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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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!

Thank you!

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Just wanted to say a quick thank you to everyone who came out to the first Story Circle Time ❤ The children had lots to share and were so well-mannered, mashaAllah! We had 30+ people by the time everyone was settled.

Discovery Dome's first official story circle program.

Discovery Dome’s first official story circle program.

My takeaway from the session was sparked by something a little girl said in response to the question “What do we do when guests come to visit?”

“We greet them,” she said. Our guest here is Ramadan and now its time to greet her in the most warm and welcoming way. Let’s invite her into our homes and hearts and prepare ourselves to be transformed inshaAllah.