Spring is hard in daycares. You’ve been stuck inside more often than not all winter, due to extreme cold, icy winds and freezing rain. You’re going stir-crazy and your kiddos are too! Finally, the temperature starts to rise and everything starts to thaw. Everyone is so excited to be out…until the first fall into a mud puddle, which occurs approximately 3 seconds after the kids are let loose. You forgot…spring means mud. And dirt. And puddles. And MESS!
Despite frying your last sane nerve, it would be easier to remain indoors until the weather dries up. Being outside, however, is so beneficial for children (and for adults, too!). There is so much to see, explore, touch, and learn outdoors. Climbing, jumping, and other forms of outdoor play encourage risk-taking and improve kids’ balance, coordination, and sense of confidence. The list of benefits of being outside goes on and on. So how to enjoy the outdoors without having multiple toddlers completely destroy your house every time they go in and out?
Tip 1: Dress for the Weather
Invest in proper outdoor weather gear. Tall rubber boots (without cracks along the soles!) are essential for surviving puddles and muddy playgrounds, and one-piece splash suits are more than worth the initial cost. Buy a set in multiple sizes, all in one colour so your kiddos are easy to spot, and you won’t have to worry about parents remembering to send splash pants. Multiple pairs of spare mittens for cold mornings are also a good idea.
Designate certain toys as “outdoor toys,” and be ok with them getting dirty or possibly broken. Pick durable, hard-wearing toys that are designed for fun outside and easy to clean; they are even a selection of play-learning toys specifically made for your mud kitchen. Instead of play food that could get destroyed or cracked, use the new Fruit or Vegetable Sensory Play Stones that can hold up to the elements.
You can also use materials found outside like sticks, branches, rocks, bark, pinecones and more in non-conventional ways; enlist the children’s help in a scavenger hunt and have them help decide how to use the items they find!
Tip 3: Get the Kids Involved with Cleanup
Allow the children to help you clean toys and themselves before heading indoors. Provide a tub of warm soapy water and encourage them to wash the cars, animals, or any other toys that have made their way outside. If you can, keep a boot tray right outside or inside your door for muddy boots to dry. Teach your kiddos to hang their mittens and scarves to dry (simple clothespins on a string work well), and keep a mop handy near your entrance.
Getting outside in the spring does take extra effort and planning, but in the end, it will be well worth it, for you and your kiddos. Happy puddle jumping!
Written by Erin Rifkin, owner of a Reggio/Montessori daycare in Ontario