Saturday, July 31, 2010

It's the Little Things

No matter how elaborate the play structure, or kick-ass the pool, it seems kids still gravitate to these simple essentials:

1) Chalk. Kids love to color and outside is no exception. They'll quickly beautify any concrete structure and probably even give your outdoor furniture a face lift. (I always buy the washable chalk, but I wonder if that even matters. Isn't all chalk washable?)

2) Bubbles. (Word in the park is the bubbles from Gymboree are the bomb.)

3) Balls. Can you ever really have enough? Probably not. I can't count the number of balls that my kids have lobbed in various neighbors' yards never to be seen again. It seems there's always a shortage, which, of course, invariably leads to screaming and tears. (The most popular ball we have I bought at the dollar store, so there's really no excuse not to stock up.)

Woe to the mommy who is caught without the essentials.

image by Steve Johnson

Friday, July 30, 2010

New Surface for the Driveway

We have a large detached garage within our backyard, which is accessed through a back alley. It can be tricky to maneuver into the driveway, so we mostly park our cars in the street out front, as do most of our neighbors (there's plenty of room). The plus side of this set-up is that having the driveway as part of the backyard gives us some extra space. The down-side is we have a lot of concrete-- great for bouncing balls and riding trikes, but obviously not so great for tender little knees landing on it.

We needed a solution that left the concrete in place (so we still have an accessible garage if we ever need to use it) but offered a softer, less abrasive surface for the kids, and looked better than a drab concrete mass.

We also liked the idea of the kids still being able to use the space for bouncing balls and riding trikes and scooters around. After much research, we decided on sport court tiles. They're great for a driveway because you can even park on them if need be. Since we already had the concrete slab, this was an easy diy project. It just took a few hours to cover around 700 square feet. (We
didn't quite have room for a four square court, so we had to settle for two.)

We ordered the tiles from Versacourt at around $2 a tile, which is a little steep as a temporary fix. However, we're hoping this solution will grow with the kids. It's really made for basketball, so when the kids get a little bigger I envision them playing some hoops out back, or maybe they'll hone their skateboarding tricks on a half-pipe. Regardless, it looks better than an uninviting expanse of gray concrete.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Sandbox-- Simple, yet Delightful

When we moved to our new house we went back and forth on whether to install another sandbox. A sandbox offers a nice diversion for the kids, but what a mess! At our old house I would find sand everywhere-- even rooms I thought my son didn't go in. I know our sofa permanently holds a good-sized beach in its crevices.

But we eventually relented and put the sandbox together. I'm so glad we did. The pleasure the little ones get from the sandbox is infectious, plus it gives me a few spare moments to just relax in the yard.

Our sand box is just a 4x4 box made of composite wood with a necessary cover to keep the neighborhood cats out. I'd like to eventually incorporate it more into the landscape with plantings and maybe a couple of large rocks, so it doesn't look like it's just plopped there.

Even though we now live near a beach, it's still nice to wiggle your toes in soothing sand in your own backyard.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Purple Broccoli Anyone?

Last year when we had only been in our house a few weeks, the director of my son's preschool asked me to help organize the school's annual fundraiser. I was responsible for putting together a carnival. Seeing as I had no idea what I was doing, it was an insane amount of work. It didn't help that at the time we had 8-month old twins and piles of boxes still to unpack. But I must have earned some good karma by volunteering, because we ended up winning three raffle prizes-- one being a garden design by a designer specializing in kitchen gardens for kids.

image by aplysia_06
The area we're tackling is a small dust patch tucked away around a corner, which has been pretty much ignored since we moved in. Right now it houses our garbage cans.

I met with the designer for the second time today and am excited about some of her suggestions. I have little experience with growing edibles-- especially ones geared toward the younger set, so it should be fun. Who knew there are beans that start out purple but "magically" turn green when cooked? Hopefully this will get my son to eat his veggies!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Welcome to our Playful Backyard

I have three energetic children under five, so spending time outdoors is not a luxury. It's essential. As a stay at home Mom it's my lifeline.

I always find it easier to watch the kids outside. What better place for them to expend some of that seemingly limitless energy. Plus, having spent many years cooped up in various dingy offices--often without a glimmer of natural light--I'm always appreciative of any time spent in the fresh air. With enthusiastic kids, it's that much more enjoyable.

We've been in our house just over a year, and from the outset we knew we needed to make the backyard welcoming to our children. It's not a huge yard, but there's plenty of room for both kid and adult activities.

We're willing to give the bulk of the yard over to the kids, but hoping to reserve a small adult haven that's relatively clear of the ubiquitous kid clutter. We'll see on that one. It'll no doubt go the way of our living room.