What's the plan, aunt paduasoy?
May 25, 2008 3:07 AM   Subscribe

Things to do with a one year-old and a four-year old outside the house.

I look after my nieces one day a week. They are aged fifteen months and four years. I do lots of art, craft and reading with them. We've been to the nearby exciting-things-to-do lots of times (libraries, art galleries, museums, adventure playgrounds, indoor play places), and we've been on lots of public transport ('buses, trains, boats) which the older one likes. I find I have to get out of the house with them or start going insane. Recently we did a treasure hunt at a nearby ruined abbey which worked well (I hid a few items and the older one looked for them whilst the younger one toddled around). I'm looking for other ideas like this - things we can do outside which will be new and interesting for the four year-old whilst being in a safe enough space that the younger one can get out of her buggy. The shore, forest, open grassland and city are all within reach.

Any suggestions would be appreciated, as my older niece has started saying "What is our plan for next week?" I answer "Well, I thought we'd do x" and she replies "And then what?" I do realise it can be fun just to sit and watch television or draw, but this doesn't take up a full day.

I've read "Things to do with toddlers and twos" but the older one is a bit past most of the activities in there. Other book suggestions would be welcome. I have looked at local children's activities like groups and classes, but found nothing suitable.
posted by paduasoy to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Water! Get a baby pool, maybe a sprinkler, a hose, cups and pots and pans from the kitchen - a sieve! - and just play with water.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:21 AM on May 25, 2008

Does it have to always be planned? Does it always have to be new and interesting? Can't you just go to the woods or the beach or the fields and go for a walk, or run about a bit or build a sandcastle or dam a stream or feed the ducks or try to find shapes in the clouds or kick a ball about?

At 4 surely she is still finding new stuff all the time, you don't always have to make it new and interesting (perhaps that's more for your enjoyment than theirs?) For me, repetition and rhythm is as important as new and awesome.

But here are some more ideas...

Collect things to make a collage with later
Make leave prints
Do bark rubbings
How many different colours of green can you find?
Make a picnic and then go and eat it somewhere
Go out in wellies and waterproofs in the rain and jump in puddles (doing things that are a little bit naughty is always fun)
Pick corn from the field (wait a few more months until it's a bit more ripe) and then plait it into corn dollies (take three strands, start the plait at the head end, when it's done twist it round into a loop and tie at the join with some wool)
Find things you can use to make musical 'instruments'
Go hunting for bugs or go to a stream or the sea and turn over big stones to see what's underneath - buy one of these and a Collins Gem book for the relevant habitat.
Get a local Ordinance Survey map and plan a walk using the map and then go and do it.
Make driftwood sculptures
Learn how to skim stones
Go out at dusk and see if you can watch rabbits playing in the field
Choose a recipe to make together and go out and buy all the ingredients and then make it.
posted by Helga-woo at 5:23 AM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

leaf not leave
posted by Helga-woo at 5:24 AM on May 25, 2008

Oh, and find a pick-your-own fruit farm nearby and go strawberry picking, and later in summer go blackberry picking
posted by Helga-woo at 5:25 AM on May 25, 2008

I have a four year old and a one year old, and I face this dilemma many days. Here are a few ideas.

How about a farm? We have a couple nearby that are either open for visits during the day, or will arrange a tour if you call them.

The four year old and I will devise photo safaris, where we make a list before we go out of things to photograph. We each bring our cameras and I let him lead the way. The one year old usually picks up on the excitement even without a camera.

Water play is always fun -- my kids enjoy helping me wash the cars. We also paint the sidewalk or driveway with water.

Actually, anything that is a "job" is usually a hit. They love to help me crush boxes for recycling. Give them some baby wipes and let them "clean".

I have, out of desperation, taken them to visit the pet store, to the hardware store, the music store (be prepared to keep a tighter reign here), to the grocery store with play shopping carts, to Starbucks to have cookies and watch the trucks making deliveries to the nearby grocery store, etc.

Good luck. I also agree with previous posters who basically say, leave them alone and let them entertain themselves. But if that eventually turns into fighting, as it often does here, maybe these ideas will help.
posted by iscatter at 6:34 AM on May 25, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far. I particularly like the photography and bugs expeditions. I should have made it clear that activities need to be away from the house and the garden (this is for my benefit - if I'm there I'm tempted to start doing my own stuff) and that it's the four year-old who's demanding new things. I'm quite happy to do the same stuff again - and I'm sure we will carry on repeating things that have been hits - but she likes a bit of novelty, possibly because she has quite a clear routine the rest of the week.
posted by paduasoy at 7:10 AM on May 25, 2008

Giant soap bubbles are great fun for young and old alike. The soap recipe is easy: 3 to 1 water to Dawn dishwashing liquid ratio. You have to use Dawn cuz other soaps aren't concentrated enough.
posted by wsg at 8:17 AM on May 25, 2008

Definitely seconding the berry picking. You could go pick strawberries and then come back home and make pies or something.

When I was little, I would go fishing with my dad- just off the side of a pond, not in a boat. We basically never caught anything, but I got to hang out by a pond with my dad wearing a silly hat and eating potato chips. It was great. If the kids have a super-short attention span, this might not go so well, but I loved it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:06 AM on May 25, 2008

Kids love to explore. The trend these days is to have a ton of structured activity and planned entertainment. But simple things will keep kids busy for hours and will often stimulate their minds even more.

Go to the park:

Take a bottle of water, some dish soap, and various plastic things with holes in them. Experiment with mixing a bubble solution and seeing what kinds of things will make bubbles. Do square holes produce square bubbles?

Take a bottle of water, a shallow pan and a couple of tiny paint rollers. Have kids paint the sidewalk.

Sidewalk chalk.

Go to the beach with various buckets and containers. (Do not turn your back on the kids at the beach. This can be hard to remember if you aren't used to being with kids. However, if you watch them that often, you are probably okay). Build sandcastles and moats and things.

Have picnic in the park.

Go on a lion hunt in the park. We sneak around the park, imagining all sorts of jungle, quicksand, ponds, animals and the like. "Going on a lion hunt...I'm not afraid....Going on a lion hunt...I'm not a afraid. Let's sneak across this log.....And around the quicksand, etc." Of course, when you find the imaginary lion, you all scream and go back through everything in reverse.

Look for ants.

And so on. Simple things. And yet it all supports their learning. Plus they won't grow up thinking everything has to be structured and planned for them. This may keep them out of debt later and help them do better at college.
posted by acoutu at 9:13 AM on May 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

collect bugs in a coffee jar. helps them focus on tiny things, helps them avoid learning irrational fears of insects - and they love it. I have kids close to these ages, and going looking under rocks for bugs is one of their favourite things to do
posted by superfurry at 11:01 AM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Pack up dress-up clothes and little kid instruments, take it to the park and have a parade with the kids.

Feed the ducks/pigeons.

Buy a dozen sweet corn and shuck the corn (bring a plastic bag to collect the shucks in) in the park on a picnic blanket. Kids love eating raw corn on the cob. This results in some pretty clean messiness.

Blow bubbles.

Get the kids their own disposable cameras and let them take pictures of their day. The next time you see them, make sure you have the pictures already developed and they can paste them in a scrapbook.
posted by mamaraks at 3:29 PM on May 25, 2008

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