Outdoor activities – Mud kitchens

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Outdoor time has not being going as well as it could lately so it was time to spend a little bit of thought on setting up some structured play opportunities to help the children use their time wisely. Not wanting to spend a lot of money, I perused my Pinterest board for outdoor activities and decided that it was time we had a mud kitchen.

Despite the fact that we have a very good sandpit, the little boys are continuously drawn to digging in the dirt, so after our recent weeding spree which resulted in a veggie garden with no actual plants in it we decided to dedicate one shady corner to the project.

IMG_3114Everything we set out we have had for a long time. Simply moving it all to a new location and adding dirt and water resulted in a whole new activity which was received with great excitement. The plastic oven above hasn’t been touched for months but was immediately put to use. 10 minutes to set up, a zero dollar outlay and the mud kitchen was ready for action.

IMG_3122It would have been a good idea to get all the children to put on painting shirts (Dad’s old work shirts) before they had at it but I naively thought they wouldn’t get quite so dirty as they did! Much fun was had and some (mostly) harmonious play was a nice change to the recent conflict we have been experiencing.

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Just don’t forget to set aside 20 minutes for the cleanup afterwards 🙂

 

 

 

 

Outdoor activities: Painting


I have a confession to make. As a homeschooling Mum it’s difficult to admit it, but I really don’t like to paint. That is, I like to paint, I just don’t like setting up painting for my children to do. It takes time to set up, creates heaps of mess and takes ages to pack up again, all for a few minutes of colourful fun.

In an effort to overcome this dislike and occasionally provide this apparently vital experience for my children, we have developed a method that works for us… occasionally….when I can mentally gear up for it.

I have some large packing boxes that I keep folded down flat. We set these up outside on the lawn with the top flaps folded shut to hold them together and the bottom flaps bent outwards to catch the drips. Now that the children are a little older they set up the whole experience pretty much by themselves. They cart out the boxes, taping paper on every single side, 2 per side so that each child gets several pages to do. The children pull out the paint pots and brushes and even mix up the colours from the prime colours we own. (It’s amazing how their knowledge of paint mixing, creating a variety of  shades etc. has developed when they do not have the option of prepared colours and have to mix their own.)

Off come the clothes and on go the painting shirts and we’re all set. I plop a bucket of water out on the grass with some cloths and hands are washed here, as well as the brushes once they are done. Pictures stay taped to the boxes until dry, eliminating paint splodges from all over my clothes drying rack and everyone has a ball. They even seem to enjoy the clean-up time. If they are really covered in paint I line them up and spray them down with the hose before sending everyone inside for an early shower.

The children get to paint, I get to …. not do anything much at all except supervise and everyone enjoys the process. Obviously the weather must be fine but in winter we use tablet water colours at the table. These are far less drippy and messy and I can cope with them inside far better than liquid paints. My children will not be artistically deprived or have to see counsellors to work through the fact that they never got to paint and I don’t feel guilty when I see all those arty blogs about painting!
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Outdoor activities: Hopper races and obstacle courses

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!