Outdoor Play

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Just when I thought we wouldn't survive the winter in our tiny home, the sun came out!! We're not out of the woods yet, but we've had several gorgeous days and it's reminded me of the magic of tiny living. The kids spend most of their waking hours outdoors, my tiny home is clean within 20 minutes, while our friends are still running their furnaces, we're staying warm enough with one small space heater on at night. The kids have been sleeping better at night and arguing less since they've been spending more time outside. 

I've mentioned them here before, but feel they need an encore. These rainsuits from Ollie & Stella Outfitters have been SO wonderful this year. The kids have worn them in the rain, wind, snow, at the beach, hiking, in the yard and anywhere we go outside. They're easy for them to put off and on and make it so easy for me to say "yes" to messy outdoor activities! 

I am so grateful that our kids enjoy playing outside. They're often outside playing right after breakfast (or before if they're up early!) and spend hours in the yard. Unless they have a specific need, or if I'm working on something outside, I don't usually join them. Our home is small enough and covered in windows, so that I can quite easily see them wherever they are in our (fenced in) yard. We do our best to encouraged outdoor play, but we're certainly not experts. I thought I'd share a few of their favorite activities:

1. Horses

If you've followed me for any length of time, you know how much play time these horses see. We got two of them (Claudia and Simon) several years ago for $10 on Craigslist. Eventually, Claudia became so worn that she couldn't be ridden anymore. I spent a month looking and finally found a replacement for $15 on Craigslist. Lulu got Judy for her birthday in October and still regularly tells us thank you for her. The kids ride them, have races, spend hours washing them or covering them in mud, they pick grass for them to eat, decorate them with feathers and twigs, build barns and stables for them, etc. I never thought they'd get so much use! Ours are outside year round and have held up really well! 

2. Water

Our kids will spend hours playing with a bucket of water. Washing things, making mud, 'painting rocks', etc. When they get sick of it, I'll add another element: a paint brush, spray bottle, measuring cups, or funnel and buy myself another chunk of time. Yes, they get wet and messy, but it's worth it! 

3. Tools

A few tools that our kids like to use outdoors: tweezers, kids' sized shovel, small hammer, eye dropper, buckets, paint brush or roller and magnifying glass. I try not to give my kids much direction when they play with them, they come up with much better ideas on their own. They both spent a long time painting the horses with a tiny paintbrush the other day, or they'll carefully use the tweezers to pick up tiny rocks and seeds. 

4. Sticks

It's like giving a kid a gift and they only want to play with the box. We could have all kinds of outdoor toys and I'm pretty sure our kids would prefer sticks. They're swords, trees, horses, canes, trophies, snakes, etc. Lulu likes to plant 'stick gardens' and maintain them for a few days before harvesting her bounty. This is a great activity because it takes her a long time to choose the perfect sticks, find the best place to plant them, water each one and meticulously care for them over the next few days. It's not an idea that would have ever come up, which makes me love it all the more. 

4. Hammock

We have two hammocks hanging in our yard in the summer time and they've been a huge hit with the kids and their friends (and Austin and I!). We're looking forward to hanging them again when the weather gets nice!

5. Scavenger hunt

Sometimes I'll give the kids a bucket or basket and a list (3 leaves, 2 sticks, 5 rocks, a bug, a flower, etc) and send them off to hunt. More often than not, they get distracted by something and totally forget about the hunt, which is fine too!

6. Each other

I love it when they play outside for hours without any outside help or toys. They make up big pretend games and race each other and sit and talk and search for cool rocks and sticks. It makes me so happy to leave the door open and listen to them chat about birds and bugs and everything else!

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Some other favorites:

- Spray bottles (dollar store!)

- Dirt

- Mole hills

- Markers and a pile of rocks

- Trees

- Leaves

- Bubbles (this bucket is amazing and really doesn't spill!)

We've spent a lot of time outdoors over the fall and winter, but definitely not as much as I would like and not nearly as much as during the spring and summer! I'm really looking forward to another season of outdoor play and learning!