Entertaining Children Outdoors
I don’t know about you, but as a child I couldn’t stand to be indoors on a sunny day or even a warm cloudy one. Even if I just lay under a tree and watched ants go past, I was happy to be outside.
Here’s some ideas to help encourage your child to the outdoors if they are usually preferring to be inside, and ideas to help entertain the child that spends most of their time outside anyway.
Wash Everything in Sight
Give your child a bucket of soapy water and a sponge or old rag, and encourage them to clean things like their bikes or tricycles, muddy gumboots, plastic outdoor furniture, flower pots, the letterbox, side of the garage, steps and anything else that is suitable to be washed. Not only do things get clean, but also children love to play with soppy water and feel like they are achieving something at the same time.
Teach your children how to pick flowers so that there is enough stem to put into a vase. If they are old enough, they can pick flowers for you to take indoors, or for young children, provide a saucer of water or a plastic cup for them to arrange flowers in. You can make other types of arrangements by putting some soil into a flat-bottomed plastic container (like you get at Chinese takeaways in). Provide some plastic animals and watch your children create a miniature garden or farm setting.
Exercise to Music
Hold an Aerobics style or wacky dancing class for your children, using a lively upbeat tune.
Toss the Pegs
Provide a plastic bucket (or a plastic ice cream container) and your clothes peg collection or purchase some plastic pegs just for your child. Show them how to toss the pegs into the bucket, moving further away, the better they get.
Great little houses or outdoor cubbies can be made by throwing an old sheet or blanket over your outdoor furniture, using large boxes, or a low branch of a sturdy tree. Alternatively use your family camping tent if you have one for playing in, especially on a hot day. If it is large enough, you could even place a paddling pool inside, for instant shade. Be sure to supervise around water activities.
Playing With Balls
Don’t forget ball play as a stimulating and educational exercise when outdoors. You could introduce your child to such games as: Hit and Roll, Piggy in the Middle, Hot Potato, or Donkey, or just kick or throw he ball back and forth.
Allocate a small area of your garden or provide plastic plant pots, and fill with dirt. Give your child some seeds, and let them do the whole bit of sowing, watering, then harvesting the goodies, whether they be vegetables or flowers. Your child is more likely to respect your main gardens, if they are allowed to have their own part of it, and can see and taste the results of their efforts. If you don’t want to purchase any packaged seeds, try planting seeds that come out of pumpkins, tomatoes, capsicums and any other vegetables that you buy commercially.
Walking Amongst Nature
Take your children on a small walk with a bag each, to collect such natural items like empty cicada shells, tree gum, acorns, twigs, leaves, skeleton leaves, smooth stones, flowers, etc. Once back at home, you could sort them into groups, colours or sizes, or use them in a collage picture, or to start a collection.
Use empty tin cans with their tops removed, as ‘holes’ in a miniature golf course. Set it up in your back yard or at a nearby park. Use either a set of plastic golf clubs or a sturdy stick as your putter.
Take It Outside
Just for a change, go outside and find a nice spot to sit in. Sometimes in the winter, it can feel warmer to be sitting outside in the sun than being stuck indoors. You might like to read to your child, play with building blocks or cars, play dolls, or pretend tea parties, do artwork, play with play dough, or have a snack together.
Pack yourselves a small backpack with some snacks and a drink, and set off together to explore your neighbourhood or a nearby park or reserve. Point out any unusual things, funny cloud formations, friendly animals, birds or odd shaped trees. When you need a rest, find a nice spot to sit and have yourselves a little picnic.
Colourful Chalk Drawings
Buy some standard or jumbo sized chalk that is suitable for pavement drawing, and let your children go loose creating pictures. They could draw a little ‘city’ complete with roads and buildings, and then drive toy cars all over it. And there’s no cleaning up, as the rain will take care of it for you.
Make up an obstacle course in your backyard using whatever you can find to climb over, under and around. Your garage or backyard itself if a good place to start looking for suitable safe objects i.e. wooden crates, saw horses, cable drums, a small ladder, old tyres, planks of wood, an old dinghy, wheelbarrow, broom handles etc.
Low Window Designs
If you have a low window such as a bay window, French doors or a ranch slider, give your child some washable paint and some paintbrushes. They should be able to create some interesting designs that are viewed from either inside or outside. When they have finished, provide a hose or bucket of soapy water to clean up with, and hopefully your windows will be cleaner than when they started. An easy way of making a washable paint is to mix some water with a couple of drops of food colouring, and then add cornflour until a runny ‘paint’ consistency is reached.
Cuddle n’ Catch Chasey
Chase your children around the backyard, with a tickle, a hug or a kiss when they are caught. You could also play a little game of ‘hide n seek’, or ‘eye spy’ outdoors.
Hunt For The Treasure
Most children love a game of Treasure Hunt or by playing "Hot, Cold" (Saying hot when they are close to the hidden object, warm if they are near it, or cold if they are way of course). Hiding wrapped up lollies or small chocolate Easter eggs is also fun, even for young children. For older children to encourage their reading skills, write them notes that they have to read themselves, which lead to the hidden treasure. The ‘treasure’ could be a unique way of serving afternoon tea or a special treat or present.
Find some smooth clean rocks, and paint in bright colours. Add little faces to create a whole pet rock family. A shoebox filled with grass, tissues or cotton wool can be used as a home for them.
Plan A Trip
Look through the local paper, or street map to find an interesting place to take your children on a day or half day trip. It could be to a Marina to look at the boats, a construction site to watch heavy machinery at work, or a ride on a bus or train.
Get Them Working
Since for children, play is their work, get your children helping you with the outdoor chores like stacking firewood, raking leaves, weeding the garden, sweeping the driveway, washing the car or windows, or hanging out the washing.
If after trying all these ideas your toddler or child complains they are still bored, suggest they go inside and take another nap. It’s amazing how quickly they find something else to do with themselves …
Auckland, New Zealand