With the warm days of summer quickly approaching, I'm gearing up to make sure my daughter spends as much time as possible playing outside. While I grew up spending many a summer day discovering tadpoles, overturning rocks and playing make-believe with friends, outdoor play is tragically rare among today's children. For that reason, I want to make sure my daughter has plenty of reasons and opportunities to spend time outdoors.
You don't have to spend a fortune on backyard swing-sets or water-toys to make sure that your children have toys for outdoor play this summer. There are plenty of affordable options that can keep your child entertained and motivated to spend time outside. Here are a few of my favorites.
Scribble the Sidewalk
Sidewalk chalk in all its incarnations -- classic, fluorescent, bold, 3-D, and so on -- is a remarkably affordable outdoor toy that's perfect for summer. My 3-year-old will spend hours scribbling outside and drawing primitive pictures, while older children will enjoy more elaborate works of art -- along with set-ups for games like hopscotch and foursquare. At just a few dollars a pack, sidewalk chalk won't break your budget and will provide plenty of fun throughout the warm days of summer.
My mother bought me a bright blue high-bounce ball when I was 8 years old, and I remember spending several days in a row playing with it. Simple games, like attempting to bounce the ball off the roof, playing catch with friends, and tossing the ball for our family dog, kept me entertained for hours. Get your child a few balls in varying sizes, colors and bounce-levels to keep her happily entertained for hours of outdoor summertime play.
Turn on the Sprinkler or Hose
A garden hose or sprinkler can be a delightful -- and often free -- toy for outdoor summertime play. Your child will enjoy leaping through the sprinkler-spray on a hot day, or chasing her friends and siblings around with a gushing hose. Be sure to put time limits on this delightful form of outdoor play, though, since excessive water use is expensive and detrimental to our environment.
Whip Up Some Mud Pies
Mud pies are messy but very fun, and I don't think any childhood is complete without at least one summer day spent making them. If you'd like, you can get your children disposable pans to make these "pies" in, but you can also use the ones you have in your own kitchen (or no pans at all). These instant toys are entertaining for kids of all ages, especially those 5 to 8 years of age.
Outdoor play is essential for the mental and physical health of our children, and you don't have to break your budget to facilitate healthy, fun, outdoor play for your child this summer. By purchasing low-cost toys for outdoor summertime play, you can encourage your child to genuinely enjoy spending time outdoors.
Related Work by Juniper Russo