Outdoor play is super important to all children but just sending them outside with nothing to do or nothing to spark their imagination is like saying to them, “tell me you are bored”. So what can you have in your backyard that will interest them time after time, and keep them interested as they grow and their play changes? Well here are my top picks!
A sandpit doesn’t have to be fancy. Yes, you can go out and buy an amazing sandpit with bag after bag of sand, or have a tonne of sand delivered but you really don’t have to. You could just designate an area in your yard to be a sandpit, whether it is in your garden or a corner of your lawn, a big pot or tub, or just a trough filled with sand, are all great options. If you google easy sand pits a million ideas will come up. When adding toys to the sand, buckets and spades are very inexpensive and you could also raid your kitchen or save up plastic containers from food and use disposable cutlery. You can even cut a milk carton to become a shovel or empty drink bottles too! You will find though if you watch and listen to your child playing in the sand, you will easily figure out what type of toys to add. Roland is big into monster trucks and making roads, so in his sandpit we built a tunnel, he takes his monster trucks out to play and we have diggers and tip trucks to help build roads and jumps. Your little one might be into cooking, so you could raid your local second hand store for baking utensils and cake tins. My only recommendation with sand for children to play in is that you buy clean and washed sand and that it gets covered each night so the neighbourhood cats don’t use it as a bathroom.
Chalk is great because it is inexpensive and your little one can use it to draw and get creative whilst outside. We draw and write our names all over our back patio that has a concrete floor where we also draw roads and paths for his bike to ride along, we draw on the bricks under the kitchen window, writing numbers and shapes or just colour them in. Roland also has an easel that has a blackboard that stays outside so he draws on that as well as our table happens to be plastic and black and makes a great chalk board too. It washes away and doesn’t stain and can live outside under cover or in a sealed container.
Bubbles are fantastic as they teach children so many things. When they blow them with their mouth they are strengthening muscles which aid speech development, or they love to chase and pop them which helps burn off that energy. Sterling loves bubbles and watches as they float away or go crazy when it’s windy, tracking them with his eyes and bouncing on his bottom with excitement. Bubbles are really something children of all ages love and can be cheap or expensive depending on which option you take. You can buy bubble blowing machines which chew through the batteries and bubble mix or at Kmart or Target you can get big bubble wands perfect for waving and making big bubbles for 50 cents. Young children do need supervision with bubbles, otherwise you will end up with a big soapy mess which becomes very slippery once you add water.
Water play is easy to set up and can be done in so many ways. A bucket and a cup is fun, or a cup and a paint brush to “paint the fence” with is a quick and easy one too. Roland got a water table for his first birthday so we fill that up in the morning and he scoops from that or washes his cars in it. Today he decided to add his excavator and scoop the water to tip on the grass. You can buy a small plastic pool that they can sit in when the weather is warm or just fill up some of their sandpit toys. Basically, if you can put water in it, they will enjoy it. I am yet to meet a child that hasn’t loved getting wet, practice pouring or washing things. An old baby bath with a plastic doll and some soapy water is a good idea or even a bucket of soapy water with a sponge for washing bikes and toys can bring a busy little one happiness. Water play is an activity that must always be supervised to keep your little one safe, so while they are enjoying the water play, you could always make your self a cuppa and enjoy the sun while watching your little one at play.
Bikes, ride ons, a swing set and slide also come in handy and can add lots of fun as well. We are very lucky to have a park across the road and we go almost everyday as Roland can see it from the front door and living in a neighbourhood with a lot of other families means that when he can hear the other children at play he wants to join in too!
Being outside adds great value to children’s lives and can be a much needed break for their parents. It’s always good to think about how you can make the most of your outdoor space and how you can make a space that “calls” your children to it.
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