Category Archives: Winter Fun

oakville custom home builder

What I Learned Making DIY Backyard Ice Rink

“This isn’t the first time I’ve made a backyard ice rink on my property”, says Keith Travers Eastview Homes, Oakville area contractor, “we’re a hockey family.”

Its a breathtaking accomplishment. As I came through the back of Keith’s suburban bungalow, I spotted the attraction in the backyard. Behold twelve hundred square feet of ice, six inches thick, rimmed with plywood boards.

Keith Travers in his D.I.Y. backyard ice rink in Toronto

Proud of his accomplishment, Keith boasted “You’ve got to come back in the evening when its all lit up and we have all the neighbour kids over playing hockey, and free skating”. He pointed out the mercury vapour lamps (same as in the local arena but smaller) that he has affixed to poles on the perimeter.

“Next year I’m gonna add some benches on both sides.” Keith says, “That’s one thing I learned. There’s always a crowd here by the steps.”

Keith’s backyard is perfect because the contractor made it that way; the area was specially leveled and landscaped and all the small trees were removed when he first bought the property a few years ago.

The rink boards were cut last year. They’re 4×8 plywood sheets ripped lengthwise into eight foot long boards. Keith could have used cheaper materials, particle board OSB, but he had some 3/4 inch plywood left over from a job and he knew the ice rink was a project he’d be repeating for years to come. The braces, two on each board, are more perishable; they’re made from salvage cut from old pallets and other bits of scrap wood.

Keith learned last year to run the hydro for the lights first- the power cords are safe from sharp skates under snow and ice, right on the ground. Keith also evolved a sound system this winter; he has two small stereo speakers plugged into a radio in the kitchen.

TIMELINE of a backyard ice rink – first you clear the area and run power for lights and put up the boards.

“I leave the grass long in the fall in case we get a good snowfall, and I can do the snow pack method to save the liner.’ There are two methods of making a liner. First, if there’s a lot of snow the you can use the snow pack method, which involves tramping down the snow with your boots until its hard packed and will hold the water.

Or you can buy some very large sheets of thin plastic and fashion your own pool liner or in this case a ‘rink liner’. Painters’ drop sheets are too thin and the wrong size. They won’t work unless you can figure out how to bind them together with duct tape to create a watertight surface. The thicker the plastic, the easier the tape applies, right up until the plastic is too thick.

The hardest part for Keith this year was just waiting for the ground to freeze as the weather by the lake is so variable.

It wasn’t until late December before Keith had the courage to call the water truck service. He ordered three thousand gallons of water to make a six inch slab, and if readers are seeking to replicate this rink they can use this handy pool volume calculator to calculate their own needs. Keith learned last year that six inches is the ideal (or most efficient) ice thickness to avoid pressure cracks and create an immovable solid ice mass.

pool volume calculator

 

 

Safety is always top-of-mind when making a kid friendly backyard attraction.

Keith has evolved a more kid-friendly ice rink this year even though he claims his rink is entirely injury free. Despite the flawless safety record, or maybe to help ensure it continues, the building contractor took the time to eliminate protruding stakes and sharp edges that can cause more harm to anyone slipping, losing their balance and falling. The wooden perimeter rises about a foot above the ice surface and this year the corners and top edges are smoother and all the stakes have been hammered down flush with the top of the boards.

And finally, lets not forget, ice rink makers have to think ahead to the spring melt. Where is all that water going to go? Keith runs a line to his neighbour’s in-ground swimming pool, which is right next door and downhill. He made a deal with this friend after concerns were raised that the melting ice rink could otherwise flood both their basements.

Keith Travers – DIY Ice Rink in backyard.

Does having a property with a big backyard improve the quality of life for a young family in the summer and in wintertime? Absolutely.

Save

Save

Outdoor activity, even napping, in winter leads to happier, healthier and more resilient kids…

kids-tobagganning-in-winter

Kids of all ages love to ride the toboggan down slippery, snowy hills


Well, its finally happening…

The cool, crisp air of yet another onset of winter has finally arrived. While it would be easy to light the fireplace and snuggle up inside for another long, cold winter— rather than retreat inside, we should actually be spending more time outdoors. Walking, hiking, playing, skiing, snowboarding, learning, exploring discovering and even… napping. Yes, napping. Outside.

kids-nordic-skiing

Nordic (or Cross Country) Skiing is a great way to have fun, get fit and actually enjoy winter.


While it is easy to think that winter is long, and cold and hard to endure year after year, it really is more of a state of mind than a set of circumstances we have to endure. When you take the time to actively engage in activities that force you to dress up and get outside and move around for extended periods of time, winter can actually be really fun. If you set your mind to it, it becomes a great opportunity to seek out and find ways and things to do that build resilience, shorten the season, and put you in great shape emotionally, physically and mentally.

Outdoor learning is alive and well in Sweden – a priority even. The team at the Swedish think tank Movium has been able to advance a national agenda in support of outdoor play and learning, mobility and independence.

girls-nordic-skiing

Get the kids outside skiing early on in life and you will give them a gift that lasts a lifetime.


Here in Canada, we see signs of movement in that direction. More schools and school boards are encouraging play and learning outside and creating school grounds that are healthy for kids living in cities.

girls-jumping-winter

Running, jumping and all around tomfoolery in the powdery snow is a great way to burn off steam and get plenty of fresh air. Dress them up right and they won’t even notice its cold outside.


Cam Collyer, Director of Programs at Evergreen, shares what Canadians can learn from outdoor education around the world…

backyard-hockey

Back Yard Hockey rinks are a bit of work in the fall, winter and spring, but well worth the effort if you can get a cold enough winter in your area. Here in Toronto, it is hard to believe we can actually do this in the city, but it is possible if you roll up your sleeves and are dedicated to the cause.


What are you waiting for? Bundle up the kids and get outside!

 

Affordable Winter Birthday Party ideas for Kids

Snowman-fun-for-kids-in-winter

Brrr.

Yes, it is cold out there.

Winter has finally arrived—but don’t let that get you down. Go ahead, celebrate winter. Revel in it. Throw a party and make the most of it while it lasts. Spring will be here before you know it.

Kids love it. If your child’s birthday is coming up soon, and you live in a place where the snow piles up, you’re in luck. You can have a great party outside in the snow, the kids will have a blast and unlike a trip to Disney world, you won’t have to spend much money.

Even though the snow can be the bane of an adult’s existence, kids consider the snow to be fun, exciting, and full of opportunities. When dressed warmly, they don’t even seem to notice how cold it is outside if they’re in the middle of building a snowman or making snow angels.

If you want to throw a birthday party, and winter wonderland is in your backyard, why not bundle up, have a lot of fun with your kids and save some money at the same time? If you love winter, then you will love this:

4 great ideas for winter birthday party activities for kids:

1. Snowman Building Competition:

Have the kids form teams of two or three, and each team can try to build the best snowman. (You and the other parents at the party can be the judge of who wins). You may want to give the kids some buttons, carrots, and scarves to decorate their snowmen with. Kids could also bring some supplies from home like hats and brooms, if you let their parents know about the competition in advance.

2. Snow Football

This is a particularly good idea if you’re throwing a party for young boys. Playing football in the snow is actually a lot safer than playing football any other time of the year. Piles of snow are generally a lot softer than the pavement. So, if kids happen to accidentally fall during the game, they can get right back up again and keep playing. It’s probably a good idea for you to have the kids play touch football instead of tackling football, especially if they’re on the younger side.

3. Snow Angel Competition

The kids make snow angels, and the parents decide which one is the best. This is pretty similar to the snowman competition. When you hold any type of competition for kids, it’s actually a better idea to not offer some kind of prize or reward to the winner. Kids tend to get a little more upset about not winning if there’s a prize involved. Plus, forgoing the prizes saves you some money.

Winter games for kids

4. Paper Snowflake Construction

Once the kids get tired from playing outside, you can take them all inside and have them make paper snowflakes using colorful paper. Kids love making their own snowflakes and taking them home as party favors. You could also have the kids draw snowmen and other winter characters. Having the kids make their own party favors is a great way to cut corners.

Sound like fun? Consider your own version of the activities above, put on your best winter gear and get outside. This year, celebrate the best that winter has to offer and throw a snow party to remember for your birthday boy or girl this year!

About the Author:

Lisa is a guest blogger and mom with many years of experience throwing everything from Super Mario birthday partys to a celebrity dress-up party on a budget. Throwing a birthday party? Need some help with ideas and solutions? You can get everything you need for a fun and memorable event from thePartyworks.