I've heard parents say that what they miss the most when their children grow up is playing with them. I think this will be true for me. I love watching my children play, and, when the laundry is folded and lessons are done, joining in on their imaginary scenarios.
Sometimes, they think them up themselves, and sometimes, they need a little encouragement. The longer I've done this Charlotte Mason early years life, the less guilt I feel for presenting play ideas to my children. Inspiration is always welcome.
In the first edition of the Idea Nest, a monthly resource that I'm sending out free this year, I put together some playful ideas for the book, The Big Snow, by Berta and Elmer Hader. Most of these ideas can be done outside or in, but of course, outdoor play is the best kind of play!
When I read the book to my kids, admittedly my six-year-old was the only one who made it through. My four-year-old was intrigued, but became distracted by something else at about the half way point. My two-year-old put in a solid two minutes of attention, which is pretty developmentally appropriate for his age 🙂 I think we will try to read it again, but our Big Snow outdoor play time was a big success.
In the book, some animals need to seek shelter, and others don't because they plan to leave. I helped my boys create a tarp shelter on an old, dead tree in our back yard. A shelter can look like anything you and your little ones can dream up, but I basically attached a rope to one end of the tarp, tied it around the tree, then took the other end of the rope and pulled it tight. I staked the other end to the ground, then draped the tarp over the taught rope.
If I could have found a big stick, I would have made the shelter more like Tinkergarten suggests here. But I think any kind of shelter is magical for children!
Once our shelter was complete, we pretended that we were preparing for winter by gathering up pine cones, pine needles, and other nature treasures.
We also scooped up some icy snow to make an igloo-type shelter. Add some little animal figurines, and this play could go so many different ways! For some STEM play, gather some small food containers and boxes and throw together some shelters. Make a base out of sticks, then top with a yogurt carton or cardboard box roof.
This is probably one of my favorite outdoor play ideas. This fall, we left a mud-kitchen soup pot outside, and it filled up with water. My middle boy discovered that the first big freeze had turned it into a perfect circle of ice. There were natural treasures in it, like pine cones and leaves, things that the little animals in the Big Snow might need for their winter preparations. We dumped the ice out of the pot, grabbed wooden crab mallets that I bought solely for playing outside, and we started chipping away at it.
Even if you don't live in a cold climate, your kids will love this throughout the year. Put about an inch of water in a plastic container, and then add something from nature, like flowers, rocks, or leaves. When that freezes, add a few more nature treasures and another layer of water. Continue to do this until your container is full and frozen.
In the warmer months, this is a great way to stay cool. In the winter, it's a sweet celebration of snow and ice- not to mention a way to keep a little one's attention! It also builds gross motor skills, is a good sensory activity for rough-and-tumble kids, and encourages problem solving.
You can join us in our preschool play adventures through the Idea Nest, which is free in 2020. You'll find Charlotte Mason-friendly ideas to anchor your days, including literature, play, and habit inspiration.