Mud Soup – Outdoor Sensory Pretend Play

outdoor sensory play Once nice weather makes it our way in the Seattle area we run outside and stay until the rains come. We have been playing outside a lot and I needed something that both kids could be engaged in so I wasn’t trying to watch one outside while the other was inside . This was the ticket , you will see that they weren’t doing the same thing at the same time but everyone was happy and I sat in the sun listening to giggles under a blue sky. Pretty perfect, of course I had to strip them both down at the door so my carpets weren’t ruined but that’s the price you pay for fun. As you will see there was lots of learning happening too.

Gather your materials. We grabbed a bunch of different sized containers, some spoons, shovel and bucket.  We have raised beds in our yard with soil in them so we used that too.dirt soup outdoor play
We dug some dirt.
They got water together
And that’s when we lost my wee girl. She decided she’d play with water – and drink a lot of it.outdoor play
My son was deep in mud soup making.  He soon noticed that if he put the dirt on the water it sank. We talked about why while my daughter continued to drench herself at the tap.outdoor play
He counted and added bits of weeds, leaves, flowers, rocks, clovers…outdoor play
Then pretended to give it a taste before adding a little more of this or that.outdoor play for kids
Oh look who came back to see what we were up to. She finally joined in adding dandelions and water.mud pie play
Then I sat watching them play soaking up the giggles.

What’s your favorite outside activity with your kids?

50 Simple Outdoor Activities For Kids

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outside activities with kids

Spring is almost here and it will be summer before we know it , here are 50 simple outdoor activities to get your kids outside without breaking the bank. Activities with kids don’t have to be elaborate so browse the list of fun things to do and get outside!

  1. Paint like Monet.
  2. Go on a bug hunt.
  3. Run through a sprinkler.
  4. Melt some crayons in the sun
  5. Play in a sandbox.
  6. Investigate your yard with a magnifying glass .
  7. Paint some rocks with watercolors.
  8. Wash the paint away with the hose.
  9. Hunt for “dinosaur” bones.play outside
  10. Play with a hose.
  11. Play Angry Birds ( with water balloons).
  12. Hose down some chalk letters and shapes.
  13. Ride a bike or scooter around the block. activities with kids
  14. Plant something ( anything) in the garden.
  15. Mix some colors with water balloons.
  16. Play with a water table or make your own.gross motor activities for kids
  17. Climb up a tree, a wall or a jungle gym.
  18. Make some bird feeders and feed some birds.
  19. Have a backyard toy car wash .
  20. Wash a real car .
  21. Go on a nature scavenger hunt. eat outside as a family
  22. Have a family meal outside.
  23. Dig in the dirt.
  24. Jump in puddles.
  25. Have a soccer shoot out all you need is a ball big enough to kick .
  26. Paint with a fly swatter
  27. Pick some apples and have an impromptu snack under the trees.
  28. Make a nature collage.
  29. Take a dog for a walk.
  30. Put down some painter’s plastic, grab a hose and have a homemade slip and slide!
  31. Make a stepping stone for your garden.nature acticities for kids
  32. Catch and release some frogs.
  33. Go for a hike.
  34. Color the patio with sidewalk chalk.
  35. Play catch with a ball ( or water balloons on a hot day).outside art projects for kids
  36. Paint like Jackson Pollock.
  37. Take some books outside and read under a tree.
  38. Go on a photo scavenger hunt.
  39. Spray paint.
  40. Graffiti the driveway.hiking with kids
  41. Stack and balance rocks.
  42. Have an ice cream taste test.
  43. Go on a sound safari.
  44. Find, sort and make a leaf scrapbook.
  45. Make a treasure map and find treasure.
  46. Host the mini Olympics.beach lessons
  47. Explore shells, crabs and rocks at the beach.
  48. Make mud pies.
  49. Pick Flowers and paint with them.
  50. Find shapes in the clouds.

Like our 75 TV Free Activities for Toddlers the majority of these pictures were taken from my iPhone because most of these are just simple everyday things we did and you can do without too much planning or cost. Of course I have a few of our favorite more elaborate activities too , but nothing will break the bank.

What outside activity for kids  would you add to the list?

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Acorn Nature Collage

Exploring nature doesn’t have to be in a far off place, a neighborhood park , school yard or your own backyard will work just great. Explore , talk about what you see, hear and smell. Touch things even they aren’t going into your bag for the collage, explore and take note of how the garden, forrest or park you are in has changed since the spring or summer.  I love when I can do an activity with both kids seemlessly and this one was super easy .

  1. Gather your materials. You will need 1-2 paper grocery bags, scissors,crayons,  glue and a yard , park or forrest to explore.
  2. Start by handing each child a bag and heading outside. Can I just say that my little paint covered point and shoot camera works great for inside crafts when movements around too big or fast, but getting a good shot of either child was next to impossible.  Especially a wobbly 15 month old.
  3. Explore- let your child lead the way. Hopefully the other child( or 5) agree and go the same way, or at least in the same general vicinity.
  4. Put everything they find and want to glue to the collage in the bag . Don’t say no to little things yet, let them discover later of it won’t glue.
  5. Huge sticks are totaly ok to refuse, but let them figure it out by asking how it will fit in the bag. Offer scissors to cut a small piece off.
  6. Head back inside and prepare for part two. I did this while they played in the playroom around me, but don’t feel like you have to do this all in one go. Do this after bed time and continue with part two in the morning if that works best for your family. You will want to empty out the contents and place them on a table – or even a shallow box. Using the bag cut it open and draw an acorn.  Tape it to the table to stay steady.
  7. Now invite the children to chose from their treasures and glue them to the acorn.
  8. Hmm the pine branch is too big  to glue down… what could we do?
  9. Cut it!
  10. I helped my daughter add the glue and she happily banged the leaves she gathered down. I was so surprised to see she remembered exactly which leaves she found and used them in her collage.
  11. Gluing is my son’s favorite part of most art because he pretends it’s a bomb ( yes this stage is still driving me batty but I am trying to roll with it)- his sound effects surprised his unamused little sister…
  12. Let everything dry overnight.
  13. Cut out.  Display if possible – kids love seeing their own creations displayed with pride.

More Acorn Crafts!

If a nature walk isn’t possible for you try another one of our acorn crafts .

Click the images for the original posts

 

En Plein Air – Painting Outside Like Monet

Getting both kids outside with paint is no easy task, so I came up with a way to do it that was easy to grab and go when inspiration strikes. Of course after I got it outside my son decided he wanted to play soccer instead. Luckily friends stopped by to pick apples and one was more than excited to paint ! I was more than happy to oblige and my son was happy to help his friend’s mom pick apples instead. Remember never force kids to do art , the goal is to enrich and appreciate and forcing won’t achieve either.

    1. Gather your materials. For this I used a clip board, liquid paint in many colors, a water color set and paper.Supplies for easy outside painting
    2. You might notice that there is no water in the materials. That is because You can pop the dried water colors out, and gently place liquid paint in, so you don’t have to run back inside for more water.
    3. Pop the water colors out.

    1. Pour in liquid paint.

    1. Place back in case.

    1. Clip the lid of the water color case under the clip board to keep it in place and find a perfect spot to paint, he chose a great spot under an apple tree.

  1. Paint what you see.
  2. He painted beautiful apples and leaves.

It did take a little convincing that it was ok to mix the colors, if you have a child who is really reluctant , pack along multiple brushes, which is much easier than packing and refilling water when you are far from a faucet.

Book

Katie Meets The Impressionistsby James Mayhew is a art fairytale! Katie goes to the museum with her grandmother and before she knows it she is in the paintings and the world of the painters and their families.  Katie goes from painting to painting gathering flowers for her grandma and exploring a world on the other side of the canvas.  What I enjoy about this book is that it brings the paintings to life for readers and it shares the  back story in a way that children can connect to and imagine the possibilities when they go to museums! Of all these books this one held my son’s attention the least. I like to think it’s because he’s not a fan of impressionism, but I think it was simply a little long for his not quite 3 year old attention span.  Maybe if Renoir had painted garbage trucks… seriously though this is a fabulous book and worth a read!

Backyard Photo Scavenger Hunt

outside activities for kids

This outside activity is perfect for children who love treasure hunts and can work with multiple ages since there are no words to read ( although you could add them). My goal with this project was to familiarize my son with his new yard and what better way to do that than make it a game. You could build on this activity by returning inside and researching some of the plants, painting with the flowers or even dissecting them.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a camera, printer, self laminating photo pouches, hole punch, binder rings, scissors , a yard and someone eager to go on a hunt!
  2. Pop outside when you are not with your child(ren) and take some pictures of things all around your yard.
  3. Print them out , trim and place in the self laminating pouches. I love these because they are way easier to use than contact paper and are sturdy for outside play. I placed 2 pictures in each pouch so there was one picture on the back and one on the front. I purposely laid out the pictures so my son would have to go from the front yard to the back, to the front etc… this isn’t just about getting to know the yard it’s also gross motor so I wanted to make him move as much as possible.
  4. Punch holes in the corner.  
  5. Add the ring.
  6. Study the pictures .
  7. Go on the hunt! The roses were found right away.
  8. So were the apples.
  9. He knew exactly where the birdhouse was too.
  10. The lily behind him was the tricky one, but we celebrated when he found it.

Please note the sword ( plastic golf club) and Knight’s Shield are completely optional.

Books About Gardens

A Gardener’s Alphabet by Mary Azarian is a fresh and so richly illustrated alphabet book you will likely have the same thoughts I did while reading it with my son ” I need to frame these pages!” they are that awesome. What I think the main benefit of this book is , is that the words chosen for each letter are not the same old ones you see over and over in alphabet books. The words used are things like Japanese Garden for J, Lawn Ornaments for L and my favorite was Underground for U with a cool illustrations of worms, root vegetables and roots !


Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert  will leave you trying to find all sorts of things like butterflies, chickens and fish in leaf piles. The book is about a leaf man who blows away in the wind and the reader is taken past all sorts of animals like chickens and ducks, past rivers filled with fish and butterflies in the air. All are leaves pieced together to make these awesome images , some are obvious, some take concentration to see the animal among the leaves. Wonderful creative book to welcome the changing seasons.


The Gardener by Sarah Stewart Is a really touching book that I would happily recommend for school age children. It’s a beautiful story about a little girl during the depression who is shipped to the city to work in her uncle’s bakery because both her parents are out of work.  She is obviously nervous but knows that it’s something she has to do.  She takes a little of the country with her in seed packets which she plants in the city while she learns about baking and becomes friends with her uncles employees. This is more a story about making the most of hard times, and would be a great way to talk about the great depression with your child. There are so many little things in the illustrations by David Small to talk about , from a picture of FDR to traveling by train and  the general sense of sadness .  In the end it’s a warm hearted book that I can’t wait to share with my son in a few years.