Damien is the crazier of our two kids. He is the one most likely to run, not walk. To jump from high places. To run into traffic laughing. To need to be told 3 times to stop before actually stopping. To laugh when he falls. He’s also crazy co-ordinated, so we’ve armed him with his own 2-wheel scooter since he was 2 and a pedal bike since his 3rd birthday. He spent 2 days using the training wheels then we worked on taking them off. With the aid of Escape Adventures and his own daring co-ordinated nature, he’s become a strong biker. Thankfully, he’s also recently learned how to stop!
Now, whether it was wise to arm this child with the ability to go faster than we can… we are working HARD on his listening skills!
Last year, I reviewed Myrtle Park in Deep Cove, which is a park I grew up visiting that had changed very little. During the off-season, the park was given an upgrade, and I recently went back to check it out. Having a new spray park is an exciting thing, after all.
Myrtle Park retained its “big kids” playground area, removing the older play structure AND the swings area, adding in more green space and a new splash area. While not exactly to the concept drawings, the revised park is still quite nice. Still, I feel like the park got more of an aesthetic upgrade than an actual PLAY upgrade. The AWESOME swing set was removed and replaced with a tiny baby swing set, no big kid swings, and one of the swing rockers that I’m not the biggest fan of. The splash pad is nice, great for small kids, but it’s not as interesting as the older version.
Aiden has now spent two summers in bike camps, but with different programs. Damien is in bike camp for the first time this year. This has given me a unique perspective to compare two bike programs offered in North Vancouver: Pedalheads and Escape Adventures.
Last year at age 4, Aiden completed Level 3 of Pedalheads, which was entirely conducted in a field at Brockton School. The camp focused a lot on maneuvering and obstacles, as well as road safety. Following the camp, we focused on teaching Aiden the Level 4 basics ourselves, which were mostly about road safety. We have since done some amazing and long family bike rides.
This year, I wanted both kids to go into bike camps again. Damien, at age 3, was decent on his Strider run bike and was already learning his pedal bike. Given his adventurous nature and overall level of co-ordination (drumming, 2-wheel-scooter, etc), I knew he could pick up pedal biking at this age. Initially, I had both kids registered in Pedalheads: Damien in Level 1, Aiden in Level 4. I felt like Level 4 was a bit basic for Aiden’s skill level, but the next level required a bike with gears, which we don’t have yet. Pedalheads is great for skills, but it’s progression in levels is very rigid.
Then I heard about Escape Adventures, a locally-run bike program which very quickly takes kids outside of fields and roads and gets them on trails. Already it sounded more interesting. Road and trail safety are integrated, but it’s not the sole focus – the actual bike part is quite an adventure! And, as a bonus, the program for Damien’s level was 2.5 hours instead of 1 hour (the Pedalheads equivalent for his age). DONE.
So, I took the cancellation hit and switched the kids into Escape Adventures and it has been the BEST choice. Damien is in Mini Rippers, learning how to start and stop and ride on his own. He was just figuring out the riding part when he started the program, and is now solid on that. He’s officially done with his run bike. Starting and stopping are still a work in progress, but he’s getting there. It’s crazy that my 3-year-old is on a pedal bike without training wheels. Awesome. After working with us throughout the year, I expect I’ll put him in Mini Rippers Trails next Spring, perhaps Little Rippers by Summer. At age 4, his class at Escape Adventures will be far more interesting than it would have been if we stayed on the Pedalheads advancement track.
Aiden has been in Little Rippers Stage 2 and bikes from Lynn Valley’s Kilmer Park down into the Inter River Bike Park, taking different side trails in Lynn Valley between snack and lunch time. He’s grown in confidence amazingly, doing hills and stunts that would have freaked him out last week. It’s amazing to see.
We plan to get Aiden a bike with gears and hand-brakes within the year, either repeating this level or going to the Extreme Riders .5 group in our next session. If that’s the case, Aiden may win the argument and get the full-face helmet he’s been dreaming about!! I just bought him a new helmet, but full-face seemed like overkill for road riding.
Brockton School is a private school in Lynn Valley. We paid many visits to the playground last year while Aiden was taking Pedalheads. Since the class was short, and Damien was with me, we spent a lot of time playing on the play structures.
The playground offers older play materials, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I find some of the older play equipment is more fun than all the new “safe” stuff. There were lots of play options for kids of many ages.
When Aiden entered Kindergarten this year, I knew he was ready. Though he’ll always be one of the youngest (and probably shortest) kids in his class, he rose up to meet every challenge. Aiden blossoms in school. It suits his needs for structure and for socialization – two things he’s always needed – and he grew so much emotionally, socially and as a student as well. He has made a lot of new friends, is engaged in school, and is excited to learn. We were very lucky both with class composition and with teacher and I’ll forever be grateful that his first year in so school was so special.
Aiden’s favourite classes are music and library time, though he also loves math, reading and art activities at school.
Though we don’t hear much from Aiden about his days at school, he looks forward to each and every day and always comes out with a smile (and a hungry tummy!). I’m so proud of all he’s achieved this year. And just look at how much he’s changed! Onward to Grade 1 now (eek!)
Damien, as well, had his first half-year of Preschool, starting in January. As a May baby, he’ll be starting Kindergarten at 5.5, instead of the nearly 5 that Aiden was. While I’m ok with this, it will mean he’s in preschool for a longer time (2 more years) and, given his engagement at school and his keen interests in learning, he may be quite ready by then. He’s already showing interests in learning to sound out words!
Damien did really well in preschool, adjusting quickly to drop-offs (most of the time), and learning to play with other kids (most of the time). He’s spirited and independent, with most of his interests being in very solo activities (making music). That said, he is learning to branch out into parallel play with other kids who have other interests, and this is nice to see. Occasionally he’s struggled with aggressive tendencies, but it has come and gone. We’re working on it and I feel he’ll be a different kid once September rolls around again.
Here’s to a Summer of adventures!!