We love mess! In fact, we firmly believe that more mess equals more fun – and think most pre-schoolers would agree with this. My three, now aged 12, 10 and 7 still love to make a mess – and there’s no better place to make a mess than the great outdoors… With the summer holidays now in full swing, here are some great ideas for having some messy fun in the fresh air – which will hopefully lead to the little ones sleeping well at the end of it all.
Gourmet Mud Pies
Let your little ones cook up a messy storm using nothing more complicated than a patch of dirt, some bottles of water, a spoon or two and a bowl or saucepan. They’ll love filling their pans and making lots of gooey delights and they’ll probably be lots of giggling about how revolting their creations look! They are likely to get very messy too – so best to wear old clothes for this one – and plan an early bath…
Silly Scavenger Hunt
Give your child a clipboard (or just a piece of paper) with some pictures of different easy to find natural objects and set out on a real life treasure hunt. Give them a plastic bag for collecting their treasures and set off exploring your local wood, park or garden to find them all. When my children were little, this made walks so much more fun for them and we’d spend far longer outside walking with no moaning than if we just went out for a walk. Having a project like this can really help when the weather isn’t great but you just need to get the little ones outside. Depending on the type of treasures you collect, you could turn thm into a cool collage when you get home.
Marvellous Mud Painting
Mud painting is another very easy (and cheap!) activity to organise. Simply grab a few bowls, some bottles of water, and some paintbrushes and head outside. Whenever you find some dirt or mud, mix it up with some water to create paint. Look for different colour soils to make different colour paints – red, brown, green, chalky… You can either paint outside too – if you’ve got some card or paper with you or take your muds back home to paint there (or in the garden for less mess)
Bug Board Hotel
I love this idea – again, it’s really easy and reminds me of my son who was obsessed with bug hunting for a couple of years when he was little.
Grab a sheet of MDF or plywood, around half a meter square, and lay it in a corner of your garden on the grass or in a flower bed – a shadier spot will often be better for bugs. Leave it for a day or two, then check to see how has moved in. Your child will adore discovering beetles, worms, slugs, woodlice, snails… Just make sure they don’t bring them back inside with them! Put the board back after each inspection and keep checking back for new visitors.
Wonderful Wildlife Patch
Create a wildlife friendly patch in your garden by leaving a small patch to run wild. Grab some British wildflower seeds from your local garden centre and get your little ones to help you fling them all over the plot. Water them and watch them grow. Once your wildflowers start to grow, they should attract all manner of bugs and butterflies, perfect for getting closer to nature.
Make a Den
Go to your local woods, collect some sticks and branches to rest against a tree trunk to create a mini den. The den could be big enough for them to fit in or little enough for a fairy… You may need to help with the larger branches if the den’s going to be big enough for them but they can then be tasked with finding things to fill the den.
Friendly rock creatures
Help your child create some rock buddies by collecting different shapes and sizes of rocks on nice muddy nature walk. Bring them home, wash the rocks (a great messy activity – an outdoor tap is useful for this!) When they are dry you can either paint, colour or glue things (feathers, eyes, glitter) onto your stones to create rock creatures.
The benefits of outdoor play are well documented and researched, so it’s great to get outside as often as possible. True, the British weather doesn’t always play ball, but it doesn’t have to stop the fun. There are times when the weather can make little ones (and mums!) stir crazy inside – particularly during school holidays so grab some waterproofs and a good pair of wellies and enjoy the mud, puddles and splashtastic fun!