Dreaming of Summer

16 Feb

Stir-Crazy Mess

We’ve had a few days of mild, spring-like weather, and even though it’s rainy again today I’ve started thinking about summer. I know I’m not the only one thinking warmer weather and playing outside: my twitter stream and blog feed are full of longing for winter to be over. Isobel asks every day if we can go outside and play bubbles.

In anticipation of spending hours and hours outside I’ve been thinking of a list of things we will need to get through the summer. Toys, specifically. I want to build a simple, inexpensive set of toys for the backyard. My goal is to find as many of these at thrift stores, yard sales, and dollar stores as possible.

Bowling set –  when we were growing up there was a disgusting drink called a SQUEEZE-IT.  Man, it tasted foul but it came in a cheap plastic soda-like bottle that made excellent bowling pins when stacked at the end of our long sidewalk. Our cats, ever curious, used to get in the way, and my Dad repurposed the game as “Bowling for Cats.”

Fishing poles – my sister and I each had a child’s fishing pole that we used for actual fishing a handful of times and ‘cat fishing’ the rest of the time. My dad would put weights and a large plastic tie at the end of our Snoopy fishing pole lines. We’d stand in the bed of his pickup and cast our lines across the lawn and every cat in the vicinity would chase the plastic tie as we reeled them in. Sometimes we wore our Snoopy life vests for extra realism.
Magnifying glass – for examining plants and bugs. I’m also thinking about finding some small binoculars or a spy glass for trips to the park.

Frisbee – my neighbors had an ingenious use for their Frisbee: when not in use as originally intended, they turned it over and filled it with bubbles. Wide, shallow, and perfect for bubble wands, it was not easy to spill and more than one kid could use it at once.

Water toys – Repurposed toys for a water table, bucket of water, or wading pool.

Obstacle course items – I’m having a hard time coming up with items for an obstacle course. Hula hoops? Jump ropes? Tunnels? Help me out on this one, internet.

Large paintbrushes – I heard about this idea somewhere a long time ago: get a bucket of water and a large paintbrush and your kid can ‘paint’ designs with water on the side of a house or a fence.

Kite – Anyone seen some cute ones online? If Isobel really enjoys kites, I’d spring for a nice one.

Balls – various sizes and kinds

Badminton set – Isobel’s too young still, but I’d use it.

Sand toys – buckets, shovels, and sand molds

Croquet set – I found one at a yard sale when Isobel was a newborn. Now all we need is a lawn to use it on.

Wading pool – we have one from last year, but I’m not sure if it will still inflate. And what about Slip ‘n Slides? Do they still make those?

Chalk – any creative uses for chalk out there? Or fun things for kids to draw?

I’d love to hear any ideas you have on toys for the backyard. What outdoor toys do you consider essential? What am I missing?

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19 Responses to “Dreaming of Summer”

  1. Amanda February 16, 2011 at 11:28 am #

    I didn’t have any awesome toys – I had to sponge off the neighbor kids who had big wheels & slip n’ slides. I think those water tables pop up at good consignment sales and garage sales pretty regularly. I stupidly passed up one a friend offered last year because I didn’t want to store it.
    Can I also say I love this? Because I am having that too-many-toys but not-enough of the right toys syndrome right now and a friend just posted a guilt-laden article about how kids really don’t need any more toys than a shoe box and a wooden spoon and I felt bad last night for spoiling my child because the article said I must not be interacting with my kid because I give her so many toys. But, seriously? I am bored with her toys, even if she is not yet. Plus, you have good memories of playing with some of these toys, so. So there.

    • LittleBig February 16, 2011 at 2:58 pm #

      First of all, I’m not a fan of holier-than-thou posts, which, unfortunately, this sounds like it might have been. Secondly, BULLSHIT. You are not supposed to be spending every second playing with your kid. A healthy dose of independent play is necessary, and toys that interest your child facilitate that.

      Whenever I feel we have too many toys I purge the ones I believe she has outgrown, and then I hide the majority of the rest of her toys. I try to rotate them so they aren’t all out at once and the interest-level is preserved.

      If you claim all a child needs is a box and a spoon, I’d love to see the inside of your toyless house. Because I don’t think it exists.

  2. Amanda February 16, 2011 at 11:30 am #

    Also – do you have a clothesline that would work for making a tent? I bet Isobel is at prime fort-making age where she would love to play in a little tent.

    • LittleBig February 16, 2011 at 2:59 pm #

      And HIGH-FIVE for the clothesline suggestion!

  3. lauracope February 16, 2011 at 11:39 am #

    know what sucks? reading this at my desk under the florescent lights, where i’m sentenced to spend the next eight hours. I WANT TO GO PLAY OUTSIDE.

    • LittleBig February 16, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

      Laura, I’m super bummed I didn’t get any pictures from Sunday! I totally forgot all about pictures. Epic Mom-brain moment.

      • laura February 19, 2011 at 8:30 pm #

        you’ll have plenty of other opportunities, i reckon! 🙂 it was soooo nice finally meeting. i need more awesome girlfriends like you. heart heart.

      • LittleBig February 21, 2011 at 2:16 pm #

        I really hope we can meet up again soon, Laura!

  4. Windsor Grace February 16, 2011 at 11:56 am #

    This is totally unrelated to your post and I almost emailed you, but thought you might get a kick out of a comment instead. Anyways, I recommended a friend read your blog because he’s trying to write funnier and not be offensive…so don’t let me down. 😉

    • LittleBig February 16, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

      The pressure’s on! Now I have to be funny without saying SHITBALLS! Oh, SHITBALLS! I did it again!

  5. dingey February 16, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

    The clothesline tent is a capital idea, commenter. Also, if you can find a cheap little pup tent, that is the BOMB for a little kid with a backyard. I’m glad to know that somebody else used to “fish” in the backyard, too. The sad part is, my bro and i didn’t even have cats to entertain with our lines…we just were pretending to fish.

    • LittleBig February 16, 2011 at 2:53 pm #

      Totally on the lookout for a tent, great idea.

      And don’t feel bad about the lack of cats. Sitting there doing nothing is 99% of actual fishing anyway, so you guys were way more accurate.

  6. Tristina February 16, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    I remember Squeeze-It. It was awful but addicting…oddly.

    How about a Kite? Would she be interested in that?

    My brother and my stepdad built a fort on our parents’ property way back when. He was ALWAYS in it.

    Cardboard moving boxes are also good. We would make mazes and draw on the insides with crayon and marker.

    • LittleBig February 16, 2011 at 2:53 pm #

      Kite’s already on the list! Know of any places that have adorable kites for sale?

      DUDE, growing up a cardboard box was my favorite thing EVAR! Adding that.

  7. Erica February 16, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

    I just let Joaquin do bubbles in the bath this week. He was dying for them. Summer! Come on!!

  8. dingey February 18, 2011 at 2:18 pm #

    Yeah! Boxes! Go to an appliance store and just ask. The neighborhood appliance store was always down for handing off giant boxes to us kids. “Come back Wednesday, we’ll be unpacking a couple of refrigerators….” Some neighbors had a wraparound porch and about 12 kids, and they built the most insane interconnected porch fort out of old boxes one year. I only got to go in once because I was a baby and a stupid girl. God, older brothers are awesome.

    • LittleBig February 18, 2011 at 10:00 pm #

      I never thought about hooking them together. I’m in awe of this idea.

  9. purplequark February 19, 2011 at 10:37 pm #

    Ah, remind me to tell you with what toys I grew up…actually most required much imagination.

    But there’s much you can do for an obstacle course!

    And large boxes are definitely a great start…you can link them for mazes, cut them up for puppet theater, make cars, rocket ships, forts, pirate ships, the works!

    As she grows up she can also make her own toys like kites, and rubber band cars, and little windmills, and…I should look for that book I have from the 70’s on toys kids can make. I used to make my own kites as a kid, lots of fun.

    I also wasn’t sure if you had read this story some time ago about kids building their own playground with blocks: http://imaginationplayground.org/

    • LittleBig February 21, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

      I would love to hear about the games you played as a child. I bet they were epic.

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