Encouraging outdoor play - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 20 Old 03-31-2011, 11:13 AM - Thread Starter
 
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i need some tips for encouraging my kids to play outdoors this year. I have two boys, ages 8 and 2 (plus a baby girl, but it's the boys I'm thinking of here). Despite the age gap, they play nicely together, although I would like to encourage my older son to play outside on his own as well. We have a medium sized backyard that is about half concrete and half grass/garden beds. Sadly, we do not have any mature trees in our backyard. They like to go out and ride their bikes and sometimes they'll play with a couple of balls, but they don't seem to engage in much imaginative play. I know it's a little early for that for the little one, so I guess it's more my older son I'm worried about. He's become very interested in "screen time" (computer or video games) in the past couple of years and although I limit this, it seems like he's always just waiting until he's allowed to play on the computer again. When I require him to go outside, he often just mopes around and keeps asking to come inside (that sounds terrible - I don't lock him out there or anything like that!).

So, I'm trying to find ways to make playing outside more fun for both my boys this year. We've talked about adding an adjustable basketball hoop and a sandbox. When it's really hot we bring out an inflatable kiddie pool. But I really want to encourage pretend play in the back. Any ideas?
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#2 of 20 Old 03-31-2011, 11:17 AM
 
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We have a bin of outside toys. We store it in the garage, and pull it out back when we go. Most of the stuff we got at Target.... Oversized cars and trucks, shovels, buckets, balls, bubbles, jump ropes, chalk, pretend tools, things like that. They make up some crazy things on their own. I don't direct any of it, I just let them go. 

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#3 of 20 Old 04-01-2011, 06:19 AM
 
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How about something like Crazy Forts? You can keep a set for outdoor play, along with some old towels or blankets. You can make your own, if you prefer, with wooden dowels and connectors and cotton canvas. I recall Martha Stewart Kids magazine had instructions. I couldn't find it on their site, but if you can find old issues, maybe at the library, they are fairly easy to make. 

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#4 of 20 Old 04-01-2011, 07:19 AM
 
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it does not matter what you have out there.

 

the key with enjoyment i think is discovering by themselves.

 

so i think in the beginning you need to make them do outside time. maybe half hour at a time. have your snacks or lunch outside. a picnic. 

 

they might protest in the beginning. but slowly but surely they will start enjoying the time. 

 

compost. garden. allow them a corner to dig. get muddy. find worms.

 

gardening tools, balls, little people. 

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#5 of 20 Old 04-01-2011, 07:25 AM
 
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I am reading this AS I am answering this so here's the link

 

http://livingandlearningnow.blogspot.com/2011/03/50-outdoor-activities-your-children.html

 

 

 

 


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#6 of 20 Old 04-02-2011, 04:25 AM
 
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A fort would be fun. Sandbox. Create a living hideaway with corn or sunflowers. A mini pond will attract creatures of all kind.A garden the kids plant.Various outdoor ball games.Bubbles and chalk. Learning to roller skate or skateboard. I set up the tent and pool as soon as it is warm.Outdoor painting on butcher block paper is fun too.

 

I usually have a child over who stays most of the summer. I let the kids pick what they want to do and it is a good balance between indoor/outdoor.

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#7 of 20 Old 04-02-2011, 05:41 AM
 
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We have an itty bitty outdoor space. We just have enough room for a play fort with a slide. We do have a tree, so I made a wooden swing to go on that.

We have a tiny space for a 'fairy garden' where we put several cheap wooden bird houses from Michael's. The kids collected bark and moss and pebbles and we glued those to the houses....they play there for hours. It's in a very shady corner, so I planted hostas and ferns and collect moss every time we go walking to add in there. The little houses under the big leaves and ferns are so cute. We found a big hollow stump to put in the corner and that is the fairies' castle.

We collected saplings and I sunk those in the ground in a circle and bent the tops over and tied them in place. It's like a twig igloo. We planted vines (morning glory, nasturtium, gourds, runner beans, peas, etc) around the outside of it last Summer and it made a super hiding place and castle. For only the cost of string and seeds!

We have several logs of various sizes that the kids use for seats, they set them up to step from one to the other, they set them in a ring to make a castle. These were free.

We have three small raised beds where we grow veggies. I collected tubs from the local grocery stores (they get frosting delivered in these) to plant tomatoes and peppers and herbs. The kids love caring for those.

We have a space that is un-designed and grass-free. The kids can dig, make mud puddles, bury stones for treasure, whatever. They have kid-sized tools to use. This spot seems to be a favourite!

We have a tiny driveway. I park the car at the entrance to the driveway and the kids use the rest of it to pull each other in the wagon, ride trikes, draw with sidewalk chalk.

We built a small sandbox, too. I have to say that they do play in it sometimes, but they prefer the muddy patch. They dig canals, make sand castles, bury and find little glass treasures.

Put like that, our yard sounds huge! But really, it's a tiny city space that we use every square inch of.

I have found that the right clothing is key. We are on a tight budget and used to get dollar-store mittens and things. Not surprisingly, my kids were cold and didn't want to be outside much in the winter. Now I watch for sales and buy great outdoor clothing for the kids and they much prefer to go out and stay out. I'm getting all three of them puddle pants for cold rainy days.

HTH. Hope they get out and have fun!

Gwen , partner to D ; Mamma to T (6) , J (4) , and baby P
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#8 of 20 Old 04-03-2011, 03:45 AM
 
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i force them out...lol.gif...clearly AP doesn't always work for me.....eyesroll.gif...but what ALWAYS gets them out easily and gladly is that somethings are allowed to be played with ONLY outside. like playdough....kids just adore that! and all kinds of messy things like paints etc....basically everything messy can be done outside and can't be done inside so outside becomes a paradise all of a sudden...lol.gif


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#9 of 20 Old 04-03-2011, 03:56 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Ekatherina View Post

but what ALWAYS gets them out easily and gladly is that somethings are allowed to be played with ONLY outside. like playdough....


Yes to this!  Moon Sand was made for outdoor use only as far as my children know and specifically when we're at my IL's cabin up north (since MIL was so nice to give it to them). 

 


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#10 of 20 Old 04-03-2011, 10:02 PM
 
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Yes to this!  Moon Sand was made for outdoor use only as far as my children know and specifically when we're at my IL's cabin up north (since MIL was so nice to give it to them). 

 


your signature made my day! lol.gif Moon sand is wonderful! once SIL bought us moon sand on x-mas, kids loved it so much. but it gets less and less so fast! by the way why it is called moon sand? first I honestly thought they bring it from moon....eyesroll.gif

 

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#11 of 20 Old 04-03-2011, 11:10 PM
 
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If you've got a concrete pad out there, get some sidewalk chalk.  My girls can spend hours playing with sidewalk chalk.  Blow-bubbles are also good for outdoor play.  A good low-cost solution to sandboxes, is to buy two wading pools (identical), and 4-6 plastic carpenter clamps.  Fill one wading pool with safe sand, put in the outdoor trucks etc. they'll play with in the sand box, clamp the other wading pool's lid on top, and VOILA!  You've got a toy box/sandbox that should keep its sand more or less inside, with no risk of neighbor cats pooping in it; and when you want to fill the pool for a wading pool, you can just take the top off your "sandbox" and use it as a wading pool. 

 

Do you have a section of your garden area which is the kid garden?  My 7 year old dd *loves* to go check the garden - she does so every morning once the plants are up - and report back to me what she sees, at this point she also can be trusted to harvest some things without damaging things.  winky.gif  I've never planted one, but I've read about building a "kids garden" which is also a hiding place --- corn and sunflowers in a square, with vining plants (peas, pole beans, or something like a morning glory or etc.) growing up the exterior - plant close enough together and there's an outdoor "fort" right in the garden.  Note:  This will interfere with French Intensive or square foot type gardens, since inherently the soil would be packed down from kids playing in the fort - if you do that (raised beds too), then you might have to sacrifice a bit more of your lawn for the garden. 

 

Have you thought about getting a bird feeder/bird bath?  Watching birds might be interesting for them.  Likewise, planting butterfly-friendly flowers so they can watch butterflies?  Have you considered ordering a butterfly kit and growing your own butterflies (release into your back yard when they're ready)?  If you do so late enough in the spring/early summer, you can keep them outside in a sheltered place while they're growing, so your ds has to go outside to check for them. 

 

I wonder whether part of your problem will be alleviated once your ds2 is older and can play more collaboratively with your ds1.  Although, dd1 and dd2 have both played independently outside while their sister was inside, here, and still played well together. 

 

Nature hikes might be a good start, too.  See what ds1 is retaining from school - look at the leaves beginning to bud out on trees, look at the grass coming up, look for ducklings along creekbeds along the walking path, note the catkins forming on some of the trees, talk about why some trees lose leaves and others stay green year 'round, look for old birds' nests in trees and speculate whether you'll be able to locate again when the trees leaf out (then, check, see if you can see them!)....

 

You could also have your 8 year old help with a Big Project in the yard - helping build a compost bin, or a vermiculture bin, and have him take some of the responsibility for checking/turning it.  This doesn't sound like imaginative play, but it will get him outside.  Both my girls will sometimes protest about not wanting to go outside to play --- but once I bundle them out, then they'll stay out for hours. 

 

Another thought- mentioned before- special outdoor stuff.  We don't eat popsicles in the house.  So popsicles are a summer outside treat.  I make them with the girls, then in a day or two they get to enjoy them outside at the end of their playtime. 

 

If you're not outside with them, too, that might also be an issue?  Do you have a clothesline?  If you're hanging laundry while they play, that might ease them into the play time.  Or, you could show 8 year old how to hang laundry on the line.  That should guarantee that he finds a Very Fun Game to play instead.  winky.gif


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#12 of 20 Old 04-08-2011, 05:20 PM
 
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Water -- a small wading pool (that you empty when you're not out there) or a water table. Water keeps my kids busier than anything else. 

 

Add a dirt pile or a gravel pile and most kids I know would be in heaven. (Muddy, but happy.)

 

 


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#13 of 20 Old 04-10-2011, 10:28 AM
 
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2 words - bubbles and kites! For my kids, if I bring out either bubbles or kites, they take off running and don't stop for hours!
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#14 of 20 Old 04-10-2011, 01:25 PM
 
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Set up a tent. We put out our beach tent and m kids bring out toys and blankets and have a blast...forever. Sometimes we put it up in the front yard and neighbor kids come over to play too. Lots of creative play results. It has been a spaceship, a fort, a castle, a house...you name it.

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#15 of 20 Old 04-10-2011, 01:51 PM
 
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a small plastic pool

a tent

a sandbox (my 9 year old can still play in the sand for hours)

a basketball net, tetherball, volleyball net, etc

baci balls

croquet

sidewalk chalk

you can never have enough bubbles!


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#16 of 20 Old 04-11-2011, 08:24 AM
 
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I, too, force my kids outside. redface.gif Again, I know it isn't AP, but getting them outside can be next to impossible some days. Once they've been out for a few minutes, they generally don't want to come back in again, so I really don't feel bad about it.

 

For a tent, I just string a couple clotheslines across the deck, and give the kids some old sheets and blankets to hang over the lines to make their tent. We have a play tent (purchased), but if they have to make their own tent, they spend twice as long on that activity. And they really do like making their own space.

 

We also have a couple outdoor bags. They are just backpacks that we've filled with fun things for ourdoors - ours include bug catchers, magnifying glasses, bionoculars, walkie talkies, pirate spy glasses and eye patches, ninja costumes, super balls, string, little shovels, etc. I put one bag in each child's hand before I herd them out the door.

 

 

Sometimes I set up a treasure hunt for them. I'll hide a couple suckers or another treat somewhere in the yard. Sometimes I'll give them a series of clues to find the treat - other times I'll draw a pirate's treasure map for them.

 

We also only do popcicles outside, and if the weather is nice and friends come over, I shoo them all outside.

 

ETA: We just came in from outside, so I remembered a few more things from the bags that I'd forgotten the first time - old nature guides (insect identification guides, bird id guides, etc.) that I pick up at the used book store, rubber bands and twist ties, small frisbees and balls, small garden tools.

 

Also, for an activity for your older child, would you feel comfortable letting him do a building project outside when he isn't playing with the younger child? This would take some training first, but DS1 (7) learned how to use a few different hand tools (hand saw, hammer, screw driver, sanding block) this year in boy scouts. I have a pail out in the garage with some soft wood scraps and his tools, safety goggles, some nails and some screws, paint and paint brushes. He is careful when he uses his tools, so I feel fine letting him work on little projects outside.

 

Finally, does he like paper airplanes or paper boats? Both of my boys are crazy about folding paper airplanes and flying them outside. There are some great paper airplane kits at Borders you can get with fancy paper and instructions for all different shapes of planes. If you can teach them how to fold paper boats, they could also float these in the kiddie pool or even a bucket. My boys like to make an entire flotilla and then sink it with rocks and sticks. You can also make some pretty nice rafts by tying or twist-tieing sticks you find outside together. Again, these projects are great because they take a while for the kids to make the boats, and then there is play time after that. You'll probably have to spend time with them to teach them how to make the planes or boats at first, but once they have the concept down, they'll come up with designs of their own.

 

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#17 of 20 Old 04-11-2011, 10:21 AM
 
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We made a tipi for under $40... I can't get my boys out of it! It is a perfect playhouse/fort and it is easy to take down, it won't kill the grass either! Check out YouTube for instructions: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EG7IzT5yVs (part two follows on different link).

 

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#18 of 20 Old 04-11-2011, 04:37 PM
 
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Originally Posted by MammaG View Post

We have an itty bitty outdoor space. We just have enough room for a play fort with a slide. We do have a tree, so I made a wooden swing to go on that.

We have a tiny space for a 'fairy garden' where we put several cheap wooden bird houses from Michael's. The kids collected bark and moss and pebbles and we glued those to the houses....they play there for hours. It's in a very shady corner, so I planted hostas and ferns and collect moss every time we go walking to add in there. The little houses under the big leaves and ferns are so cute. We found a big hollow stump to put in the corner and that is the fairies' castle.

We collected saplings and I sunk those in the ground in a circle and bent the tops over and tied them in place. It's like a twig igloo. We planted vines (morning glory, nasturtium, gourds, runner beans, peas, etc) around the outside of it last Summer and it made a super hiding place and castle. For only the cost of string and seeds!

We have several logs of various sizes that the kids use for seats, they set them up to step from one to the other, they set them in a ring to make a castle. These were free.

We have three small raised beds where we grow veggies. I collected tubs from the local grocery stores (they get frosting delivered in these) to plant tomatoes and peppers and herbs. The kids love caring for those.

We have a space that is un-designed and grass-free. The kids can dig, make mud puddles, bury stones for treasure, whatever. They have kid-sized tools to use. This spot seems to be a favourite!

We have a tiny driveway. I park the car at the entrance to the driveway and the kids use the rest of it to pull each other in the wagon, ride trikes, draw with sidewalk chalk.

We built a small sandbox, too. I have to say that they do play in it sometimes, but they prefer the muddy patch. They dig canals, make sand castles, bury and find little glass treasures.

Put like that, our yard sounds huge! But really, it's a tiny city space that we use every square inch of.

I have found that the right clothing is key. We are on a tight budget and used to get dollar-store mittens and things. Not surprisingly, my kids were cold and didn't want to be outside much in the winter. Now I watch for sales and buy great outdoor clothing for the kids and they much prefer to go out and stay out. I'm getting all three of them puddle pants for cold rainy days.

HTH. Hope they get out and have fun!



This sounds magical.

 

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#19 of 20 Old 04-12-2011, 02:31 PM
 
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For your aged children a big pile of sand and some trucks, shovel, buckets (old kitchen utensils, sifters), would probably provide a lot of fun.  We have a huge, free form sand box (used to be a water garden), that is ringed with large rocks, and shaded with some big bushes.  It has seen a lot of use.  Every year we get a load of sand dumped in it, and I think the big mound is the most fun of all.

 

We have amazing climbing trees, and a very big tree fort.  But, I've discovered that being even marginally off the ground prompts play.  So, if you have the ability, you might think about building a large platform, slightly elevated off the ground.  When we did this it became a pirate ship, a flying spaceship, a house, a store, etc.  You can set up a small tent on it, or rig up a fort".  It's a lot of fun, and a pretty easy weekend project.

 

 

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#20 of 20 Old 04-12-2011, 09:39 PM
 
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are YOU getting time outside yourself? you've gotten some great, creative ideas for things to set up and do for your kids. IMO they have to see YOU enjoying outside time, too.

 

IMO outside time is kind of a "way of life". if your kids are resisting it, i think you should all go to outside time boot camp, so to speak, and just start some immersion therapy in being outside every day for a good chunk of time, walk to the park and stay there for the better part of the late afternoon (ie, after school).

 

good luck and enjoy!!


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