Showing posts with label Outdoor Play. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Outdoor Play. Show all posts

Mar 11, 2013

Family Fun: Indoor Camping

There is no time of year my kids look forward to more than camping season. The sun, the campfires, tromping around's all soooooo good. But right now, it's cold and rainy - definitely not the type of weather we like to camp in. Still, I have a special day lined up: Indoor Camping Day.

Indoor camping can be fun for the whole family - or you can make it a kid-centered event. It works any time of year - even if it's snowing or raining. It's not expensive. It's easy to organize. (And if the weather is decent, you can certainly move the fun to the backyard.) Here are a few ideas:

* Set up a tent. We have a play tent designed for indoors, so we'll use that. If you don't have one, though, you could use a small outdoor tent, or you can just make a blanket fort.
* Don't forget the sleeping bags, if you have them - or make beds from pillows and blankets.

* Bring out the flashlights. If you do indoor camping during the day, shut the blinds and curtains for a while so the kids can explore with flashlights.

* Build a fire. This could be a real one in the fireplace, but we'll be making one from toilet paper tubes and tissue paper (like this or this).

* Sing "A Camping We Will Go."

* Do a nature scavenger hunt - indoors or outdoors.

* Make camp food. S'mores melt in the microwave, and hot dogs can be cooked on the stove. You might also consider these fun campfire cupcakes. (Or the cake version, here.)

* Head outdoors and collect leaves. Depending upon the age of your children, you can stop there, or you can identify the leaves, do leaf rubbings, study a little botany, add them to a nature journal...

* Do some shadow tracing, if the sun's out. Stand in a fun position and have a child trace your shadow with chalk.

* Learn to use a compass. You can even make one.

* Make a sundial.

* Become a "tracker." Make "animal tracks" and have the kids guess which animals they are supposed to have come from.

* Make simple friendship bracelets.

Oct 11, 2010

10 Fun Fall Projects for Kids

As the days get colder and darker, it's a good idea to organize an occasional project to keep kids busy - indoors or out. Here are some ideas.

1. Collect and identify leaves. This can be as simple as gathering leaves and talking about what trees they come from. Or, print out these templates and create a more scientific booklet.

2. Do leaf rubbings. Even toddlers can collect leaves outdoors (green, not dried, leaves work best), place them beneath a piece of paper, and scribble over them with a crayon, revealing the pattern of the leaf on the paper.

3. Make a hand print wreath. Trace your child's hand print onto several colors of craft paper. (Use fall colors like orange, yellow, red, and brown.) Cut a ring from craft paper, or cut out the center of a paper plate to create a ring shape. Have your child glue his or her hand prints on the ring, creating a wreath.

4. Roast pumpkin seeds.

5. Do a life cycles project.

6. Make pine corn and acorn creatures.

7. Read about Johnny Appleseed.

8. Make apple sauce or dried apple rings.

9. Have your kids help you make homemade bread.

10. Make a pile of leaves and let the kids play in it. (When they are done, be sure to use the leaves as compost or mulch!)

Jul 16, 2010

10 Ways to Get Your Kids Outdoors

Lately, I've noticed every parenting magazine or website I read stresses children should go outside and play for at least an hour a day. Has it really come to that? What happened to kids who had to be dragged inside at the end of the day?

Although computers, television, and video games no doubt keep many kids indoors, some of the problem must also come from lack decent yards to play in. All around my town, I see huge homes built on tiny lots and I think, "Where do the kids play?" Public playgrounds are nice, but most parents can't spend all day watching their kids at the playground.

So whether you have a small suburban yard or a large country yard, how can you make it more inviting for outdoor play?

1. Declutter. If your yard has become a storage area, the first thing to do is declutter. Sort through everything and get rid of anything you don't absolutely need or use on a regular basis. Organize what's left on shelves or in storage bins, keeping them as close to the house as possible. (If you have a garage or carport, declutter those areas, too, and you'll probably find extra storage space.)

2. Improve safety. Remove anything from the yard that might be dangerous for your children. If you have a lot of tools or vehicles that have no place else to go, put them in one location and set up a fence around them. Fence the entire yard, too, so you won't have to feel the need to be outside with your kids every moment. (A feeling that will likely reduce the amount of time you allow your kids to play outside.) Fencing doesn't have to be fancy or expensive. Chain link or lattice are usually the cheapest choices.

3. Include some grass. There is a movement toward digging up lawns and turning them into gardens, but this movement entirely forgets about children. If you have kids, they need a place to run, unhindered. In suburban settings, grass is ideal.

4. Include some plants. Plants make the yard more inviting and interesting. If you have very young children, consider planting only non-toxic plants, or at least avoid highly-toxic plants. While you're at it, have your kids help you plant and tend the plants.

Plants can also make for some really neat play areas. If, for example, you have a sunny corner, plant a sunflower playhouse. If you mostly have shady areas, use shrubs instead.

5. Offer a few basic toys: A ball, a ride on toy (for young children), bubble blowers, a plastic magnifying glass, and buckets and shovels are excellent choices.

6. Offer a place to dig. Give up one corner as a dirt area for your kids to dig in and make mud puddles. Or create or purchase a small sand box for kids to get creative in. (Just make sure it has a cover, or the neighborhood cats will use it as a liter box.)

7. Offer some shade. If you don't have trees in your yard, considering planting at least one (well away from the house, so it won't harm your foundation). Until it's large enough to offer shade, consider some sort of canopy for shelter from the sun.

8. Add water. You don't have to spend hundreds on one of those large, inflatable pools (which local cat claws will poke holes in, anyway). A water table or inexpensive wading pool - or even just a good old fashioned sprinkler - offer a way to get cool and have hours of fun.

9. Offer a place to sit down. A hammock or some chairs are important, too. And if your children are too young to get their own drinking water while outside, place a glass sun tea maker or a plastic water jug with a spout in a shady location. Even toddlers can get their own drink this way.

10. Eat outdoors. If you can afford a picnic table, investing in one encourages kids to stay outside - and for parents to join them. But you can have a picnic without a table. Just use a blanket to sit on. Sometimes kids like that even better.