I'm telling you, I am feeling spring. The garden is coming in, daylight is stretching out longer, and I'm just about ready to pack up the sweaters and shop for swimsuits! We're starting to spend more time outside, and that means finding ways to enjoy the backyard. Whether you've got a small patch of grass, acres to run, or a borrowed park, here are some ideas for making the most of the sunshine.
1. Blow bubbles! I know you can buy a bubble machine to do it for you, but I'm a fan of the old-fashioned wand-and-soap set-up. You can pick up large bottles of bubbles and wands of various shapes and sizes at the dollar store. You can also make a simple solution of dish soap and water at home, and use any number of household items for wands: pipe cleaners, wire hangers (cover sharp edges with tape), strawberry baskets, and cookie cutters. Experiment! For younger kids, I like big round wands that are easy to drag through the air, as blowing—not too hard, not too soft—can be a bit tricky. For toddlers who tend to spill the soap solution, there are a variety of "no-spill" bubble containers, or you can make your own. Simple cut a slot large enough for the wand into the lid of a clean plastic container.
2. Get messy! One of the gifts of warmer weather is the chance to put the kids in play clothes and make a mess that you can hose down for clean-up. Fingerpaints work just as well as a picnic table as they do inside. You can also "paint" with inexpensive shaving cream, which is a great sensory activity for little fingers; mix in food coloring or non-toxic paint for a more colorful experience. Playdough, modeling clay, glitter, glue—these craft closet staples are all more easily dealt with outdoors. Be creative—that's kind of the point.
3. Build an obstacle course! Use whatever toys or stationary objects you have in the yard or playground to challenge your kids with a race up, over, and through. Don't be afraid to be silly—in fact, the sillier, the better. Start at the tree, circle the picnic table three times, go through the tunnel, hula hoop five times, kick the ball into the fence, dance like a chicken, walk like a duck, and race for the finish!
4. Play games with buddies! Sometimes I forget how much joy there is in a simple game of hide-and-seek. And remember freeze tag and duck-duck-goose? Those haven't gone out of style. Invite some friends, serve up some lemonade and snacks, and get your game on. For more inspiration, check out this very Savvy list of group games.
5. Bring the indoors outside. Those decorating magazines are always talking about bringing the outside in, but there's no reason you can't do the opposite! Toys are transportable, and you might find that old favorites get a new life in their new surroundings: after all, don't those dolls need a fort or those trucks need a sandbox ramp? Move lunch outside and call it a picnic. Bring books outside and call it outdoor storytime. A spare laundry basket makes a great carry-all for a picnic blanket, toys, books and snacks.
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