Tag Archives: outdoor play

Storytelling with Shadow Puppets

I recently cleaned out the linen cupboard and gave the kids a huge bag of old sheets to play with. They like to make them into royal capes or build dens with them. In amongst them was a white sheet. I thought it could be used to build a shadow puppet theatre in the garden.  We have a swing set that isn’t safe to use, so I removed one of the swings and fastened the sheet to the frame.

outdoor shadow puppet theatre

The children and I made puppets from cardboard. The children chose characters and I helped them draw them in silhouette. They collected sticks from the garden, whittled them to smooth them out and stuck the cardboard characters on with tape.

home made shadow puppets

I also found images of hand shadows. I printed and laminated them and stuck them  on the swing set frame for reference.

hand shadows

We had to do a bit of work cutting back the tree branches to make a clear screen, but soon it was ready. The magical stories they have created have been wonderful.  I think this would be a great resource for a school or pre-school to encourage story telling and build the foundations of story writing. You could build it outdoors or inside with a light source behind.

Videoing the story showed the children where they needed to improve. They saw that sometimes you couldn’t see the characters well because they were too low or placed at an angle. They also noticed that the size of the puppet changed according to how close to the screen it was.

I love the way my daughter played with accents and voices.  It particularly love the voice of the bird and banana man in the land of the forgotten.

Shadows, like mud are a great, free play resource – check out some of our other shadow explorations or follow my shadow and light pinterest board

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Ideas for Playing in the Dark

Whether you’re on a camping trip and staying up late, or it is winter and there aren’t many daylight hours in which to play, the children won’t be able to wait to get out in the dark with these fun play activities. They could also help children who are afraid of the dark discover that darkness can be fun; give them a head torch or flashlight, hold their hand and venture out together.

You will need…

Other items you could use

We find head torches work particularly well for my daughter  with poor eyesight.

Taking torches/flashlights outside is also a great way to observe the weather. Mist looks really eerie under a flashlight and you  can watch  raindrops in in the light rays.

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Games to play

1. Flashlight/torch tag
The children run around, one child has a flashlight/torch and has to tag the other children by shining a light beam at them.


2. Grandmothers footsteps
The children quietly sneak up to the grandmother and if she hears footsteps she shines her flashlight/torch at the culprit and they return to the start. The object is to steal a piece of treasure she has at her side (we’ve used glow in the dark balls or glow sticks) and get back to the start with them without being caught.


3. Hide and Seek
My children love to play hide and seek so this is a real favourite. Hiding in the dark means you can find so many more great hiding places. The seeker uses their flashlight to find those who are hiding.
4. Glow in the dark water play

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We added glow in the dark paint to  water in our water table (a bowl or bucket would also work) .Drop in some glowing stars and moons, water beads and a variety of containers. Have fun making ‘star soup’.

I also love this idea from active dark, using glow sticks in a pool.

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5. Treasure hunt

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Fill plastic Easter eggs with mini battery operated lights – you can also add water beads for an extra effect. Hide them around the garden and look out for where the lights are shining. My girls also enjoy hiding the eggs  inside their clothes.

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6. Glow in the dark sensory play
Add glow in the dark paint or pigment powder to goop (corn starch and water), water beads, play dough, shaving foam, or play dough. Make sure to charge it in the light first.

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7. Glow in the dark painting
Paint on black paper with glow in the dark paint – you could put a large sheet on the fence or alternatively, mix the paint with corn-starch and a little water and paint directly onto the ground. It washes away really easily in the rain. We’ve used this to paint hopscotch on the driveway and used  glow in the dark balls as markers.


8. Shadow play
Children love to play with shadows. Use flashlights or outdoor lights to cast shadows onto white walls or even better erect a white sheet between fences or trees and get the children to stand against it making shadows and shapes.

9. Light tables
We made a homemade light table from a translucent plastic box with a black lid. Turn the box upside down and place inside battery operated lights and /or fairy light There are all kinds of activities you can do with a light table . You can place natural materials, glass beads, buttons or candy wrappers on top to make patterns, spread sand or rice on top to make marks or use interesting coloured containers.

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10. Look at the stars.

On a clear night what could be better than looking at the stars? We printed out a map of the stars but just to look up into the night sky can be awe inspiring.


11. Use glow in the dark balls or light up balloons to play catch or volleyball.

12. Swing glow sticks to see what patterns they can make or build constructions with glow sticks.

 

10 Outdoor Painting Activities

WP_20160606_003This week we have been painting pebbles. We used a mixture of our own designs and some that we found online.  The ones that we liked we sprayed with mod podge so that the rain wouldn’t wash them away.

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In the summer it is so much easier to paint outside and with more space and capacity for mess you can be more creative with your painting activities.  Here are a couple of our favourites.

  1.  Spray paintingWP_20160422_003

 

Save your old spray bottles and fill with paint to spray on an easel attached to a fence or on the floor. You can also tape images or leaves onto the paper to make prints.

2.  Splat painting

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Fill a stocking with sand, drop it from a height and watch it splat.

3. Paint the ground

painting stepping stones

Use watercolour paint or pavement chalk paint and it will wash away.

4. Paint with water

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It’s a roly-copter.

Use different types of brushes and paint rollers

5. Foot painting

large scale painting

6. Print leaves

 

printing with leaves

We painted this giant leaf in stripes and pressed the paper on top to make a print.

7. Bubble painting

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Add dish detergent to paint and blow with a straw. When the bubbles come over the top print onto a piece of paper. Alternatively you could add paint to bubble mixture and blow bubbles onto paper and watch them pop.

8. Paint a snowman

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Outdoor painting needn’t be confined to the Summer. In winter paint a snow sculpture or paint on snow or ice.

9. Ice painting

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Freeze ice cubes of paint with a stick inside. As they melt you can make a picture. You could also sprinkle powder paint onto blocks of ice to make patterns.

10. Body painting and Face painting

dragon face paint

My kids love to get the face paints out in the summer, their designs get more elaborate as they practice.  You don’t have to stick to faces, body painting is fun or paint tattoos on their arms and legs.

10 Outdoor Painting Activities

 

20 Outdoor Things to Do Before You are 5

 

outdooe pin.pngThese Ideas were originally written for Parentmap in 2013

When my eldest daughter was working through the National Trust’s list of ’50 things to do before you are 11 3/4′.  I was inspired to create a companion list for my younger children.  Some of the challenges on the National Trust list, like picking wild blackberries were easily completed by young children but I felt a list of basic foundational outdoor experiences for babies, toddlers and preschoolers could work alongside it.

I realise that we are fortunate to live in a house with a garden and nature all around us but I tried hard to make the experiences accessible to all, in all weather and without an outdoor space at home. There are many amazing things that young children can experience outdoors, these are the ones I believe are essential .

20 things to do before you are 5.   

  1. Splash in a puddle:  Put on your rain boots and/or waterproof trousers and splash in puddles large, small and muddy.puddles
  2. Blow a dandelion clock : counting out the hours of the day as you blow

    blowing a dendelion clock
    child blowing a dandelion clock
  3. Play in sand: In a sand box, at the park or at the beach. Playing with sand needn’t be limited to building sandcastles. Explore wet and dry sand, fill containers, hide things in the sand, draw in it with a stick or make a dinosaur swamp.

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    Sand play
  4. Walk through crunchy autumn leaves: You could also catch some from the trees as they fall, take them home and print with them or make a crunchy collage.autumn leaves
  5. Catch blossom from a tree.blossom
  6. Play in the snow:  If snow is thin on the ground head out to a snow park or if you live in a country where you don’t have snow, set up some icy play in the sunshine.

    lying in the snow
    I just want to lie in it
  7. Grow a flower from a bulb or a seed: Guess the colour of the flower that will grow or grow a tall sunflower and measure it as it grows.WP_20130718_004 (2)
  8. Ride a tricycle, bicycle or scooter.IMG_0513
  9. Make a mud pie: You could even build a mud kitchen using old pans and kitchen utensils.mud kitchens
  10. Walk barefoot on grass, mud or sand: Walking barefoot helps children to balance and strengthens muscles in the foot. It is also a great way to stimulate the senses and talk about different textures.IMG_0615
  11. Collect natural materials from the woods, beach or park: Collect shells, leaves, pinecones or seeds. Put double sided tape on a pair of boots or a hat and help the children collect items to stick on. Use them to make pictures, sculptures or for small world play.skeleton leaf
  12. Go on a bug hunt: Dig for worms, look in dark places or watch spider webs wet with dew.

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    I found a beetle.
  13. Play with a stick: Sticks can be swords, fairy wands or pencils. We have a huge collection outside our front door as our only rule is ‘No sticks in the house’.

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    Let’s see how many ‘Y’ sticks we can find.
  14. Go for a walk in the woods.
  15. Paddle barefooted in the ocean, lake or stream: If your budget or location doesn’t allow you to get to the seaside, lake or stream, paddle barefooted in a puddle.paddling
  16. Play Pooh sticks.pooh sticks
  17. Throw and kick a ball: Start with large balls and as children get older experiment with different shapes and sizes.

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    Throw the ball at the trampoline and see if you can bounce it into the tub.
  18. Go fruit picking: At a farm or pick wild berries in the woods or park.strawberry picking
  19. Run in an open space.kite(1)
  20. Chase and blow bubbles.
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    small bubbles

    My little ones are over 5 now but still their favourite thing to do is climb the tree in our front garden,  make a mud pie or potion (my 8-year-old carried a pot of gooey mud home from school yesterday) or collect and create with sticks, petals and stones.

What would be on your list?

 

4 Ways to Inspire Kids to Go Outside and Be Active

Disclaimer: No payment was received for writing this post. I received a few small samples of Go Organically Fruit Snacks.

go organically outdoors

May is National Physical Fitness and Sports month and to inspire kids to get outside and be active this spring Go Organically have come up with 4 things to try. I don’t often share content from brands but I liked the ideas in this one and they align very closely to the ways I encourage my family to go outside.

My kids favourite outdoor activity is climbing trees. It’s the first thing they do when they get home from school and I love that it attracts them more than any other activity.It is important to me that my kids get independent playtime outside, but sometimes kids won’t go outside without a little push from an adult.  Here are some simple ideas from Go Organically fruit snacks  if your kids need a little encouragement.

reading in the tree

1.       Gear Up

Make sports equipment easily accessible so you’ll be more likely to use it. Park bicycles near the front of your garage, or keep scooters in the mudroom to inspire impromptu usage. Stash a Frisbee or soccer ball in your car for pick-up games, or “catch up” on the day while playing a quick game of catch in the evenings. The idea is to integrate activity into your everyday life so it becomes a part of your routine.

I love the advice about integrating it into everyday life. We use scooters to go to school everyday, often stop at the pond near school to explore the changing seasons and have skipping ropes near the door so they are easy to grab.

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2.       Play Nature Bingo

Which family member has an eagle eye for spotting things like squirrels, ant hills or pine cones? To find out, head to your local park—or simply your own backyard—and play an active yet educational game of Nature Bingo. Print out a free online template (we like these for their earthy feel) and try to find as many items as you can, marking off each square as you go.

Nature bingo is always fun. When my girls were younger and struggled to walk back from the park, I would pretend we were pirates and give them a list of “treasures” they had to find or collect .You can also try some of these  woodland activities we enjoyed. They would work equally well in a garden or park.

finding big cat markings

3.       Embrace Old School Games

When we were kids, it was all about classic backyard games like Freeze Tag, Simon Says and Hide-and-Seek. Our favorite? Red Light/Green Light. One child acts as the “stoplight” and stands with his or her back to the crowd across the yard from the other kids. When the stoplight shouts “green light,” the kids move forward and try to be the first to touch the stoplight. At any point, the stoplight may shout “red light!” and turn around. If any of the players are caught moving, they’re out.

Regular readers will know, I think it is really important to teach my kids games from my childhood and other simple games. It will not only preserve these games and rhymes for future generations but it is also an opportunity to play together outside. I recently taught them how to play elastics (French skipping) and we had great fun.

Try out some of my families favourites here.

hopscotch

4.       Take a Walk

It sounds so simple, but sometimes it’s nice to get back to basics with regular family walks. Take the dog out together in the morning instead of making it a one-man job. Or work off dinner by hitting the pavement as a family for a sunset stroll. It’s a great way to discover your surroundings, get to know your neighbors, and enjoy quality time as a family while burning off energy. When my youngest was small she hated to walk but loved to see things in our neighbourhood. I bought her a scooter and she used that and never complained.

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Before my youngest started school, she would ask me everyday if we could go for a walk.  We wouldn’t go far, a quick circuit around the neighbourhood was often enough for her, but she loved to discover things you can only find on foot.  We identified flowers and plants, rescued worms and snails, found caterpillars, ducklings, birds, frogs and salamanders, caught blossom, collected leaves and carried sheets of ice.  My daughter didn’t like to walk far when she was younger but once I bought her a scooter we could go on long walks together.

carrying a sheet of ice

What are your favourite ways of getting outside?

If you like these ideas, and you would like to explore more, below are some of my many outdoor play posts.

Activities with leaves

Inspiration for a low cost outdoor playspace

Ideas for encouraging children to enjoy their natural environment

Water Gun activities

Build a Fairy Garden

 Ideas for playing outside in the Spring

Ideas for playing outside in the rain

Ideas for playing outside in the dark

Ideas for playing in the snow

Children connecting with Nature (discussing the findings of a 3 year study into how connected to nature the UK’s children are)

Loose Parts

Why mud Play is good for children

Finding the alphabet in nature

To find more resources, click on the outdoor play tab above.

Do We Over Complicate Loose Parts?

 

WP_20160324_006For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term loose parts, check out my post on the theory of loose parts. In simple terms, loose parts are moveable objects that can be used to create, explore and discover.

Educators often collect loose parts for their environments.  Collections include buttons, feathers, beads, coins, shells and seeds. Loose parts are added to clay and dough, left in baskets around the room, used for weighing and measuring, to create art, on light and mirror tables and added to block play. I think though, that sometimes educators over-complicate loose parts. We get so excited about the different things we can provide for the children and the beautiful ways we can present them, that it is easy to forget the true essence of the theory of loose parts.

I was reminded as I played with my daughter at the park, that loose parts are everywhere.  If we as educators don’t provide loose parts, the children will find them.  A brick will become a piece of food, a calculator  is a telephone, a sheet will become a cloak or torn paper will be money. Playing with loose parts is the way I played as a child, playing shops with empty boxes or filling empty bottles with leaves, petals, dirt and water.  For the child, loose parts are everywhere, they probably don’t call them loose parts but they will find them.

For me the theory of loose parts is an attitude to how children play.  It is an acceptance that children may use what is in their environment and make their own choices about what to do with it.  Materials do not have to be displayed or stored beautifully, they simply need to be there.  The following video illustrates children’s natural ability to find and use loose parts creatively.

 

Simple Pleasures

I believe that sometimes we try too hard to arrange things for our kids to do and it is important to let them be.  There are however, some things that I feel we should introduce our children to. The simple pleasures that we had as kids, are sometimes forgotten and lost. If we are going to teach our children anything, lets preserve simple pleasures like these.

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Pooh Sticks
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Learning to play hopscotch
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Chalking with a stone
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Flying a kite
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Blowing a dandelion clock

 

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Blowing bubbles

 

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Planting seeds

 

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Making a rainbow
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Making a daisy chain
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Burying yourself in sand.

 

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Making a paper aeroplane

 

What are your simple pleasures?