The beginning of January saw a great thaw in the city of Vancouver.  Packed snow formed icy patches throughout Trout Lake Park, adding a new level of fun and challenge to our travels across the fields.  In a city that rarely sees this much snow and ice, the adventurers had to learn to walk in a different way, finding new routes around very icy spots or choosing skate/skid right through them.  Our morning group also had the great thrill of being one of the last groups allowed on the ice before the lake was closed for skating this winter.

It was my great joy to discover the snow with the children this year.  For many of them, this is the first chance they have had to really spend time with the snow and ice.  Every part of the last few weeks has been a new discovery as the snow arrived, thawed out and then came to play again.

Snowball fights are a rare thing in Vancouver, and the children took full advantage.  This created an excellent opportunity for promoting social skills and maintaining self-control while in a frenzied state of play.  Not everyone wanted to have snow balls thrown at them, the children would have to check in with one another to see who wanted to play that game and who was okay with being hit by a snow ball.   They would then also have to take note of where they were throwing as we asked them not to throw any snow balls above the chest.  One of the logs on the beach made for a great “target” for the children to test their aim and their skill among the cheers of their peers.

With all that ice, we brought the hammers out with us to the beach.  The water contained in the ground, sand and logs froze into beautiful ice crystals.  The children spent some time “mining” these crystals, admiring their beauty and smashing them to smithereens!  This also helps to build up their skill with hammers, which we will expand upon in the coming weeks.

The frozen sand created a new element and challenge to our time with our kitchen tools.  The children loved changing the name of our “Sand Kitchen” to “Ice” or “Snow Kitchen” during those first few weeks.  As the snow and ice slowly thawed, small streams of water appeared throughout the beach.  The adventurers enjoyed following them to see where they began and there they ended.  Using them to get muddy, wet, unfrozen sand for their kitchen creations.  The also undertook self-motivated projects to expand the streams, make new streams and block up other streams using the kitchen tools and a lot of verbally coordinated and negotiated  teamwork.

As the weather warmed, the children gravitated towards the big Willow tree by the beach for climbing.  They tested their strength, balance and grip climbing in its sturdy branches.  At ‘Out and About’ we encourage the children to climb themselves, encouraging and supporting them only through the words and guidance of our facilitators.  There is something magical in that moment where a child reaches a branch they have been working towards.  Seeing their pride in their ability and their awe at seeing the world from a new perspective takes my breath away every single time!

During the last couple of weeks, we began to introduce ropes to the groups.  While at the beach, I strung up a rope swing with help from a few interested adventurers.  The children enjoyed the new type of swing to challenge their balance and engage their grip while finding new ways to spin and swing from a branch of our favourite Willow tree.  Some children used the remaining length of rope to create traps, play tug-o-war and create imaginative “zip lines” alongside the swing.  We will be expanding on this interest in the coming weeks.

It has been a lovely, winter wonderland that we have been adventuring in thus far.  We are looking forward to more explorations and will be watching with bated breath for signs of spring.  Thank you for being a part of our adventures!