It’s been far too long since I scooted out early on a weekend morning with one of the boys for an adventure outside the city.

So I offered Charlie a chance to discover a new playground, have some french toast and pancakes at a diner, and escape for an early Sunday morning father-son adventure.

Breakfast came first at an old school diner, the kind of place where the waitresses call everyone Hun, and the menu items can vary by a nickel. It’s old school, it’s perfect, and it’s where Charlie and I dug into thick breakfasts.

The playground on our itinerary is a work in progress at Ralph Klein Park in southeast Calgary. Part of the TD Common Ground project for Canada 150, the play area at the wetlands park was inspired by consultations with Grade 3-5 kids at 4 area schools.

“Currently Ralph Klein Park does not have a play area and with TD’s sponsorship, The City is now able to offer a creative outdoor playground,” says Anne Charlton, Parks Director. “We hope the addition of a natural play space at Ralph Klein Park will inspire active and creative outdoor play, and connect people – young and old – to nature.”

Right now it’s just a pile of logs and branches and shovels for kids to work with and already it’s the kind of playground that Charlie loves. He dug, he piled, he dragged, he investigated, he discovered, he just worked with what he had – and he loved it.

When the full play area opens next summer, the natural playground design will focus on a watershed theme, and the importance of water conservation. Features of the playground will include a climbing wall, hiding areas, a zip line, loose parts and a sandy play area.

I sat back as the late fall sun crept lazily over the horizon while Charlie tried to fashion the branches and stumps into a teepee or jump or wall. I watched the birds flying overhead, skipping a splash in the barely frozen wetlands.

The entire Ralph Klein Park area is set up to be a lesson in the water cycle and how wetlands work in the local ecosystems. It will be field trip heaven for kids from across the region. Toss in a student-inspired playground as part of #TDCommonGround, and it will be the perfect mix of natural science and free play.

Bring on spring!

This post is sponsored by TD and the TD Common Ground project.