Kids at the creek equals resilience

Cold wet socks, pants and wet mittens, plus a project that takes much more work than expected, plus convincing your 3 year old sister to help you; Equals resilience, patience and conflict resolution skills by the end of a day at the creek.

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Caleb decides he wants to build a big boat.  He collects logs and sticks, and plans his project.

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Caleb begins putting together his boat, weaving smaller sticks through the larger logs.  The pieces keep floating away.  He keeps getting soakers (water filling his boots).

He notices his sister, (also known as “his extra set of hands”) climbing up and down the logs and tree roots.

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Instead of getting frustrated and giving up, he practices his communication and negotiates to get her to come down and help him build the boat.

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He explains what he needs her to do.  They work together, and in exchange he offers her the first ride on the boat.

As you may have guessed, this resulted in Belle taking the earliest creek swim this year!

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You too will be amazed at what nature can teach little ones.

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Risky play boosts confidence and decision making ability

Let my three year old climb trees and rocks??  Without holding my hand?

It can be scary as a mother watching your 3 year old scramble up cliffsides, running along trails, climb trees or big rock formations.  However, I try to trust my children as much as possible, and encourage them to assess the challenge vs. their skill level.

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I will often ask them, “are you sure?” Or “is that branch/rock steady enough?”.  Sometimes I may even say, “what will happen if you step here?” To teach them to analyze the risks.

Allowing them the chance to scale new surfaces will improve their gross motor skills, also their confidence in themselves and their ability to reason whether something is or is not a good idea.

As moms, as much as we may wish to, we will not always be there to make decisions for our children.  We may be afraid to let them make decisions because of a perceived risk.  Instead of saying no, we should instead help our child learn to be safer while climbing.  We must prepare them to do think of these things independently.

Yes, this does extend much further than a discussion about tree climbing.

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I believe we must mother from a place of trust and not fear.  We need to provide children with opportunities to grow in their judgement in a relatively safe context, so they can practice making decisions independently.

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The decisions our children make will get much more complex as they get older.  So let’s start them on the way, by letting them decide what they will and won’t climb while out hiking.

Why I encourage messiness

Throwing your kids in the mud to make them smarter?

Forget sensory bins.  They only provide input to your child’s hands.  They will make a mess. Your kids may play for 5 minutes and get bored.  They can be time consuming and expensive to put together.  (Angela J. Hanscom)

Try a full immersion sensory experience instead!

At the end of a rainy day, we hiked over to a mountain biking trail.  There is a 10 foot drop for bikers.  Because it was rainy, it was deserted.

We turned it into a mudslide!

The kids had a blast throwing themselves down the muddy hill.  Making mud pies.  Rolling down the hill.  We lost some boots.  Kids used every ounce of their energy going up and down this hill.

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We returned home with about an extra 30 lbs of extra mud on each kid.

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Kids or Coyote snacks?

Coyote information to keep your kids safe when hiking or playing in the forest

Enjoying nature with your little ones can be wonderful.  Worrying they are going to be eaten by a coyote, not so wonderful.

How do you keep your kids from being a bite-sized coyote snack?

First, here is a short video on what is called Coyote Hazing, produced by our town.

We tend to stick to the same general area to play in the forest.  This allows the kids to leave bigger projects like building shelters or obstacles courses or bridges they can come back to another day.  In our familiar area of the forest we have never seen a coyote.  However, a mountain biker we see a few times a week, told me that another hiker had been surrounded by a few coyotes just up the trail from where we go.  Scary!

So we have taken a few steps to make sure the kids learn how to deal with coyotes.

  1. We have practiced putting your hands way over your head, (with a big stick is extra points) and yelling “GO AWAY!”
  2. We have played coyote many times, with the above, and making sure no one turns and runs, because apparently that can encourage coyotes to chase you.
  3. The two older kids, who occasionally go a little further than the younger kids, have very loud whistles.
  4. I have an air horn, which should scare off most animals.
  5. We are double checking any new areas we play in for brush or little shelters that could be used as coyote dens.

Has anyone come across a coyote in Oakville or otherwise?

This recent sighting makes me a little extra cautious, but it won’t stop us from enjoying the outdoors, and it seems to add to the adventure.  The kids are even enjoying our new “Coyote” game and have added it to their rotation.

 

 

Pooping in the forest

Forest School How-to guide

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Forest School

“Oh no, you are not going to post about that!!!?”

When taking young children into the forest for longer periods of time, at some point, someone is going to have to poo, when you aren’t anywhere near a bathroom.

Honestly, hearing about forest kindergartens or forest schools, pooping in the forest was my very first big question…. I can’t be the only one!

My tips:

1. Everyone must go to the bathroom before we leave, whether or not you need to.

2. I aim for about 2 hours of forest play, before we head back in for bathrooms.

But inevitably someone will have to poop 10 minutes into your forest playtime.  So what are you to do?

3. Take the unfortunate child to as private a spot as possible… with the baby… So semi-private.  As far from the trail as you can, for etiquette’s sake.

4. Either find a good log for them to hang over, like a toilet.  But some kids hate sitting on a log because it might be wet, rough or cold,

So instead,

Spend a few minutes practicing a solid squat… you do not want to be using leaves to wipe up legs and pants because they fell over or got it everywhere.  Enough said?  I think so.

5. We use leaves to wipe… but feel free to use Kleenex… but be kind and take the tissues with you.

6. Some people bring a trowel and dig a hole, and cover it with dirt, because it may attract animals.

OR

When we are hiking in forested, but mainly urban areas, I have them “go” close to a log or rock.  Sometimes urgency also dictates whether or not we have time to dig a hole.

6. Then put rocks or logs or leaves over and around it, so no one accidentally steps in it before it has a chance to decompose.

Parents, have courage.  Taking your kids into nature is worth the trouble of dealing with the occasional poop outside!