Chief Dan George Park: A Review

Chief Dan George park is one of the smallest playgrounds in the District of North Vancouver, called a “neighbourhood pocket park,” which is great to burn off steam if you live close by, but not much else. Geared towards smaller kids, the park boasts a single play structure (climb up, slide down) and a swing set, plus a digger and a ball structure, though it does boast a larger green space for exploration. 

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For more of my playground reviews, check out the full directory of North Vancouver Playgrounds.

How Do You Deal With Violent Play Acting?

Aiden is right now obsessed with Star Wars. He has never *seen* Star Wars, though admittedly we play a part in his obsession by always having purchased him Star Wars-related shirts and gear. At Christmas, he had a Star Wars Lego advent calendar which prompted weeks of play, and for Christmas he got a Lego Starfighter I found on sale last year that has become the central focus for so much play

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While I have nothing against Star Wars per sey, it has brought a more violent type of play into the house. There is a lot more talk of “killing” and “fighting” and “bad guys” than there has been with any kind of toy previously owned, and when I ask if there are other options, Aiden says “No, because that’s not how the movie is.” So, I’m stumped. 

How do you deal with violent play acting? 

Damien the Puzzler

Damien is currently obsessed with puzzles. Just last month, I would have told you that Damien rarely does anything beyond his music. Sometimes he would pick up a toy or draw or play with PlayDoh, but usually he made music. 

Right now, his activity of choice is puzzles. He can independently do the wooden alphabet puzzle (from Etsy) many times a day, but he’s taken a keen interest in larger puzzles as well (15-60 pieces). He is very good at putting the pieces together and turning them until they align. He’s less good at understanding the sequence of a puzzle (that you can’t put the front of the firetruck on unless you’ve completed the middle) and is only sort-of understanding how to look at the pictures on the pieces as well as their shape. 

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This is, from experience, the most annoying stage in puzzle love. I remember going through it with Aiden and trying to teach him how to look for a certain colour or shape only to be met with bafflement. 

“Can you find a piece with ladder on it?”

“Here’s ladder!” (holding the first piece he finds, a tire)

“Is that a ladder or a tire? Look at it.”

Sigh. 

He is starting to get it, but it’s an annoying stage that goes against my hands-off let-him-discover-the-way parenting approach. Damien is more used to this, so if the puzzle is small enough, he’ll keep trying pieces until he finds the right one and I can sit back to just sportscast if he’s ever unsure. Of course, he doesn’t always want to do the small puzzles. ;)

Creating an Invitation to Play

Have you ever heard of an “invitation to play”? Essentially, the concept is to set up some open-ended materials (craft materials or toys) and invite your child to play. The goal is not to create an environment where there are “rules” or “instructions,” but rather an opportunity to explore. 

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You can put pretty much anything together to create an invitation to play. I have found that simply having the materials set out will prompt interest, no matter how I present it. The stamps may sit in a drawer for weeks without being used, but voila! I put them on the table with ink and paper ready, and guess who is so excited to use them? 

I don’t do this all the time, I believe kids need to figure out how to cure their own boredom, but from time to time it helps them calm down or pass a rainy afternoon. 

Some of the organized crafts and invitations to play I have involved many little bowls or cups and well… that’s messy and finicky and requires all mini bowls to be clean when I need them. I recently purchased a chip and dip tray for $1 from Walmart and it’s made for a great place to set up all the odds and ends I may gather for a craft or activity. Plus, it is great for taco night ;)

Do you have favourite “invitation to play” activities? Share them in the comments!

Modifying Adult Board Games for Kids

Aiden was about 26 months old when he first became obsessed with board games. His first board game was the Curious George Discovery Beach game that was all about finding shapes and colours hidden in the ‘sand’ and he played it all the time. Since that very first board game, we have been modifying game rules to suit his age. Now that Aiden is older, he still requests to play a board game almost every day, except now the games are much longer and more involved. 

I have spent far too many hours researching board games for kids and more often than not find them too stupid or not well made or boring after a few plays. Even after my research, some of the games we’ve tried have been duds. The most successful games for Aiden (who is now 4.5) have been adult games, modified to suit his ability level. I find that adult games, being longer, are more easily suited to the enjoyment of the process of playing, rather than winning vs losing

Aiden’s favourite game right now is Carcassonne. Thankfully, it’s my favourite game too, so I don’t mind playing it a few times a week. This was an extremely easy game to modify for Aiden, as it simply involved taking out whole sets of rules. For example, when we began we took out the cloister cards and didn’t build farms. Instead, we focused on cities and roads only. Since Aiden has experience playing dominoes, he found it very easy to understand this game – indeed, he won against me fair and square the first time (I rarely dumb down my abilities). I sometimes have to remind him “Do you want to claim that city / road?” if he forgets, but the placement of the cards has been very easy for him. 

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Aiden has only once been upset playing Carcassonne, because he “didn’t get to flip his card to 100”, not because he lost. He’s won a couple of times, but usually I win and he’s ok with that. We have already added in the cloisters, so only the farms are excluded from our games now.

Here is Aiden playing “the train game,” aka Ticket to Ride. This was not quite as straightforward to modify, since there are a lot of cards and rules involved. You can find ideas for modifications here, though we went further and removed the destination tickets, instead just having fun building the train segments. 

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The next came on my list is a children’s game specifically simplified from the adult version, Catan: Junior. Given that Aiden’s 5th birthday is coming up, we’re trying to be patient ;)