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Outdoor Activities

Low Cost Outdoor Activities – in the Garden

When we asked, a couple of weeks ago, for ideas for our blog, we were gratified to have so many responses.  (Keep ’em coming!)

This week, we get a little lighter with suggestions for low cost activities for your kids, with the empasis on active.  This topic got a LOT bigger than I thought it would, so it will be multi-part.  Tune in next week for another installation!

Kids’ First Garden

One of the best out door activities for kids involves digging in the dirt.  (You can pull out your Sprig 4 in 1 SandTruck for this one!) If you have a garden plot, give a square foot or two to your kids to plant.  Let them choose what to put in their section and give them the responsibility for tending it.  Not only does this get them outdoors and active, but your child will also be more likely to EAT what they grow, which is great for those who typically steer away from veggies.  Some easy suggestions for right now: Grean beans, heat tolerant lettuces or spinach, and fresh herbs.  There are some great edible flowers worth a try too: Lemon Gem Marigolds, Johnny Jump-ups and Nasturtiums are just two worth trying if you have flower lovers in your house. Check with your nursery staff to make sure your flower variety is edible before tasting.

If you don’t have a garden spot, not to worry: you can try a bucket garden (a 12 inch pot will suffice for your little one) or looking into community garden spaces for you and your child.  Community Garden pots can run from free to a moderate ‘rental’ stipend for the growing season.  Sprig Toys has a great option too: The Garden Keepers set: two pots, wildflower seeds and a little bug friend to help your child tend their flowers.

Recent studies are now showing that the health benefits of digging in the dirt extend beyond just exercise and learning, digging in the dirt is also great for building young immune systems. 

Cost: as little as 50 cents for seed packets, if you purchase on sale.  In season, $1.99 and up.

Insect Collector

While out in the garden, have your child look out for beneficial insects like butterflies, ladybugs and lacewings.  You don’t have to have anything more than a jam jar and tweezers to collect (and release) bugs and insect exploration allows you to engage your child in some informal, fun science learning.  Think about reading an Eric Carle classic after you come in from the garden like The Grumpy Ladybug or The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Cost: free (assuming you have a jar!)

Bean Pole Teepee

If you have as little as a 3 foot square space in a corner of your garden, you can create a summer oasis for your child.  A bean pole teepee is a great hide and seek location, serves as a base for great outdoor imaginative play (think Cowboys & Indians, Fairy Cottages and more), and can provide a shady spot for summer reading.  All you need is about 12 – 18 bamboo poles (6ft lengths), available at most garden and hardware stores.  Place them in a ring, a minimum of 3 feet in diameter at the base depending upon your space, and secure at the top with twine.  Make sure to leave a gap for your front entrance! 

Plant scarlet runner beans around the base of each pole (2 – 3 plants per pole) or, if you want to your child to be able nibble from your teepee, try a pole bean variety like Blue Lake 274 or Kentucky Wonder.  As the beans grow, your teepee will become a shelter from the sun in summer.  You can let your child pack down the dirt inside with use or cover with recycled newspapers and/or  straw (we are assuming your newspaper uses soy or water based inks!).

Cost: Approximately $8.  6 packs of 6ft bamboo stakes sell for as little as $2.00 a package plus the cost of a packet of bean seeds (Approximately $2 in season, less out of season).

Sunflower Maze

A large packet of sunflower seeds and you are ready to go.  You will, however, need some space for this one… at least a 12 ft x 10 ft garden section, if not more.  Before you start, layout paths with your child.  This is a fun project for them that also builds spatial reasoning skills.  Once you have your path laid out, plant your sunflowers around the paths, to form your maze.  As the sunflowers grow, your maze forms and in late summer and fall, you will have a playground ready for hours of hide and seek fun.  You can even plan in dead ends that can also act as secret reading or picnic spots.  Choose a sunflower variety like Russian Mammoth, and you will have a perfect sunflower seed variety that you and the birds will love.  Planting flowers that attract the birds will give you lots of birdwatching opportunities later in the year… and a chance to sneak in some science learning for your children.

Cost: 100 seeds sell for as little as $1.40 a packet. 

Have a topic you would love to have us talk about?  Let me know by commenting below or tweet me: @kimatsprig.



One thought on “Low Cost Outdoor Activities – in the Garden

  1. Oh wow! This is an incredible post. So many great ideas and tips. This is more than I even hoped for and there is even more to come. How fun!

    This coming week, we are going to do the bean pole Teepee idea.
    That idea is just genius. Thanks so much for posting. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

    Posted by Cheryl W. | May 26, 2010, 6:14 am

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