Category Archives: walking

Summertime and the Camps are Expensive: How to Keep our Kids Thinking and Learning on a Dime …

Kids playing in a lake at a church camp

Kids playing in a lake at a church camp (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We bemoan the summer holidays as a time when students forget everything they learned in school and then need to spend September reviewing.  Research, and I can’t remember which and with the summer haze in my brain am too lazy to look up, suggests that middle class children don’t lose too much through the long summer holidays.  These kids go to camp, visit relatives, take classes and generally keep their brains ticking over.  If they aren’t precisely reviewing what they have already learned, they are at least adding to it.

Who is really hurt by the long summer holidays?

On the other hand, kids with lower socio-economic status do lose out.  Their parents are likely to both be working and are hard pressed to find care for their children, much less something stimulating.  If a parent is at home, then money to do anything extra is unavailable.  When these kids return to school, they are behind the eight ball.  They have not just forgotten over the long holidays, but they have not had any enrichment to enhance what they have already learned.  What to do?

The thing is that if you are reading this, you may be poor but you are unlikely to be lower SES.  Graduate, medical and law students may have very low incomes, the economic part of the SES, but their social status is high.  Even people who have gone off the grid or simply work the streets to help the homeless may have a minimal income but high status socially.  Even on a low income it is possible to afford a computer, second-hand or refurbished – or access one at the local library.

On the other hand, drug dealers may be rolling in dough but low in social status, although that may depend on the society they are mixing with.  They may have a computer, even a high end one with all the bells and whistles, but I doubt they are reading my blog or this post.

It is those folks who have minimal incomes and minimal status who are less likely to be able to provide camps and classes and stimulating activities for their kids.  It isn’t impossible but it is difficult.  I’m going to offer advice here, but how many people who need it, will read it?

Free Camps, Lessons and Stimulating Activities:

The best place to find a free summer camp is at a church.  They aren’t sleepover camps, they are usually half days and some do push their religion.  However, your children will learn something about Christianity, which will be an enormous aid as they study English literature.  It will also give them some insights into Judaism, Islam and even Mormonism.

My daughter went to one themed on Paul.  One day we were chatting about Paul as I walked her home from camp.  I confessed that I was not a fan of Paul as he was a bit of a misogynist.  After I explained that a misogynist was someone who didn’t like women, my daughter was quiet for a bit.  Then she pointed out that no one except Christ was perfect.  Perhaps misogyny was Paul’s flaw.  After all he did have other wise things to say.  My jaw dropped.  As I said, it is an opportunity to learn a bit and stimulate some thought.

Scouts and guides are another place for almost free camping and lessons.  One of my sons got a lot out of scouts including a couple of long camping trips.  He learned the usual skills and benefitted from the guidance of adults who weren’t parents or teachers.

Some camps will trade a child’s camping fees for a parent’s skills.  It won’t work with every camp, but it is worth trying with alternative or church over night camps.  If you can cook, do office work or general maintenance, ask.  Ask your local Y about groups that help send kids to camps or have programs for families to go to camp.

Learning New Skills

Can’t afford lessons?  Canvas other families in the same situations.  Maybe among you there are a few experts such as knitters, musicians (singers or drummers are ideal), dancers, artists (they don’t have to be famous or sell their work), woodworkers or bakers.  Arrange to have lessons for the children in your group of families.  Your kids will learn a new skill and learn to appreciate another adult.  You will get to know some other children well.

Seeing and Stimulation

            On the street where you live

Learning and stimulation are often right at your feet or your children’s feet.  Get in the habit of going for walks with your kids.  Teach them how to walk safely

Wabush Manhole Cover IV

Wabush Manhole Cover IV (Photo credit:

in their neighbourhood.  Go at their pace. They will get you seeing things you haven’t really looked at before.  The obvious things are construction sites and big trucks.  It’s always amazing how many workers don’t mind taking a couple of minutes to explain what they are doing.  My kids found manholes fascinating, too.  They were a great place to practice reading.  I also learned a bit of local history when I realised that the same foundry that made the manhole covers, made stoves in our area.

Those walks are also good exercise and an opportunity for you to continue street-proofing your children. Point out street signs, landmarks, public building and telephones. Get them to tell you how to get home.  Children who have wandered their neighbourhoods on their own by the age of ten will have a better directional sense and more confidence.  People who walk with confidence are less likely to be victimized.

            It’s a walk in the park

Having fun!

Having fun! (Photo credit: ucumari)

Of course, parks are a great place in the summer.  You take your kids to play on the playground or splash pads or swim but as a by-the-way you can get them in the habit of observing the life around them.  Try going to different parks and point out different plants and trees, birds and animals.  You don’t have


Observing (Photo credit: Adalberto Gonzaga)

to know what they are.  Keep a sketchpad or camera tucked in your bag to record what they see and make notes. Jot down their observations or if they are old enough, give them their own note pad and encourage them to keep

their own notes.  Show them how to just write down the minimum number of words necessary to remind them. When you get home, you can look them up or take another trip to the library.

            Go shopping, but leave your wallet at home

Shopping streets can be full of information.  Why do stores have big windows?  Which way do doors open?  Why?  Which colours do they see most in

a child

a child (Photo credit: sogni_hal)

store windows?  Which store windows are the prettiest?  Most dramatic?  Most interesting?  Why are there people sitting on the sidewalk asking for money?  Depending on your city, the street and the person, your child might want to talk to them.  It’s an opportunity to learn that people are people no matter how they live.

If you visit a small store when it is quiet, you could talk to the proprietor about what it is like to run a business, where his wares come from and why he decided to open a store.  You could get your children to keep track of the different kind of stores on different streets.


Museums are most wonderful when they are free.  If they are free in your town, pop in with the kids for only half an hour at a time.  Even if they aren’t free,

Young hands

Young hands (Photo credit: jepoirrier)

there is usually one day a week when they are, so that is the day to drop by.  Do a little research; sometimes there are tiny museums that are free.  Sometimes there are amazing little stores that are almost as good as museum, but first you must carefully train your children to look only with their eyes.

The best museum for kids is a science and technology museum.  Get them pushing the museum’s buttons instead of yours.  If you don’t have a zoo, the next best is an art gallery but pick the exhibit carefully.  Children enjoy bright energetic abstracts or meticulously realistic art to start with.  Let them ask the questions and make the comments before you get helpful.  You can borrow books about art from your library if you

Russell Coates Art Gallery Bournemouth

Russell Coates Art Gallery Bournemouth (Photo credit: Martin Beek)

don’t have the answers. When they get home they might want to try the kind of art they have seen.

An Exhibition

Your children might want to go around their home to pick out art and oddments worthy of display.  They can create cards explaining what each thing is and why it is so special.  Perhaps your network of teaching and learning families could add a demonstration of the skills the kids have learned over the summer.  Of course, that will call for an exhibition to which they can invite their friends, family and neighbours.

I am going to do it ALL

You aren’t going to do all of these things.  Just writing about it exhausts me.  It is a frame of mind that says there is a world of learning and fellowship and fun and excitement out there free if I open my eyes and my mind and my heart that is important.  I don’t have to be rich or educated to give my child a summer she will enjoy and will keep her mind ticking over.  I can send her back to school ready to continue learning.  It just takes some thought, imagination and planning on my part.  And maybe a little help from my friends.


Parenting (Photo credit: Leonid Mamchenkov)

How Active Should a Toddler Be? How Active Can a Toddler Be? Participaction Has it Right.

Boy toddler. Español: Un niño corriendo. فارسی...

When my children were small we lived on the French/Swiss border. One of the little pleasures in my life was joining the Flower Walks conducted by an English horticulturist. They were held on a Wednesday mornings, which meant I had to bring my small boys along as schools are shut in France on Wednesdays (they open Saturday morning instead). They were welcomed, their questions answered seriously and their occasional antics tolerated so long as they didn’t damage the flowers. Before my oldest could read, he could use the index of the flower book to find the page for a flower.

The boys (aged 5 and 3) had no trouble keeping up, partly because we stopped frequently to examine specimens and partly because we walked everywhere on the steep roads in the small village we lived in. When their sister came along, she joined us, first in a stroller, then walking, with the stroller along in case she got tired.

We were due to return to Canada just before she turned two. The last flower walk of the year was always an all day one and a walk up a mountain to see the alpine flowers. There was no way we could take a stroller. By then the boys were six and eight and experienced walkers so I decided to go. My daughter was a good little walker, we did stop a lot and I could carry her if she got tired.

It was one of the best flower walks. The boys managed very well. When we walked through one area with large hummocks too far apart for the six-year-old’s small legs to stretch, someone gave him a hand to jump. I carried his sister through that area.

Sometimes, one of my fellow walkers would offer to carry her. Most of the time, she walked on her own sturdy legs. The older boy bounded ahead with his precious flower book, chatting a mile a minute and asking all sorts of questions.

I suppose there was some whining, but I don’t remember doing much. The boys enjoyed themselves and my daughter, a social child, enjoyed the people as well as the adventure. When we arrived back at the rendezvous point, a parking lot near my husband’s work, all four of us felt energetic enough to drop in on his farewell party. We were invited to join them, but rather than push our luck, I let the kids make the rounds of guests they knew, help themselves to some party food and we headed home while everyone was still charmed.

How were my children able to manage a day walking up and then down a mountain over the course of a morning and an afternoon? As soon as my kids could walk, I stopped using the stroller. On a long walk or if I was going grocery shopping, I would take it with me. I let the toddler choose when she needed to ride. The thing is that babies and toddlers take pride in walking and running so the stroller isn’t needed often.

Wasn’t safety an issue? Yes. When we were on city streets where there was no boulevard between us and the cars, I slipped a harness over the toddler and held the reins.

You might object that this is like leashing a dog. One of the reasons we leash our dog is so he doesn’t run out in traffic. I rarely needed to use the harness more than a couple of times, because the kids preferred to be independent. The deal was if they kept away from the road, stopped and waited for me at corners and did what I said immediately, they wouldn’t need the harness. They learned early that safety came first and they could take control, or I would. I wish my dog had trained that quickly.

I preferred the harness to using a bracelet linked to the adult or even holding hands because the toddler had her hands free and was less likely to get her shoulder wrenched if she did fall. I preferred the toddler free and thinking about safety to the harness. I certainly wouldn’t have used it on the flower walks, as we tended to walk through lanes and fields and meadows.

One day I saw a nanny who probably didn’t weigh more than 100 pounds pushing a stroller with two pre-schoolers in it. The stroller plus the children must have weighed more than her. I wanted to ask her what was wrong with these children that neither of them could walk. I am sure the children’s parents spent money to

Looking north across East 20th St as jogger pu...

Who is getting the exercise? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

exercise in a gym while denying their children the opportunity to do what comes naturally.

Let your children go. Yes, they will walk slower than you, so plan to walk more slowly. This is a good time to listen to them talk, observe their world as they see it. It is amazing how fascinating a garbage truck and a snow plow can be. Reading the names on manhole covers can teach you a lot about your community’s history; it’s good prereading for your child, too.

So leave the stroller behind, teach your child how to walk safely beside the road and get to know her and her community. If she grows up to be a walker, as my three have, she will never need to shell out for a gym or worry about her weight.

Below are Participaction’s guidelines for activity levels for the under fours: