Mobile Adventure Playground

Standard

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!

 

 

 

Advertisements

Drum for Fun!

Standard

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.

IMG_4805

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!

image

IMG_4811

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!

image

 

Ramadan 2017- Post #5- Easy Peasy Scavenger Hunt

Standard

If you’re looking for an easier alternative to the treasure hunt I recently posted, you may appreciate this Ramadan Scavenger Hunt!

DD ramadan scavenger hunt

Simply download and print the  Ramadan Scavenger Hunt and let your child(ren) find the items on the list.

A great feature about this hunt is that clues are visually depicted, making it developmentally appropriate for children as young as 18 months. Children will feel empowered being able to identify and find the objects independently. Moreover, the images help reinforce literacy skills (both visual literacy and language).

Many of these items will become naturally visible in and around your home during Ramadan (if they aren’t already on a regular basis). Print out the sheet and allow your young children to find the items on the list (note: they don’t have to collect the items- just point them out).

Another way this scavenger hunt can be used is to practice a second language. Either edit the document to include the words in a secondary language, or introduce the terms in whatever second (or third or fourth) language your child may be learning. Reinforce the terms when the items are found.

Happy Hunting!

Hands on Patterning and Loose Parts Play

Standard

For the past few months, I’ve noticed H has been showing an increased interest in patterns (which she so endearingly pronounces “pattrins”). She points them out in clothing, when we walk outside, in food and in her play.

While she still has a simple understanding of patterns, not having quite realized the full definition or complexity of what constitutes a pattern, she shows pride in being able to recognize them.

To deepen her knowledge and understanding, we’ve read these books which are part of my personal collection.

image.jpeg

I’ve been wanting to give her a hands-on way to create her own patterns and further investigate the concept. This morning, I finally set out a very simple activity for her on the still-crumb-covered kitchen table. By sharing how our experience unfolded, I hope to show you all the potential of loose parts (basically collections of items that can be used in many different ways).

I provided a tray that had two elements: dried kidney beans and yellow crystals. Originally I was not planning on prompting her and just wanted to see what she would do, but I thought some guidance might help, so all I did was ask her, “Can you make a pattern?”

image

I was pleasantly surprised by her attention to detail as she carefully ensured the kidney beans and the gems all faced the same direction (she turned the kidney beans so that they would all be vertical and placed the gems on the widest side).

image_1

When I saw that she was able to successfully create a pattern with two elements, I introduced a third: pink milk jug lids. She adjusted her pattern to incorporate these.

image_2

When she could no longer reach one end of her pattern, she started working at the starting end. It was interesting because she did not know how to reverse the pattern since she was working in the opposite direction. I had to prompt her with saying the pattern out loud in the opposite direction – by drawing her attention to this fact, she was able to extend her pattern in the opposite direction correctly.

I was further impressed when she created a little game. She removed the milk jug lids and asked me, “What’s missing?” I said, “the lids!” and she said, “You’re correct!” She proceeded to removed the beans and then repeated her question.

image_3

She then undid her pattern and started arranging the parts in shapes saying things like “I made a square! I made a circle!”

image_4

After making shapes she decided to sort the pieces on the table and said “My bean collection is all done!” Even though I haven’t used the term “collection” in my dialogue with her, I marveled with what an intuitive term it was for a three year old to be able to refer to her loose parts as “collections”. After separating the three elements, she proudly exclaimed that she had three collections.

image_5

H really enjoyed playing with the loose parts. She looked at the tray and noticed there were empty spaces so asked me for more. I went on a hunt around the house trying to find a jar of pennies I knew we had somewhere but was unsuccessful. I returned after ten minutes half-hoping she had lost interest, but she hadn’t. She was still sitting there. I checked the pantry and gave her some raw pasta and a pouch of blue beads. She happily announced that she had five collections and then said, “I’m mixing them up. They are having a big party. Tada!”

image_6

After this, she loaded the tray back up, sorting the loose parts and said something about the parts going for a train ride. She noticed that one space was still empty so again asked for something to fill the space with.

image

At this point it became clear that her play was transforming from being a mathematically inclined activity to open-ended dramatic play. She said the parts were soup for her friends that were sick. I offered her a pot and wooden spoon which she gladly accepted. She added blue beads to the pot commenting that they looked like rice.

image_3

She asked me for some bowls for her soup and went on to pour some “soup” and feed her stuffed toys. She declared that they felt better after eating the soup but still needed to rest.

image_5

When she was done playing, she resorted the pieces and left the tray on the floor. Seven hours later when she woke up from her afternoon nap, she approached the tray again and this time, mixed various elements in the pot. She poured the soup into the bowls and let her friend Lammie have a taste. She also fed me with the wooden spoon and then pointed it at my stomach so that Baby could get a taste too.

Loose part play is promoted by play advocates all around the world. It’s something my daughter really enjoyed in her toddler years. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to provide as many opportunities for it as I would have liked this past year (however it’s always in the back of my mind). By looking at how her play evolved over the day, I hope that you too, can see the value, depth and potential of this type of experience. She started with something more structured (but it was still based on her interests and initiative) and explored patterning, sequencing, geometry, counting, sorting, fine motor development, language and dramatic play. I’m curious to see what she will do next and how a broadening understanding of various patterning sequences will translate into her play.

 

Some Words and Photos from our Customers!

Standard

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

Tools are Cool – Post #3: Around the Community

Standard

As H’s interest in tools grew, we sought to make connections with everyday real-life experiences. We started noticing tools being used all around us. Some of our experiences included:

  • Visiting Lee Valley Tools (a tool store) to pick something up (our awesome purchase will be explored in the next post)
  • Watching the Roof Hospital staff repair roofs in our condo complex
  • Watching repairmen fix the door to the garbage shed in our condo complex
  • Watching a man use a power saw just outside of H’s school to cut wood
  • Watching city workers dig and excavate pipes in the alley that borders her school parking lot
  • Watching repair men using ladders and tools to restore the heating system in my chiropractor’s clinic

While she is too young now to participate in children’s workshops, older children could benefit from the free monthly Home Depot’s Kids Workshops, participating in a local Habitat for Humanity initiative or contacting your local community association to see if they need volunteers to help with community maintenance (for example, painting, rink maintenance, trash collection etc.) Similarly, local community and school theatre productions, such as Storybook Theatre often need help with set building.

As I make this list, I notice that everyone we encountered in our experiences was a man. I know there are tons of women that use tools and I know that H hasn’t yet challenged this notion as she feels very comfortable donning her construction gear and playing pretend. But  as an educator it is important to expose children to balanced perspectives, especially in light of some other people’s sexist attitudes , so I will aim to introduce her to (non-sexualized) female construction professionals through books and photos. I’m curious to see if it triggers a response.

*These images have been collected from various places on the internet. 

The one construction professional I do know quite well is my brother. H has always had a special love for her uncle and when I told her that he has lots of tools, she was immediately interested. We arranged a whatsapp video date so that he could show her around his workshop, demonstrate the use of different tools and answer questions. It was a really cool virtual interactive field trip.

So just before our video call started, H fell off the couch and was in a bad mood. It took her a few moments to warm up but when she did, she was curious and excited to see my brother’s collection of real tools. She was also quite eager to show him her plastic versions excitedly commenting “I have that too!” She was especially proud when he admitted that she had one tool that he didn’t…a saw! I’m curious to see what emerges this summer when we go to visit my family and she can get a real life tour (and hopefully some more hands on experience).

If you live in the GTA, check out my brother’s newly launched facebook page for his company MADDA-WORX. He provides wonderful customer service and specializes in landscaping, interlocking and home improvements.

Tools are Cool – Post #2: Books and Play

Standard

A natural step in our approach to learning is to read books related to H’s interests. In the book Tools Rule, we were introduced to various tools and how they worked together to build a tool shed. H really enjoyed identifying the tools she already knew and learning the names of new tools. Naturally, she had questions about their purpose (we explore this in the next post).

image

Another tool related book we read was Monkey with a Toolbelt. This book sat around our house for a few weeks before H weas ready to read it. She enjoyed the main character (Chico Bon Bon) and was particularly fascinated by his tool belt. In the story, Chico Bon Bon is a handy monkey who helps repair things in his community. One day, he gets captured by an Organ Grinder (essentially a Circus owner) and has to cleverly rely on the tools at his disposal to escape. H enjoyed the plot as it involved capture, escape and clearly definied heros and villains.

image_1

Following building the bookshelf, H also helped out with other little tool-related tasks at home. She helped me wash our dining rooms chair frames  before we used a screwdriver to change the seat covers. She was quite helpful and kept an inventory of the screws and washers and passed me things as required. She also helped to loosen/tighten screws and we recited the easy (but helpful) rhyme: “Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey” as a reminder of which way to turn the screwdriver. Since I am right-handed and she is left-handed, I find it challenging at times to teach her how to do fine motor tasks with her hands.

image_5

Play is a central part of our lives, even the boring day-to-day tasks. After we had cleaned the chairs, we moved them to our living room (where the light is better) to change the covers. I commented that they kind of looked a bus and H agreed. She rounded up a bunch of her stuffies and declared that I was the bus driver and we would be driving to the top of “tallest mountain” (a Dora the Explorer reference) and would change the chair covers there.

image_2

A few weeks later, she worked with her dad to change the batteries in her dinosaur toy. She rifled through his tool bag to find a screw driver that matched the shape of the screws. Her dad also pointed out the plus and minus sides of the batteries and supervised her removing them and changing them.

(*Every parent knows their child best and can be the best judge of what is safe for their child to do. We keep our batteries out of reach and have talked to H about safety – she knows this is not something that is safe to do by herself). 

H enjoys dressing up (a characteristic we both share!) Over the winter holidays, I saw her using pretend tools and used this observation as evidence of her emerging interest. After the holidays ended, I brought our costume box back down to the basement, but recently brought the hard hat and tools back up. She was so excited to find them and instantly started playing with them.

image_6

She went around the house looking for things to fix. Her father handed her a magazine and said, “My computer is broken. Can you fix it?” She brought it to the couch and started using all of her tools to fix it. It was quite interesting because while she knows an axe is used to chop wood, she made it relevant by saying she was using her axe “to chop the computer.” She also doesn’t know the correct verbs yet so invented her own way of describing what she was doing. “I have to wrench it. And screwdriver it.” She also commented on what type of screwdriver it was (based on her dad’s lesson) saying it was a “star screwdriver.” She then moved onto to fixing her dinosaur. I saw her look for the screws and use her play screwdriver to pretend to open it up (like she had with a real screwdriver when they were changing the batteries).

As an educator, it’s fascinating for me to see H deepen her own knowledge about concepts. I’ve been watching how she integrates and assimalate new knowledge into her existing schemas and how she adapts those schemas so that the new knowledge fits. The remaining posts in this series will look at additional ways we deepened our knowledge surrounding tools and how she applied this knowledge to her own creations.