Category Archives: rock climbing

StoneHoppers

The sky is wavy blue as our 3G walkers (grand-papa, papa and les filles) make their way to the beaver lands. As we start down the path, the girls discover another adventure, an attraction even more potent than a beaver lodge and a small stand of pointy stumps with tell tale gnawings. A long line of giant boulders unfolds before us.

DSC02507Up and over

It’s up and over, climb and slide, balance and big air. The girls are fully engrossed – measuring, gauging, examining each boulder for the right approach, the perfect purchase, the highest summit.

DSC02522Eyeing the summit

There are more than 50 of the oversize rocks that are placed just over a meter apart to prevent vehicles from driving onto an otherwise open field. Though not designed as a play area, it pretty much screams out to kids. The rocks – and I’ve never seen such a glorious abundance – are like magnets for the girls.

The rocks offer differing levels of difficulty, risk and excitement. Some are great jump off points for the next rock on the trail. Others might seem at first blush like little mountains of impregnability. Each one has its own contours, jutting ends and striated surfaces.

DSC02517Hanging on

The girls are happy to strut their stuff for grand-papa. I am proud to see them eager to test their physical abilities and stretch a little outside their comfort zones. We are here for nearly 20 minutes hop, skip and jumping along the line and back again.

There’s a natural staircase…..

DSC02532Stairway to heaven

…a table top…..

DSC02525Almost flat

…and plenty of jump off spots too.

DSC02509Coming down

Today this is the highlight of our visit. These supersized stones are affordances inviting kids to imagine them for something other than their presumed purpose. PlayGroundology friend Tim Gill wrote a lovely post on affordances in Rethinking Childhood – a blog you really can’t afford to miss.

After our field of stones, we head to a playground less than five minutes away by foot. The girls don’t appear to be nearly as inventive or daring here. If all the big rocks were marshalled onto the playground I wonder if there would be problems linked to liability, if they would be deemed too dangerous, too risky?

Seems like people can cause more damage at this off the shelf playground than they could in the field of rocks….

DSC02539Surveillance

We’ll be back to climb, jump, slide and all the while we’ll keep on rockin’.

On The Rocks

On a recent excursion along Nova Scotia’s South Shore we stopped for a leisurely play at Crescent Beach. The kids were drawn to a large outcropping of rocks rising a couple of metres above sea level at its peak. The rock surface was uneven, fissured, pocked with holes and in some places slippery. Like billy goats, Noah and Nellie scrabbled about in search of footholds trying to maintain their balance as they explored the rock’s features and their own climbing abilities.

More On the Rocks photos from Crecent Beach here

Now if this immoveable force of natural beauty were to be transposed to a playground in Canada or the US there is no doubt in my mind that it would not pass a safety inspection. The transgressions against code would be legion. It would be deemed too risky. There was risk at play on the rocks and as parents we were aware of the potential dangers. In fact, the risk made the play all that much sweeter for the kids. Note – during the time they played, there was only one request for a rescue mission.

Meanwhile, in New York City, 11-year-old Ashima Shiraishi is a real climbing sensation. She got her start in Central Park on Rat Rock. I came across her story through Diana Kimball’s submission to The Last Great Thing (submission changes daily and there is no archive) via news.me.
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I watched the video posted on the NY Times site that accompanies the excellent article by Julie Bosman. It’s electric. Now Ashima is light years beyond the funning that our kids were doing at Crescent Beach. But I think the difference is one of degree. Ashima, Noah and Nellie are engaged in play, pushing boundaries and understanding risk. In the end these are some of the key attributes and skills we want our kids to hold dear and bring with them into adulthood.

In keeping with the spirit of The Last Great Thing folks who inspired this post, I’ll share this.

Last night after supper, my 4 1/2 year old daughter Nellie-Rose and I went out for a solo mission. Older brother and younger sister stayed at home with maman. It’s not often that just the two of us get to go on these little trips. En route to purchase a new lawn mower and pick up a few groceries, Nellie-Rose talked non-stop – questions, stories, more questions, statements and professions of love. It was great just to be able to focus on her. Then she said the last great thing I’ve heard:

if i was playing in some puddles i will be as happy as can be and if you were playing in some puddles with me you can be as happy as can be too

I think of this as a pretty foolproof outlook for the two of us. I feel fortunate that there is lots of playing left ahead of me and that I’ve got a good guide to help me along the way.