Category Archives: Nature


Everything is Better on the Beach




So I am doing something different this summer. I am running a summer program for preschoolers for the community centre my preschool is in.  Its been a great experience. It has been challenging as well. Its kind of like the first week of preschool every week. You know that time when you and the children are still learning each others boundaries and names, developing relationships and just basically getting to know each other. That week where you always have one eye on the door just in case someone bolts, a lot of jumping from one child to the next trying to make sure you connect with everyone. Well summer camp is like that every week. By the end of the week we have a good rhythm, I feel connected to the children and parents and we all feel relaxed. Monday though we start all over again.

I did this for the challenge. I was curious if a week long program could help create a sense of community and connectedness. I am happy to say I believe it does. I feel very connected not only to the children who have passed through our doors but the families as well.

The truth is though a week long program with 2.5  to 5 years olds is kind of like being on high alert all the time. I really have a new respect for educators and community programs that work in strong starts, parent and tot groups and of course camps.

I want to share one week in particular with you, actually more like one day. See this one week a couple weeks ago almost half of the children in our program were under the age of three. Quite capable, amazing two year olds but young and I had planned a walk to a beach that was a bit of a trek for our Thursday trip. After two days of going for small walks around the park adjacent to the community centre I quickly realized this hike on Thursday may not be right for these children. So I chatted to the parents and asked that they drop off their children at the beach that day.

Thursday morning I went straight to the beach set up a tent with books and pillows inside for shade, I set up a blanket for snacks and relaxing, I put out pales, shovels and rakes and finally I set up a visual boundary of where they could play. As the families arrived I showed them the tent, blanket, shovels, pales, rakes and the boundary. The children were so excited to be at the beach.

So you remember earlier in the post where I said running a summer program was like being on high alert all the time. It wasn’t like that at the beach. It was amazing, I was relaxed, the children were relaxed and we had the most magnificent time.


The children built roads, dug holes and looked for burried treasure in the sand.



Collections were found.


Seaweed mountains were made.


The children played on the water’s edge.

The children took some risks and played quite a distance away from me. I took some risks and let them.

When the parents picked up sand was in every crevice of their bodies, they were wet and tired but you could not wipe the smiles off their faces. This is what nature play does for us, it calms us down, it allows us to be creative, it allows us to  play play that we designed, it allows us to take risks, it allows us to be physical, it allows us to get exhausted  and it allows  us to reflect. Notice I didn’t say them or the children…. all those things happened for me that day too.


“To myself I am only a child playing on the beach, while vast oceans of truth lie undiscovered before me.”
Isaac Newton

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I had the great pleasure of going into the forest with a group of children last week. The educator led us all to a spot with dirt hills, big, dusty steep hills. The children whooped up and down as the dirt billowed around them. The climbed hand over hand on the steep parts, and the slid down on their bottoms.

Then she led us to a spot with a giant rope swing and more dirt hills with stumps and logs. Kids balanced on the tops of stumps, walked across the logs and poked sticks into all of them. They experimented with the rope swing, some highly skilled at standing on the knot at the bottom, others happy to hold it and walk in a circle.

We came back to the centre dirty, sweaty and with a few blackberry thorn scratches. It was marvellous.

All this leads me to think of a statistic I recently came across: outdoor play structures, you know the kind with bars and railings and a slide, are vacant 87% of the time when children play.  Of the 13% of the time children played there they:

•used loose parts together with the structure 5% of the time

•played underneath it 4% of the time

•used it as intended 3% of the time

•used it for prospect 1% of the time

And here’s another finding: aggression between children increases when no manipulable material was provided in their outdoor play space.

I am not surprised by these findings, are you? I think hearing the stats just confirms what we already knew. Kids want to mess around with the stuff on the ground. They want to dig, sift, sort, mix, move, pat, splat and plop.

Not all of us have access to a forest, but we can all get dirt!  Dusty, messy, malleable, ever-changing dirt.  And it’s dirt cheap. Where I live a cubic yard of dirt costs about $28……a bargain. What else could you buy for $28 that would  deliver that much play value? If it’s delivered by a dump truck, even better.

A yard of dirt in a corner of your yard….what do you think?


Lots of great big dirty blog inspiration is out there…..

Mud Play at Let the Children Play

Evidence that mud is good for you!

Stomping in the Mud

And the Grand Finale…..




“It takes a universe to make a child, both in outer form and inner spirit. It takes a universe to educate a child, a universe to fulfill a child.”    Thomas Berry

I have been on vacation on a tropical island in the Pacific. All I will say about it is summed up in what I overheard a woman say to her husband on the phone: “Honey, sell everything, we’re moving here”.

 I am not moving here, though one can always dream.

 But being the self admitted ECE geek that I am, I can’t help thinking ECE thoughts. And this is what I noticed….holes. Children of every age are compelled to dig holes in the sand. I watched a tiny girl not more than 11 months using her chubby little hands to scrape fistfuls of sand to examine,  taste, feel and then pat into her tiny shovel, then dump.  She repeated the process, making tiny little holes in the sand between her tiny little legs.

I watched 4 larger kids dig a hole that was 6 feet deep. It took them the better part of the day, and when it was finished they sat in it completely hidden from view.

(I have no photos of these holes. Taking pictures of OPK’s (Other People’s Kids) and posting them on the internet is a bit sketchy. I had to make due with snapping pictures in the evening when the beach diggers were done.)

 Adults are not immune to this compulsion. Dad’s and Grandpa’s seem especially drawn to digging and one can watch as the kids find other amusement and the dad and/or grandpa are still hard at it.

 Danielle and I have posted frequently about natural materials, and how The Beach Provides. What is it about sand the invites such interactions? Is it the transformation? Sand is wet, dry, hot, cold, smooth, rough, stubborn and pliable….and all of these properties can explored in one sitting (or one hole!)


One can test one’s abilities against sand, how far, how deep how high. Traces of oneself can be left, artistry and strength can be demonstrated,  but of course the sand always returns as it was when you arrived, your traces gone.

The sand asks many questions of us, invites many conversations. Holes are just one way to enter the dialogue.

upside down snow angel

Let in the Wonder

This morning we woke up to snow falling. It was marvellous. Let me explain snow and Victoria for those who are not familiar with this area. It snows if you’re lucky a handful of days in the year. It doesn’t stay cold enough usually for it to last longer then a day or two. For instance there has actually been snow on the ground when I woke up the last couple of days, by noon though its gone. This morning though there was a lovely thick blanket of snow on the ground and the large fluffy flakes falling from the sky. It was beautiful.

Do you know what was even more beautiful? Watching my daughter look out the window with absolute wonder. She was awestruck. It was so amazing to watch I didn’t even grab my camera. I just watched her in silence.

The thing about snow is it brings the wonder out in me. I don’t see if very often. Its not part of my daily life.  When at preschool I am the one building snowmen, snow forts and snow angels. I lie down with the kids and watch the flakes fall.


When a snow day was called I would still go out. Snow brings a silence and stillness to the world that is like no other. It covers the world in a blanket of beauty and everything sparkles.  Like Kim said in her post Playfulness snow brings out the playfulness in everyone.

Me and my bestie on a snow day.

When it snows my friends and I go out and play. Like play dates for adults. I don’t know if snow was a more regular thing in Victoria if this would always be the case. If we would take snow for granted but for now we play and let the wonder in.

 Well I must go! Going to have a snow ball fight with my friends and make snow angels with my daughter.  Wishing all my preschool friends the joyful wonder that snow brings!


The Wet Coast

 The West Coast of Canada has many nicknames The Wet coast and the Grey Coast. This morning I woke up and it was pouring rain, it was grey and cold. So Helaina and I got her morning almond milk and my morning coffee and we went back to my bed, turned on the tv watched What Not to Wear and had a cuddle.

For some (sadly most) the story might end there for a rainy day. For us it did not. We got our clothes on rubber boots and all and headed outside and found some puddles to jump. Here is the thing Helaina has taught me about rain. Children find rain joyful and they don’t see it as a roadblock to life like adults do. Helaina and I have gone for a walk everyday since she started walking. A short walk usually a block. Helaina takes her time and at  some point during the walk   asks to be picked up. The first time we went for a walk in the rain, totally different story.  She couldn’t stop laughing, she ran, our walk was longer  and I never had to pick her up.

Rain funnily enough actually makes me miss my life in preschool.  The preschool program started outside every day rain or shine. We didn’t have the greatest playyard, in fact most of the early years staff despised it but on rainy days it was awesome. Water pooled and collected in various places. Gutters leaked and streams of water poured down.

Water pooling behind the sandbox.childen playing in a mudpuddle.
a child putting his foot over the stream running through the playground.


A child letting a stream of water fall on her head.



 Have you played in the rain today?