Spring is such a welcome season to many parents. To be able to get outside and enjoy the weather with your kids after a long, cold winter is music to anyone’s ears…especially if your little ones have been cooped up more often than not. There is SO much learning that can occur outdoors in the spring, and I love to take advantage of just about any of it that I can. Here are some of my tips for outdoor spring play, along with some activities from The Genius of Play!
5 Outdoor Play Spaces You Can Create
- Mud Kitchen: We love a good, outdoor kitchen. This can be super simple- grab some old utensils, pots and pans and bowls and plates and a large basin, or buy them at the local dollar store if you don’t have any old ones lying around. You can certainly go elaborate with this by building a play sink or even a countertop, but your kids will love to make mud pies regardless of the setup.
- Fairy Garden: We made our first mini fairy garden last year (half was a dinosaur garden) by repurposing an old fountain basin that no longer functioned. It was ADORABLE and it provided the kids with endless opportunities for imaginative, creative and pretend play. It is going to need a bit of a re-vamp this spring and we are so excited about the project.
- Simple Sandbox: Sand is such wonderful sensory play! You don’t need a pre-constructed sandbox for kids to play in (while they are adorable, especially this one or this one), you can throw some sand down on a tarp and give your kids some shovels if that is what you have available. The thing about kids is, they can engage and create with much less than we might require to do so. When it comes to outdoor play, they don’t need much!
- Water Play: Any opportunity to allow your kids to play in the water is going to be time well spent. If it is still too cold to throw on the bathing suits and jump in a pool or a sprinkler, fill up a plastic tub or a water table with water and give your kids some cups, bowls and spoons. Add some soap foam or bottles of colored water for some additional fun!
- Mini-Garden: You definitely don’t need a full-sized garden in your backyard to garden with kids! Start some seedlings indoors to get a closer look at how they grow, and start a journal or a graph of their progress with your older kids. If you don’t have the space to transfer your seedlings to the ground, start a mini container garden! Your kids will love to watch the progress, and it just might get them eating their veggies 😉
Spring Play Tips from The Genius of Play
- Broccoli Tree Painting: A fun way to replicate those beautiful pink spring trees! Cut a broccoli stem in half (the long way) so that it lies flat. Next, dip the broccoli stem into brown paint, and press it evenly onto a piece of paper … that’s your tree trunk! Your little one can paint (with brushes or fingers) pink flowers and green leaves onto the tree to complete the look. Developmental Benefits: Creativity & Imagination
- Bunny Masks: You’ll need large popsicle sticks, white pipe cleaners, pink pompoms and glue. Wrap the pipe cleaners around the tip of the popsicle stick so that three ends stick out on either side … those are your whiskers! Then, glue the pompom on the tip to make the bunny nose. Hold the mask up to your nose, and voilà! Developmental Benefits: Creativity & Imagination, Emotional Skills
- Chalk Art Games: On days when the skies are clear, grab your chalk and get outside! Find a piece of sidewalk, driveway, or brick wall, and unleash your creativity! You can even draw hopscotch and four square boards to start up some group games. Developmental Benefits: Creativity & Imagination, Emotional Skills, Physical Skills, Social Skills
- Color Matching: Have your kids try to identify all of spring’s lush colors! Gather a bunch of paper paint chips in a range of colors (make sure there are lots of greens!). Punch a hole at the bottom and in the right corner of each paint chip. Slip a binder ring through the corner holes to connect the chips, and send your kids off to discover a world of color! They can match the exact color of something by comparing the color peeking through the bottom hole to the paint chip. Developmental Benefits: Cognitive Abilities, Physical Skills, Social Skills
- Daisy Crowns: Find a field of daisies (or dandelions, clovers, etc.). To start, pick three flowers with long stems and braid those stems together. When you near the end of one stem, pick another flower and weave it into the chain! Keep going until your chain is long enough for your crown, necklace, bracelet or whatever you’re making! Developmental Benefits: Creativity & Imagination, Cognitive Abilities, Social Skills
- Dinosaur Garden: Creating a miniature landscape is the perfect setting for imaginative play. Collect small plants, rocks and twigs, plus plastic dinosaurs and other props to make your dinosaur garden. Remember, it’s supposed to be a mini version of a life-sized landscape, so choose plants that resemble larger plants (for example, a succulent can look like a big tree). Tip: try covering little bowls with moss or dirt to make hills. Developmental Benefits: Creativity & Imagination, Physical Skills
- Egg-ercise Relay: For this relay race, you’ll need two teams, two spoons, and two hardboiled eggs. Line the teams up at the starting line, and mark the “mid-way point” about 10 feet away. The first players from each team place a hardboiled egg in a spoon, and race as fast as they to the mid-way way and back again, without dropping the egg. If the egg falls, the player has to stop and place the egg back onto the spoon before continuing. When the player returns to the starting point, they hand off the egg to their next teammate. The first team that completes the relay first wins! Developmental Benefits: Communication Skills, Emotional Skills. Physical Skills, Social Skills
- Paint and Plant: Gather some terracotta flower pots and paint the outsides using acrylic paint. When the paint is dry, go ahead and plant your favorite spring flowers! Then talk with your kids about how often it’ll need to be watered and how much sun it will need to last all season. Developmental Benefits: Creativity & Imagination, Physical Skills
- Rainbow Collage: Make a beautiful rainbow collage using fruity-colored cheerios or colorful buttons! Finish the rainbow off with clouds of cotton balls. Tip: To help your child with the order of colors, draw the colored rainbow arches with markers first for your kid to use as a template. Developmental Benefits: Creativity & Imagination, Physical Skills
- Worm Farms: Make your own worm farms using old plastic aquariums! Layer soil and sand (with soil as the top layer) and sprinkle some lettuce, egg shells and coffee grinds on top. Add your worms, and observe how they live in their new habitat! Developmental Benefits: Emotional Skills. Physical Skills
*These spring play ideas brought to you by the Toy Industry Association’s The Genius of Play Campaign, a movement to bring more play into children’s lives, along with all the developmental benefits that play has to offer!