Saskatoon

Nature-based daycare has kids spend as much time outside as possible, no matter how cold

A Place for Wonder KinderCare has adopted a philosophy that children thrive in nature and no winter weather, however extreme, should stop them from getting outdoors.

'It brings back that joy of winter,' says instructor

As the weather gets colder, this Saskatoon daycare program still makes sure to head outside for learning and fun. 0:45

Saskatchewan winters can trigger survival instincts and keep us indoors to wait out the darkness, the cold and the biting prairie wind.

One daycare in Saskatoon, however, has adopted a philosophy that children thrive in nature and no winter weather, however extreme, should stop them from getting outdoors.

Neck warmers, smart wool socks, and toboggans. That's all you need to take part in the A Place for Wonder KinderCare program. A place where little kids embrace the elements of this nature based daycare, even in the winter. 6:42

"It's all about physical and mental health and the well-being of the total child," Shannon Scheer, who teaches in the A Place for Wonder KinderCare program at École River Heights, said in an interview with CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning.

You see it through the children's eyes, and you remember what that joy was like.- Karen Robinson

Play and learn

The program is run by Karen Robinson. No matter the weather, the children spend a good amount of time outside. They might explore a nearby urban forest, or venture out a little further to the river valley.

Robinson said the children learn to respect the environment around them and to take risks.

"They are limited by their imagination and that's it," she said.

"They are happy, they are content, they know how to communicate with one another, they find happiness in being alone, and they know what to do," Scheer said.

Children who attend the daycare have built a fort in the nearby urban forest, which has become a favourite play area. (CBC)

Imagination fuels exploration 

In the urban forest the children built a fort. A bed of dried sticks could be a pirate ship, but these much visited sites become whatever the children imagine them to be.

"The kiddos weave in and out of different play spaces and with different children," said Robinson.

The commitment to the outdoors does not stop when the weather gets cold. Robinson recalled a day when the temperature hit – 49 C and the children simply layered up and ventured out with few complaints.

Both instructors say the children offer a lesson for us all.

"It brings back that joy of winter," said Robinson. "You see it through the children's eyes and you remember what that joy was like."

Scheer said she now craves the outdoors.

"My whole joy and spirit grow," she said.

The instructors at the the A Place for Wonder KinderCare program at École River Heights in Saskatoon say the enthusiasm of the children has re-sparked their own joy at being outside in the winter. (CBC)

About the Author

Danny Kerslake is an award-winning journalist who has worked in radio stations across Western Canada. In his career with CBC Saskatchewan, Danny has reported from every corner of the province and has lived and worked in Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert. Danny is a newsreader and digital AP for CBC Saskatoon.

with files from Saskatoon Morning

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