Mobile Adventure Playground

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Since coming into the world of early childhood education and play, two of the concepts I’ve found most intriguing are loose parts and outdoor play. Calgary’s super cool Mobile Adventure Playground initiative marries these two ideas with some awesome implications.

As parents living in the modern world, when we think of parks and playgrounds, we (sadly) often think of permanent well-groomed areas covered in sprawling plastic structures meant to be played on (and not with!)

This mobile adventure playground challenges that concept. Instead of permanent fixed play structures, children (and adults) have access to a variety of parts (that would otherwise be lying in a landfill somewhere) and can use their imaginations, gross motor muscles, and cognitive skills (much of which can draw on science, engineering and math) to do with them whatever they’d like.

In my talk with one of the play facilatators, I discovered that thirty years ago, adventure parks and playgrounds could be found in Calgary and currently thrive in the UK, Denmark and other areas of Europe. Thanks to a grant from the Lawson Foundation, Calgary’s mobile adventure playground is one of three in Canada and grew out of a 2015 study on outdoor and play engagement and 2016 pilot period, when 2000+ people came out to play.

The mobile adventure playground is relatively easy to set up. Some of the items featured in this one were: tires, plastic crates, pieces of wood and cardboard, pipes, pieces of old play structures, kitchen items like bowls and colanders, scraps of fabric, logs, buckets, paper tubes, cable spindles and a wheelbarrow.

Like many great things, it’s not so much about product as it is about process. Initially, the children stood around not really knowing what to do but once they started exploring and imagining, their play really got going.

In my time there, I observed children create slides and fishing boats, obstacle courses and clubhouses, bunkers and moving vehicles.

There are so many great aspects of this playground:

  • it is mobile and will be set up in different locations throughout the summer (for a schedule, click here)
  • it is free to access
  • it reuses everyday materials in novel ways
  • there’s no one way or right way to set up the materials
  • the same materials result in different types of play depending on who is using them
  • the (big) size of many of the objects required children to work together to move them, fostering cooperative play
  • children that don’t know each other will probably interact, either by playing together or asking permission to use/share materials, helping to develop negotiating skills
  • socioemotional development: not only will children take pride in their play and creations, but they will also learn how to navigate more challenging emotions like loss (when someone might repurpose items they are no longer actively playing with as experienced by H and her friends); struggle and frustration (physically, cognitively and even emotionally) as children try to bring their visions to life;  and conflict when children may want to use the same materials or have different visions for what/how things should be done
  • the playground is set up outdoors allowing families to benefit from exposure to nature
  • the playground utilizes green spaces, temporarily transforming existing (neighbourhood) sites

This park is a break from the norm and would be a welcome change to summer play, especially in the case of children who:

  1. are very active and appreciate gross motor play
  2. love imaginative play
  3. enjoy using stem (science, technology, engineering, math) principles to bring their play into reality
  4. are bored of traditional park experiences

For more information on Calgary’s mobile adventure playground or to view the schedule/locations for the rest of the season, click here. If you’ve ever been exposed to an adventure park/playground, please comment with your experiences and location.

Happy Playing!

 

 

 

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Drum for Fun!

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Last summer I happened upon a unique and creative gross motor program happening in my neighbourhood. It was a guided drumming and dance circle that used drumsticks and yoga balls on pails in a group setting. Due to prior commitments and the timing of Ranadan, I only attended it once with H who was 2.5 years old at the time. She loved it! But she was a toddler and lasted about 25 minutes before she wanted to play at the neighbouring park.

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H at the Drum and Dance program last summer at 2.5 years old

When I realized this program was happening again this summer, I was excited to take H, who now, at 3.5 years, would enjoy it even more. We planned for it, and when I returned after getting baby dressed (who H has now nicknamed Boomer), I found her asleep on the couch (this has literally never happened). After multiple failed attempts at waking her up, I decided to just go on a walk with baby. We walked by the park and while I wasn’t sure of the logistics of babywearing and participating, it worked out fabulously!

Baby Boomer (hahaha clearly not an intentional pun by my 3 year old) is not the best of nappers, but the one way he naps best is when I wear him. So in spite of some very loud Bhangra and Electronic music, the vibrations of the drumming and my various movements, he stayed asleep!

I love this program. It’s super family-friendly and combines basic music/dance skills like keeping time and following the beat with the opportunity to meet new people of various ages and circles and get a creative workout,  all while benefiting from spending time outdoors! The instructor is also super friendly and energetic; people drop in and out throughout the program. Best of all, this is an easy program to recreate – it can be adapted to meet the needs of daycare/preschool children, school-aged children, cultural groups and even corporate employees!

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I’m so glad I went out today, even though H wasn’t with me (she was the whole reason I was going in the first place). Being a parent (especially the mother) to a newborn can be very exhausting and isolating- this was exactly what I needed tonight!

For more info on this free program, check out the poster below!

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Ramadan 2017- Post #9: Happy Neighbour Day!

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We moved to our current neighbourhood almost four years ago, and we’ve met some incredible people since. We’ve been blessed with tremendous neighbours- the type I call upon when in a bind; who shower us with friendly smiles and kind gestures; who make us feel welcomed and loved. We’ve come to love our neighbours and are so fortunate to belong to such a friendly community.

As the years have passed, I’ve forced myself outside of my comfort zone (and taken H along for the ride). I want my children to feel like Ramadan is something they can share with the various communities they belong to, not just the Muslim ones.

This Ramadan I prepared soup jars that I thought might be appreciated as all one needs to do is add water! This was actually something I planned to do last year but ran out of time. This year I made it a priority and worked in increments (around everyone’s schedules).

To make these Moroccan Lentil Soup jars, I bought and washed a bunch of mason jars.

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Then I filled them with red lentils, layered with dehydrated onions and a spice mix as per the recipe.

 

Then added some more lentils and topped with a bay leaf.

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I spent a good deal of time looking online for pre-made labels (how I wish I was more graphically-tech savvy) before I gave up and decided to make my own with good old scrapbook paper, tags, a pen and a gold marker I happened upon while cleaning up. I wrote the cooking directions on the back of the tag.

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Originally, I wanted H to help me measure and prep but there was no time for that. She happily came out to deliver the jars.

A sense of community is very important to me. Taking care of neighbours is also a big part of our faith. In the Quran, God instructs us:

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I find it remarkable how it’s not just the neighbours we know that we are supposed to do good towards, but those who we don’t know either. Inshallah I plan to expand my efforts next year to include neighbours that I don’t know as well. It’s actually my dream to host an open iftaar for everyone in my complex!

I couldn’t believe how happy the elders I delivered the jars to were to receive them (and a visit from H)! They are honestly always so touched that they haven’t been forgotten about. I really love that my kids have access to these “next door nanas” in the absence of their biological grandparents.

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I am so grateful for our wonderful neighbours! And to a mayor who is cool enough to designate June 17 as “Neighbour Day” in my city to strengthen communities.

Happy Neighbour Day folks!

 

 

Ramadan 2017 – Post #8: Sharing Ramadan with Classmates

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A few months after starting preschool in December, H expressed interest in wanting to invite all her school friends over, have a party, and celebrate with friends. I suspect that this desire was sparked by becoming more familiar with the idea of birthdays through cartoons and real-life experiences (attending other children’s birthday parties). Since her birthday falls in November and we have so far been pretty minimal about how we celebrate, I told her that we could do something for Ramadan. Now i knew that by the time Ramadan rolled around, I would be pretty freshly post-partum so I went from entertaining visions of healthy, beautifully-crafted fruit skewers, to rice krispy treats shaped like moon and stars to good-old-fashioned treat bags when the reality of post-partum life with two kids, my mom leaving and Ramadan hit.

While we still might get around to the first two ideas for another group of friends during Ramadan/for Eid, I realized they weren’t going to work for H’s school setting as the fruit wouldn’t preserve well and I think there’s a school policy around bringing in homemade food. So instead, we decided to make treat bags that included some store bought treats (granola bars and “fruit” snacks) and included some novelty items like bubbles and tattoos and dates of course. Since nature of goody bag didn’t scream “Ramadan” , I included a “Ramadan Fact Sheet for Parents” inside the bag as well as a simple message in English and French on the outside for the children (thanks to my dear friend Lynn for proofreading the French part!).

Creating and assembling the bags was a process for H. We divided it up into multiple steps and I heavily involved her (I believe that if my kids want to do something, they need to put in the effort!)
Step 1: We used dollar store paper treat bags left over from a past event and brown paper bags. We didn’t have enough of either type so we used both kinds. We decorated one side of the bags with stars and moons. To do this, we used a start-shaped cookie cutter and a sponge, roughly cut up in the shape of a moon, to stamp with using paint. H chose the paint colours. We let the bags dry overnight.
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Step 2: I typed up, printed and cut the message from H and she glued it to the back of each bag. This allowed her to practice using a glue stick.
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Step 3: We filled the bags one early morning while we slept over at her grandparent’s house. Since her cousins were still sleeping and I was trying to to discourage her from making noise (the whole house tends to sleep in during Ramadan). I held baby with one hand which meant it was up to H to really fill the bags.  H carefully chose a bag for each classmate and decided which colour of bubbles and which tattoos each friend should get. I was surprised at how quickly she memorized the quantity of items to put in each bag. We slipped each friend’s name tag inside their bag so that I could finish off the bags at a later time.
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Step 4: I finished off the bags and we transported them back to our house. H took the bags to school and proudly distributed them. We made a list of other friends we wanted to give Ramadan bags too. I explained it may not be possible to make bags for everyone right now but depending on how things were around Eid time, we may be able to share some more things with friends we have missed. Regardless, I was pleased to see how caring and inclusive H is!
This process, which spanned a week, not only gave H the opportunity to practice fine motor skills through stamping, gluing and filling, but also allowed her to work on numerical concepts such as collecting, sorting, sequencing and distributing and contribute to socioemotional development as she got to connect her home life to her school life. She was able to share an aspect of her life that is important to us in a setting where it isn’t discussed (public preschool). She had the chance to do something nice as she thoughtfully created the bags and selected the contents and share them with friends- this was her favourite part! I was actually not planning to add names to the bags (I figured it was more work for her teacher) and randomly select who got what, but H insisted she wanted each child’s name on a bag. This demonstrates the joy and pride children feel when something is made especially for them and the joy and pride they feel in being able to do that for others. I hope H is always this excited and secure to share her identity and experiences with others.

Family Friendly May Events

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I interrupt my Ramadan 2017 series to bring some very cool family-friendly events to your attention. These are all local (Calgary-based) events that are happening this month. While I’ve attended all of these events in the past, I’m not sure how many I will make it to this year, but I do intend on getting my family to attend!

  1. Nagar Kirtan/Vaisakhi Parade – Saturday May 13, 2017 – Dashmesh Culture Centre: 135 Martindale Blvd NE – Opening Ceremonies at 9:30 am; Festivities from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm

This is the largest gathering I have witnessed outside of Stampede in Calgary. We’ve been meaning to check it out ever since we moved to this part of the city 4 years ago, but didn’t actually make it until last year. It’s a HUGE parade that leaves from the Dashmesh Culture Centre (Gurdwara) at 135 Martindale Blvd NE and follows a predetermined route. Roads are closed to accommodate pedestrian traffic. Even if you don’t join the parade, there is plenty to do in and around the centre. All sorts of delicious (FREE) food awaits and inside the parking lot of the centre and in the surrounding greenspace, there are lots of tables and tents set up with activities and giveaways (and lots more delicious food). You can get more information here. This photo is from the 2016 parade.

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These photos are from the 2017 parade.

2. Ramadan Gana Fair- Saturday May 20, 2017 – Al-Salam Centre: 6415 Ranchview Drive NW- 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm

Get into the Ramadan spirit by visiting this free festival (admission is free but bring cash as there will be food and products available for sale). This is the third year this festival is in operation. There will be delicious food, traditional decorations and children’s activities. A great event for Muslim families to welcome the holy month and non-Muslim families to learn more about Ramadan and fasting and experience some aspects of the vibrant and diverse culture that their Muslim neighbours belong to. You can get more information here.

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3. Calgary International Children’s Festival (Kidfest) – May 24-27, 2017 – In and around the Arts Common/Olympic Plaza: 205 – 8th Avenue SE – On May 24-25, 9:30- am – 3:00 pm; On May 26-27, 9:30 am – 6:00 pm

We’ve been to this festival twice. H was 6 months the first time and 2.5 years the second time. This is hands-down one of my favourite free things to do in the city! There are ticketed shows that you can purchase tickets to as well. Chances are that your child’s daycare or school group may already make a field trip out of it, but if you want to head down with your family, I’d highly recommend it. Past attractions have included giant walk-on keyboards, all sorts of creation stations, free clown shows, large gross motor games and activities, the splash pool, dress up and free snacks. For more information, click here.  Here are some photos from our visit last year:

Ramadan 2017- Post #2- The Plan

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So here’s the plan we came up with to do this year. Some of these ideas are repeated from last year. Others were planned for last year but didn’t materialize. Others are brand-spanking-new based on H’s needs and the blossoming community we have come to find ourselves a part of, alhamdulillah.

Once again, I grouped them into six general categories that made sense in our situation after brainstorming the long list.

Ramadan Plan for H – 2017

Food/Cooking

  • Soup jars for neighbours/hosts (6)- create and deliver
  • Make cupcakes – bring to Dadi’s House
  • Cook food to bring to Dadi’s House (ask H what she wants to cook…other than cupcakes)
  • Make chocolate covered dates (rolled in coconut flakes) or stuffed dates and other sweets like cookies etc and deliver to friends in the neighbourhood/family/bring to gatherings
  • Ramadan Skewers (fruit in shapes of stars and moons with dates on a skewer)/as part of a goody bag with dollar store items (bubbles, stickers etc) for her preschool class and neighbourhood friends. Also include short blurb for parents.
  • Make fruit salad

Art/Crafts

  • Listen to Ramadan songs (in car ride/at home); compile a youtube playlist and share with others
  • Stained glass geometric designs and lanterns (design in black and use tissue paper squares to fill) – decorate house- make extras for cousins so they can decorate Dadi’s house
  • Paper chains (patterning) – decorate house
  • Paper lanterns- decorate house
  • Make Ramadan card for a friend (and mail it)
  • Create visual duah list (collage style) and use each night
  • Make Eid Cards for family and friends
  • Make wrapping paper (stamping)

Islamic Learning

(*set aside consistent time each day to focus on this)

  • Memorize/Review Surah An Naas
  • Memorize/Review Surah Asr
  • Memorize/Review Surah Ikhlaas
  • Memorize Kalimah
  • Listen to/Learn Eid Takbir
  • Review Arabic Alphabet with blocks; once knows them, set up a scavenger hunt in backyard and reinforce with other games

Activities/Excursions

(Ask other family members to take her to things I may not be able to with new baby)

  • Ramadan Gana Fair – (with nani before she leaves)
  • Moonsighting outing (pack blanket, hot chocolate, binoculars; if F not interested, partner with other local moms)
  • Scavenger Hunt with Ramadan Gift Baskets for all of the cousins as treasure (do at grandparent’s house at beginning of Ramadan); share scavenger hunt clues in a document on the blog so others can benefit
  • Go grocery shopping and buy items for people in need (to donate to food bank)
  • Go to Masjid (non-peak time)
  • Buy Eid Gifts
  • Attend Eid Potluck (MG)
  • Visiting the Elderly/Sick in care facilities/hospitals (MG) 
  • Group soup making after reading Bismillah Soup (MG)
  • Drop off sadaqa that has been collected (ask H what cause she wants to collect for and for ideas on how she can raise money)
  • Operation Eid Child or something similar

Global/Ummah Connections

  • Call/skype relatives in other places
  • Make a card/Write letter to sponsored orphans (Somalia and Bosnia)
  • Learn about Ramadan customs in other countries and learn about those countries (refer to National Geographic book)

Books to Read

(what we already own; add to list)

  • It’s Ramadan Curious George
  • Under the Ramadan Moon
  • Welcome Ramadan
  • Celebrate Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr with Praying, Fasting and Charity
  • Ilyas & Duck and the Fantastic Festival of Eid-al-Fitr
  • Je me soucie des autres
  • Je prends la bonne decision
  • Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns
  • Jameela’s Great Idea
  • Allah to Z: An Islamic Alphabet Book
  • Zaynab and Zakariya and the new Neighbour
  • The Little Green Drum
  • Resource: Allah to Z Activity Book
  • Resource: A Life Like Mine: How children live around the world

(what I’ve ordered)

  • Ramadan Moon
  • Hassan and Aneesa Love Ramadan

Hope this plan encourages you to think about Ramadan for your little ones!

Some Words and Photos from our Customers!

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Over the past three years, I have been incredibly blessed to meet some fantastic customers (some who have become good friends) through my work with Discovery Dome. In case you’ve ever wondered about what I do or the types of products I stock, I encourage you to give this post a read! Go all the way to the end as I’ll be sharing some important information 🙂

“I have bought several items (books and toys) from Discovery Dome and have been incredibly satisfied. The wooden heirloom, fair trade, non-toxic alphabet blocks (available in different languages) are a favorite of mine.
When I visited, Madiha took the time to sit with me and explain the benefits of each book/item. It’s really helpful that her education is in early childhood and development, as she was able to draw my attention to pros and cons of certain books that I wasn’t aware of. I love that the majority (if not all) of the items she carries are representative of various ethnicities and cultures. There is a beautiful and wholistic intention behind Discovery Dome, which is evident in the way Madiha interacts with her customers and in the items she chooses to stock. I strongly recommend Discovery Dome.” – M

“Everything they carry is addictive and you can’t just buy one cause there is soooo much variety! and even after you’ve purchased something for your little one you keep coming back for more for gifts for friends and family. All the products they carry have been personally reviewed and recommended by the owner (who has a little one of her own). This is especially great if you are a new parent or don’t have any kids of your own, just let her know the child’s age and gender and she will provide some great recommendations. Great service and quality products! … I’ll be BACK!!” – F

“I bought 2 books from the “I can” series, and a “Build a Masjid” toy for nephews/nieces for Eid, and they loved them! I also received a book from the same series and a Prayer Time Doll set for my son for Eid, and he absolutely loves them both! After seeing more of Madiha’s products, I couldn’t resist and also bought the Arabic Words Flash Cards, and I am extremely satisfied with this one too.
The best part of this experience was how wonderful and patient Madiha was all along. She was very accommodating with everything from payment method (she accepted email money transfers because I didn’t have cash) to helping me pick the best toy for my nephews/nieces. I will definitely continue to check Madiha’s latest additions and keep adding to my collection of educational toys/books. I was also fortunate enough to hear Madiha at a Story Circle Time, and she has an incredible story-telling and singing talent. Along with all the other kids, I was captivated the whole story time! Keep me posted with any future Story Circle Times Madiha  – A

“I am extremely satisfied with all the products I have bought  I bought a whole bunch of eid decorations, goody bags and presents for nieces and family and everyone loved it! The goody bags were loved by all the kids and I cant say enough about how happy I was with the services.

I would highly recommend Discovery Dome to all my family and friends!” – M

“I had the pleasure of co-hosting a children’s Ramadan costume party with Madiha and, just like her products, her services and creative skills are outstanding. She designed a wonderful treasure hunt with Ramadan relevant rhyming verses at every station’s clue, eventually leading to a treasure box full of chocolate coins which the children were elated to uncover! She also went through the trouble of cleaning dozens of baby food jars and proposed that the children paint them to make little lanterns- these were a hit with young and more mature children at the party! My favourite moment, however, was her fantastic performance during story time, where she entertained and engaged the little ones by narrating stories, singing songs and even employed a beautiful handmade felt board to add a lovely visual touch. 

I have purchased many of her books in the past and will continue to do so because she stocks the best quality in children’s Islamic lit. This time, I also invested in “Eid Mubarak” and “Adab” stickers which were used in the piñata, as well as for the Eid cards the children made. They were great quality and exactly what I was looking for.

I look forward to working with Madiha in the future. Her professionalism and expertise in her field as an early childhood educator makes her an asset in our community.” – S

When I started Discovery Dome, I intended to have a retail element, but I knew that’s never all that I wanted from Discovery Dome. At this point in my personal and professional life, I have chosen to focus on other aspects of my initiative and am therefore clearing out all of my existing inventory! I have some great products left, specifically Uncle Goose Wooden Blocks (these are sustainably-sourced and lightweight, high-quality blocks that come in various themes and languages and can be used in a number of ways!) and a range of books from Wisdom Tales and Saffron Press (Universal lessons and stories from different cultures and time periods). We also have stationary including cute Muslim-themed greeting cards, notebooks and stickers. Below are a few examples of what we have left (we have more!) – all selling at COST PRICE!

I look forward to hearing from you!

-Madiha