Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Have you played outside today?

Mine was the first group out into the yard this afternoon.  We decided to check on our bird feeder to see if it needed filling. Sure enough it was empty.  I got my little helpers to fill it back up again.

I hold the container and they reach in and carefully fill the scoop.  They feel so proud to do this on their own.

All four of them had a turn.

The seeds don't last long so we have to do this task often.
They are learning...

*fine motor control
*thoughtfulness and care for wild life

When we were done, we looked around for the birds.  Where were they?  Up in the trees?
I am so thankful for all the beautiful trees in our yard.  

*russian sage
*mountain ash 

We see different leaves, needles and blossoms. 

 We watched for the birds and then we got talking about our resident squirrel, Tina Peanut.  We wondered where she was too.

The children know where her house is, so they went to see if she was home.

Sometimes we can hear her rustling around in there.

The children know that she likes to come and take our kleenexes for her cozy home.

And that she likes pinecones to eat.

We often see her running on top of the fence, along tree branches or eating her pinecones on top of the shed roof.

"Is she on the roof?" he wonders.

Then we went and hid in the lilac bush to see if our friends could find us.

There is a well beaten path running through it.  It is a good place to hang out, inside a lilac bush.

This little one noticed the pretty lilacs that are starting to bloom.


I love that the children are intimately aware of their outdoor space.  Outside time is very important to the staff and children at our daycare.  We go out morning and afternoon rain, shine or snow!  
The children experience the diversity in the play space as the weather changes. 
 Snow, mud puddles, dust, grass. It all makes for an adventure for these young children.  

Playing outside: 

*supports creativity and problem solving
*enhances cognitive abilities
*improves academic performance
*reduces Attention Deficit Disorder symptoms
*increases physical activity
*improves nutrition
*improves eyesight
*improves social relations and self-discipline
*reduces stress

Click the link to read more about the benefits of Nature Play

“For ourselves, and for our planet, we must be both strong and strongly connected — with each other, with the earth. As children, we need time to wander, to be outside, to nibble on icicles, watch ants, to build with dirt and sticks in the hollow of the earth, to lie back and contemplate clouds….” Gary Paul Nabhan & Stephen Trimble, The Geography of Childhood, 2004 

Have you played outside today?

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Loose Parts and Open Ended Toys in the Outdoor Classroom.

I've been thinking about our outdoor space lately.  The weather is getting warmer and we are spending more time outside.  We are very fortunate with our yards.  We have two, an upstairs yard and a downstairs yard.  

Our children are not in nature deficit by any means but I like to think of our play yards as an outdoor classroom and challenge myself and our staff team to be intentional in what we provide for the children.

I did a kind of assessment by taking some photos of what we have.

This is our mud kitchen.

This is the mud kitchen from a different angle.

Some ideas I have to further develop this area is to add some mirrors and some colorful (fake) flowers, and maybe a cloth canopy.  Some drought resistant potted plants would be a welcome addition too!

Timber blocks for climbing or driving cars on.

These blocks can be configured numerous ways to be more or less challenging.

More timbers.  The toddlers don't move these around as they are heavy, but the staff can create different spaces and provocations by re-arranging them from time to time.  We had a parent who worked at a mill and he generously brought some end pieces.

We have a variety of bins and buckets.  The white bucket above is actually attached to a pulley.  The toddlers are intrigued with pulling it up and down.


Planks for ramps.


We recently created a Dinosaur World with two tires.  We also have plans to use some tires as planters this summer.

We were given two of these fabulous wooden reels.  The toddlers climb on them and are able to flip them and roll them around the yard.  That requires a lot of large muscle co-ordination.

This old horse has seen better days but he is a tough old steed.  His tail is missing and his leather ears are wizened up but the toddlers don't mind one bit.
I actually "borrowed" him from the 3-5's  yard three years ago.  I hope they don't miss him too much!

Come back Cowboys!  Come back!

The downstairs yard has a steep bank with a path that goes to the upstairs yard.  This bank provides challenges of its own as toddlers navigate their way up and down.

One of their favorite things to do is to roll the large balls up the path and then run down ahead of them as fast as they can!  They are amazingly adept at this game.
You can read some more about the ball rolling game here.  Talking of risk taking, in one corner of our yard, beyond the patio, we installed a toddler sized zip-line.  The toddlers are loving it and use it successfully.  You can read more about the zip-line here.

We added in two hanging bars when we noticed the toddlers attempting to hang from the tree branches.

This little tent is set on the top corner of the bank as a quiet invitation.

There ends the tour of our downstairs yard, not including the patio space.  We also have a collection of animals, balls and medium size construction vehicles.  Judging by the length of this post it seems we have a lot going on in this space.

Over the last few years we have given away a lot of plastic items and introduced loose parts and other natural materials.  We still have some plastic toys but we are liking the direction we are moving in for now. 

I find there is always a very fine balance of just enough and too much. Our yard is not really that big and it can seem cluttered at times, but at the same time there needs to be enough interesting materials for the children as well.  

It takes team work, thought and persistence to find and keep the balance.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Small World Play in the Sandtable

I bought some sand recently from a local hardware store.  I bought two twenty five pound bags and thought that would give us plenty to use for some time.  I was a bit disappointed in it however.  It was very dusty and not that nice because of that.  

We took the first sandbox load outside and eventually dumped it out as it was vertually unusable.  The second time round we decided to create a dry creek bed small world. 

First I secured two small trees to the center of the table with tape.  Then we added the second twenty five pound bag of sand as well as pea gravel, medium sized stones, large rocks and lots of gems.

We added in some frogs and turtles, snakes and an eagle family.

We also added a log.

I often find the eagle family up in the trees.

We water the sand box once a day.

We are really happy with how the small world turned out.  The consistency of the sand with all of the additions has made it very nice to use and not dusty at all.  The children often bring in their cars to drive and dig.  They like making roads.  I am amazed as well, that apart from a normal amount of spillage they are not inclined to transport this sand anywhere.  

The sand box has been consistently and successfully used for quite a few weeks now.

We recently switched the frogs, snakes and turtles for small dinosaurs and that has extended the play some more.


Monday, 6 April 2015

An Easter Egg Hunt - Our Style

Simple is beautiful. 

 That's my opinion anyway.  This little girl had her first Easter Egg hunt this week-end and it was just the right balance of special goodies, small gifts, a memorable hunting game and family time.

She is four years old this spring.  I can hardly believe how fast time ticks on.  

 Her Mom and Dad combined their traditions and created a fun time for their daughter.

Her Dad placed picture clues inside plastic eggs.  He showed her how to open the eggs and find the clue.  He also put one mini chocolate egg in each of the plastic eggs.

Following the clue she races over to the ladder swing!

There was a clue that led her to the apple tree.

Uh -Oh it's a little high. 

Papa lends a helping hand.

There was a clue that led her to the garden and the car and also to her Fairy garden.

She had no trouble following the clues and for her it was all about the game.  She carefully placed all her tiny chocolate eggs in the basket.  I found out later she didn't know they were edible.   I love that.  She has rarely been exposed to candy or chocolate and for her "collecting" was the the funnest part.  

Beautifully innocent.

At the end of the hunt she found a treasure basket.

Bath bubbles, new tights, and spring animal cookie cutters.


Happy Easter!