Motherhood, outdoors, toddlers

Letting the Outside In

Like many of you, we have been anxiously awaiting spring over here in North Carolina and cursing Puxatony for getting our hopes up this year. We had a string of warm sunny days, followed by a snow day, then another warm day, now 40 degree days with gale warnings. On Monday I was wearing shorts, and today I had to put two jackets on each of my girls to head to our doctor’s appointment. TWO. When you add a slew of viruses to the mix, we are more than ready to open our windows and break out the flip flops!

As boring as winter days stuck inside can be, and despite my current longing for actual spring, I sometimes feel that warm days can strike the same monotony. We tend to eat breakfast and head outside, but this mama needs some variety to keep me playing alongside my children, which I think is extremely important to do. I always push myself to be the mom running with my kids on the playground, not just watching them from the sidelines, no matter how much coffee and tylenol it requires!

That being said, here are a few of our favorite ways to mix up the monotony and enjoy those warm days of Spring:

  • Visit a farm. In our town we are lucky enough to have a farm that boasts a family-style restaurant and allows visitors to come and feed goats, chat with chickens, and gawk at llamas and cows. When an activity only costs me a handful of quarters to buy corn for farm animals, SIGN ME UP. Look online and see if you have a farm like this too! If not, you can always take a driving tour down some country roads. Pack a picnic and sit in the back of the car while watching cows or horses in a farmer’s field. It may not tire them out as much, but they will love it nonetheless!
  • Seas the day! Take a day trip to the water. Neighborhood pools are amazing things, but you can’t beat the allure of a pond, lake, or ocean. Let your littles get their toes wet! Look up public accesses online if you aren’t familiar with any in your area. Search for State Parks to see what each has to offer. Many will identify not only fun things like nature trails or scenic overlooks, but water access points as well. If you live in North Carolina, start here! If a wilderness water spot is out of the question, you can easily make a splash in your own backyard, no matter the size. We purchased this foldable pet pool, of all things, and it’s been amazing! We set it up in our yard, at the beach, and even outside of our camper. It drains and folds up small enough to stick in a beach bag. Highly recommend!
  • Go to the park, but skip the playground. We frequent the playground OFTEN. It is definitely a favorite of the tiny bosses around here. But as parents, it can get a little old! Am I right?! So pick a day and go to the park but avoid the colorful equipment. Stick to the tree line and explore nature. There are SO MANY ACTIVITIES you can put together in a matter of minutes. Make a scavenger hunt of things your child can find. Gather items to make a bird feeder. Take a bucket and have them pick up any little piece of the wild they want, then pull out the glue and make a collage when you get home.
  • Car wash time! Not literally. I mean, unless they’re up for it. That would be a win-win! But instead of making them wash the family transport, get them a rag and bucket and let them go to town on their little cars or bikes. You can give dolls an outdoor bath too, or plastic animals, anything!
  • Recycle! Take a cardboard box outside along with some markers, paint, crayons, stickers, whatever you have on hand! Have your child decide what to make…a rocket, pirate ship, race car, etc! Decorate and then watch their imagination run wild.
  • Catch a bug! Does anyone else have kids that LOVE bugs?! My daughter points them out all the time, loves her bug books, but still looses her mind when a moth gets in the house! Now, I am not the world’s biggest fan of bugs, but I see the opportunity here to show her the difference between good bugs and bad bugs and build that comfort level, so I’m going to take it. We were gifted an adventure kit for Christmas and we love it. My three year old loves to catch ants and rolly pollies now! You can also sacrifice some of those tupperware containers we all have too many of and let your kids catch & release from there!
  • Pitch a tent. Whether you dig out the ol’ camping equipment or take a flat sheet outside, your kid will go nuts! Why? Because it’s NEW! We really take for granted how such simple actions can make a child’s day. Enjoy some time being explorers outside in your makeshift hideaway, and if you are feeling crazy, make some s’mores! No need for a fire pit, just add marshmallow fluff to your next grocery list or microwave larger marshmallows (no more than a few seconds at a time, because guess what, they catch fire amazingly fast in there!)
  • Lights, Camera, Picnic! There’s nothing wrong with a movie now and then. Even a movie day! So embrace that nice pre-summer weather and take movie time outside. Grab your phone, tablet, or laptop and pick a family favorite. Pop popcorn or eat a meal together al fresco! You may even want to splurge on an outdoor projector if you have a backyard suitable for gatherings or spending a lot of time in. My family loves this one for backyard movies and camping trips!
  • Smell the flowers. Botanical gardens, memorial gardens, a local nursery, or even a trip to Lowes! Walk through and smell the flowers. Talk about colors and smells. If you’re in a home improvement store, have your child grab some paint samples and find flowers of the same color in the garden center. Play is everywhere! If the mood strikes you, take a few flowers home and plant them in a special spot. Every yard could use another plant or two.

If I wasn’t already, I am now drooling over that springtime sunshine and hoping it will be here to stay soon enough! What are your favorite spring & summer activities? Share with us in the comments below!

XOXO, Elizabeth & Kate