|dirt pile of fun!|
With the weather warming up, our 4 younger kids are spending more time outside. Watching them play, I see that we’ll need to make some changes in our yard to accommodate their changing, maturing interests. For years, we’ve had babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, but now my oldest of the four is seven, and the youngest is almost three.
For the Young Ones
The best toy I think we ever came up for the kids was to create a “dirt pile.” It wasn’t a pile of dirt. Instead it was an area of dirt about 12 feet by 7 feet next to our swingset. I picked up digging toys from garage sales and Goodwill, primarily Tonka metal trucks which have held up well in the weather. I also tried some beach toys, but they broke too easily.
Whenever the weeds threatened to take over the dirt pile, my husband would rototill them in, and the kids were back in business. The one thing the dirt pile lacked was shade. This year, I have plans to buy a canopy from Walmart to put over the dirt pile.
Another great toy for the young ones was our water/sand table. These can be found at Walmart or Target for about $40. They come with a few boats. One side of the table is just a big flat bucket, and the other side has a built-in waterway for the boats. My kids would spend hours playing in the water, and of course, get themselves completely soaked.
If you can set aside some space, start a small vegetable garden or tuck a few plants like strawberries in your flower beds. Encourage your kids to check out whatever bugs you come across. Take advantage of rainy days to put magic marker paintings in the rain and watch the colors run. Blow bubbles – always a winner with all ages!
As they have gotten older, my kids are gravitating towards sports equipment and bikes. Most of the sports equipment we have has either been passed down to us or found at a thrift store. Always let parents of older kids know that you’re willing to take used equipment. I’ll never forget the only time I paid full price for a soccer net, $50. It barely lasted a week with my kids. I’m not above trash picking soccer nets and other equipment given how hard kids can be on the equipment.
If you don’t want your children using their baseball gloves and other equipment for organized sports in your yard, check out the Dollar Store or Five Below for inexpensive versions of soccer balls, gloves, and lacrosse sticks. You can also find wiffle balls and bats, along with frisbees and water toys that can also work as yard toys.
My philosophy on bikes is that I only buy good quality bikes. When I was a younger mom, I bought my oldest son’s bikes at a local bike store. Now, I would keep an eye out at flea markets or police auctions. Fortunately, the boatloads of money that I spent on bikes for my oldest son, now a teenager, has worked in the end since we now have 4 younger kids to use the bikes.
Kids don’t need much equipment to play outside, and with so many places to buy equipment cheaply, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to set up a volleyball game or a game of croquet. Buy or borrow some stuff, send the kids out, and kick back and relax!