Tuesday, January 25, 2011


We have to have our outside time to function in our house. There's nothing like an hour (or 30 minutes...or 2 hours...) of unhurried, undirected outside play to nourish a spirit, young and old! Research upon research backs up the value of outdoor play on children's emotional, physical and intellectual development. It is so easy to set up, as any size yard...we've lived in the world's tiniest rent house with a matchbox-sized yard and also (yeaaaa!) a roomy space to run and play.

Here's what we've done to set up a cheap and outdoor fun play area...(well, just a few things....)
*use natural materials--we have stumps from a tree we cut down in a circle that can be used for walking upon, climbing or chairs when we "cook" outside
*we have a discarded tire filled with woodchips for digging, transferring, and stirring (could be potting soil, sand, pea gravel, wood chips, mulch, grass clippings, cracked corn, etc.) Just remember to watch for ants if you live here in TX! Our girl is well-trained in ant-spotting, learned the hard way!
*I spent under $2 on dishes at the Salvation army for playing outside--wooden spoons and metal bowls and a metal cake pan, some discarded plates from the kitchen, a couple tiny terra cotta pots, a tin from some cinnamon rolls, a plastic container Q's bday cupcakes came in months ago, etc. Outside is a great place to practice using ceramic and glass dishes, as they are landing on a softer surface and if they break they can be easily cleaned up.
*minimal is best--this forces your children to use their imaginations--use a stick to represent a spoon, put the logs in a row to be the car, etc.
*in a tiny yard you can use a tub that you put out only during playtime filled with materials--we used a plastic swimming pool filled with different materials at different times at our old house (cracked corn, sand, shredded newspaper, etc.)
*like any playspace, avoid the temptation to let the area get overclutterd with "stuff"--balls, bubbles, shovels and pails, etc. The same way you should do indoors, cycle through items and provide only a few at a time, neatly organized. I made a little shelf outside (I'll post picture soon) to hold a few items at a time. I also screwed cuphooks into the fence for hanging measuring cup, spoons, small pail, etc. Nails or screws could also work.
*made a balance beam

Even when Q was a tiny baby, there was something about being outside that was so calming to her. Even at 2-3 months I would lay her on her back (in the grass--don't report me to CPS, ok?) so she could feel the grass on her skin and look at the blue sky and the tree leaves and the clouds....and feel the sun or the wind on her face. Sometimes I'd even set her on a towel naked (warm days) so she could get a little air on her usually-covered bootie and soak in a tiny bit of sunshine and vitamin D. She LOVED it...and still does love any time she can get outside!

Below she is playing with a squash...left over from our fall decorations...thrown outside in our compost pile and recovered by this little girl!
Scooping sawdust from her tire (she was making me some salsa).
Practicing wonderful skills of balance, patience, hand-eye coordination, problem solving, fine and gross motor movements......
Climbing on her logs.....

Here are some pics of Q and her infant outdoor experiences. She's a month old in the laundry basket and pink hat, hanging out under a tree and learning about the world called outside. She's two months on the hammock. 4 months on the green towel, a little over 5 in the dirt, 8 months practicing her "baby yoga" and 9 months trying to crawl in the grass.

Posted by Picasa