The following post originally appeared on Simple Kids in May 2010.
Here in the Midwest, the warmer days are being ushered in with the return of bikes, trikes, skateboards, and wagons rolling down the sidewalks in my neighborhood. While we have been experiencing our fair share of rainy days this Spring, when the sun is shining my children and I want to be outside as much as we can.
In addition to riding bikes and wagon rides, my kids enjoy simple outdoors pleasures like blowing bubbles and drawing with sidewalk chalk.
My family has happily discovered that some of the things we enjoy doing inside take on a new dimension of fun when moved outside.
Our favorite Indoor/Outdoors Activities:
Lunch is twice as nice when served outdoors as a picnic. Pack up some of your child’s favorite portable lunch food, snacks, or finger foods, an old blanket you don’t mind getting a little dirty, and pick a spot to set up the scene. Even peanut butter and jelly seems special when served outdoors and your kids will be delighted!
If you don’t have a picnic basket, Muffin Tin Meals lend themselves especially well to outdoor dining – just pull out your muffin tin, fill each cup with something to eat, and carry the tin outside along with some drinks. There’s no need to worry about plates or silverware – just let everyone nibble from the tin. You’re all set for some picnic fun!
My kids love to play with homemade play dough, but I don’t enjoy the clean up. Taking the play dough outside lets them play and I can relax about the mess it makes because I don’t have to worry about bits of dough ending up in the carpet.
Another benefit of taking this activity outside is that the world in our backyard provides all kinds of new textures and natural tools. Bark, cement, leaves, grass, sticks and stones are fun to experiment with while creating indentations and patterns in the dough.
Here is the play dough recipe my family uses: Kool Aid Play Dough.
Over the Winter, my oldest child discovered crayon rubbings. She has created rubbings of coins, combs, sandpaper, feathers, and paperclips.
Going outside with our crayons and paper gives the kids a chance to make rubbings with flowers, leaves, bark, and other natural textures.
Speaking of crayons, we have made recycled crayons outdoors, too. Instead of using our low-temperature oven or a crayon mold, we use the power of the sun. We like to use a muffin tin for regular round crayons and for fancy crayons we use a madeline tin.
Simply fill the cups with broken bits of crayon and set the pan in the sun. If the temperature get hot enough (a nice June or July day in the 90s will work just about perfectly here in Indiana) a full day in the sun will result in melted wax which you can bring indoors to cool, creating some lovely recycled crayons.
If the temperature isn’t quite that warm, you can also heat things up by creating a solar oven with an old pizza box lined with aluminum foil. The crayon bits will melt into new crayons in the shape of the tin’s molds.
Just BE CAREFUL and use your oven mitts when picking up the pan because the sun will have made it hot, hot, hot!
Painting together is something my family has been doing as part of our weekly rhythm for years now and we all enjoy it very much. Painting outdoors in natural sunlight is an opportunity to invite new artistic inspiration and experiences.
When we are painting outdoors, I give the kids cookie sheets to use as trays to hold their paper and give them a firm surface.
But you don’t have to stick just to a paintbrush to have fun with color. It takes a small amount of preparation ahead of time, but we love to make colorful ice cubes in primary colors (I have used both water color paint and food coloring for this). We let the frozen cubes melt on our paper and watch the colors mix together – letting the sun “paint” our pictures for us.
My family homeschools and when warm weather arrives, we love to move our lessons outside. A good book, a blanket, a comfortable spot equal a recipe for an afternoon of reading that can’t be beat.
Nature books and field guides are nice to head outside with, of course, but don’t hold back from your favorite children’s poetry or fiction, either. Cicely Mary Barker’s Flower Fairy poems are perfect for a warm Spring day under a shady tree.
Like watercolor painting and play dough, the outdoors brings a new layer to drawing as well. The world around us is rich with natural inspiration and documenting those changes in a sketch book as the seasons pass gives us a connection with the world around us.
More Indoors-Out Inspiration:
- Simple Outdoors Water Play ::: Simple Kids
- How To: An Outdoor Movie Night ::: This Vintage Chica
- Sidewalk Chalk Checkers ::: Crayola
I hope I’ve inspired you to think outside of the box when it comes to outdoor activities. What are some of your kids favorite indoor activities that you could modify to take outside? Play, Learn, Explore!