Make Hay While Your Kids Play–Simple Ideas to Keep Kids Busy Outside

When the weather outside gets nice like it’s been the past few days, I am desperate to get busy with outdoor projects.  Easier said then done with a preschooler in tow!  So, what’s a parent to do?  Take some toys you might already own outside, and let the kids – and yourself –  get busy with the tasks at hand!

Here’s my to do list from this morning:  prep the picket fence around the patio and gardens for a much needed paint job, edge, cut the grass, and oh yeah, have some fun playing outside with Lila.  I know, it’s a ridiculous list, but I at least wanted to make a dent in it!  If I didn’t plan ahead and give Lila some things to do, I knew the work portion of my list would be left untouched.  So…here’s what we got ready on the patio earlier today:

Messy Toys Can Be Twice as Fun Outside!

Alright, I know there are lots of moms out there that don’t like Play Doh or finger painting because they are too messy.  Trust me, I get it,  but I also think they are wonderful toys that allow for lots of self-expression, and should be a part of every kid’s repertoire!  To avoid the mess, take these toys outside.  Put some junky play clothes on your kids and let them have at it to their heart’s content!  And since it’s all outside, clean up is a cinch!

An Easel and Finger Paint

I set Lila up with our plastic easel (great because you can just hose it down if it’s really well used!), some paper, a paper plate artist’s palette full of finger paints, and some neat finger painting sponge tools we got from Aunt Joni for Christmas (see the link below if you like our set-it came complete with paints, paper, & sponge tools).  The sponges rollers make neat patterns on the paper, and sponge shapes with handles make decorating easy fun!

Lila Picasa!

Play Doh Sets

I don’t know any kids that don’t like to make Play Doh creations.  But those little crumbs get everywhere!  SO…Straight from my ever-organized buddy, Boni, here’s the latest craze:  Lay a vinyl tablecloth out on the grass or driveway, and let the kids go crazy using Play Doh on it.  When they’re done, fold the tablecloth in half, and put all those Play Doh crumbs directly in the trash can!  How’s that for snazzy?

Brut force making play doh puppy hair

Lila was just as happy doing Play Doh at the patio table today.  I got out Lila’s safety scissors and let her cut the hair she created on her Play Doh doggy’s head.  Preschoolers LOVE to practice cutting, and it’s great fine motor skill building activity.   And, I wasn’t worried about clean up either.  What didn’t scoop up easily once it dried out, I just swept into the grass where it will quickly biodegrade.  Happy child, happy momma!  🙂

Lila's own puppy salon

K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple, Stupid!

Sometimes I lose my creative mommy mojo, and I think activities need to be complicated and structured to be fun for my kids.  Then my preschool director mom pops into my head saying:  “Keep it simple, Beth!”  And mom’s right, you know.  Some of the most fun stuff for young kids is the easiest to pull together, and right in our back yards!

Kids Love Dirt

It doesn’t get much simpler than a pair of kid’s gardening gloves, a shovel, a couple of plant pots, and dirt.  My girls both can spend 20 minutes at a time simply moving dirt from one container to another with a shovel or their hands.  Add a couple of small disposable containers and some water, and you’ve got a mud pie factory–what could be better!

Practice gardening!

Helping Mom Cut Flowers (ahem, weeds!)

Here’s yet another scissors activity – have your kiddos help you cut weeds!  If your yard is at all like mine this year, dandelions and weeds are growing faster than we can extinguish them!  Why not let your kids cut you a bouquet.  🙂  Lila spent quite a bit of time making her selections and was so proud to present them to me.  So sweet!

Lila's version of weed-b-gone

All of these activities bought me some time to work and  I did get a portion of the picket fence prepped for painting and some edging done.  Lila had fun making all sorts of creations, and even more fun with clean up being easy.  I had fun saying “yes!” to her creative whims, knocking out a portion of my list, and having some quality time out on the patio together.  All in all, a great day!  🙂

Do you have some simple, creative kid’s activity  ideas you’d like to share?  Add a comment below!

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Beth celebrates the everyday wonders of life with a keen eye for deals, a flare for the color green, and an honest desire to share with her fellow moms here in town! Check out more of Beth's recent articles, and subscribe to our daily email/rss feed to see what she writes next!
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7 thoughts on “Make Hay While Your Kids Play–Simple Ideas to Keep Kids Busy Outside

  1. Beth says:

    Leave it to a teacher! 🙂 I saw the sponge idea once in a magazine–they even turned it into tag, having to tag eachother with the wet sponges. Great summer fun! Thanks, Kathy!

  2. Kathy Hatchett says:

    In the extreme heat of summer ,a fun out door activity is always a water balloon fight; but that can be a lot of work filling up all those balloons and picking up the broken pieces afterwards. An esy alternative is to buy some inexpensive sponges and use them instead of balloons. They are reusable too!

  3. Beth says:

    My friend, Maureen, just told me she sent her preschooler on a worm hunt! An hour later, he had 5 worms, and she had several bags of mulch distributed! Nothing like a bit of nature exploration! 🙂

  4. Beth says:

    great idea, Lisa! I forgot that one! My girls love to wash dishes, furniture, whatever. And suds make it extra fun!

  5. Lisa Boucher says:

    A bucket of water with a few soapy suds keeps my toddler and preschooler busy for quite some time. I let them wash the deck furniture with a rag and let them bring some of their bath toys outside. They have a blast, and I don’t have to worry about them spilling or making a mess.

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