Saturday, April 16, 2011

Backyard Adventures

It finally feels like spring is coming!  The weather in my particular New England state is still as unpredictable as ever, but thankfully the snow finally seems to be gone for good.  We’ve enjoyed many sunny days with temps occasionally rising to the point of giving a little hope that summer may not be far away either.  Then there are the days of nothing by gray skies, thunder, and rain.  (FYI: Wednesday was that day for us, and it also happened to be the day I’d planned on doing my grocery shopping.  Yeah… not fun.)  Then there are the occasional days of cold to remind us that we are still in New England.  Today’s high temp is 47 degrees and right now it’s only 41! 

With all of this great weather we’ve been having (with the exception of Wednesday) I’ve found it difficult to keep my 2-year old inside on the rainy and/or cold days.  I’m not quite sure how I kept him in most of the winter!  One day this week, he spent approximately 90% of his play time outside.  It doesn’t bother me at all because he mostly entertains himself and only requires minimal supervision.  Unfortunately some of my housework has gone by the wayside, but it’s a worthy sacrifice! 

My thoughts for today mostly stem around outdoor activities for toddlers.  We try not to accumulate a lot of “stuff”, so we’ve tried to make the few outdoor toys and activites that we do have very worthwhile and purposeful so as not to spend unnecessary money (even if it is a great deal that is difficult to resist) and to encourage plenty of creative and imaginative play.  Excluding basic balls, buckets, and shovels, here are the outdoor toys that we (or a family member) have invested in with a brief description of what it is and why we chose that particular toy or activity.

Basketball Hoop – We very rarely purchase toys for Jadon without it being a special occasion (like a birthday or Christmas pretty much).  I also don’t purchase a toy simply because Jadon loved playing with it at a friend’s house.  This basketball hoop, however, is pretty much the only toy that we have that is an exception to both of these rules – and it has probably been the best toy investment that we have made.  It spent the winter in the house, often in our basement toy room.  As soon as the weather turned nice, out it went.  I can easily say that hardly a day goes by that Jadon doesn’t play with his hoop.  It’s really been great to see him as he’s grown (so the hoop needs to be raised) and become more coordinated (no longer just dunking but being able to take a shot from a distance.  It’s also great for Mom and Dad to play P-I-G!  Guess who usually wins? :-)

Bubbles – I’m sure they’re out there somewhere, but I for one have yet to find a child who does not like bubbles.  From the kind that make bubbles the size of small children to your basic bottle of bubbles with a little round wand, kids love them!  Last summer I carried a container of bubbles in Jadon’s bag wherever we went and they came in handy multiple times when he needed some instant outdoor entertainment. 

Child-Size Bag Chair – This was purchased at the end of last summer but I wish I’d had it the whole summer.  They can be found at a number of stores, but I got my son’s at the Christmas Tree Shops for somewhere around $5.  It’s perfect for a snack and drink break out on the deck when playing outside and collapses to practically nothing for easy travelling (perfect to bring on vacation, to soccer games, or to other family member’s home throughout the summer). 

Cozy Coup Car – My in-laws found this car at a yard sale for $10.  It has minimal fading and a rip on the sticker dashboard (although that may have occurred after my son got his hands on it…).  He still hasn’t really figured out how to move around too much in it (mostly just in reverse), but we love it because it does encourage imaginative play.  He will point to the van and says “Mumma’s van,” the car and says “Daddy’s car,” and his car and says “Jadon’s car!”  Then he hops in and says, “Bye!”  Then we’ll talk about where he’s going and who he’s going to see (usually it’s Grammy or Grampy). 
Having fun last fall in the cozy coup!
Tricycle – This was a gift for his 2nd birthday.  We wanted to get him something to help develop  his coordination and something that would grow with him.  This should last him for several years.  Oh, and did I mention we found it in great condition on Craig’s List for $30?!  That’s about $22 than the cheapest place online!

Child-Size Picnic Table – We actually don’t have this yet, but I’m excited for it.  This is another Craig’s List purchase, but this time my husband’s parents found it.  We are hoping to finally purchase a patio table and chairs for our big deck in the next month, so this will be great for Jadon to sit and eat at when we decide to cook and eat out.  It will also be nice for some messy crafts during the summer. 

Kiddie Pool – This is a must for us.  I would have possibly opted for just a sprinkler (what we had in my family when I was growing up) but, considering the lack of grass that grows in our back yard, a kiddie pool is much… cleaner.  There are tons of them around, but Jadon’s is a $10 inflatable one from Target (no bells and whistles with it, just your basic pool).  Hey, I even enjoyed pulling my deck chair up to it and sticking my feet in!  Pull the basketball hoop to the side of the pool and you’ve got additional splashing fun!
Memorial Day Weekend 2010 (I'm thinking the water was a little on the cold side!)
Sand & Water Table – This is probably my favorite outdoor toy we have for our son.  It was a purchase for his 1st birthday and he used it all summer long.  We decided not to put any sand in it last year due to the fact that he was still putting everything in his mouth.  Water seemed to be the safest solution.  He kept himself so cool all summer long!  This spring we decided that he was ready for the sand and he’s done great with it – meaning, he hasn’t tried to eat it and most of it has stayed in the table.  Success!  Once the weather gets warm we’ll drain the sand out of it and put water back in.  Using sand now means we can get more time out of this toy.  He wouldn’t be using it right now with water in it – too cold!  Once the weather turns cold again after the summer we’ll put the sand back in.  We opted for a sand table that doesn’t really do anything (some squirt water and make noise) to promote more creative play.  He has a great time digging, filling up buckets, and burying “treasure”. 
Staying cool at his water table... FYI: I don't know why he's not wearing his swim trunks because he ALWAYS got himself soaked when playing in at his water table!
That’s my list.  I guess you could say it’s a warm weather survival guide!  We’re happy with our selection of activities and don’t plan on adding anything throughout the summer.  I’m sure many of you would suggest other play items that work well for your family.  Lots of families have the large play sets with climbing walls and slides for toddlers or even swing sets for older children, but we have a park about 3 blocks away and therefore don’t really have a need for any of that.  Please share your investments for summer entertainment for children.  I’d love to hear what you and your children love!

~ Carrie ~

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