Indoor snowplay

On a Sunday afternoon when we were all feeling a little under the weather and didn’t want to brave the cold (or wrestle on snow gear) — we decided to bring the snow inside. Zander and I had been waiting for ages for the temperature to rise so that the snow would get sticky enough for snowballs, and it was time to take things into our own hands.

This turned out to be an engaging 1/2 hour activity (just right for 3 & 4 year-olds) with few materials, prep or cleanup! First thing I did was go outside to collect a bowl of snow. Then we waited for it to warm up a bit and become ‘snowball ready’. (Next time, I’d include a science thermometer so that we could actually see the snow’s temperature rising and measure the temperature in different areas.) We soon discovered that we needed to spread the snow out in a shallow container so that the melting was more evenly distributed. Then it was time to form snowballs and add the mini snowman fixin’s: mini carrots, toothpicks and raisins. Admittedly, with his oversized eyes — our snowman took on a bit of an ‘alien’ appearance! Also, because of the warm indoor temperature, the snowballs soon became ice balls and we needed to use the toothpicks to attach features.

Then it was a quick transport outside before he melted! With the rest of the snow, Zander enjoyed experimenting with food coloring to mix colors. As always he started off with green (favourite color), eventually adding all the colors we had to create quite the mosaic.

Might be fun to make edible snowcones next time!

And, while I was playing with snow indoorsCarolyn was outside on an ice-climbing expedition! Her story coming soon to our ‘Explore’ series. Stay tuned!




Indoor snowplay

A Thursday evening ritual

Since Zander was about 2, we’ve been going to Lethbridge Family Centre on Thursday evenings for Me and My Family , a free drop-in play program for children 0-5 and their family members. This fall, Jax (18 months) started to come along.

What I find interesting is the boys’ enjoyment of the ritual of this outing: parking in the parkade, finding our way to the Centre entrance (Jax likes to lead the way), trying to guess what materials will be out, and always hoping there will be dinosaurs in the sand table. Tonight, it was quite a surprise: shredded paper, styrofoam and plastic instead of sand!

Another part of the ritual is to create an obstacle course in the gross motor play area. Tonight there were some new circles which Zander was keen to incorporate for a ‘hopping path’. If only he could get his brother to cooperate and follow the course, but Jax usually has other ideas.

Since Jax started coming, one of his favourite activities has been hammering golf tees into styrofoam in the building area. It’s cool to see him so at home there now — gathering the materials from the cupboard and setting himself up on the carpet. Today he even put everything away when he was done!

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Zander, meanwhile, pulled some wooden blocks from the shelves, saying ‘Let’s do this!’ ‘This’ turned out to be building a house.

One of the new things that the boys tried tonight was drawing on the Smartboard. Kind of brilliant when you think about it — no stray ‘marking’ on the walls or furniture and all kinds of potential for creating cool digital things. Makes me want to install one in my house. (Maybe in my new little ‘makerspace’ — coming soon!)

Last, but by no means least — we always ride an elevator down and take the escalator back up. But tonight was the first time we rode this glass elevator up and down…and up…and down instead. On the way home, Zander said riding the elevator was the best part of the evening.


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And you know, if you spend time with toddlers or preschoolers, now that we’ve done it once — it’s gonna be our thing!



A Thursday evening ritual

What our moms knew when they said ‘go outside and play’

I think we’ve always known that it’s a good idea to get outside. And even though our moms sometimes mentioned that it was ‘too nice a day to spend inside watching television’ — it wasn’t often that we needed prompting to get outdoors. That’s where the fun was: building snow caves, playing hide ‘n seek, riding bikes, sledding…Can you imagine the steps we’d have racked up if we’d had fitbits? And, as far as I remember — it was never too cold for tobogganing or snowball fights. So, about a year ago when I adopted my dog Henry —  I made a commitment to myself to spend less time on the couch (cancelling my cable subscription is another story) and to get outside more. And, wouldn’t you know it — ‘getting outside’ is a thing!

So, if you need more motivation to get yourself or your kids or your dogs outside every day, and that energized yet calm feeling isn’t enough — there’s the science behind what’s now being called green exercise. By itself, just being in nature, says nutritionist and lifestyle consultant James Murphy , has a number of benefits: “restoring your focus, helping you relax, improving cognitive function, and making you happy”. But double down with exercise and the benefits really stack up: improved self-esteem, less perceived effort, increased workout frequency, and just plain fun. Like the kind we had as kids.

So, rather than trying to cram in noon hour workouts at my workplace gym, my commitment (resolution if you will) is to get outside for some green exercise 4 or 5 times a week, whether it be making tracks in the park with Zander, finding a new tobogganing hill, or hiking with Henry in the coulées. (Poor Henry has a pound or two to lose after Christmas too.)

Maybe I’ll even get snowshoes and head out to Waterton for a winter hike! How will you get your  green – or should I say – white exercise this winter?







What our moms knew when they said ‘go outside and play’

Lucas & Grampa in the woodshop


Woodworking play begins for Lucas with one block, a hammer and a nail. At 14 months, Lucas is very interested in handling the tools Grampa uses.


This led to lots of pretend play. Following Grampa’s example, Lucas focuses in on the end of a table leg needing repair.


Continually building on previous experiences, we nailed, screwed and bolted many materials. (Below, styrofoam and wood planks are the materials of choice.) And always with real hammers, screwdrivers and ratchets. No plastic play ‘tools’.


In the summer, Grampa Bri set up an outdoor woodworking area. Rest assured, all the tools are carefully and closely supervised. And the process of using tools for working and creating is always modelled and supported.


What a satisfying moment for Lucas when he got to apply his woodworking skills and help Grampa with a real project…a ‘capstone’ project if you will… nailing fence cap into place!


Lucas is gaining confidence as a junior carpenter!


Lucas & Grampa in the woodshop

Today’s ‘Modern Family’ Rescue



Performing ‘rescues’ has become a thing in our family and is Zander’s favourite activity when he plays at my house. So much so that when our friendly children’s librarian asked Zander what he’d done over the summer — Zander replied, “Mostly rescues.” In case you’re wondering, playing ‘rescues’ means taking a toy figure and putting it in harm’s way (dangling from a high ledge, buried under a pile of blocks, trapped inside a vehicle which is about to burst into flames..the flames we just imagine…there are never real fires involved).


And, to begin with — it was a fairly modest rescue team: one burly (and bendy) construction worker with semi-opposable thumbs, his wheelbarrow & shovel, and a small fleet of vehicles. But that was six months ago.


Today’s ‘rescues’ are more complicated, involving multiple threats (avalanches, explosions, hypothermia, animal attacks, stomach-aches, unfriendly dinosaurs, etc.) and requiring specialized equipment,including a rescue plane that Zander and I made from toilet paper rolls and egg cartons (obviously). Attached to the bottom is a rescue line and hook for lifting toy figures out of their fixes. With our scenarios becoming more complex, it was time to add to our pool of would-be ‘victims’. Enter Hape‘s ‘Modern Family’:


At about 4 inches tall with posable limbs and sturdy wooden noggins, they’re perfectly suited for the kinds of misadventures we like to stage around here. And, while I’m not thrilled with ‘Gramma’s’ frumpy bun and apron — Zander seems quite taken with the idea of involving grandparents in the ‘troubles’. First up is an ill-fated bus tour for the hapless family.

Zander puts on a reassuring (fake) smile as though the ‘Hapes’ are not about to get lost in a cave and almost eaten by bears.

Here they are about to enter the ‘cave’:


Luckily for the Hapes, a helicopter is quickly dispatched, along with a medic who scans ‘Granny’s’ body for broken bones (just a sprain). This is after a stegosaurus (friendly!) knocks away the cave walls to free this family with obvious issues around navigation (couldn’t find their way out of a cave with one entrance) and ‘disequilibrium’ (difficulties standing).



The boys, ours named Toby and Peter, seem exceptionally well-suited for future mishaps, distracted as they are by their ear-buds. Toby here wandered off from the rest and fell into a crevasse.


Any ideas for the Hapes’ next misadventure?




Today’s ‘Modern Family’ Rescue

Night Walks

by Julie Deimert


When it comes to spending time with preschoolers, it’s often the simplest things that turn out to be the most fun. Like going for walks after dark! (On Cup of Jo, Joanna Goddard describes her ‘slow parenting’ approach to walking with preschoolers, something she calls  Penny Walks.) For a two-year-old like Jax, just operating a flashlight is fun in itself. But for Zander (almost 4) — it was even more of an adventure than I was expecting. As we stepped off the front porch he said, “We’re looking for bears, right?”


After checking out one of the gaudiest Christmas displays in our city, which just happens to be down the street and which the boys obviously love — we headed down the other way to look for cats, raccoons, and owls, and the rest of the nocturnal creatures Divya Srinivasan describes in Little Owl’s Night.


And even though I’d assured Zander there were no bears in the city — he made sure he stayed close to his little brother. To be honest, I’m not sure who was protecting whom!

Night Walks

Ice sculpting

by Julie Deimert


Zander and I started doing this last summer out in the back yard, but ice play is easily moved indoors for the winter. Most of the supplies you need you’ll find in the kitchen, and the only prep required  is to fill some small plastic food containers with water the night before for a variety of ice blocks.

Eye droppers, food coloring, salt, (baking soda & vinegar for a fizzy surprise!)

Zander especially enjoyed mixing colors in the ice and watching the effects of salt as it bore holes in the surface of the blocks.


Next time I’ll throw some little plastic creatures (bugs, dinosaurs?) into the ice containers for us to melt free!

Ice sculpting