It’s spring here in North Texas and we are off to a lovely, warm start! We’ve been spending tons of time outside as a family and I’ve also been working on “training” my son to play outside in our backyard independently. It’s so important to me as a mother that my little guy learns to play by himself, explore freely without input from mommy and has an adventurous little spirit. I’m also lazy (honestly) and don’t want to entertain him every second. And we have a new baby coming this summer and it’ll become even more important for him to learn to use his little imagination to play independently.
So, as I thought about how to motivate a spirit of independent play in our own backyard I began to stock our patio with a few staples to ensure he has the resources to play, play, play!
- Nature – Okay, okay. I realize this is not a “toy” but I often forget how long my son can spend with a stick collected from under a tree and a little pile of dirt. He loves to explore in the grass and dig in the dirt. We play iSPY and have little nature scavenger hunts looking out for every acorn, stick and ant hill we can find. His favorite parks are ones with a wooded area he can explore and dig around in, so I am trying to recreate that in my suburban back yard. We collect fallen limbs and sticks from neighbors yards and I let him dig in my flower beds, because why not?
- Water Table – A water table or sensory table that can be filled with water, sand or even dirt is a great addition to your backyard. My little one spends lots of time splashing at his water table. He has a set of measuring cups and about a zillion other odds and ends that he plays with in the water. We create games with colanders and slotted spoons, wash his cars and add colored bubbles to make things interesting! We have this one, but I also think this DIY option is pretty neat.
- Push Toy – We have a large, metal dump truck that has been a huge hit! He loves pushing it around the yard and has a place to carry along his little collected treasures. It’s durable, so I don’t have to worry about it getting left in the rain and it should last through the next few kiddos. A child size wheelbarrow is another option I’ve shopped for and like the idea of.
- Picnic Table – We love this simple picnic table my son received as a second birthday gift. It’s perfect for outdoor lunches, coloring or crafting outdoors and about a zillion other activities! A recent favorite has been to get out a bucket of water and a soapy rag to clean his table – lots of fun and he’s working on those cleaning skills for chore time.
- Sidewalk Chalk – Oldie, but goodie! We have the classic large sidewalk chalk, I bought a big pack and pull out 5 colors at a time for him to play with. This limits clean up time and allows him to focus on just a few colors at a time. We store them in a box outside and he loves being in charge of getting out and putting away his chalk. I’ve also seen these super cool sidewalk paints that could be a fun option!
Bonus! Who loves bubbles? – We’ve found the perfect toddler-friendly outdoor bubble machine. Little hands can carry this bubble machine around, knock it over and drop it without worrying about spilling bubble solution everywhere. This would be a great go-to first birthday present! And you don’t have to spend all of your time blowing bubbles for baby yourself (remember, I said I was lazy!).
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