Coming up with new and exciting playtime activities that spark the imagination can be a challenge. We have become a tech-addicted and digitally-driven society. Many parents have to drag their children away from television and computer screens and pry smartphones away, to have family time. I don’t remember the last time I added without a calculator, or got my news from a newspaper, do you? Technology is so intertwined into our lives it’s eating away at engaging social activities.
With spring’s arrival, a little renewal is on the menu. For you as well as for the kids. Time out! Let’s all logout of the internet and go outdoors! Let’s shake the dust off our sunglasses, grab our sunscreens, and reconnect with nature and each other. Let’s all unwind and destress. Let’s smell the flowers, the blooming trees and roll around in the fresh sprouting grass. It’s playtime, in the sun, and here are a few suggestions that will not break the bank.
Backyard: We’ll start with the backyard. Invite some friends over. Cover the grass with a blue tarp. I’m sure you have one in the garage. A painter’s plastic drop sheet will do fine. Use a sprinkler head on a hose and let the kids slip and slide.
Obstacle Courses & Musical Chairs: Can be in the backyard or at a park. Depending on age, kids can help with creating the obstacles. A timer can be used or someone can count as everyone tries to go through the course to the finish line. The old musical chairs game is fun too with or without added obstacles. Everyone will have fun going through the maze of challenges whether a contest is involved or not. Obstacles can be chairs, park benches, picnic baskets, and trash bins. A rope can be used to fence in the course line.
Playing Clue: Hide a few items whether in the backyard or at the park. Then, scribble direction clues onto colorful index cards or post it notes. Each child will have a set of clues. They can share them for better results. Children love to play games when their parents are playing too. Hidden items can be little tokens from coins to little stuffed animals to small toys. Older children can incorporate their cell phones and text clues to each other. They can be the ones to hide items, and invite their parents to join in the game.
Pond Picnics & Boat Contests: My sister threw a Paper Boat Contest Pond Party to celebrate spring. My nephew and his friends spent hours designing and decorating their paper boats before floating them in the pond. They were famished by the time the barbecue was on. And I’m sure many of them still treasure the selfies with their winner boats! Paper Plane Contest Picnics at a park can prove to be fun too if you don’t have a pond nearby.
Story Telling Time: An outdoor story telling day can be planned. Children and adults can take turns reading aloud or telling a story. Who knows what talents can be discovered! Props can be added for extra fun. Colorful socks can be handed out with magic markers. Characters can be created using the socks as puppets. Older children can make a contest out of it and vote on a best story teller winner. Votes can be scribbled on small pieces of paper and dropped anonymously into a picnic basket or plastic bag. Through Twitter, a fun story telling twist idea was shared by Tammy Stewart, a 2nd grade teacher from Connecticut. She has her students use different voices to better understand the characters. What a clever and fun idea. A budding actor or writer can be uncovered!
Play Ball & Frisbee: Play catch or organize an impromptu team to play a favorite ball game. Plan weekly or monthly games as fun will be had by everyone. The dog can also join in the game! A friend’s dog used to grab the Frisbee as soon as he went for the leash. It’s hard to find a dog that hates fetch.
Nature Hike & Bug Hunt: My nephew used to love to capture dragonflies and let them fly around under his shirt. Nature hikes are always adventurous and fun. Making a learning event of it is sure to be a hit. I remember fondly a few nature hikes that I took with my dad. He would name the different leaves along the way. You can make a fun foliage quiz and reference a book, iPad or smartphone. Collecting unique leaves for scrapbooking can be planned too. Children will enjoy using a magnifying glass to look at details and investigate up close. Older kids can use cell phones to capture selfies with their favorite foliage or bug and best foliage/bug selfie contest can be incorporated. However you plan them, nature hikes and bug hunts are bound to create lasting memories.
Let’s Get Painting: Make it an art day. There’s nothing like the outdoors to unleash all those creative, but messy ideas. There are so many new crayon colors, cool paint textures, finger paintings paints, washable paints, and even glow in the dark paints. Most kids love such messy activities. And, in the outdoors, all is worry free. Plans can include saving paint splattered t-shirts, silk-screening them, and dating them as souvenirs. Some kids might like to personalize theirs with multicolored paint-soaked handprints as keepsakes. Mud pie contests, squirt water gun races, feet painting marathons, can be incorporated for added for messier fun!
Kite Flying: Flying kites has beens around forever and enjoyed by children of all ages. Kite making and flying is a fun activity for the entire family that combines exercise, creativity, and outside play. I remember my brother spending hours designing and concentrating on his kites. He used to make his own. It was so fascinating. I used to love watching him fly his creation and plan certain design changes to make it fly higher. No wonder he became an engineer! There are many templates online – Free Kite Printables and Montessori-Inspired Kite Activities. There is something so freeing about flying a kite. I’m sure children will enjoy watching their kite fly high in the sky as I did. An event can be planned around kite making and flying them. Children will enjoy personalizing them by painting them with their favorite colors and decorating them with unique tails.
Create a Beautiful Cardboard Playhouse! You can buy one or just create one. It was such fun to watch a friend and her granddaughter have tea parties in a cardboard playhouse. You can buy a wardrobe cardboard box and cutout the door and windows. A box cutter and strong outdoor tape is all you need. Depending on size of event, children will enjoy spending the day painting and decorating multi playhouses or join in decorating one playhouse. Children can transform their cardboard playhouses into a fire station, a pet shop, a doll house, a castle or a space ship. Their imagination to be limited only by paint color schemes.
Backyard Spring Planting Party: Planting spring bulbs is a lot of fun for the entire family. This will be a learning experience too as nature photos can explain growth from seed to plant. Kids enjoy digging in the dirt and bulbs are sturdy.
Create a Pond: Creating a small pond is a fun outdoor idea for toddlers and an be planned for backyards or park outings and picnics. Lowes suggest using an old heater’s drip pan. I guess you can find one at a junk yard or better yet at a Habitat for Humanity restore. I’m sure a plastic planter tray can be substituted. You can go the extra mile and personalize the new play pond by painting the outside a child’s favorite color. The link includes three easy steps and in no time children can play pirates or just float their boats.
Create a Sandbox: It’s easier than you think to create one and it’s bound to keep younger children entertained for hours. If you’re handy you can go to town and make a fully lined sandbox with a hinged lid to keep away dirt, debris, and the neighborhood cats.
I’m hoping you’ll remember to set aside adult playtime too. Remember even picnics can be planned in a way to include adult playtime. The children can run around the park while you relax with a book. Yes, I said a book, not an iPad or a smartphone. You might want to put your foot down and ask the kids to create their own games. I’m sure they’ll find something fun to do that doesn’t involve you. Group gatherings can include fun outdoor group workouts or cookouts. Shared or swapped childcare with good friends can be another way for you to destress. We all need to rejuvenate somehow! Here’s wishing all the parents out there plenty of renewal and playtime in the sun!
Kindly share your fun outdoor playtime activities in the comment section.