Activities For Kids: Playing In The Dirt (The Mini-Version)

This post is all about toddlers.  Oh, toddlers.  You love ’em, but boy, they test your limits.

Hands down, the toughest time of the day is the hour before dinner.  It’s torturous.  The patience I prayed for in the morning has disappeared, the kids are hungry and I’m spent.

This time is also filled with debriefing my older kids on their day, finishing dinner, helping with music practice, and doing all the dishes I didn’t get done earlier in the day (which is usually piled up to my shoulders).  I’ve never been great at coordinating this hour, and as a consequence, my youngest kiddo tends to get ignored.  Which equals major meltdowns.

This truth hurts a little to write. 🙂

So this spring, I decided to give my toddler a little more.  I’ve given her an activity that she can do on her own, but is fun and engaging.  So far it’s worked.

I dug through my garage and found a couple old bags of landscaping sand.  Although, just plain old dirt from the yard would have worked just fine.  I dumped it into an old tub I had lying around and put it right outside the back door.

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I buried some random toys in it, gave her a shovel and let her at it.  SHE LOVED IT!!!  I was able to focus on my bigger kids while she happily dug away.

Success!!!!!

Every few days, I bury some new toys in there for her to find.  I have even caught my older and “too-cool” preteens over there digging in the sand while they wait for dinner time.

If you’re having a tough time entertaining those toddlers while you’re finishing out the day,  try filling up a tub of dirt, burying some toys and letting them get a little dirty.  It’s almost bath time anyway, right? 🙂

You’re sanity and dish-duties will thank you.

Idea For Play: Outdoor Scooter City

Toward the end of winter, we get major spring fever.  The kids get restless.  I get grumpy.  The walls seem to close in on us a little bit more everyday.

So when the weather finally turns warm, I send the kids outside to play.  They get to run, jump and throw balls- everything I wouldn’t let them do inside. 🙂  So today’s inspiration came from our first week of outside Spring weather.  Oh that glorious warm weather!!!  It’s a mom’s best friend.

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Today’s idea: Building A Scooter City.  The goal is just that: have your kids build a city for their scooters, using sidewalk chalk to “build” or draw the city.

All you’ll need is sidewalk chalk and scooters (or bikes, or rollerblades- whatever your kids have.)

You’ll also need a large concrete or asphalt pad.  We have a large basketball, concrete court in our backyard, which worked great. But you could also go to the school yard or a local park, since you’ll only be using chalk that’ll wash off.

To make this activity work (and last a few good hours), you’ll need to give the kids a few ideas and directions before sending them off to play.  Talk them through building a city.  Ask them what a city needs.  Ideas could include:

  • Streets
  • Houses
  • Stores
  • Parks
  • Library
  • School

If they seem to need a place to start, I had my kids do these steps:

  1. Draw their own house to park their scooters
  2. Pick a job they want to do and then draw it.  In our city, the kids built a bakery, a bank, an art studio and a vet clinic.

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After this, they were off and running.  Help them get spaced out appropriately and remind them to build roads for the scooters to get to place to place.

We invited a group of neighborhood kids over to play and it made it much more fun.  The kids got really clever and used bark chips for money.  The “banker” kept the chips in her bank and then helped each kid budget for all the items they wanted to buy.

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I made some applesauce cookies for a snack and the “bakery” sold them to each customer for 1 bark chip each.  It kept the kids busy for over two hours.  With me only refereeing a few disagreements.  And not only was it active for their growing bodies, it was good practice at communicating and working on a project together.

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The rain has since washed off the city, but I will keep this idea tucked away for a slow, summer afternoon when we need some fresh ideas.

Hopefully this gives you a good, FREE afternoon of outside, unplugged play!

Dawnie