March: that in-between month. We are inching away from winter but not quite yet into spring. It certainly doesn’t feel warm enough to head to the beach, but if you bundle up, you can still take a hike or a walk around the neighborhood to see what’s going on out there. Once the snow has melted, the mud season begins, and this is the perfect time to encourage children to go outside. Yes, let them go out there and get dirty. If your children are prone to saying things like, “but there’s nothing to do out there.” If, perhaps, they are reliant on concrete places like the beach or a playground for entertainment, I have gathered some sure-fire ways to get them excited to go outside this time of year in Muddy Boots: outdoor activities for children. Here are just a few:
- Collect rocks: Many children are naturally curious about rocks so even collecting, cleaning, and sorting can be an activity. Rocks have been drawing children (and adults) in for centuries. The best part: they don’t have to travel far to find a rock. Even if you live in a city, rocks can be found in local parks and even on sidewalks. With a little digging, you can unearth even larger rocks beneath the soil.
- Paint and create: For those who want to take it a step further – how about painting the rocks, or writing letters on small pebbles for literacy. With larger stones, kids can create story stones: just paint a key story element (character, place, event), and create a story out of the stones. Kids can even collaborate and add on to each others’ stories.
- Stick Peeps: along with rocks, many children are also drawn to sticks of all sizes. Sometimes it’s just enough to gather, make a pile, sort, or even erect a small teepee. To make a stick peep, find a forked stick about a foot long. The fork will be the legs. Use a smaller stick for the arms and connect the sticks with some twine. Scavenge around the woods or your backyard for the rest of the materials: pine needles, moss, small pebbles, moss, acorns all work well. Use your imagination! Use a glue gun (with a parent) or some tacky glue to attach the materials to the sticks.
- Painted Walking Stick: On a hike or walk, find a walking stick that’s just right for your size. Make sure it’s not too thin; you don’t want it to snap in half as you use it to take a steep step up a hill. After the hike, take the stick home and paint it with your favorite colors. Again, use your imagination: there is no right way to paint the stick – the colors and designs are totally up to you. Make it yours!
- Scavenging Sticks: This is a stick to display your found treasures. Find a stick that you are drawn to – one with curves and bumps. Then, gather some treasures from the outdoors: feathers, leaves, stones – and attach them to your stick with twine or wire. Then use your stick when a little magic is needed or during a special gathering of friends. Remember, you can keep adding to this special stick as you collect more and more treasures during your time outdoors.
So there you go. And that’s just a start! I have lots of other ideas for playing outdoors in Muddy Boots. Once you begin to consider what the outdoors and nature offers for opportunities to play, you’ll never take it for granted again.