Inexpensive Outdoor Fun

By Elizabeth Edwards

Here in Michigan, it’s finally warm and sunny enough to spend afternoons outside, which means it’s time for me to drag the outdoor toys out of the garage onto the patio. Over the last thirteen years of being a mom, I’ve learned that when it comes to outdoor toys, the rules are simple – keep the toys simple, washable and inexpensive.

For impromptu excursions to the park or the beach, I like to have a plastic tote in the trunk of my van with plastic shovels and sand pails as well as a Frisbee and a soccer ball.   I check dollar stores first for all of these items, and then I check discount stores like Target or Wal-Mart as well as the seasonal section of our local grocery superstore.

I’m a big fan of plastic sandboxes which are widely available this time of year. My boys had a green one shaped like a turtle that they played in for years. I recommend buying one that comes with a cover so that stray cats won’t mistake it for a litter box!   Bags of sand meant for play are sold at home improvement stores like Home Depot.

For playing in the backyard, outdoor toys I like to keep on hand include jump ropes, hula hoops, sidewalk chalk and bubbles.  There are recipes available online for homemade bubbles, but I usually buy the large jugs.  I have a plastic dishpan that I picked up at a thrift store, and I pour the bubble solution into that and then drop in an assortment of bubble wands that I’ve saved from the jugs.  It’s messy but hands are easy to wash and kids of all ages love playing with bubbles!

Finally, it’s a good idea to have a storage container big enough to hold your outdoor toys. I like large plastic-lidded storage bins, which are cheaper during back-to-school sales. You can also use laundry baskets or even kitchen-sized wastebaskets, whatever you can find. The benefit of these is that they are easy to clean and built-in handles make them easy to transport from the garage to the yard and back.

I find it’s easier to get kids interested in playing outside when you provide them with toys that are just for outdoor play. Pick them up here and there as you see good prices, get a storage container to hold them all, and then get outside and have fun!

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