An afternoon of apple pie and autumn play

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A few days ago,  the kids and I were reading a book called “The Apple Pie Tree” and before we even got to the end,  H was asking if we could make an apple pie.

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Fortunately, there was a recipe at the end of the book. It looked easy enough. I’ve never made a real pie before so I was hoping it would be half-decent.

The next day, H went grocery shopping with her papa and they bought extra apples. She was not going to let this apple pie thing go.

Today was the day. I told her we could get to work after nap. She helped measure and combine the ingredients for the dough, started rolling out the crust and helped to season the apples and assemble the pie. Y wanted an up close and personal view of what was going on so I put him in the baby carrier and he watched from there.

For a first attempt, I think it turned out pretty decent!

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She just couldn’t wait to eat it. Since we had to let it cool, we went for a walk. I gave H a plastic bag to collect things of interest. When the wind blew she said, “the wind makes my bag big like a balloon.”

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We decided to have the pie at the park (mainly because I wanted to play in the leaves hehe).

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I also wanted to give Y a chance to observe and experience the season out of the stroller and baby carrier. He really enjoyed watching the wind blow the big yellow leaves to the ground.  I’m relieved that he enjoys being outdoors!

This time is a favourite of mine.  It passes so quickly. I do hope to get outside some more before the trees become bare.

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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!

 

 

 

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 #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.

Ramadan 2017- Post #6- Patterning and Paper Chains

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Making paper chains is an easy way to decorate for various occasions. Since I wanted to give H a chance to practice more patterning, I asked her to pick three colours to create a pattern with. She chose yellow, pink and blue. Originally, I had planned to give her some scissor practice, but I couldn’t find any child-sized scissors so I was the one to cut strips from the paper she selected.
I asked her to come up with a patterning sequence. She chose pink-yellow-blue-pink-yellow-blue. Older children can be challenged to come up with more complex sequences.
She sorted the the strips into three piles to reflect the different colours. I showed her where to add glue and she started by adding glue to the strips, and I created circles. After a few turns, we switched and continued trading back and forth. Baby Gaga watched happily from the couch.
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During this activity, we also were able to practice some french. Triggered by her comment, “Maman, fini!” we reviewed the colours she was using in french and I introduced new relevant vocabulary like “glue” and “paper.” In addition to patterning and sequencing, other mathematical concepts used during this process included counting (as she counted the rings and remaining strips) and measurement as she commented on the length of her chain saying “It’s like a long slithery snake!” This idea can further be extended by using the rings as a unit of measurement and asking children to estimate the lengths of various objects. For example, “how many rings do you think it would take to create a chain as tall as you?”
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Creating this paper chain was also a way to foster H’s socioemotional development as it helped to build her confidence to attempt and successfully do new things. She was proud of her efforts and excited to hang the chain in our home. She couldn’t wait to show her papa when he got home from work.
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Ramadan 2017- Post #5- Easy Peasy Scavenger Hunt

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

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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!

Ramadan 2017 – Post #4: Setting up a Treasure Hunt

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This is a treasure hunt I originally created for a children’s Ramadan party a friend threw a few years ago. I have modified a few of the clues and encourage you to change around the clues and their locations to better suit your own needs and environment. Here is a brief explanation of how to set up the treasure hunt.

Backstory: You can make up a little backstory that includes your child’s interests if you like to promote dramatic and imaginative play. For example, if they like pirates, you can make the clues look like pirate clues and create a letter addressed to your child on a piece of paper that looks ancient and has been rolled into a scroll (use teabags and a lighter to brown the paper and burn the edges).

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Similarly, if you are okay with creating notions like “The Ramadan Fairy” or some other mythical creature, you can use glitter and jewels…Or, create no backstory and just be honest that as parents, you have created a treasure hunt for your child.

You can download the clues I’ve prepared here: Ramadan Treasure Hunt 2017.  You can either copy the clues onto cue cards or just print and cut the document above.

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Read the initial letter to your child(ren) or if they are independent readers, hand it to them. Then, pass them the first clue (make sure to remove the “answer” portion from the bottom of the clue!) Hide the next clue where the answer for the previous clue indicates. For example, the first clue reads:

In the morning for sahoor,

Healthy foods we must eat

This large, cold place

Stores eggs, milk and meat

The children must determine that the answer is “fridge” and so they go to the fridge to find the second clue (which you have already posted there). To modify the treasure hunt for younger children who may find it difficult to solve the clues, draw hints on each clue (for example, for the clue above, draw a fridge) or better yet, include photos of those areas from your actual house. This way, children are able to rely on visual discrimination and memory recall, not just their cognitive and problem solving skills.

Although the initial treasure hunt I created involved digging for treasure at the spot marked X (outside in the sandbox), the treasure I’m using this time is far too big to bury! I created one Ramadan basket for each of the five children, so while the children are outside looking for the final clue, I will set them up on the dining table at their grandparent’s house (where the last clue will lead).

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In terms of what to include in these Ramadan baskets, I was creating them for a range of ages from just a few weeks old to seven years old. I knew I definitely wanted to include a unique book about Ramadan for each child (something that would be age appropriate).

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I toyed with the idea of getting PJs for the children and also was planning on making DIY “My First Ramadan” onesies for the two babies and pretty Ramadan t-shirts for the older three but I didn’t have time or the resources to figure that out, so I opted for matching outfits for the children!

I also included a mix of toys/activities based on the ages of the children. I had picked some stuff out from Ikea, but once again, didn’t have a chance to make it there so just went to my local dollar store. I included things such as balls, stuffies, puzzles, bubbles, art supplies, stickers, beads, and candy for the older children.

I added each child’s name to the basket and wrapped it with cellophane and ribbon. I can’t wait to see their faces