Kids seem irresistibly drawn to playing with dirt and water. This shouldn’t surprise us – water and dirt are the ultimate toys. Kids had access to these natural elements LONG before manmade toys, and none of the wonderful toys that have recently been invented can surpass the natural attraction kids have toward these natural elements. Although, as a parent, I don’t always like the implication of water and dirt play (especially considering that I’m not good friends with the washer machine!), I love seeing my kids having so much fun.
So, in honor of the natural joys of water and dirt, here are a few fun ways to let your kids play with them!
HAVE FUN WITH DIRT!
1. Just give them a bunch of shovels and buckets, or even just old spoons and old cracked cups, and send them out to the back yard. They can dig, make mountains, sculpt with sand or mud, and surprise you with their own creative ideas. Recently, my kids have been spending hours of bliss making “construction zones”, with roads, piles of dirt, building “foundations”, etc.
2. Give your kids a bunch of different seeds to go outside and plant. Give a good variety so your kids learn about different colors and textures as the plants grow. This becomes a good prolonged sensory exploration for young children (2-4), and slightly older children (5-7) can use the activity to learn more about life cycle similarities and differences between plants.
3. Make dirt art. Give your kids paper (or cardboard, or let them use natural materials like leaves or wood), and let them make a drawing using dirt. They can mix varying amounts of water with the dirt to make thinner or thicker, darker or lighter “paint”. They can mix other natural materials (ground up bark, leaves, etc.) with the dirt for a more textured affect.
4. Hunt for bugs in the dirt. Your kids can learn about types of bugs that burrow in the dirt and try to find them in your backyard (worms are an easy one, but there are lots of others too!).
5. Have an architecture contest. Contestants (aka your little ones) may only use natural materials found outside for their structures. They can experiment to see what combinations of materials are strongest, etc.
6. Bring your kids to other types of natural settings (rivers, lakes, plains, hills, etc.). Let them observe the different environments and compare and contrast them. For example, what are some differences between the ground near the river and the ground in your backyard?
7. Have a nature walk or scavenger hunt. Identify certain things in advance for your kiddos to find along the way (rocks, bugs, types of leaves/bark, etc.)
8. How about “clean” dirt (if that’s possible?). Jeweled Rose has a great, and hygienic “dirt dough” recipe. Great for indoor dirt play when outside is off limits!
HAVE FUN WITH WATER!
1. Go jumping in puddles – an oldie, but goodie!
2. Make a water station. Fill various sized buckets and trays with water. Give you child different containers, funnels, cups, utensils, strainers and toys, and let them explore!
3. Go wading in a stream and try to catch minnows.
4. Combine water and mud play in your backyard. Try to create streams and experiment with different volumes of water and obstacles (dams, rocks, etc.) to see how water flow is affected.
5. Have fun with spray bottles! “Paint” leaves with spray bottles, have a water fight, or just spray away into the air to watch the mist!
6. Try out this creative “Arctic Animal Rescue” water play activity from Dirt and Boogers.
7. Make a water wall. Happy Hooligans has some great ideas about this!