Take a Look at Your Backyard!

Posted June 3, 2014

One of the very best learning environments for your young child is your back yard.  For so much of the year the weather in Calgary eaves this educational laboratory covered in snow - so I feel really excited about the opportunities you can now make available for your toddler. 

If you've been reading my blog for a while you already know that I am not a fan of 'parents as playmates' and this goes for backyard play as well.  Leave your back door open and your child may wander out, curiously, just to see if she can.  "You going outside?"  you can ask.  "OK." you say, because you've already applied outside,  the same sort of childproofing standards you use inside your house. 

But a perfectly safe back yard can also be a boring place to play so let's see how we can maximize the experience.

Consider stocking your yard with the following:

  • A hose which you set on the lowest trickle
  • Dirt with which to make mud, using the hose
  • A real set of hand garden tools - not plastic - ones that look just like the ones you use.  A trowel, a claw and gloves.
  • Some blocks of wood or small logs which can be moved from one place to another
  • Some sand in a pile (to discover the difference between sand, dirt and mud)
  • At least one large Tonka-type dump truck - it can stay out even in the rain so that cleaning up isn't onerous. 
  • A fly swatter
  • A paint brush and clean paint can (ask at a paint store) to 'paint' the garage with
  • A plastic basin
  • At least one all-weather doll
  • Some river rocks

If you have an older child, what worked well for him last year?  Pass on your or your child's clever ideas!  Please leave your comments on my Facebook page (Raymond Parenting News)

PS If you are worried about your child being unsupervised in your yard, do some surrepticious surveilance from a window or be outside with your nose in a book so your child can lose herself in her work. (related article)

I hope you enjoy your summer.

I'll be away this summer from time to time, so if you are needing a consultation on sleep or another parenting matter, use this link to see my appointment calendar and Book Now.

Prefer an email consultation?  Book Now. (available throughout the summer)




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Filed under: Play


How to Give Your Child That Extra Edge

Posted November 17, 2013

 Peter Gray, an evolutionary psychologist tells parents that "Play is a powerul way to impart social skills."  He further contends that the negative emotions like anger and fear are mastered during play.  Gray believes that during play your child feels strong and powerful, whereas in some adult-directed situations, your child may feel less competent, not being able to make her own decisions.

 I've mentioned in previous blogs the importance of being sure your child has time to daydream.  "Do nothing" days, I called them.  But Lisa, a mom of a 3 year old tells me that when she tries to reserve time for her child play independently, her daughter just keeps going to the door, wanting us to "go!" 

Lisa, does go out every day, sometimes several times a day and at her daughter's command, to keep her daugter from being bored or whiny.  She was startled to hear me say that she may be inadvertently 'training' her child to have high expectations of constant outings.  It is ideal for a child to have regular alone time each day to keep up the instinctive interest in play and and become skilled at entertaining herself.  If so-called boredom does set in (don't watch for it), that will be her catalist to first try to move mom into action, but when that doesn't work, to finally resort to finding something good to

Does Lisa have to stay home every day to give her daughter enough free play to develop well?  Of course not.  What I suggest is that parents reserve a part of every day as "playtime for you."  Extract yourself from the role of playmate and ignore pleas of boredom.   

Is your child good at playing by him/herself?  Did that come naturally or have you had to work on it.  Please make your comments at  Tell us how you did it!

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The Highly Sensitive Child and Back Yard Play

Posted May 1, 2013

Lately, the weather in Calgary finally feels like  spring.  I've heard from many parents who can't wait to send child outside to play, for a change.  Knowing what we do about temperament differences we can predict that some kids will probably dash out and not look back.  Others, however, may not remember last summer and may need to be re-introduced to your yard.  Going out with your child will help speed this process along.  Greta P. gave me this idea as she recalled last summer when her three year old was afraid of birds, spiders and even ants! Read on to see how Greta tackled the problem:

"We walked hand in hand out into the yard on the first sunny day.  The snow was almost melted and we looked for grass (none) or sticks (a few), plus we found some rocks.  We toured the borders and I commented that this was where he kept his yellow truck last year.  We went into the garage and found his yellow, rusty truck.  Once we were in the garage he spotted a few other things that looked interesting like the rake, the hose and balls. I told him we can take the balls out but the rake and hose have to wait until the snow is all gone.  I asked him if we should check every day to see if the snow is melting.  He agreed, of course, and now we have a new ritual of going out right after lunch to measure the snow.  Slowly, we'll investigate green things growing, count the ants, give the spiders a new home and look for bird's nests.  I'm hoping that in a month or less, my son will be comfortable heading outside alone, on his own investigations.  Can't wait!"  (Thank you, Greta.)

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Bully Protection from a Natural Playground

Posted November 26, 2012

I learned this weekend that Grandview Elementary school in Vancouver and Donnan Park in Edmonton both have natural playgrounds.   Similar projects by the same Canadian company (Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds) which is based in Dundas, Ontario are underway in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Ottawa, Toronto and Hamilton. 

In the above cities these creators have ditched swing sets, slides, monkey bars and jungle gyms for boulders, rolling topography (grassy hills), logs, stumps, pathways, large trees and bushes.  This sounds like where I used to play as a child!  The idea is to have a space where how to play is not predetermined.  The children use their imaginations to lead them.  And, playgrounds such as these tend to alter the way kids relate to each other.  No arguments over who is taking too long to climb up the slide or how to use equipment correctly.  Every child in this playground can find their comfort level.

An even more important discovery has been that parents do not hover as closely, in these playgrounds,  in their effort to be sure their child doesn't fall or miss a step on a ladder.  This means children are free to design for themselves what risks they feel ready to take.  They can easily make their play more challenging any time they wish, without hearing "be careful!" all the time.

Now, how does playing in a natural playground protect a child from bullying?  By building physical confidence in your child at a very young age.  The more age-appropriate risks a child is allowed to take in early childhood, the better knowledge she has of what her body can do.  With this kind of confidence built in, she or he is less likely to send "I'm a victim" messages to other kids once she is in school.

In fact, do you know where your child's first natural playground is?  On your couch!  Universally, toddlers want to climb up on your couch and jump off of the arms.  Universally, parents try to prevent them from doing this for fear of injury.  In my Setting Healthy Limits seminar, I advise parents to cover the hardwood with something soft and then step back and let your toddler experiment with this age-appropriate risk-taking.  Yes, there will be tumbles and tears to which you should try very hard not to overreact.  But you'll watch your child's confidence grow every time they get back up and try it again.  This is a very "natural" way for toddlers too play. 

If you are lucky enough to live in one of the above-named cities or in Chicago, Boston, Portland, Seattle Phoenix or New York, look for a natural playground to see for yourself how your child uses the imagination to form a play plan. If you've already been to a natural playground or have created one in your back yard(!) write me about your impressions to  I'd love to see pictures!


December 4 Prenatal Postnatal Class for Savvy Parents is postponed to the January 8th date. Click here to register for January 8,  2013

Toilet Learning the Easy Way will still be held on December 11, 2012.  Click here to register.  (Will be offered next on February 19 2013)

Telephone counseling appointments with Kitty are available every week up until December 18.   NEW! You may now book 30-minute appointments with Kitty.  These are useful for follow-up issues after attending a seminar or having a regular phone appointment.  As well, a 6:00 PM Wednesday evening appointment is posted to allow parents to get home from work.  To see this week's openings click here.



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