on one side, but the kids loved watching the white water and looking for bugs.  We simply headed down the trail awhile, and turned back when they’d had enough.

What’s really great about this campsite, though, is the possibility for unstructured outdoors play.  Our kids were happy wandering around our campsites and exploring the forest that backed onto our cabins. There were slugs to find, trees to climb, forts to make, log trains to be fixed and driven, games of hide and seek to be had.  The list goes on.  It was nice to let them wander free in a pretty safe environment and to have their own adventures while we watched from our camp chairs.

This stump was variously a train station, a fort, a hiding place and a baby bird's nest

The park comes highly recommended as a toddler destination, and we’ll be back.

The Tent Cabins

Depending on what you’re used to, these are either the height of luxury or beyond basic.  To us, used to rocking up after sunset, pitching a tent in the dark and trying to fire up the camp stove for supper while placating over-tired kids, it was wonderful to arrive and find linens on the bed, a lantern and propane set up for our use, fruit juice, towels and toiletries awaiting us .The cabin had everything we needed for the weekend and, depending on which package you choose, can also come with cooking equipment, a freezer box and ice.  The cabins themsleves were pretty clean and well maintained. See here for details and rates in case you want to book.

Bottom line for me – the cabins do make things easier if you have kids, but I did miss our little tent.

Read Full Post »

water, water, everywhere

Enjoy them before they get clogged with sand and are unavailable for the rest of the summer 😉

Read Full Post »

Having spent three hours standing in the rain in a park I didn’t think it was possible that the boys could get much wetter.  But they could.  All the precipitation made them super excited to check out our local creek again this weekend, and to see if it had got any higher.  And of course ‘checking it out’ cannot be accomplished without actually getting in the water.  It was cold but they had fun, and The Monkey spent a long time sailing his cactus leaf boat down the new rapids.  I think I’m ready to be dry and warm again now even if the boys love this weather…

Rule 17 of parenting three-year-old boys: They can always get wetter.

Read Full Post »

I thought today was going to be one of those looooonng days where the kids are going crazy trapped inside by super heavy rain.  Especially after we had inside preschool in the morning. They are, after all, Outdoors Kids right?  But it actually proved to be a really fun afternoon.  The weather vaguely co-operated and we were able to get outside for a few hours.  I also discovered that rain days make perfect science days, which little boys really enjoy.

The boys are fascinated by rain.  They haven’t seen too much of it this year, so it’s novel, and it makes everything — in their opinion anyway — so much more interesting.  First, we decided to see how much rain was falling this week and whipped up a quick rain gauge. It wouldn’t win any prizes for beauty or scientific accuracy, but it did the job and was constructed entirely from items we found in our recycling bin.  The Monkey is fascinated with numbers and measuring things, so he loved explaining how the gauge would work and finding a good spot for it in the garden.  It better rain enough over night to make it satisfying to look at tomorrow.

Five pounds of rain Mom!

Then we went to our local park and noticed all the changes the rain had made in this familiar landscape.  We talked about why the wood chips and sand had changed colour and why some areas of the park had remained dry.  We talked about how and where puddles form. Then we pondered how different the creek might look after rain.  The Monkey, after his current favourite TV show, likes to make hypotheses (“Mommy, a hypothesis is an idea you can test!”), so I encouraged him to guess how the creek would have changed from our last visit.  He suggested it would have more water and be running faster.  We clambered down to the creek to check and he was delighted to discover he was right–the creek was running really high and fast.  We then spent a happy thirty minutes paddling in the creek as we had our rain boots on anyway.  Rain? It’s just an opportunity for science, right?

Read Full Post »

The boys were at a loose end in the garden for a while today.  They gathered up their ride-on cars, a bucket of water and brushes and set up a car wash.  I think it’s a great idea and, once the weather warms up, we may expand the car wash.

Nice and clean

Read Full Post »

We found this one in Memorial Park. The boys played here for the longest time. I’m finding many of our most successful hikes are those on which we stop and make time for unstructured play if that’s what the boys want to do.

Clambering around their forest stronghold

It's all mine!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »