Friday, May 23, 2014

How to get little ones playing outside and tips to make it easier

After my last blog post, I had more than one person ask me for tips and tricks on how to easily spend more time outside with little kids. Being that going outside is not something that comes easily to me and I've had to be creative doing, over the past nine years, I thought this is such a great question to answer here too. When I was growing up, my dad called me a house cat because I could always be found inside in the heat of summer. Going outside with the kids is something I have to work to be decent at during the spring and fall, July and August it just doesn't happen that much. Hot weather is not my friend!

We live in a subdivision, we don't have a fenced in backyard and we only have one tree in our entire yard. This has been status quo for all of our previous houses as well. So when I say I've had to be creative and intentional you understand why. If we lived in the country or had more privacy this would all look differently, and we'd all love that to be the case. Maybe one day that will happen, evenso we are thankful for our large, flat yard and it works.
When Bethany was around three, I realized that going outside was energizing for her mind. After being out her attitude improved,  her imagination blossomed and that she was becoming more creative. She even took naps better. The effort and time it takes to go outside is worth it, especially if you look at it like you are ensuring yourself some alone time later in the day via a good long naptime!

My kids love going outside but it takes a lot for me to say yes sometimes because it does take effort and time. Especially in a neighborhood when you feel like people watch you, there is very little shade and there are no boundaries to turn them free in the backyard without supervision. Here are a few things that I have learned.
One of the biggest reasons that I had a hard time getting my kids outside was I was worried too much about what they were wearing. I acted like I was taking them to the grocery store, that should be another post. We had to get ready. Their shirt had to match their pants, their pants had to match their shoes, their hair had to be fixed and their faces had to be washed.
Or I was hesitant to let them get dirty because I didn't want the extra work of having to wash their clothes or give them baths. Forget what the neighbors think, send them out in mismatched play clothes, to get dirty, to need a bath when they come into the house. This is what children do and need to be able to do. I learned that my children are much happier whenever they have time to go outside, play creatively and get dirty unnecessarily. 
To be completely honest, I also felt like I had to get dressed up to go out with the kids, I have since quit worrying again about what the neighbors think! {Our neighbors already think we're crazy, we are having another baby, drive a huge van and don't let our kids run from house to house OR play in the street. Yep, we're weird!} T-shirts, sweatpants and flip-flops will do just fine. No make up and frizzy hair mom are also not good reasons to keep us all inside!

Go out in the morning or the evening, not in the heat of the day, not when the sun is bright in everyone's eyes, not when everyone has to have sunscreen plastered all over them. I have fair complected children, at the end of the summer my children not the ones that are brown as biscuits. I have goofed that several times and had sunburned children because we stayed out too long in the afternoon.

In the summertime, buy a kiddie pool. A pool that is big enough to get in and play with your kids. This is one of the funnest things I love to do with my toddlers. Now that there are bigger kids and smaller kids in our family, I don't do this as much as whenever I only had a couple of toddlers. It allows you to play with your kids, to watch them closely and grab them quickly if needed, to help them feel safe in water.
A simple blowup pool with a spaghetti strainer and some cups is some of the most fun my kids have ever had. I am telling you there is nothing like it! Always brings out their deepest laughs.
When I had a small baby, often times we would go out while they were napping and I would take a baby monitor with me.  Or if the baby is older, an exersaucer is always a great way to keep them contained but still allow them to be outside, with you in the fresh air.

We've had two sprinkler balls but the kids didn't really like playing in it until they were around 3.

Taking out a blanket to sit on while blowing bubbles under tree or in the shade of the garage is a fun idea.

At our previous house we had a fairly flat driveway. Joe and I used to sit in chairs in the garage, which was shaded in the evening, while Bethany and Joseph rode their bikes or played with push toys or wrote chalk on the driveway. We would draw a line with chalk so they could see how far they could go down the driveway, without being too close to the road.
The kids like to eat breakfast on the deck and that helps me cut one meal out of my day, to clean up inside. Sometimes they picnic lunch on a blanket under the tree, or now they have a swingset which helps entertain them a bit more and provides a little shade. I love to have snacks outside as well, to get them a few minutes outside and cut down on inside mess. 

Being that we only have one tree that gives shade, we also utilize the shade of the house. In the mornings, the back of the house gives shade and in the evening the front of the house gives shade. We have a pretty large deck but only a small stoop for a porch.
The kids enjoy painting outside and it's nice because I don't have to worry about cleanup. The kids also have played Playdoh outside, again a mess that I don't have to clean up inside. Just giving kids simple things like empty ice cream buckets filled with water, with empty cups to pour water back-and-forth from one to the other is very entertaining, cost nothing and is easy cleanup. Their imaginations will impress you! One time, I set Bethany outside with a bowl of soapy water to wash her play dishes and she loved it!
Now I have a little boy who loves digging in dirt. He's the first one to really relish throwing up dust and digging down deep. I think his passion has rubbed off on the other kids too. Give him a shovel and his dump truck and he'll be sure to need a bath.
Hope this is helpful to some of you. Enjoy the long weekend with your little ones!

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