Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ice and Outdoor Play

We’re nearing the end of Spring Break with a mix of sorrow and relief.  We have enjoyed the reprieve from the rigorous school schedule.  However, I have found that the school age children require considerably more structure and guidance than any of the younger children and I am exhausted.

Luckily Mother Nature has provided us with terrific weather – warm enough that we can spend our entire morning outdoors but not so warm that we get completely soaked.  Outdoors is the only place this group of school age children have been able to demonstrate any cooperative play.

I mentioned in my last post that my husband shovelled the snow off the roof of the shed and buried the garden path – we still haven’t managed to clear out all that snow.  Now my husband chopped off some of the thick layer of ice from the shed roof. We have found that the ice pieces are far more useful to have in the yard;


One of the children thought they should “put together the puzzle’ but that activity only lasted a few minutes before it was deemed to be too difficult.

Some of the ice chunks were huge and required some problem solving skills to move;


After spending two days clearing most of the snow from the tunnel under the hill the children now used the larger pieces of ice to block the tunnel entrance;


I was informed that this piece of ice was “too heavy to carry” – probably due to the weight of the ‘skater’;


They even found a small patch of fluffy snow in the corner of the yard that was perfect for this little snow person;


Yes, hours of outdoor play is the best way to spend Spring Break.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Keeping Busy

We’ve been keeping busy.

Some of the children have done lacing activities many times but for the toddlers this was new and exciting;


Making designs with bags of coloured gel was a new experience for all of us;


In the playroom the boxes and ponies were used for chariot races;


It was part of a ‘video game’ dramatic play activity that the preschoolers created. They used this ‘timer’;


Tasks had to be completed before the spinner reached the bottom of the track.
They used this set-up to control the action – ‘press B to jump’, ‘press C to crawl’ etc.


This has been an ongoing activity that has evolved throughout the last month.  I’ve enjoyed watching the preschoolers play and develop more elements to their game.

We are still enjoying all the snow outside – running, jumping and climbing everyday.  My husband cleared the snow off the roof of the shed and completely buried the garden path.  I spent several days trying to dig it out again;


Even with help from the children this project is not yet complete;


We’ve run out of good places to move the snow to.  Besides, the children have decided that they like using this spot as the ‘booth’ for their restaurant;


Next week is Spring Break.  As much as we’re enjoying our time indoors and outside in the snow I’m eager for ‘real’ spring.  I have several projects planned but the snow need to go before work can begin.  I wanted an early Spring.

Keeping busy is hard sometimes when Mother Nature has other plans.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Last month I bought some small stuffies from IKEA.  They fit all my criteria for good playroom toys;
  • Small enough that I can have several of them in the room
  • Not too small for the infants and toddlers
  • Inexpensive – they cost just $15 for all six of them
  • And most importantly – can be used in a variety of ways
Since they were first introduced into the playroom they have been popular with all the children.
They were used during dramatic play in the housekeeping area – as a food source;


They went on adventures.  This one is having a bath;


They frolicked in the field in the nature area;


The toddlers are impressed by the convenient ‘handles’;


And of course they are great to cuddle up with when reading a story;


Great connection to the book she chose too :-)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Trimming Trees

One day last week as I was helping to get the toddlers dressed to go outside I told the preschoolers to put on their boots.  They looked at me and in unison asked “Are we going for a walk?”

They know the routine.  We get dressed at the front door because there is more room there but we carry our boots to the back door to go outside to play.  We only put our boots on at the front door if we are going out the front to go for a walk.

They sounded a little disappointed.  They look forward to playing in the yard and sometimes the toddlers walk so slowly that we run out of time to play.  I reassured them that we were just walking around the block and would come in the back yard to play.

There was something on the street that I thought they would like to see.  I had noticed the ‘No Parking – Street Work’ signs the day before and now the trucks were down at the end of the block.
We went out on the step;


“What are they doing?” the children asked.
“Trimming the trees” I replied.
“Can we go watch them?”
“Yes, but not to close.”  We talked about the warning signs;


We discussed the things we saw and heard.  The equipment was very loud.  I explained that it was easier to trim the trees in the winter when there were no leaves and the trees were dormant.  One child expressed concern that the workers would cut down ‘all the trees and we’ll have none left’.  Awww.

We walked around to the back yard to play.  I was hoping that by the time we came back inside the workers would have moved farther down the street and the children would be able to watch some more from the playroom window.

By lunchtime the trucks had only moved slightly closer – they didn’t appear to be making much progress.  I figured at this rate they wouldn’t reach my house until the middle of nap time – grrrr.
Actually, they never did come further down the street.  I wondered why.

The school bus dropped off the older children and then had to back down the street to leave because the trucks were still blocking the road.  That’s when we noticed this;


That’s some MAJOR trimming.  Luckily they only cut down the one tree and not all of them.  We still have some left – for now.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Making Meetings Fun

Many people don’t enjoy attending meetings – especially those of us who enjoy spending our time outdoors in nature.  So, to encourage attendance at the Manitoba Nature Summit AGM we held the meeting at Camp Manitou and included some all important outdoor time!

Driving up the road to the camp we were greeted by this sight;


After a brief ‘formal’ sesson indoors we gathered in the parking lot to prepare for our winter evening hike;


Heading out;


Finding tracks that show we were not the first ones there;


And a not so pleasant sight;


We ended the evening at the campfire with bannock and hot chocolate.


Perfect AGM :-)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Saving Time

Many of the items on our menu are prepared in advance – or at least some of the ingredients for the meals are.  For example, I buy bulk packages of ground beef or pork and scramble fry it all.  Then I package the cooked meat into small portions and freeze them.

I do the same for chicken – cook an entire 4 kg box of chicken breasts and then freeze them individually.  Turkey and ham are roasted, sliced and then packaged and frozen.

This way I always have cooked meat available for sandwiches or to add to casseroles etc.  The small packages allow me to adjust the meal size – thawing one, two or even three packages – depending on the menu item and how many children will be here for the meal.

Personally I don’t like reheated casseroles so I won’t make the whole meal ahead of time.  I prepare the fresh vegetables and pasta or rice etc on the day the meal is to be served but having the meat already cooked saves a step in the process.

Some of the menu items are entirely prepared ahead of time.  I make large batches of cookies, bars, and loaves which are also frozen until needed. Depending on the menu item the amount I prepare ahead of time may be enough to last from two to four months.

Usually I manage to arrange it so I don’t have to prepare more than one bulk batch each week but recently we ran out of several items at once.  Consequently I spent this past weekend stocking up on supplies, frying packages of beef and pork, making four meat loaves, a huge batch of curry sauce, some trail mix cookies, and three loaves of pepperoni pizza bread.

It was a busy weekend and I could have used that extra hour from the time change.  However, the freezer is well stocked and I’m looking forward to spending the week playing with the children instead of working in the kitchen.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Rewards, Punishments, and Learning

The teacher was standing at the blackboard surveying the group of children in the class.  She had just demonstrated how to print the lower case letter ‘f’ within the three horizontal lines that were neatly drawn on the board.  Now she was looking for a child to come to the board and prove that she had been successful in ‘teaching’ the proper placement of the letter.

I sunk lower in my seat, trying not to make eye contact.  The words ‘Please, not me’ looped silently in my head.  I knew how to print the letter ‘f’.  I knew how to print all the letters in the alphabet but I didn’t want to go to the board and show her or anyone else.

The teacher called my name.

I stood up and walked slowly to the front of the class.  I looked at the ground in front of me – trying not to notice everyone staring at me.  I wanted to scream and run out of the room but that would have drawn even more attention to me.

I took the piece of chalk that the teacher offered me.  I could feel the other children watching me as I tentatively placed the tip of the chalk against the board and drew a straight line down.  I knew I had already failed to follow the instructions and I contemplated how to correct it.  I quickly placed the chalk back at the top of the vertical line and added the curve and then finished the ‘f’ with the line across.

The teacher’s reaction was swift.  “Wrong” she said sternly as she took the chalk from me and proceeded to demonstrate the ‘correct’ method.  She then instructed me to go to the other end of the blackboard and fill two full lines with properly formed f’s.

I scuttled to the end of the board and began the task.  The class continued to ‘learn’ other letters and then they went out for recess. With the now empty classroom my printing improved.  The teacher came to inspect my progress.  Satisfied, she released me from the task and I went out to play.

More than forty years has passed and I still pause and shudder each and every time I print an ‘incorrect’ letter f.  Yet, how I print the letters is irrelevant to others as long as they are readable.  So, was the teacher’s lesson successful?

I’d like to believe that we don’t teach like that anymore.

Printing is a tool of communication – one of many.  Using tools takes practice.  Not right or wrong, reward or punishment.  Learning requires trial and error; freedom to explore and experiment without fear of being wrong.  Punishments and rewards only teach compliance – nothing more.