Tag Archives: outdoors

two kids by a pond

A river in the city – some Time for Nature

Originally published August 27, 2012

My family and I live in a city. You might be picturing a concrete jungle without much opportunity to connect with nature. Yet our neighbourhood is teeming with nature and my kids love it.

We live not far from the Humber River and spend many a lazy day sauntering along the path enjoying what nature has to offer. We have met deer, frogs, snakes, geese (always geese), chipmunks and squirrels. I think we may have even spooked a beaver by accident once.

On a particularly beautiful day, we went to a local park to do some climbing, sliding and swinging. At the edge of this park there is a path that leads down to the Humber River. Thinking our kids would rather play at the playground, we settled on a park bench to enjoy the sun and to watch them play. Continue reading

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The Walk and Talk Recess

In an age where families are crunched for time because both parents are working and the prevailing parenting mentality is to register kids for as many extra-curricular activities as possible so that they experience different things and are constantly supervised, some schools in my area have decided to institute what they call a “walk and talk” recess and limit the amount of good ol’ fashioned physical activity that kids get during the school day.

This type of recess prohibits running, chasing games (which include running), ball playing, touching, playing with any kind of equipment, and basically, fun.

So what’s a kid to do?

Act out and be rambunctious in class the minute they hang their coats up back inside.

And is it any surprise? Most teachers aren’t surprised, from what I can tell. The administration seems shocked, though. Odd.

According to one website, walk and talk recesses (in their varying degrees) “IMPROVE the behavior in the classroom”. Maybe, but only because prior to implementing the walk and talk recess at that school it sounds like the students were denied recess altogether.

I’m more of a free-range mom myself. Say what you will. But I grew up in a time when we played outside on the street (for all you helicopter, bubble-wrapping parents, I grew up on a dead-end street with very little traffic, so calm down, my parents were excellent parents (my mom especially)). We played in the neighbourhood…somewhere, usually not within sight of our parents (or any other parents). We had freedom. We learned how to get along, how to sort ourselves out, and how not to complain at every little scrape or booboo. Now, if someone was gushing blood, we sent one of the kids to get a parent. We knew how to take care of each other. And we learned that from each other, from our group. Because that’s what we were; a group of kids who played together and stuck together. We had our own lives away from the adults. And that’s important. And my kids have that, too.

Back to the recess thing. Kids develop that group mentality when they are engaged at recess as well. But we have to allow them that space to create the group and to engage their creativity. The walk and talk recess in my opinion is not the way to do that.

This article from columnist Anne Jarvis at The Windsor Star talks about a school in Auckland, New Zealand that does recess right.

And this is what was learned from doing recess this way:

“And after recess, “when kids have had the opportunity to have heaps of fun and be engaged and motivated in what they’re doing, they come back ready to learn,” he said.”

And what about current playgrounds in general? One word: boring.

Do you know what my kids do on the standard issue, colourfully designed, but super safe playgrounds in Toronto? They climb as high as they can on the outside of the structure and then either swing by their knees from an available horizontal bar or jump off to see if they can stand the thrill of the drop to the ground below.

And once they’ve conquered that height, they look for the next challenge. They are just being kids.

When they were really little and discovering their natural instinct for climbing and testing their limits, I let them go. And do you know what I discovered? Kids will never push themselves beyond what they are comfortable with at any given stage.

If I stood under them, ready to catch them if they fell, they would climb higher, yes, but it was obvious to me that they were not comfortable with their newly attained height. If I told them to try it on their own, eventually, after many park visits, they made it to the top of the climber…when they were ready.

And with all those attempts under their belts, they could own it. They had accomplished the climb themselves. It’s a confidence builder, a skill builder, a strength builder, and a bravery builder.

Did they fall? Yes. Did they get hurt? There was the odd scraped knee; maybe a few tears. Did they learn how to fall to limit the impact? Yes. You cannot get through life without falling. Falling teaches us how to limit the impact for the next time we fall. And we will try again. It’s in our nature.

As stated by Globe and Mail columnist Alex Bozikovic in a recent article, “Given today’s hyper-protective parenting norms, changing playgrounds means changing the culture.” Newer designs for playgrounds are making child’s play fun again. But our culture still has a long way to go to get to a place where kids can just be kids.

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Vote for the Change Islands Newfoundland Pony Sanctuary

Just hoppin’ on the blog quickly today to let everyone know about this fantastic little place called Change Islands tucked away in Newfoundland (my mother and husband are from there). The island is a beautiful spot full of history and wonderful people…and the Change Islands Newfoundland Pony Sanctuary.

And right now, you can vote (quick registration required) for the Pony Sanctuary in the Aviva Community Fund to help them get funding for a new barn to house the ponies and continue the work that they have been doing to maintain the Newfoundland pony population and revitalize the community of Change Islands, Newfoundland.

Did you know that Elizabeth Taylor owned a Newfoundland pony as a young girl?

And that the Governor General of Canada visited the ponies and his wife named one of the ponies “Kate” after the Duchess of Cambridge?

“Kate” still lives at the Sanctuary.

The woman who runs the sanctuary and cares for the ponies is my husband’s aunt (shown below with my daughter).

VOTE FOR THE CHANGE ISLANDS NEWFOUNDLAND PONY SANCTUARY!

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That’s my daughter when she was two with her grandfather and her great aunt (the lady who cares for the ponies).

The Changes Islands Newfoundland Pony Sanctuary has made it to the Aviva Community Fund Semi-Finals.

Please VOTE and help them win!

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Big Sister getting to know a Newfoundland Pony with her Poppy on Change Islands.

If you ever have a chance to visit Newfoundland, a visit to the ponies on Change Islands is something you won’t want to miss!

Family Adventure at Horseshoe Resort

So, what did you do this weekend?

We headed up to Barrie, Ontario for a day at Horseshoe Resort’s Adventure Park, and man was it AWESOME!

Family going to Horseshoe Resort Adventure Park

My kids are young (5 and 3), which means that these kinds of theme parks often don’t work out for our family because of height, weight and age restrictions. But Horseshoe Resort’s Adventure Park promised to have something for everyone as long as we brought along our sense of adventure.

And that we did!

My daughter had her sight set on the Aqua Ogo, but on the way to the Ogo hill, both kids got sidetracked by the Climbing Wall and Euro Bungy! Awesome adventures to be sidetracked by, by the way.

Boy bouncing on the euro bungy at Horseshoe Resort Adventure Park, Barrie, Ontario, Canada

Wall climbing at Horseshoe Resort Adventure Park, Barrie, Ontario, Canada

We were there first thing in the morning so the line-ups weren’t too bad, which allowed the kids to bounce away to their hearts content for a little longer and to climb the wall until their little arms and legs could no longer hold their weight. (I even climbed the wall!)

Then we headed for the Ogo hill. And that was just FUN, FUN, FUN!

Saturday was hot, even at 10 a.m., so cooling off in a giant ball of water while rolling down a hill at a thrill per minute was definitely in order!

Aqua Ogo at Horseshoe Resort Adventure Park, Barrie, Ontario, Canada

Family leaving a water ball at Horseshoe Resort Adventure Park, Barrie, Ontario, Canada

My kids LOVED IT! So did I! We could have spent the whole day on the Ogo hill, but there were so many other things to do, we got dried off and headed to the next adventure.

Which took us back to the Climbing Wall. I didn’t know that my daughter was in training to scale Mount Everest. She’s quite the monkey!

Girl and boy wall climbing at Horeseshoe Resort Adventure Park

After a delicious lunch (the food was fabulous!—so was the break and the chance to sit down for a bit!), we headed off to Horseshoe Resort’s Hummer Tour.

Neither kid was enthused about this. My husband and I couldn’t wait for the tour to start, but both kids thought the idea of sitting in a truck and driving through the forest was less than thrilling.

Another family of four joined us in the modified Hummer and off we went. Not 10 minutes into the tour, camera in hand, bouncing all over the place, my daughter said, and I quote, “This is way better than I thought it was going to be!” proving that even my five-year-old can be impressed.

Family on a hummer tour at Horseshoe Resort, Barrie, Ontario, Canada

Mike, our tour guide and Hummer driver, was incredible. He chatted about the history of the forest, about building the trails, and told us details about the Hummer, all while navigating seemingly insane ditches, slopes and hills. It was AWESOME and THRILLING! We climbed and clawed our way through that forest like we were inside the belly of some kind of beast. Mike took us up hills backwards, on slopes that other 4X4s would have toppled over on, through ruts and ditches and down hills until our hearts were in our throats and we didn’t know whether to laugh or gasp for breath.

Then he brought the beast up onto three wheels and let us get out to take pictures! I was amazed at the fun of it all but also at how comfortable and relaxed the whole experience was. Not once did I feel like this was some sterile experience where the participants were allowed only to sit in one spot, securely strapped in, unable to really appreciate the beauty of this beast. We got to get out and really see it! (In case you can’t tell from the picture, that front wheel is several feet in the air!)

Two kids on a hummer tour at Horseshoe Resort Adventure Park, Barrie, Ontario, Canada

After the Hummer tour, it was time for some zip lining on the 900 foot Big Zip. The kids weren’t heavy enough for this, so my husband and I went solo. I questioned my sanity as I rode the chairlift (alone) to the top of the hill where I would be fastened to a cable and sent zipping across Horseshoe Resort’s Adventure Park. What a rush! I highly recommend it. It actually wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. (But it was scary enough!)

Ready to zipline at Horseshoe Resort Adventure Park, Barrie, Ontario, Canada

To wind down our day, we checked out the gem mining and the kids panned their way to handfuls of beautiful gem stones.

Kids panning for gemsWe contemplated hitting the Ridgetop Mini Golf, but the kids were beat and so were we. It was a long and fantastic day of adventure and we were all ready to head back to Toronto with our heads full of memories of the great fun we had at Horseshoe Resort’s Adventure Park.

If you’re looking to rediscover fun this summer, I highly recommend checking out Horseshoe Resort’s Adventure Park.

The Longest Day of Play Winds Down

The longest day of the year has come and is almost gone as I write this.

I thought my family wouldn’t be able to participate. We had plans to attend Messy Church tonight with our kids. Usually Messy Church falls on a Saturday afternoon, but this month it fell on a Friday night.

Turns out, we barbecued at church, so while that was happening, the kids ran around and entertained themselves with good ol’ fashion bug catching (there were tons of caterpillars in cups by the night’s end) and games of tag and hide n’ seek. It was awesome to watch all the kids outside, running around, carefree and enjoying the extra minutes of daylight.

So for the first annual Longest Day of Play, we did pretty good. The kids were outside playing. The adults were outside barbecuing and chatting. Everyone was enjoying the long rays of sunshine. And everyone was feeling God’s love.

There will be plenty more days of play, but today was extra special.

Blessings.

Longest Day of Play logo

Longest Day of Play

The longest day of the year is coming up and ParticipACTION wants you to get outside and get moving!

As a mom, I’m all about getting my kids outside and making them move. And the thing is, you don’t really have to make kids move. They do it on their own if they are given the space and the freedom.

The two stumbling blocks to movement and free play that today’s kids face are 1) not being allowed outside without the supervision of a parent, and 2) way too busy parents.

And that’s not fair to kids. The way I see it, as parents, we have two choices: Continue reading

Change Islands Newfoundland Pony Sanctuary

My mother and husband are from a small town on a small island in Newfoundland. The island is called Change Islands. It’s a beautiful spot full of history and wonderful people.

I didn’t appreciate it when I was young and had to spend my vacations there, away from my friends in the city. But as I get older, I can see the beauty and peacefulness that that rock in the middle of the ocean has to offer.

I can’t do it justice in my writing (at least not yet). So I will share with you an article about a pony sanctuary that has been built on the island to help increase the quickly dwindling  numbers of Newfoundland ponies. The woman who runs the sanctuary and cares for the ponies as if they were her children is my husband’s aunt.

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Big Sister visiting the ponies on Change Islands with her Poppy and Aunt Netta.

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Big Sister getting to know a Newfoundland Pony with her Poppy on Change Islands.

If you ever have a chance to visit that part of Newfoundland, a visit to the ponies on Change Islands is something you won’t want to miss.