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Monday, 15 July 2013 18:46

Playgrounds by kids, for kids

Written by Ontario Tire Stewardship

Kids across Ontario are gearing up for summer vacation and a playground, of course, is sure to be one of their first stops! To celebrate the beginning of summer and spark ideas for cool new playgrounds to visit in communities across Ontario, here are a few suggestions.

Not only are they packed with cool, non-traditional features, but each playground has sustainable surfacing made from recycled tire rubber that adds colour and enhanced durability and safety! The innovative design and technology that went into creating the surfacing product ensures a high degree of shock absorption to better cushion falls and reduce the severity of playground injuries.  Available in custom colours and patterns, this surfacing is easy on the eye too!

As a bonus, the below playgrounds were designed by kids, for kids.

Car Park (Newmarket)

This park was designed and created for the York Region Children’s Aid Society in Newmarket, an organization that was lacking a space for children to play. The park boasts a racetrack, racecars, slides, and even a spinner! The racetrack, provided by SofSurfaces, contains between 74% and 93% recycled Ontario tires. Kids also think it’s pretty neat that tires found new life off the road and on a playground!

carpark

 

Future Park (Hamilton)

Hamilton City Housing recently got its own playground, and decided on a futuristic theme. This meant incorporating everything from a time machine to a spaceship bench with solar panels, to a mural of robots and aliens. The coloured pattern in the rubber playground surfacing also helps to make the playground theme out of this world!

futurepark

 

Science Park (Hamilton)

Some crafty kids thought it might be fun to create a science-themed park with features like an asteroid-shaped climbing wall and rocket-shaped teeter-totter, and soft flooring. We’ll take an ‘atom-climber’ over monkey bars any day! Each playground tile contains 2 recycled rubber tires!

sciencepark

 

Playgrounds are more than just places to play: they are social hubs that bind communities. These public spaces allow children to grow and develop by enabling them to socialize, build relationships, and get outdoors! These are just a few examples of great sustainable playgrounds in Ontario. If you’re looking for new community adventures to explore with your children this summer, check out these latest additions!

These playgrounds were all part of a show called Giver, in which kids aged 6-12 design and build playgrounds in their communities. To watch full episodes, tune into TVO or visit our Youtube channel.

For more information on recycled rubber products and Ontario Tire Stewardship, visit www.RethinkTires.ca and follow us on Twitter @RethinkTires.

Ten Canadian schools are closer to their dream of winning a $20,000 outdoor classroom after being chosen as finalists in the 3rd annual MAJESTA Trees of Knowledge competition. Now it’s up to Canadians to determine which school will bring their outdoor classroom to life by voting online at majestatreesofknowledge.ca from March 18 until April 26, 2013.

 

The Trees of Knowledge competition was launched in 2011 by MAJESTA, Tree Canada and Focus on Forests to help schools take learning outdoors by creating inspiring and interactive spaces for students to learn about nature, the environment and sustainability. A panel of expert judges, including representatives from MAJESTA, Tree Canada and Focus on Forests, narrowed the submissions down to a list of ten finalists. The school who receives the most votes during the voting period will win the $20,000 outdoor classroom.

 

“With the creativity and passion that each of the finalist schools put behind the design for their outdoor classroom, we expect it to be another close competition this year,” says Jim Schedler, Vice President of Marketing for MAJESTA. “Whether you vote for a school in your community, a school in your province, or any one of the outstanding submissions, we encourage Canadians to show their support, vote daily and help their favourite school come out on top. Canadians who vote can also enter for a chance to win a $10,000 cash prize from MAJESTA.”

 

Representing communities from coast to coast, the 10 finalist schools include:

 

 

NEW BRUNSWICK:

 

Island View School (Grades K-5) Saint John, NB Island View School would like to build a covered outdoor learning space, using the hillside in their schoolyard to create an amphitheatre-like classroom with stepped seating. Learning pods will also be built on the hillside to facilitate smaller group learning, while a new structure will be used to direct rain into the school’s water garden.

 

QUEBEC:

 

École Vision St-Jean (Grades JK-6) Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC École Vision St-Jean opened its doors in 2011. The new school would like to build an outdoor classroom to create a space for hands-on environmental learning. The new space will help introduce students to plant and bird species native to the area, and will include birdhouses, birdfeeders, a story-time corner and a weather station to monitor the environment.

 

ONTARIO:

 

Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School (Grades JK-7) Petawawa, ON Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School wants to provide its students with a hands-on outdoor learning space. In addition to using the space to develop a community garden, the school plans to start a composting program for the school’s organic waste and fill the classroom with trees to create shade for comfortable outdoor education.

 

St. Gabriel Catholic Elementary School (Grades JK-8) Windsor, ON St. Gabriel Catholic Elementary School’s idea for an outdoor classroom includes an eclectic mix of elements for students of all ages. The school’s outdoor space will include a natural wood stage with log seating, outdoor painting stations, birdhouses, butterfly gardens and plenty of wooden tables and benches to provide learning areas for its students.

 

Hillcrest Elementary School (Grades JK-8) Owen Sound, ON Hillcrest Elementary School is at the foot of the Niagara Escarpment, providing a natural surrounding for its outdoor classroom. The school wants to create three outdoor classroom areas to provide hands-on horticultural experiences to its primary, junior and senior students. The space will also include a butterfly garden to facilitate the grade one class as they study, care for and release monarch butterflies.

 

SASKATCHEWAN:

 

Loreburn Central School (Grades K-12) Loreburn, SK Loreburn Central School’s plans for an outdoor space includes a large octagon-shaped gazebo with enough room and seating for an entire class, much-needed greenery and an outdoor pathway to their school. The gazebo will also be equipped with a chalkboard for lessons and will function as an eating area and space for students to view outdoor activities such as football games or track and field events.

 

ALBERTA: École St. Thomas (Grades JK-7) Lloydminster, AB École St. Thomas’ vision for an outdoor classroom focuses on natural wood features, including a wooden gazebo for small-group lessons, a gathering circle using tree stumps, large wooden animal sculptures placed throughout the space, and a large totem pole. The addition of raised planters would also allow students to plant corn, sunflowers, and other plants indigenous to the area.

 

Rutherford School (Grades K-6 & Preschool) Edmonton, AB Rutherford School’s outdoor classroom site is nestled within century old trees. A pathway leading to the site will be lined with student-built birdhouses, and an existing sun-dial will be revamped with flower beds to attract hummingbirds and butterflies. The outdoor classroom will also be equipped with interlocking wooden planks for seating and climbing, and a chalkboard designed to withstand the elements.

 

 

BRITISH COLUMBIA:

 

Seymour Heights Elementary School (Grades K-7) North Vancouver, BC Already at capacity, Seymour Heights Elementary School wants to develop an outdoor classroom to provide much-needed additional learning space for its students. Not only will the new space be used as an area for students to interact and connect with each other, it will also be used as a venue for members of the community to meet and learn together outdoors.

 

Eagle River Secondary School (Grades 8-12) Sicamous, BC Eagle River Secondary School hopes to revitalize its outdoor courtyard. Currently consisting of only a few picnic tables, the school would like to add a number of elements to the outdoor space, including a greenhouse and garden for its science classes. The school also hopes to include an aboriginal medicine wheel to emphasize the community’s roots.
Tuesday, 12 February 2013 22:38

Three Easy Outdoor Activities for Kids Age 6-10

Written by Katie Elizabeth

If you feel like your kids are spending too much time indoors on the weekend watching television or playing video games, send them outside for some good, clean fun. There are tons of activities and games that you can play without buying anything and that will even teach them a few things.

Try out one of these three fun activities that will get their hearts pumping and show them the joy of being outdoors, rather than cooped up in the house. Your kids might even find new reasons to enjoy their afternoons or weekends outside.

    1. Hide and Seek

      Some activities never get old and hide-and-seek is one of them. It is an easy activity you can play indoors or outdoors, though outdoors makes it more challenging and fun for kids of this age group. It is an old game that continues to stick around generation after generation. Everyone in the group hides while one person is assigned to “seek.” The kid who the seeker finds first will be the seeker during the next round. This game is great to play with new friends from your kid’s prep school or the local neighborhood.

        2. Wheelbarrow Race

          Another physical activity kids can play outdoors is a classic wheelbarrow race. Divide the kids into pairs and create a start and finish line in your yard, park, or wherever else you will be playing the game. One kid will act as the wheelbarrow by walking on their hands with the other kid, the pusher, grabbing their legs. The wheelbarrow will go as fast as they can with their feet being pushed by the pusher. Whoever reaches the finish line first wins the game. This game is popular at public schools and day middle schools alike.

            3. Gardening

              If it’s a quiet Sunday morning and you have kids that enjoy being outdoors, gardening can be a nice, relaxing activity. It is less a game and more of an activity for kids who enjoy planting flowers. Let your kids choose what flowers they want to plant and have theme each choose a shaded spot in the flower bed. It is a great way to get them in the sunshine on the weekend, entertain them without spending a lot of money and teach them how to properly plant flowers.

              While playing outside is great for kids of all ages, it is important to make sure you choose activities that are appropriate for their age group. If you are looking for something suitable for kids aged between six and ten, these games and activities are a perfect choice. Get them outside and having fun – they’ll build happy memories they’ll cherish for years.

              Tuesday, 12 February 2013 22:37

              Outdoor Games and Activities for Kids Age 3-5

              Written by Katie Elizabeth

              If it’s a bright, sunny day, get the kids out of the house and show them some fun games and activities. Outdoor activities don’t require purchasing any expensive games and can be played with as little as 2 kids or as many as you like.

              Even better, outdoor games don’t require a special occasion. The following games can be played on a Saturday afternoon or as party games for your child’s next birthday party.

              Obstacle Course

              If you have some time on your hands, you can create an obstacle course outdoors for your kids. This is also a lot of fun with the neighbors’ kids or during a kid’s birthday party. Just select objects you can scatter in your backyard for the kids to climb under, run around or jump over.

              Make it as small or as large as you want, according to the size of your yard. The kids can even have a great time helping you to assemble the obstacle course, or you can keep it as a surprise so that there is a fair playing field.

              Tag

              Another fun activity for kids of this age group is tag, which will also give them some good exercise. It is very simple to do and the rules can be made up by you for their particular age group. Choose a “Safe” zone for the two different teams and have the kids run around in the yard or park, trying to tag kids from the other team. It can be over when everyone from one team is tagged, or some other goal. It can be however you want to do it.

              Be sure when you’re playing tag the teams are evenly matched. Don’t have one team of 3-year olds and one of 5-year olds, because the older kids are going to be able to run a lot faster than the younger kids.

              Beanbag Relay Race

              Relay races are another fitness-inspired activity which will also improve their coordination and balance. Start on one side of the yard with the kids standing side-by-side. Have them each place a small beanbag between their knees and walk-run to the other side without dropping the beanbag. Each time a kid drops a beanbag, they have to turn around and start from the beginning again. The kid who gets to the finish line first wins the game. This can also be done with other soft objects that are small and can be placed between their knees.

              It doesn’t matter if you’re a specialist in restoration PA, one of the electricians Harrisburg PA offers, a New York financier or a stay at home mom. Playing outdoors with your kids can be great fun and exercise for your whole family.

               

              Tuesday, 12 February 2013 22:36

              5 Fun Ways for Kids To Get Active Outdoors

              Written by Katie Elizabeth

              With the ever increasing amount of time kids spend watching TV and playing video games, parents can struggle to get their children active in the great outdoors. Here are 5 top tips for fun and free activities guaranteed to coax your little ones away from the screen and into the fresh air.

               

              Get Messy

               

              What child doesn't love making a mess? Digging for worms, making mud pies and water fights are active, fun filled and the messy element makes them that little bit more appealing! With some old clothes (and a guarantee that dirt won't make mom mad) they can be getting up to some good old fashioned childish fun in no time.

               

              Get Competitive

              The chance to beat friends and siblings in any sort of contest can be a great tool to boost your kids' activity levels. A soccer shoot out, timed jump rope challenges, an improvised obstacle course- these are easy to set up in even the smallest outdoor space, and provide a great outlet for healthy competition. Add a prize to seal the deal!

              Get Creative

               

              Make the great outdoors your child's canvas. Making giant pictures using nothing but what you find in the park or garden is creative, engaging and lets your little artists express themselves on a far larger scale than can be managed with pens, paper or a computer.

               

              Get Cute

              Spending time with animals can be a real treat, especially for kids without pets of their own. Offering to walk a neighbor's dog or paying a visit to a city farm provides enough cuteness to keep them happy for hours. If you are close to mountains or forests look for wildlife in their natural environment.

               

              Get Risky

              Don't let parental fear get in the way of their fun. Sure it can be tough to see them getting bumps and bruises, but a little bit of risk is a learning experience as well as making the activities extra enjoyable. Climbing trees, skateboarding and playing football might cause occasional accidents, but as the kids will tell you, it is worth it.

               

              The outdoors and activities in the open air can really appeal to kids. Next time you have need for a celebration, say in response to a cousin getting a green card, success in applying for a family visa, good school results or a birthday, consider heading outdoors.

               

              Rather than going to a restaurant, head on a hike with a picnic basket. Instead of going to a movie, go on a fishing trip or a nature walk. The more you do outside the more you will find new and exciting ways to have real family fun outdoors.

               

               

               

              Tuesday, 12 February 2013 22:35

              Getting Kids Outdoors in Colder Months

              Written by Katie Elizabeth

              During the cold winter months, it is sometimes difficult to convince kids to spend time outside. Shorter days and lower temperatures can also make it more challenging to find exciting and safe outdoor activities to enjoy with your children, especially as the season drags on. However, frosty weather doesn’t have to mean an end to outdoor fun. With a little creativity (and some warm clothes!), these activities will have kids eager to explore their winter world.

              Set up Bird Feeders and Go Bird Watching

              Winter is tough on birds, so now is a great time to have your kids put out some suet or birdseed and watch some very hungry birds come to feast. If there is any snow on the ground, you will end up with plenty of interesting tracks to check out as well. This is a great time for kids to learn more about bird migration and what birds have stayed for the winter, as well as to go scouting for old nests that will now be visible in trees.

              Take a Winter Explorer’s Expedition

              Take your kids on a nature walk with the specific purpose of exploring the winter landscape and discovering how it differs from the same place in other seasons. Take photos of or draw trees to compare with in the summer, observe what winter plants are still growing and what wildlife is active.

              Visit a Duck Pond

              Take a trip to a local pond to feed the ducks and other water birds that may be gathered there. Go for a walk around the pond and see if you can spot any other wildlife or signs of winter activity. Look for tracks in the snow and record what you find. Your kids could even sketch them out and try to identify the animals when they get home.

              Blow Bubbles – or Even Paint with Them

              This is often seen as a summer activity, but blowing bubbles in crisp, chilly air can be even more fun as the bubbles look and behave a little differently in cold air. You could also try bubble painting on snow by adding a couple drops of food coloring or kool-aid to your bubble solution and seeing what interesting color effects you get when the colored bubbles land.

               

              While winter months are not such a problem for the youth group of a Christian church San Jose offers, for those who live in colder climates far from the sunny areas of a     church San Jose might as well be Mars!

              When you have to deal with snow and ice that doesn’t mean that kids need to stay indoors. Use these tips for inspiration, wrap up well, and get out in the fresh air.

               

              Tuesday, 12 February 2013 22:31

              Top Outdoor Activities for Parents And Kids

              Written by Katie Elizabeth

              With spring just around the corner, now is the perfect time to start thinking about active, energetic and fun activities to do with your children. So hide the TV remote, lock away the X-box and get the whole family having fun in the fresh air. It’s enjoyable and good for you, too!

               

              Take a Bug Safari

              Arm the children with a magnifying glass and a bucket and take them bug collecting in a park or garden. This is an excellent way to learn about the huge variety of wildlife that lives all around us and the slightly 'icky' element should get the kids interested. Make it a competition by offering a prize for the child who finds the most different species, but don't forget to tell them to be gentle with the creepy crawlies. If there are dangerous insects where you live, then get your children used to the idea that they should look but not touch.

              Build a Tree House

              What child wouldn't love the idea of a private little space in the trees? A tree house can be the ideal tool to get your children outside ̶ they’ll love helping to build it, and once complete it will be their favorite outdoor hiding place. Don’t be surprised if it quickly becomes a ‘No Moms and Dads’ location.

               

              Make Nature Arty

               

              Leaves, stones and tree bark are the perfect materials for making crayon rubbings. Send the kids on a hunt to find nature's most interesting patterns, then lay a piece of paper over the top and rub with a wax crayon. They'll love the amazing shapes and textures they can make and they can incorporate their rubbings into bigger works of art. You’ll soon get even more inspiration from stick and stone sculptures to woodcarvings and more.

               

              Climb and Swing in the Trees

              All you need to make a brilliant rope swing is a tree with a strong branch, some rope and a stick to hang on to. It will take minutes to put together, but will keep children young and old entertained for hours. If you are lucky enough to have access to a tree by a river or pond, swinging and dropping into the water is great fun for slightly older children who know how to swim.

               

              All too often we spend far too much time indoors, whether working in a lab developing a new emi gasket and other shielding products or just sitting about at home on a computer or watching TV. Teach your kids just how fun outdoor activities can be by exposing them to nature and the outside world as early as possible.

              Tuesday, 12 February 2013 22:30

              5 Science Activities for Outdoor Kids

              Written by Katie Elizabeth

              The outdoors offers much more to children than a place to kick a ball around. The world is full of scientific wonders just waiting to be explored. Objects and scientific knowledge adults take for granted fascinate children. Below are five great ways to introduce your kids to science.

              Astronomy

              A star watch offers kids plenty of excitement. There’s the thrill of being out after dark, and playing with binoculars or telescopes is always fun. Even a moderately powerful pair of binoculars is sufficient to see the moon in detail.

              Choose an area well away from city lights for star-gazing. Meteor showers are predictable events and occur several times a year, so why not take the kids out to watch shooting stars?

              You can print out star charts for your area off astronomy sites and go constellation spotting. Many Western constellations are based on Greek myths, so you can tell kids the stories of Orion or other heroes (bear in mind some of the stories are quite violent or sexual and may not be appropriate for kids).

              Astronomy clubs meet on a regular basis and offer kids opportunities to use some of the more powerful amateur telescopes to spot planets. Seeing the rings of Saturn through a telescope is quite an event.

              Geocaching

              Geocaching combines hiking with technology. “Cachers” use GPS systems to locate hidden capsules containing small prizes. You get the kids outside, they get the excitement of a treasure hunt and they learn to share by replacing prizes with small items of equivalent value. Just expect tired cachers to pass out on the wall to wall carpet in the den when you get home.

              Bug Fishing

              If you have access to a pond or river, go on an aquatic bug hunt. Kids can net water critters and observe them in clear plastic or glass containers. Add a bug identification book and a picnic and you have a full day’s activity.

              Bug fishing teaches kids respect for the environment by releasing animals after capturing them. You can also bring along some gloves and bags to clean up garbage before you leave.

              Microscope Fun

              Kids’ microscopes range in complexity from small and portable handheld devices to electronic microscopes which display images on laptops. They all have one thing in common: they change how kids look at the world.

              A boring drop of water transforms into an ecosystem under a microscope. Kids can compare natural and man-made items as well, contrasting the natural grass of the lawn with pieces of commercial carpet.

              Kite Building

              Kite flying’s a fun activity, but nothing compares to the thrill of flying a kite you built yourself. You can find premade kite kits online, or build one from scratch. Building and flying kites teaches kids about aerodynamics and engineering. You can even add in some cultural education by discussing areas of the world where kite-fighting is a sport.

              Whichever activity you choose, remember that the power of nature is your best ally.

              Tuesday, 12 February 2013 22:28

              Unstructured Play: Important but Unremembered

              Written by Katie Elizabeth

              The political cartoon Doonesbury once ran a strip where two mothers discussed their children’s summer activities. The first rattles off a long list of organizational activities her child did: sports, music, language classes and so on. The second says her child built a tree house and spent the summer just hanging out. The first mother notes that, technically at least, the second mother isn’t guilty of child abuse.

              The strip plays with parental involvement in children’s activities: children lead increasingly structured lives. Allowing a child time for free play seems almost irresponsible by today’s standards, as if the mother left her child in a store in Maryland while she went for the breast augmentation surgery Harrisburg, PA is talking about.

              Free Time and Unstructured Play

              Kids today spend much less time outdoors than their parents did at the same age. Outdoor play tends toward structured sports activities. Even time spent indoors is increasingly supervised and organized, with music classes, art courses, dance and gymnastic lessons. What free time kids do have is often spent with electronic entertainment.

              None of these activities, including electronic play, are necessarily bad. Many kids enjoy such activities. But for proper development, children need time for unstructured play. Studies show unstructured play improves a child’s creativity, intellectual growth and problem solving skills. Interacting with peers without adult intervention improves emotional intelligence and social skills. Even conflicts with playmates can prove beneficial, as children learn how to resolve differences on their own.

              Obstacles to Free Play

              Parents have to overcome a few barriers before they can let children play unsupervised. We’ve been conditioned to believe our role, as parents, is to position children to maximum advantage in a competitive world. We assume because team sports build teamwork skills, our kid will be lost as an adult unless he gets on the best soccer team in the city.

              We need to relax a little. If mom chooses to pay for the facial surgery Harrisburg, PA is raving about instead of ice-skating lessons, it’s not the end of the world. Children don’t need an activity for every day of the week.

              Stranger danger” is another roadblock to unstructured play. We assume an unsupervised child will fall victim to tragedy. Visions of pedophiles, fatal car accidents and other violence haunt parents. I don’t want to belittle these concerns; they’re real and terrifying possibilities. But it might not hurt to remember violent crimes against children have actually decreased since the last generation.

              Finally, there’s the boredom trap. We act as if a bored child wastes valuable potential and jump in with suggestions for activities instead of allowing the child to be bored. Boredom can be beneficial; it stimulates the creativity needed for free play.

              Easing in to Unstructured Play

              Unstructured play doesn’t mean unsupervised play, such as taking a child to the park and letting her play on the playground equipment. Or, let the kids play in the yard while you garden.

              Don’t panic if they drop out of sight for a few minutes and remember you taught them street smarts so they’d be safe. You can even set up informal parent groups in the neighborhood to track children . . . if you are the one having trouble letting go.

               

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