Get outside, Family!

Get outside, Family!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Amazing ideas for water play

Magical potion made with nature bits
There is something to be said for boredom, and for sending my kids outside when they complain about being bored. With nothing to do, no one to play with and no screen time left for the day, Younger Son came up with two great ideas all on his own.  First he made "potion," by combining dirt, pebbles, twigs, flower petals (and I'm not sure what all else) and water. We've been reading a lot of Harry Potter lately, I'm sure he was behind this. 

1.       How to Make a Potion. What you need: Water, nature stuff (twigs, stones, flower petals, grass, etc.), clear plastic bottle. Glitter and food coloring would work, too.

Fill the bottle with water and colorful stuff you find outside. Twist on the cap and shake.

Later, my son came up with something he called “a tiny little ocean.”   We found it makes a lovely decoration for the bathroom vanity.

2.       How to Make an Indoor Ocean. What you need: Water, nature stuff, clear plastic or glass container. Plastic animals and a toy boat could be nice, too. 

Fill the container with water and other items. Use as decor for table, bookshelf, bath, etc.  

Although I'm quite proud of my child's creativity (ahem, haughty throat clearing here), I'm pretty sure any kid can have fun with a container of water and items collected from their backyard. When I was a kid, I mixed tomatoes from the garden, moss, sand and water into “stews” in a sand bucket. The variations are endless. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Get the kids outside with a challenge (okay, it's a bribe)

My kids wanted hammocks, and I wanted them outside. So I came up with the Great Hammock Challenge. Upon completion of the listed tasks, they would each receive a hammock. Yes, I know it's a bribe, pure and simple. But I probably would've gotten the hammocks anyway, because hammocks are fun and yet another thing to enjoy outside. This way, I got my family to try a few new things. With the exception of my failed attempt at archaeological excavation (Number 4, below), these "tasks" have turned into activities they've wanted to try again and again. 

Task 1: Whittle something.

We started simple – make a marshmallow roasting stick. All this takes is a few scrapes with a pocket knife. The kids loved this and made enough sticks for our family and the neighborhood. Older Son went onto make a walking stick and started working on carving designs in the wood. Fortunately there is plenty of information online about teaching kids to whittle, including a line up of safety videos, books and tips from This safety article was helpful, too. Soap carving is a way to get started making more complicated cuts, like this family tried.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed here are my own. I am not an expert. Please be your own judge of what is right for your family.

Task 2: Build a fire.
My boys are six years apart, so I had to make this age appropriate. Younger son helped me set up the kindling and logs. Older Son got to try a flint and steel fire starter. Again, the Internet was our sage: We found campfire safety and building instructions from Smokey Bearand more tips with pictures from Outward Bound.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed here are my own. I am not an expert. Please be your own judge of what is right for your family.

Task 3: Find constellations.

We realized that we aren’t often outside late enough in the evening to see a lot of stars. This goal gave us a reason to stay out a little longer and look up -- always good. I've just started checking out apps for stargazing, including the free NASA app. For screen-free ideas for enjoying the sky as a family, check out

Task 4: Dig a hole.

The idea for this was to get into backyard archaeology, hoping that if we dug deep enough we’d find some sign of previous inhabitants, even if only a plastic toy.  Unfortunately, a lot of our yard seems to have been built with construction fill and we found mostly bricks and rocks. The crawlies and worms were cool, though. Looks like this family had much better luck. The National Park Service's Archeology for Kids site has some fun-sounding project ideas beyond the dig. 

Task 5: Walk at night.

This is one of my favorite ways to end a day as a family, especially if we haven’t been outside much in daylight. The kids complain at first, but once we are all out together I wonder why we don’t do it all the time.

Yep, they got the hammocks!