Outdoor Messy Station for Free Play

Sunday, February 3, 2013

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sensory play

Most afternoons you can find my children having free play time in our yard.  The time is unstructured.  Except for 1:1 playtime with Mama, I expect them to entertain themselves with toys and natural sensory materials like mulch, gravel, and dirt they find outside.

Recently, they had several days in a row of constant bickering and complaining creating an unpleasant atmosphere for play.  I noticed our outdoor playtime wasn't working for them, and something needed to change.

I reflected on  Teacher Tom's blog post about the evolution of their outdoor classroom sharing how his playground changes according to the interests and needs of the kids.  I decided to bring a different element into our outdoor space.

outdoor play station

I created a messy play station for the children.

On top of two upturned pots, I placed a plastic bin.  Inside the bin, I arranged used coffee grounds, water, shaving cream, and various kitchen utensils and containers.

water sensory play

Since this activity is part of our unstructured play time, the children weren't required to participate, but almost the entire time all four children chose to play at the messy station.

Unstructured play doesn't mean an absence of rules, and I explained those to the children.  If any children had difficulty playing safely or fairly, I told them to take a break from the messy play station for a bit.

messy play

Even though the prior days were filled with undesirable behavior, this outdoor hour was filled with a pleasant and happy mood.  The change in our outdoor environment provided my children the opportunity to play well.

Featured Posts about Family Outdoor Playtime

Thank you to those who linked up last week with your wonderful play ideas. Now, it's your turn to share your outdoor play ideas in our Outdoor Play Blog Hop.  

This post is linked up to the Sunday Parenting Party , It's Playtime!, Link & Learn and the Weekly Kids Co-Op.


Kierna C said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

What a fab messy station Rebekah & I bet they loved mixing the coffee & shaving foam together. I love that you are willing to try all sorts of new ways to help your family enjoy being outdoors & together. Kierna

Ann @ My Nearest and Dearest said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Love this Rebekah! What a fun way to pay outside.

For The Love of Learning said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Thank you for letting me share! My blog post features many outdoor sensory play ideas. Love your site!
-Deborah @ For The Love of Learning: http://fortheloveoflearningblog.blogspot.com

Jen Farr said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Great play space Rebekah. I'm sure it will evolve with the seasons...how exciting!

Mums make lists said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Great post - I think you're so right that play opportunities even if unstructured need regular "tweaking" to support positive behaviour.

I would love for you to link this - and your other positive parenting posts - up at Empty Your Archive link party - there is a special focus this week on positive behaviour, Alice @ Mums Make Lists x

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