Posted on June 18, 2012 by angathome
Choose toys that promote cooperative and group play.
Outdoor time is important for children. They need exercise and time to let out the energy and noise that has been building up inside them during quiet times indoors. In our family, it’s a time for all the children play together and I find it goes so much better if they find some kind of game, project or activity to do together rather than just milling about without a purpose.
Toys that can be used by multiple children at a time are more versatile.
Older children can usually make good decisions as to how they are going to use their time, but the younger ones need a little more direction of some appropriate play ideas. I find if I spend just a few moments getting them started I can leave them and they will happily play together for quite long periods of time. Friction and bad choices are more likely to happen when I send them all out at once without some guidance.
It’s a bit harder when the weather is wet (see wet weather ideas) but make the most of the fine days and be flexible with your routine. If the weather is fine in the middle of the day and may not be in the afternoon (when you usually send them out), make use of the sunshine when you have the chance.
Here are plenty of ideas to get you started. I’d love your ideas too, so please leave a comment if you can think of something to add to the list.
- Weaving wall Bend and tape the ends of a piece of chicken wire or large piece of plastic garden trellis etc. Provide a variety of materials for children to insert and weave through like string, wool, fabric strips, ribbons, straws, feathers and nature items like leaves and sticks.
- Washing dolls/teddy clothes Set up a tub with soapy water and a string washing line with pegs and set out the dolls clothes for children to wash and peg out to dry.
- Washing the dishes Wash plastic tea sets and sand toys and anything else that will survive a good dunking. Provide wash cloths and T/towels to dry.
It was a damp day so the children made a “waterproof” cubby with our outdoor sheets.
- Camping & sheet cubby houses Old sheets and curtains that can be draped over outdoor play equipment, chairs or a rope tied between 2 poles are a great open-ended activity. Have snack time or lunch in the tent. Provide tea sets and other pretend play equipment to add variety.
- Watering Children love to water pot plants and gardens. A hose turned on very low (just a trickle) will keep a toddler going for ages.
- Boats Place end caps on a length of gutter, use a plastic crate, half a shell sandpit lid or whatever else you have on hand to fill with water. Sail boats or float objects in the water. These can be actual boats (bought or those that the children have made) or just leaves, sticks and other nature item.
- Bird watching/animal care Install a nesting box with viewing flap or birdbath to encourage birds in the backyard. Avoid feeders that encourage birds to become dependent on you providing food. Keep pets.
- Water painting Provide house paint brushes and containers of water for children to “paint” paths, patio floors, walls etc. Make clear guidelines as to where the water may be used. Most hardware stores have very cheap sets of large brushes.
- Pavement chalk Available through most discount variety stores, pavement chalk can be the stimulus for many other games. Designate surface to be used that will be washed clean by the rain to limit cleanup or provide brooms and water as part of the activity. My children like to draw road signs, arrows and directions on the paths around our backyard which then leads on to many other creative vehicle games.
- Paddle pools, water tables, sprinklers and other water play activities in warm weather. (See here and here.)
- Hoppers (see here.)
Sand play will always be a favourite and is great for a wide variety of ages.
- Sandpits Shade will make these more attractive in summer. Add water for instant (but messy) mud fun. A toy oven or even a cardboard box oven and some old kitchen equipment (eg pans, pots, utensils, plastic plates, cups etc.) promotes pretend play. “Shops” is a popular game and some kind of shop front such as a small bench, limestone block etc. will spark interest. Children can collect nature items to “sell” and pay with leaves etc.
- Herb and veggie gardens Planting, watering, weeding, tasting and other fun to be had here.
- Blackboards use blackboard paint or prepared board and make coloured chalk available. Good for shops and many other pretend play games. Also paint brushes and water work well on blackboards.
- Woodwork Provide real tools and the oportunity to use them in a safe way. An old tree stump or large block of wood with hammer and nails to pound in. Lengths of wood to cut in a vice. Small wooden wheels or bottle caps with holes drilled in to hammer onto wooden blocks for vehicles. A designated workbench and good selection of tools and materials to work with will be well used.
- Wheat tray Large bags of wheat are available from places like City Farmers for a reasonable price. Use sand or water toys and many of the ideas in the sensory table post. Caution – it does attract mice and birds so keep in an airtight container and teach children to sweep up spills.
- Jumping Provide an old mattress for children to jump and bounce around on and perhaps a low, safe launching place to jump from. A waterproof covering is ideal but not essential.
- Trampolines are a standard favourite and buying one with a safety net reduces the associated risks.
- Balls and skittles Weight plastic bottles with sand or wheat and glue closed.
- Hoops, buckets, bins and beanbags Hang hoops or create other targets (eg. buckets) to throw beanbags through or into. Older children can use a scoring system.
- Vehicle tracks Make oversized road signs (stop/go sign, traffic lights etc.) and set out markers (beanbags, rocks, sticks etc.) for a race track for children to use their bikes or ride-on toys around.
- Cardboard boxes Old large boxes can be cubbies, forts, boats and a myriad of other things. The bigger the better, just let the imagination run. Adult help to cut windows, viewing flaps, insert card tube telescopes etc will add to the fun.
- Bubble blowing A variety of blowers adds to the interest. Provide small containers so that spills do not waste your entire supply. There are many homemade recipes for mixtures on the internet – glycerine is usually needed for good bubbles.
- Stocking ball (See here.)
- Treasure/scavenger hunt Bury “dinosaur bones” in the sandpit (bleached chicken bones) or give children a list of items to collect around the yard – make it pictorial for young children. Spray-paint rocks gold to make wonderful pirate treasure and hide them in the sand or around the yard. Kids love to search for treasure.
- Kites & parachute men Easy run-along kites in windsock style can be used without help. Parachute men can be made from garbage bag plastic attached to toy men or popstick people for dropping fun if children are able to climb up on playground equipment or similar.
- Spray bottle water tag Choose small spray bottles for little hands.
Yes, that is my eldest SON on the right!
- Dress-ups & mirror Spread out a sheet so that clothes can be looked through without getting too dirty. Providing a mirror enriches dressing-up games and makes them so much more appealing.
- Window washing Provide a small amount of soapy water and a window squeegee for lots of fun.
- Finger painting/soap painting Lux soap flakes mixed with warm water and a little food colouring and whipped makes good finger paint that washes off quite well. (Be careful about the kind of food colouring you use and possible staining of clothes.)
- Musical noise maker Hang pots and pans, old tools, cutlery or anything metal that will make a satisfying sound when banged and tapped.
- Butchers paper wall art Mount a large roll of butchers paper on the wall with a smooth surface behind. Child pulls down a new length to paint or draw on before cutting off their finished creation.
Send out the dolls, teddies and prams and lots of “family” type play takes place. My eldest son likes to role-play protecting the “family” from many and varied dangers and going out hunting in the vein of Little House on the Prairie.
Filed under: Outdoors | Tagged: activities for preschool and toddler children, activities to do outside, bickering and sibling conflict, outdoor play ideas, toys, what to do outside | 2 Comments »
Posted on March 21, 2012 by angathome
We are blessed to have a great backyard. Plenty of space and very child-friendly. We still however hear the occasional moans about not wanting to go outside and having nothing to do. While that doesn’t wash in our house and the children are sent out anyway, I am finding that they are not sleeping at night as well as they should be and I suspect it is because of lack of physical exercise. In the heat they tend to gather in the shady sandpit and while it is lots of fun, doesn’t give them the exercise they need.
My usual response to the “I have nothing to do” complaint is to tell the kids to sit on a chair and think of something. I let them know that in 5 minutes I will be coming back and if they don’t have a plan will be giving them something to do. The children all know this is code for WORK so usually they will quickly re-direct themselves. If not, a corner of my garden gets some weeds pulled out or the sand around the sandpit gets swept up. Good exercise for them and great for me!
One outside activity we have done together that was enjoyed by everyone was hopper races. We set out hoses, broom handles, ropes, sports equipment, mats and a bunch of items from around the backyard and arranged them into an interesting obstacle course. The children then hopped through with their hoppers, circling some items, jumping over others, hopping backwards in some sections and weaving through other parts. They helped design the course and decide on the level of difficulty. Handicaps for the younger and slower members were decided on and the races began. Lots of hot sweaty fun was had by all and what’s more, they were totally exhausted by the end of it. Mission accomplished!
Filed under: Outdoors | Tagged: family relationships, hopper races, obstacle courses, outdoor activities, outdoor activities for children, routine, team work, toys | Leave a Comment »
Posted on November 17, 2011 by angathome
How do you keep little ones entertained and playing happily outdoors for extended lengths of time? Opening the back door and simply sending several young children out is not always a very successful method. Without direction to their play it is very likely that you will be dealing with bickering, squabbles and otherwise less than useful use of their time.
Spending 5 minutes getting them started on an absorbing and appropriate activity very often makes for a harmonious time as they happily go about their play in a focussed way. This 5 minutes at the start of playtime often saves me many minutes umpiring disputes and redirecting poor choices. More ideas will follow under the heading of outdoor activities, but today it’s more water based ideas.
In the warmer weather I find it so much easier as all my children from the youngest to the oldest love water and sand based play. All water based activities require some supervision so I choose tasks to do that allow me to oversee what is going on either from a distance or close by depending on the activity. Our water table is a favourite, as are the following:
- Buy a couple of different sized house painting brushes from a hardware (the cheap sets are fine) and a small bucket. Fill the bucket with water, give some directions as to which outdoor areas; furniture, fences, paths, walls etc. can be painted with water and let them at it! My children, especially the younger ones, love water painting, particularly if I occasionally admire the lovely new “colours” they have painted everything.
- I know it doesn’t fit into the water saving category but if it is your watering day, set up a sprinkler on the lawn and let everyone run about in it. Old as the hills, so easy and great exercise.
Paddle Pools/sandpit shell halves
- I’ve mentioned this before, but an inch of water or even a couple of pots and pans full of water for scooping, tipping and pouring while sitting in half of a plastic sandpit clam shell or paddle pool is good fun. Combine it with a little sand and it becomes great fun.
- Point the hose into the sandpit and turn it on just a little so a trickle comes out. That’s it! Provide cars, boats or whatever else you have in your sandpit toys.
- Sometimes we empty out our outdoor storage containers and put a bunch of them together on the grass. We then fill each one with a little water and again, free play! Jumping from one to another, making “houses” or whatever they fancy makes this an interesting pastime.
- We occasionally set up the sprinkler underneath or near the trampoline for wet bouncing fun. This isn’t so good for the younger children though as it does get quite slippery. The 3 year old and up are steady enough on their feet to make this loads of wet fun.
- If your backyard has a slope, then a long sheet of black plastic with a little detergent and lots of water is a wonderful slide and wears those energetic youngsters out.
- Not quite our usual outdoor activity as this involves me, but when it is really hot we play water chasey with the hose. Simply put, the kids run around like crazy and I spray them with the hose, watering the garden in between.
Paddle pools and slide
- Another one that requires adult supervision is the paddle pool properly filled up or with a small amount of water and the slide from our little plastic castle into it for the children to climb up and slide into the pool. When they’ve had enough sliding we bring the sandpit toys over and everyone sits down for a play.
Filed under: Outdoors | Tagged: bickering, family games, home-made, homeschooling with toddlers, outdoor games and activities, routine, toddler activities, toys | Leave a Comment »
Posted on November 1, 2011 by angathome
The warm weather continues, which in some ways is wonderful and others not so much! Instead of enjoying outdoor time, my children start pressing themselves up against the glass sliding door and asking to come inside where it’s cool. Time to bring out the water play. We bought this water table secondhand for $5 last year and it definitely was a bargain. All the children, even the toddlers, enjoy standing around it and getting thoroughly soaked as they play with the sand toys in the water.
I like to use outdoor time to get some of my own responsibilities completed, so all water play needs to be set up so that it is safe – no deep containers for children to fall into. The swimming pool and slide etc. does not come out at these times – that needs high level supervision. I do keep an eye on the children but, as I am not right next to them, water levels are kept to a minimum. The water table is ideal as it is up high and only holds a few inches of water.
Before we owned it though, water play was just as enjoyable. We used the lid of a clam shell sandpit and filled it to a shallow depth (about an inch) and the littlies could sit in it and play – double the wet fun. The older children prefered containers like buckets and tubs filled to a deeper level so I put these up on benches away from the little ones. While I do not expect the older children to take on the responsibility of supervising their brothers and sisters around water, the fact that they are playing there means there are several pairs of eyes on the situation, including mine. I know I will be called very quickly if a toddler starts trying to get into the deeper tubs – particularly as it interrupts the older children’s games!
Babies and toddlers are happy with just a couple of containers of water to splash about in but as the main game seems to revolve around tipping the water out again, you or an older child needs to be available to constantly refill their containers. The bigger children don’t mind scooping a saucepan of water out of their tub over and over again as they have the freedom to access the hose and refill it to the agreed level as required.
If you can stand the sandy mess, add the water play to the sandpit and you won’t hear a single complaint for hours! Nothing much is better for young children to keep busy in than water and sand. When it’s time to come in, I just stand them in a line and hose them all down before sending them in for proper showers and baths.
Filed under: Outdoors | Tagged: hot weather activities, imaginative play, outdoor play ideas, routine, summer ideas, toddler activities, toys, water play, what to do outside | Leave a Comment »