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With the warmer temps beginning this week I am looking forward to getting outside! However, it can be a challenge to get my kids outside. Once they are outside they will play, but I typically have to set the stage for them first. As a mom I am totally baffled by this. When I was a kid you could not keep me inside the house. I was happiest sitting outside under a big tree watching the clouds going by, or racing up and down the neighborhood street. Not sure how I ended up with two kids who need to be prompted to be outside.

I have discovered if I set a craft up outside they are more motivated to join me in the back yard and will likely stay outside longer. It can be a simple craft, or an entire project, but it helps transition to spending time outside.

By now you all know the benefits to getting kids outside. But just in case, here are 5 more reasons:

  1. Kids who interact with nature tend to engage their imaginations more and invent their own games. This involves critical thinking and observation of what’s in their environment.
  2. When kids are more physically active they are building gross motor and fine motor skills.
  3. Kids who spend time outside more tend to develop a lifelong love of nature and see the need to preserve it.
  4. Kids tend to develop more visual and spacial skills when learning to navigate natural environments.
  5. Anyone who spends time outside feels less stressed.

You may have heard the benefits of kids crafting. I like to be thorough so again, here are 5 more benefits:

  1. Crafting benefits executive functioning. Having to plan a project or craft and lining up each step helps kids with focus and memory skills.
  2. Develops fine motor skills. This helps with handwriting and coordination.
  3. Helps kids recognize patterns and sequence recognition.
  4. Crafting builds on long term academic skills like math and reading.
  5. Teaches social interactions like learning to share and use manners when sharing.

Why not combine these benefits and craft outside? The bonus is you can make a mess outside and not worry about having to clean it up right away, or any of the materials staining your nice dining set.

Outside crafts to do with your kids

If you are tired of the old standby of bubbles and sidewalk chalk try these 5 things to amp up your outdoor craft time.

Make colorful bubble art. Simply pour some bubble mix into a shallow bowl and add food coloring. Mix well and use the bubble wand to soak up the mixture. Blow bubbles right in front of the paper or canvas to be sure they land and splatter on the surface. This will make a really unique print for your house. Or turn the paper into personalized stationary.

Paint some rocks. You can paint rocks to add some color to your back yard, or create a fun tick tack toe set by painting three similar rocks to look like lady bugs, and another three rocks a solid color. If you really want to make a fun project sign up to paint some Kindness Rocks to leave around your community, or for friends and family to find in your back yard.

Make your own fossils. This was fun when we did it with cookie dough, now I can’t wait to try it with baker’s clay. Simply roll a small piece of dough into a ball and press flat between your hands. Then press a leaf, or pine cone, or blades of grass into the clay to create a fossil imprint.

Design a paint brush from nature. Simply dip flowers into paint and press flat against your paper to make a pretty print. You can also dip leaves, feathers, a bundle of pine needles or stems into paint and use them like a paint brush.

Re-imagine your water table. When my kids were really little we used the water table for more than just water fun. We filled it with things like shaving cream, a bubble bath for dinosaurs and cornstarch with water (it creates a really fun solid that melts into your hand).

Crafting outside has long term benefits for kids, and the combined benefits create life long skills sets. You don’t need to wait for summer vacation to give any of these ideas a try. As soon as the weather is nice enough to be outside skip the chalk and do something a little different! Your kids will always remember the fun you have together, no matter the craft.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

Changing SoundBackyard Xylophone

Last week I shared that I am starting our own back yard summer camp as our last hoorah before Kindergarten. The girls are pretty on board with this idea and I am looking forward to saving some money. It gets expensive sending two off to camp at once. Plus, I just want to squeeze out as much time as I can from what is possibly our last summer together. We still have a few more weeks of school left, and summer hasn’t “officially” begun, but we have already started on our list of fun camp projects.

Music is one of our favorite ways to play, connect and relax. We always have the radio on, or a kid favorite CD playing (yes we actually still use those), we are singing or we are making music out of pots and spoons. Music is really everywhere and I love when my kids find ways to create music on their own. This week we discovered outdoor xylophones using glass jars. That’s it. Glass jars we already have on hand. (If you have a really tiny tot you can use various sized plastic jars, or cardboard containers, or small boxes).

I simply removed the label and took them outside!

Start by finding a level safe spot to line up your jars. We chose the rock wall in our garden. You can use as many jars as you like, but we kept it simple with just three. When you use a variety of jars with different sizes and thickness you will get a more interesting sound.

Xylophone jars

You can’t play a xylophone without a mallet (I actually knew it is called a mallet!). Help your little one find a stick, or a wooden spoon to use as your mallet. You can even bring out a variety of mallets to sample. Each one will make a different sound.

We used various sized sticks and then the girls realized perhaps their magic wands would help make an interesting sound. I love that this got the girls thinking about what they could use to create a new sound. They immediately noticed the different pitch each glass makes. And of course being the overly ambitious bunch we are, we tried to play songs we already know like “Twinkle, Twinkle.” Did not work, but it was a good effort.

xylo jars with magic

Try turning the jars on their sides to hear how they make a different sound. It is definitely a heavier sound than the slight “plink” when the jars are standing.

xylo side

We played for a short time for the “fairies” hiding in the garden before my girls brought out the big drums. Yes, I actually gave my kids a kid sized drum kit complete with cymbals, and a kick pedal for a nice booming bass. I am sure our neighbors know how much we love music by now.

Xylophone mallet

You can change the pitch and sound of each jar by adding water, rocks, glass beads or pine cones and flowers to the jars. The desired effect is to hear how sound is changed. This is a great project for toddlers (with supervision of course) and older kids. Let your kids fill in the jars and give them space to jam away with a mallet they choose.

Trust me any kid is going to love to bang around and make some noise. This is such a minimal and simple way to engage your kids in a new way to create music. Forget those Fisher Price toys, use what you have. Much like playing with a cardboard box, kids will enjoy anything you give them to play and create!

I hope you enjoy this super easy and cheap project! I wonder what we’ll do next!?


The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

Heading outdoors is a great way to soak up this colorful season before the cold weather sets in.  A walk around your neighborhood, the park or the woods gives kids the opportunity to witness the changing landscape up close.  It’s also a great way to spend some quality family time together after a busy week of work and school.  There are also tons of learning experiences waiting for you outdoors.   Best of all, you don’t need to spend  money on outdoor fun.

Grab some jackets, water and snacks and head out the door.  You may also want to grab some bags to put all of the treasures you might find on your nature walk.  Once home, kids can use their finds as craft materials.  They can string acorns and sees pods and make necklaces.  They can also make leaf rubbings with all the leaves they collected.  All you have to do is put the leaf under a piece of paper and your child can rub the crayon over the top and like magic a leaf print will emerge.  They can also classify the leaves by shape, size and color.  Another fun project to make with all of their findings is an autumn place mat.  Just get a piece of construction paper have your child glue their favorite nature finds and cover it with contact paper.

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