Tag Archives: outdoor activities for toddlers

Floating Flowers… Fun for Pools, Baths, & Sensory Bins

Floating Flowers for Water PlayWhen we went to pick up a pool noodle for Gracen’s marble run water slide, she originally fell in love with a flower-shaped noodle.  While I knew it wouldn’t be the best fit for our marble run, at $1.25, I knew we would eventually figure out a way to put it to good use.  

IMG 0351It was my first time seeing this sort of pool noodle, and all I knew was that I wanted to slice it up to create tons of little individual flower shapes.  

IMG 0349So that’s just what I did.  Just like when slicing a pool noodle in half vertically, I found that using a sharp, serrated knife and a sawing motion worked best.  I sliced ours about an inch thick, but you could do them any thickness you like – even varying thicknesses would be fun!

IMG 0353As I chopped, Miss G ran the ready flowers over to her blow up pool and tossed them in!  

IMG 0375It’s such a simple thing, but they looked so pretty and inviting dancing around on the water’s surface.  (I’m already picturing them in bath tubs and sensory bins too!)

IMG 0367I think Miss G agreed, because she immediately jumped in {despite the freezing cold water} and started splashing around like mad!

IMG 0361When the splashing had subsided a little bit, Grandma Charlotte showed Grae how the flowers could be used as building blocks.  

IMG 0458It’s definitely easier in still-ish water, but it’s equally fun when in or out of the pool.  Towers can be built…

IMG 0460Pyramids can be built…

IMG 0466And ‘trains’ can be built too!  Of course, the possibilities are really endless when it comes to building structures – even when they’re floating ones. 

IMG 0358Now the only question is how I’m going to convince Brad that heaps of pool noodle flowers are a Kuwait necessity…  I mean with the heat and the amount of time we spend in and around water there, they are, aren’t they? ☺ 

Building Structures With Floating Flowers | Mama Papa Bubba

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Frozen SCENTED Sidewalk Chalk Popsicles

Vibrant Scented Frozen Sidewalk Chalk Pops | Mama Papa BubbaWhen I saw this post from Reading Confetti, I immediately fell in love.  We’ve made our own sidewalk chalk paint for a long while now and I’d seen many frozen versions, but never had I seen them made in popsicle moulds before!  After sharing the idea on our Facebook page and pinning it on several Pinterest boards, I made a mental note to pick up some more cornstarch the next time I was out so we could get the project under way.

IMG 0263Well luckily for me, not only did I remember to pick up cornstarch during our next grocery shop, but I also ran into these Duncan Hines Frosting Creations packets for the first time ever.  Immediately, I knew our frozen chalk pops would be scented.  A few days later, Miss G and I gathered up our materials and got to work.

Using our tried and true sidewalk chalk paint method, we mixed 2 cups of warm water with 1 cup of cornstarch in our blender for a minute or so. Then we collected our popsicle moulds, our Frosting Creation packets, some gel food colouring (liquid will work too, but the colours won’t be nearly as intense), and several popsicle sticks.

IMG 0265Next up, I used the popsicle sticks to scoop a small amount of gel food colouring into each popsicle mould, and Miss G selected a Frostings Creation packet to coordinate with each colour before we added a small amount (maybe 1/8th of the packet) to each slot. (If you’re making this at home and can’t find the frosting flavour packets, you could always use unsweetened Kool-Aid or Jell-O powder instead.)

IMG 0267With our food colouring and powdered scent ready, we filled each popsicle mould about 2/3rds full of our cornstarch/water combo and Gracen stirred them well.

IMG 0268Then we topped them up with a little bit more cornstarch/water and Grae gently stirred them a little more.

IMG 0270At that point, all that was left to do was put our plastic handles in and freeze the chalk pops overnight.

IMG 0315The next day, they looked like this.  The colours were vibrant, the texture was smooth and creamy, and they smelled absolutely delicious.

Vibrant Scented Frozen Sidewalk Chalk Pop Scents | Mama Papa BubbaThe blue one smelled like cotton candy, the green one was mint chocolate, the red was strawberry shortcake, and the orange was orange creme…  YUM.  The only potentially bad news is that because they do look so real and smell so wonderfully, some munchkins may be tempted to try eating them (yuck!)  That being said, because they’re made strictly of kitchen ingredients, they are technically safe to consume. So though they may taste chalky and gross, they certainly wouldn’t harm a curious little monkey who snuck a lick.

IMG 0328With our fun new chalk pops in hand, we headed into the backyard to test them out.  The verdict?  They’re really awesome!

IMG 0329When they’re melting and drippy, they go on much like their liquid counterpart does, only via a wand of sorts instead of a paintbrush.  When they’re not melting, they go on much like regular sidewalk chalk does – dry and colourful with a little bit of pressure.  When dry, the colours are super vibrant and to me, they look very much like they’ve been made with regular sidewalk chalk. 

IMG 0344By the time our chalk pops had melted, our cement pad was fully covered in bright swirls, drawings, drips, and letters.  And the great news is that it all washed away really easily without any fuss – much easier than our sidewalk chalk paint normally does for some reason.

I can’t wait to pull this activity out again in Kuwait where the temperatures soar and our courtyard is made completely of cement.

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Marble Run Water Slide

Marble Run Water Slide | Mama Papa BubbaIMG 9866When I found this huge jar of marbles sitting in the closet of Brad’s childhood bedroom, I knew they had to be used for something fun.  I immediately thought of these two posts and knew that Miss G would love exploring a marble run.

IMG 9951While Grandma Charlotte’s pool noodles didn’t have holes down the centres and every shop in the village she lives in appeared to be anxiously waiting the same pool noodle shipment, my hometown not far away had pool noodles aplenty!  In fact, one of the local dollar stores had huge bins full for $1.25 a piece!  With a pool noodle in hand, I began building our marble run during G’s nap.  The first step was saw the noodle in half vertically with a serrated knife.  Slow and steady was the key to this one.

IMG 9952It was a bit tricky to cut perfectly down the centre of the noodle the entire time, but it really doesn’t have to be perfect.

Building a Marble Run Water SlideNext up, I inserted several toothpicks along the side of one of the noodle halves, then carefully connected the other half.

IMG 9970IMG 9955With the main structure built and plenty of nap time to spare, I decided to focus on the details.  While I’m sure the usual race track theme would have gone over wonderfully, I decided to switch things up a little and gear the activity to one of Gracen’s recent interests… water slides!  Using some bamboo skewers I shortened a little, I threw together a ‘WATER SLIDE’ sign and a few buntings and stuck them onto the slide structure.  Then I propped the top of the slide up on a couple of vintage apple crates and put a small bin filled with sparkly blue water at the bottom.  Gracen was delighted to wake up from her nap and see it!

IMG 9957IMG 9960The activity really needed no explanation.  She recruited Grandma Charlotte, they each selected a marble, and on ‘ready, set, go!’ they released them.

IMG 9962It was a close one!

IMG 9986I kind of wondered if she’d always want someone playing with her during this activity, but that wasn’t the case.  She just as happily played on her own.

IMG 9968And after doing several races, things got a little creative…  She tried putting multiple marbles in a track before releasing them, raced small marbles against large marbles, and tried sending Nerfuls down too.

IMG 9991Our little pool noodle water slide has already brought a ton of fun and I can’t wait for us experiment with it some more in the coming weeks… I’m thinking ping pong balls would be neat because they’d float in the pool at the bottom and maybe we’ll try racing water itself?

♥ 

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Super Simple 5 Minute Backyard Teepee

First off, I have to say that my Baba is hands down one of the most amazing, wonderful women I know.  She’s one of those ladies who can truly do anything…  From sewing to cooking to running a farm, fixing things, painting, gardening, building things, and entertaining – she excels at all.  Oh, and at 70 something years old, having never used a computer or the internet, she bought herself an iPad and taught herself how to use it too.  Amazing, right? (Hi Baba!  Love you!)  ☺

Growing up, my little brother and I would spend a week or two at my Baba’s house each summer.  Our days out at the farm were wonderful.  We spent nearly all of our time outdoors…  We herded cattle, carried huge buckets of grain out each morning, and watched calves being born.  We roamed through massive gardens with freedom to pick and eat as much as we pleased.  We devoured fresh peas off the vine, ate up buckets of raspberries, and wandered around with long stalks of rhubarb with little glass bowls of dipping sugar.  Baba taught us how to use the ride-on mower, make pedaheh from scratch, and draw with artists’ pencils and shading sticks – all of the things childhoods should be made of.  

But above all other adventures and activities that took place on that farm, the one that stands out most in my mind – the one that was most anticipated each year – was building a backyard teepee.  Baba would take us out into the forest, small saw in hand, and we’d cut down the trees that would form the structure of our new home.  We’d drag them back, position them and tie them up, then drape them in sheets until our teepee was fully enclosed.  Perhaps the very best part was furnishing it afterwards.  We’d carefully separate the space in half, position our mattresses and end tables (Baba doesn’t mess around), then stock it up with blankets, flashlights, snacks, books, and activities.  I can’t even describe how cool it all seemed as a child.

Super Simple 5 Minute Backyard Teepee | Mama Papa BubbaRecently, I introduced the magic of backyard teepees to Miss G.  Nothing that could rival one of the ones my Baba used to make, but a teepee none the less.  Our first one was a completely impromptu build, but it was so quick and easy that we’ve made them the same way each time since.  Here’s how we put together our super simple backyard teepee in no longer than five minutes…

Super Simple 5 Minute Teepee Materials | Mama Papa BubbaFirst up, the materials…  We use 6 6-foot tall bamboo stakes (purchased at any store that has a decent gardening section), a king-sized sheet, some jute, and 10 – 12 clothespins. 

IMG 8594To start out, I push the stakes into the ground just an inch or two to form a circle with an open front.  (As you can see, G likes to stand in the middle and have me build around her. ☺)

IMG 8604Next, I gather up the top of the stakes in one hand (there really isn’t a right way to do this – I just grab them and how they come together is how they come together) and use the other hand to wrap the jute around.  One thing I try to do while wrapping the jute is to weave it in and out of the stakes  – this gives it some better holding power.  When the jute seems secure, I tie it off in a bow so it’s easy to undo later.

IMG 8605IMG 8607With the structure built, it’s time to enclose it with the sheet.  To do this, I simply drape the sheet around the stakes horizontally with the ends being at the front opening.  To hold it in place temporarily, I bring the two sides of the sheet together at the top and secure it using a clothespin and add another two at the base of the two front stakes. 

TeepeeIMG 8611Next up, it’s time fix the positioning a little, smooth everything out, tuck in the extra fabric, and secure it all. I like to start at the front, making sure that both of the front stakes are fully covered and each side has a flap of extra fabric that can be used to close up the teepee completely if desired.  To do this, I just tug and adjust until it’s the way I want it.  With the sheet positioned properly, I move to the top and add several clothes pins to secure the sheet to the stakes.  I usually use four, but you could put one on each of the 6 stakes if you wanted to.  Then I go to the bottom and add a pin to each of the stakes, tucking under the extra fabric along the way if needed.

And that’s it – the basic teepee is complete.  Super simple, right?

IMG 8617To make ours extra cozy, we always add a blanket in the bottom and a few throw cushions along the sides.

IMG 8623IMG 8628One of Gracen’s favourite parts is selecting an activity to bring into her teepee with her.  Most often, it’s a stack of books to read, but today it was a stack of puzzles instead.

IMG 8634When we’re done playing for the day, we normally take down the sheet and bring everything inside, but leave the bamboo stake structure up, which makes for an even faster set up the next time and the time after that and the time after that…

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Rainy Day Splatter Painting

Rainy Day Splatter Painting | Mama Papa BubbaWhile living in a city that gets as much rain as Vancouver does can be a little deflating some days, I know that we’ll miss it dearly once we’re back in the sandy desert.  So instead of letting the past week of rain keep us indoors today, we decided to get out and enjoy it.  After a morning walk and a long play at the park before lunch, we decided to head back outside this afternoon.  We brought along with us a baking sheet, some liquid food colouring (the neon kind), and some white construction paper to do an easy and fun art activity… Rain splatter painting!

IMG 8367To get started, Gracen laid a piece of construction paper down on the baking sheet and fully enjoyed dropping splots of food colouring all over it.

IMG 8370Once she had the food colouring exactly how she wanted it, we simply let the rain do its job.  At this point, it was raining quite hard, so the splatter effect happened quickly.  Grae loved watching the colours pop up off the page and land back down on the page in little dots.  At some point during the process, she’d say “This one is done!” and we’d pop it inside the house to dry and grab another sheet of paper to splatter.

IMG 8376The end result is beautiful, splotchy, watercolour-esque paintings, just like this one.  Fun, right?

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Simple Outdoor Fun: Painting Sidewalk Chalk Shapes With Water

Painting Sidewalk Chalk Shapes With Water | Mama Papa BubbaWhile we’ve done plenty of regular mess-free painting on our sidewalks and fence, today Gracen asked if I’d draw her something to paint.  While maybe not as open-ended as I’d usually aim for, I do find that sometimes she prefers having a jumping off point, so I drew an assortment of shapes on the ground using sidewalk chalk.  The activity was actually perfect for her new found interest of colouring in the lines, and when the water dried, it left our cement pad covered in beautiful, watercolour-esque shapes.  So simple, but she enjoyed so much that she’s already asked to do it again.

♥ 

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Exploring with Magic Potions

Exploring Magic Potions | Mama Papa BubbaThis afternoon the sun was out and I decided to set up something really fun for Grae to explore and experiment with in the backyard.

IMG 9234The set up was pretty simple…  Several differently shaped jars and medicine bottles filled with coloured vinegar (we used gel food colouring), a couple of small jars of baking soda, a couple of spoons, and a few empty mixing containers all on a tray.  Oh, and some safety goggles.  Because in Gracen’s world, science equals goggles. ☺

IMG 9246After helping her with her goggles, Grae set off to work.

IMG 9236As I usually do with this kind of activity, I didn’t give her any instructions.  I simply said, “Do you want to play?”

IMG 9237The answer was an excited ‘yes’, and after a few questions about whether or not she could dump/mix/pour things (of course the answer to all was yes), she got started.

IMG 9249While she’s seen the reaction baking soda and vinegar have while moon painting, this was on a much bigger scale.

IMG 9258And she loved it.  Mixing a little bit of this with a little bit of that in order to cause colour changes and fizzy foam eruptions was right up her alley.

IMG 9252My little scientist made reaction after reaction, delighting each time she caused foam to spew out of the top of her jar.

IMG 9259One thing that was interesting is how the colour of the vinegar seemed to change with the addition of baking soda.  In the case of the orange and the pink, the colours seemed to explode with brightness as the reactions occurred.

IMG 9270With almost all of her baking soda resources used up and her largest  jar of vinegar left, we fetched just a little more baking soda from in the house.

IMG 9274It started off slowly, but the reaction did not disappoint.  After scrounging leftover baking soda from wherever she could, she managed to create enough fizzing foam to have it flow generously out of the top of the jar.  Success!

After she’d depleted her resources, what was left was a beautiful rainbow-y mess.  For a little bit of added fun, we filled up a bin with warm soap water, grabbed a cloth, a scrubber brush, and a couple of towels, and had a little dishwashing station right there in the backyard.

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iPhoneography // An Impromtu Teepee

Backyard TeepeeGrowing up, my brother and I used to stay at my Baba’s (grandmother’s) house for a week or two or three each summer.  Being the phenomenal lady she is, she’d bring us into the forest, chop down what seemed like huge trees, and have us help her haul them out to create outdoor teepees worthy of side tables and mattresses. Our summer teepees are one of my very favourite childhood memories now as an adult, and definitely something that I’d like Gracen to experience.  While not nearly as grand, today we threw together a very quick little teepee after stumbling across some bamboo sticks.  Gracen was in awe of our new structure and immediately went in the house to retrieve her pillow and a couple of blankets.  It’s amazing how special a sheet and some sticks can be when put together isn’t it?  There’s no doubt that there will be many more of these in the weeks ahead (tutorial to come, for those who asked) and I can’t wait.

♥ 

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{Muffin Tin} Spring Nature Hunt

Spring Nature Hunt Using a Muffin Tin | Mama Papa BubbaIn honour of Earth Day, Miss G and I took to the streets of our neighbourhood for a little spring-themed natured hunt today.  It was the perfect way to spend our afternoon…soaking in some sunshine, taking in the fresh air, and observing the nature around us a little more closely than we usually do.  

IMG 8423Beforehand, while Grae was napping, I gathered up a few things…  A muffin tin to serve as a collection receptacle, a print out of nature item tags sized to fit in the bottoms of muffin cups, some scissors, and some tape.

Screen Shot 2013 04 20 at 8 53 38 PMIn order to create my tags (which were printed on paper from our recycling bin…hence the holes), I simply created 12 circles sized to fit in our muffin tin (4.5 centimetres in diameter for ours), found some clipart via Google Images, and added some text.  

Muffin Tin Nature Hunt | Mama Papa BubbaThen I printed them off, cut them out, and stuck them into the bottoms of the muffin tin cups with small pieces of rolled tape.

Seed SearchingWhen Gracen woke up, she was eager to get outside and get searching.  We quickly went over the items we’d be on the lookout for and headed out.  First stop? The backyard to see if there were seeds underneath our plum tree.  Sure enough, there were!

IMG 8445Dandelions and grass were easily collected in our yard, and then it was off down the street to one of the few trees that still has blossoms on it.

IMG 8447After each new find, Grae would take inventory, decide on a couple of new things to focus on, and head in a particular direction.

IMG 8455This time she decided we’d better head back to the backyard to collect some flower buds, moss, and soil from the garden – success!

IMG 8464One of our last stops was to collect a few clovers from a little patch growing through some brickwork in the front of the house.

IMG 8466At this point, we had done pretty well, but as hard as we’d looked, we hadn’t yet found a mushroom or a feather.

IMG 8482We decided we’d take a little break in order to some sidewalk chalk art, and Gracen would ask Papa to take her out again once he returned from work for the evening.  Low and behold, they returned with the entire tray full!

IMG 8486Gracen really enjoyed this activity and we’ll definitely be using the muffin tin method in games and hunts in the future.  It gave a clear visual of what was needed and what had been found, our items stayed in place and were organized, and Grae really liked everything having its own spot and filling up the entire tray. 

♥ 

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Sidewalk Chalk Painting

After teaching both yesterday and the day before, it was so good to spend the day with my girl today. (Two work days in a row was new for us… I missed her.)  We spent the morning at the aquarium visiting sea creatures, and decided to try something new this afternoon.

Sidewalk chalk is a usual thing around here, and we’ve done mess-free sidewalk painting a few times recently, but we hadn’t yet tried sidewalk chalk painting.  It was about time.

There are TONS of sidewalk chalk paint recipes floating around the internet, but we just went for it and mixed up our own version. I wanted more of a watercolour consistency rather than a paste in order to allow Miss G to make longer brushstrokes before having to reload her brush, so we used a lot more water than cornstarch.  And since I’ve read that the paint dries a lot lighter than it looks when wet, we amped it up by using generous amounts of gel colouring {hence them looking so dark in the photos}.

(FYI – The cool paint swirls are courtesy of my little lady.  Who knew a good swift bump of the paint tray right as the photo is being snapped equals awesome swirls?)

IMG 3446Gracen didn’t hesitate to get started.  The second I gave her the okay, she got busy dunking her paintbrush and creating her sidewalk masterpiece.

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She honestly LOVED it.  She was so focused and content that she did not put down her paintbrush once the entire time until the paint was gone.  And when it was?  There was a prompt, “More, Mama! More!” directed my way.  Sadly, I’d used all of our cornstarch and couldn’t whip up another batch, but I’m pretty certain that this will become a regular activity this summer.

The end result was a sidewalk {and toddler} covered in beautifully vibrant colours, a very happy little lady, and much needed bath.

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Sidewalk Chalk Paint

  • 1 cup of cornstarch
  • 2 cups (or less, depending on desired consistency) of water
  • Several small globs of gel icing colouring

Using a muffin tin, put a little food colouring in each cup, varying the colour combinations and the amounts of dye. In a large measuring cup, mix together the cornstarch and water.  Carefully pour a little into each muffin cup and mix well.

Take the paint outside {preferably on a tray to prevent spills} along with paintbrushes and watch your little one(s) create a sidewalk masterpiece. Give paints a little stir every once and a while to prevent the cornstarch from sinking to the bottom.

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