Rain or shine, plenty for children to do outdoors
Ideas for summer fun - whatever the weatherSONYA LEUSINK-SLADEN
One of my thoughts for the new year in our household has been to get outside, enjoying the outdoors and spending as much time as possible in nature's playground. I like it that the effort to do so is so fruitfully rewarded.
My spirits are always uplifted and the kids' are too. It's a healthy way to be in the world.
"It starts by the way we value nature as a family. At some undefinable point, we decided enjoying nature was important to us as a family." - from Be A Fun Mum, 105 Ways to Enjoy Nature With Kids (www.beafunmum.com)
Keen to find out what others did outdoors, I asked The Motherhood Project mums and grandmothers what they did with their littlies. Here are our top 10 picks.
Play near a river
There's something magnetic about water, and a bubbling stream is both calming and uplifting. One of The Motherhood Project mums rates stone throwing into a stream as one of her favourite activities.
My boy loves that too, to "throw ploppers" endlessly, while my daughter likes to build dams to make fairy pools or have buttercup boat races. We always bring spare clothes and a towel.
Bring the housework outside
OK, so this one might seem a little odd, but bear with me. I learned the value of outdoor housework by necessity. Our paddle-pool requires supervision, but because the children spend so long in it I can never get anything done!
So I have started bringing out the washing to fold and preparing the vegetables for the evening meal on the picnic table while they play.
The treasure in this concept is that children will generally want to be around us, and play close by wherever we might be working. So if we are outside, they will probably want to come out too.
Create a park habit
Yesterday we drove around until we found a new playground. It was part of my "do something new and different once a week" resolutions from last week.
Even the driving-around-randomly-bit and the "there's one mum!" eureka moment was such a hit with my two, that I plan to explore new parks, picnic spots and playgrounds on a regular basis.
Healthy, timeless fun, I try to get to a playground or park at least every second day.
Go for a rain-walk
In our house we've made "let's go for a rain walk" or "let's go for a storm walk" an exciting bad-weather adventure. Coats, boots and umbrellas are donned and off we go, in all but the very worst of it.
Usually we return home to a hot bath and a tasty snack. Making walking, biking, or buggy pushing something to do daily, from birth, is a healthy habit to create for babies and mothers.
Playing with toys outside
I cannot think why most toys should be preserved for inside-only play. If the weather is dry, throw a couple of picnic rugs and old cushions down on the lawn. I use an old coffee table for puzzles and toys that require a flat surface.
When it's sunny, an umbrella or beach tent may be necessary if tree-shade can't be found. Babies can enjoy some nappy free or tummy time on a rug on the lawn.
Children are fascinated by little critters. Even young babies will try to follow an ant with their eyes as it scuttles along a play-mat.
Older babies and toddlers will be kept engaged for hours by the worms and centipedes you'll find hidden under rocks. Strangely I find it fascinating too, as we never know what we'll find.
Go to the beach
Not an original one, but beaches and their bounty are on my classic hits compilation for kids of all ages.
For a different take on the beach, why not explore the estuary margins and mudflats? Or go early in the morning with a box of breakfast cereal and a bottle of milk to eat your breakfast?
Have you ever eaten sausages off an ice-block stick, cooked on a real fire barbecue at Rabbit Island? If you haven't you should as they will be the best-tasting sausages you'll ever eat.
Picking flowers for a vase
Gardening with older toddlers and preschoolers is a wonderful activity and reaping the bounty of a garden is something quite special.
One of The Motherhood Project mums keeps her house full of flowers in vases that she routinely collects with her preschooler while her baby is napping. It creates an outdoor activity that can be enjoyed inside the house, and encourages children to notice and enjoy beautiful natural things.
Pitching a tent on a lawn
Another classic, kids love tents for playing in at any time of the year. One of our mothers pitches the tent for hers to play in with their toys in during the day, and then her husband and preschooler sleep in it overnight for a bit of home-based adventure.
This is also an easy and very effective way to introduce young children to outdoor camping.
Eating dinner outside
Kids love picnics on the lawn, and even an "ordinary" stove-top dinner can be served up on plastic plates on a rug or picnic table.
What I love about eating outside is that messes matter less and the food tastes better.
Why not order takeaways and eat them at your local playground while the evenings are long and warm?
We always welcome new voices to The Motherhood Project.
- Email Sonya at firstname.lastname@example.org to contribute to fortnightly questions about thriving during the early years of motherhood.