In our world (meaning the small space our family occupies, not the greater World as it is), we believe everyday is an outside day unless weather is at a dangerous extreme or the rain is coming down in buckets. However, here in Oregon, we do still have plenty of “ Rain Days ” which keep us inside for part of the day. Nearly every day finds us outside exploring, riding bikes, climbing trees, digging, and nature walking.
I’ve already mentioned that we enjoy collecting things on our walks… twigs, moss, leaves, pebbles, bark chips, pine cones, hazelnuts, whatever is laying about. We don’t ever take something off a living tree or plant because that could cause harm.
It’s almost as much fun to bring those collections back home and figure out what to do with them. We’ve made bird nests (then tore them up and remade them) and mini stick houses. Perhaps my favorite craft to do is encourage the children to create nature people. I provide each of them with a piece of paper or cardboard (pulled from the recycling whenever possible). I especially like brown paper or cardboard because it looks more like something found in nature. Then the kids use paste to attach their finds and create “people” or even “monsters”. Sometimes, we even have an animal take shape, with moss for ears and hazelnut eyes.
We have ribbon hung across our dining room walls where we attach art work with clothespins. This allows everyone to enjoy the art and share their favorites with visitors to the house. When we rotate art out, we save it in a box to use later (some items get taken apart and reused for new projects, other items become wrapping paper, postcards or framed gifts at holiday time).
It’s been my experience that it’s difficult to entertain children for more than 20 minutes (especially the younger ones) with one project, so we are quickly moving on to another activity. If the weather is permissable, this usually means going back outside on another adventure… lately, our kids have been fond of playing Boxcar Children (from the book series) and “live” under our deck (which is elevated about 6 feet and full of all kinds of wild things down there). We might get some rope out and skip rope or chalk a hopscotch on the sidewalk. We usually have a neighborhood clean up time, where we walk up and down our little street collecting garbage and debris.
When I’m exhausted of ideas and they aren’t feeling creative to come up with their own, I declare “CHORE TIME!”. Even the youngest toddlers enjoy grabbing a damp cloth and helping mop the wood floors or washing the walls and cabinets down. It’s far from a perfect clean up job but at least we keep things liveable. I provide spray bottles of water (sometimes with a bit of lemon juice or vinegar added in) so they have a “cleaner”… somedays this keeps us busy for nearly an hour!
Photo Credit: Playing in the Mud by Tiffany Washko at Flickr under Creative Commons because I’m too lazy to walk down to the Mac and upload our bird nest photos today and isn’t playing in the mud one of the best ever ways to spend a wet afternoon?