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 #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!

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!

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.

treasure hunt letter

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