by Shawna With the days heating up (I am sticking my fingers in my ears at mention of nighttime near-freezing temperatures this coming week - lalala, I can't hear you!), my family is itching to get outside. Yes, there are lots of fabulous, known parks we can target, but just as appealing is going for a walk or throwing helmets on the kids' little melons and stuffing them in our usedottawa.com-purchased bike trailer to explore. After all, playgrounds might offer the kids a chance to run around, but the most activity I usually get there is pushing swings, or helicoptering around my almost-two-year-old to make sure he doesn't plummet through a gap in the play structure rails enroute to the slide.
We're new to our Barrhaven neighbourhood (as is everyone around us: we live in a brand-new development) so so far our forays have had us exploring close to home. We have a path that loops around the water containment pond that's almost across the street. If we're smart, we head to the left when we get there and branch out about halfway around. We only return to the path do the second half when we know we're done with the walk. You see, there's a bridge on that half, and we have learned that throwing pebbles into the water is an inexhaustible source of entertainment when you're a half-pint. And throwing sticks on the upstream side and waiting for them to appear on the other? You cannot imagine the suspense! Especially because the current is extremely sluggish once the spring run-off has happened. (Where did my stick go? Why isn't it here yet? Did it get stuck on something? I'll get more rocks to throw while I'm waiting... Did I miss my stick while I was getting the rocks? Where is my stick? THERE IT IS! LOOK MUMMA, LOOK!) This game, by the way, was "invented" by Winnie the Pooh, hence the name "Pooh Sticks" (no, it's not a scatalogical reference).
Announcements that it is time to go home - or even just move on - are usually greeted with shrill screeches of displeasure, so it's often better to a) hit the bridge on the way home and mentally budget some time for lingering there, and b) have an activity at home which they want to do to lure them away. My kids, for example, are big fans of the bath, so that's often how I transform their anger to eager acceptance of leaving.
When the decision has been made to go for a bike ride, my husband and I tow our wee mites around (okay, he tows, I just bike along unencumbered with him) until we've been going for a while and see a likely little spot, then we hop out and release our mini-Krakens. Any small play structure or inviting path to explore will do. Then the kids get free rein until it's time to pop them back in the trailer and head home. Since they're usually getting cranky at this point, we quickly learned to proffer a supply of liquids and finger-food snacks to placate them on the way home.
Man, does it feel good to be doing something active for entertainment again. For the kids, it's about the destination; for the adults it's about the journey, and this sort of activity covers both bases. Win!
Shawna is mom to 4-year-old Sage and almost-2-year-old Harris. She has been writing online since 2003, and her latest project is a fledgling photography blog. As a delicate hothouse flower, she is not winter's biggest fan and is expansively happy that spring is here!