Backyard Fun to Beat the Heat
With summer in full swing, the littles getting restless, and the heat index consistently near 100, I started looking for ways to keep the girls entertained and cool without having to schlep everything off to the beach.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love the beach, though I do love home days and it was feeling like we weren’t having enough of them.  Because we can’t have a nice little inflatable pool (we have a huge Tomcat who lives outdoors and who likes water, which results in a pool that is no longer inflated with several puncture holes), I had to get creative.

With our deck (thanks to our Los Angeles decking contractor) and patio right off the kitchen and partly shaded, I knew bringing the element of water out there in a new way would be a hit, and boy, was I right about that.  We have a long, large, clear rectangular rubbermaid where our legos live.  Now, we don’t have that many legos, it was just a great, portable, default location for them and I can slide it under a bed for storage.

I dumped the legos into a smaller bin and took this new “water table” out to the patio.  While I filled it, I told the girls to scour the house for any and every boat they could find.  They came back with boats made of legos and three wooden sailboats they made at school.  Before I knew it they were sanding, repairing masts, applying woodglue, securing people figures to their lego boats and were all set for new discovery.

The fun part is they can be splashy and dip toes and refill it as often as they want, so, with popsicles hanging out of their mouths and with this little bit of water, I can make dinner, fold laundry or simply read or watch them enjoy themselves with such satisfaction.  We’ve had this set up for weeks now, so it’s keeping everyone happy.

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On another day, I allowed them to color the water with food coloring so it became blue ocean water.  They took plastic fish they had in a mini aquarium they had been given where you can “feed” the fish and change the background and make them move with a magnetic wand.  They plunked the fish in there, and set up play with the boats that now had a whole new element.  The “people” on the boats were fishing, sightseeing, jumping off and swimming around, floating on leaves and pieces of bark, and again, everyone was happy.

For a final bit of fun, we built fairy gardens.  We had wanted to do this for sometime and with this water element going, I thought it would be fun to plant grass seed in their fairy gardens and water them every day.  For one of them we used a 20″round shallow terracotta pot and for the little one we used a hanging basket (where nothing ever lives because mama always forgets to water it).

To build the fairy garden we went on a little hunt and gather around our home and yard.  We came up with gemstones, marbles, twigs, twine, glue gun, small clear plastic containers, mini terracotta pots, small river rocks and shells.  First we put a layer of rock at the bottom of the containers.  Then we filled it with potting soil.  From there each child took a break and individually I worked with each of them to create their fairy house.  We took twigs and broke them to size, and using the glue gun, created 10″ tall tipi’s.  Once glue set we adhered twine wrapped around the top holding the sticks together and glued a large beautiful gemstone to call the fairies home.

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While those were drying and while the eldest still worked independently on hers with the glue gun, we began using our fingers to draw a topographical map within the fairy garden, because everyone wanted to use ALL of the various items and elements we found to decorate.  There were little beds and pillows cut from wool felt for the fairies to rest upon.  Beautifully decorated paths of colored gems were built as walkways to the dipping pool (a clear, shallow playdough container with a cover so the curious trolls wouldn’t fall in at night), shells lined the perimeter of the dipping pool and fireplaces were built out of gluing the river rocks and pebbles together.  The areas that were left over were sprinkled with grass seed and then watered.  Within three days we had grass growing!

Every day they trim that lush green grass and refill their watering pools, leaving just enough moisture sprinkled over the garden to keep it lush.  Now, you can take this a step further and use larger containers or areas and add succulents or herbs and other fun items, but this was a simple use for adorning the back patio with their artwork and it’s now become a part of their cool water play.

What I loved is that we got creative with what we already had and thought about how we could put our items into play in a different way.

Hmm, perhaps for the fall I will buy 20 pounds of rice at Costco and replace the water with rice so they can start backhoeing, driving, dumping and hauling in that container!

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Nichi Hirsch Kuechle supports moms from pregnancy to parenthood as a Parent Coach, Craniosacral Therapist, Childbirth Educator and Doula in Minneapolis.   She publishes a weekly e-zine called Raising Healthy Babies, which offers tips and ideas to bring ease, clarity and understanding to your parenting.  She also teaches a variety of live and virtual workshops.  You can get Nichi’s New Parent Tool Kit, for free ($30 value!), by going to: 

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