I took the week off of work to spend with my boys — a little bit of fun, a little relaxation — wait, actually, relaxation never happens for me — a lot of laughs, some yelling, some tantrums, some timeouts, and a lot of mess. We find fun in making messes sometimes — it’s liberating for the kids, and it reminds me to just go with the flow (easier when I know I’m using washable paints!). Just like a few years ago when I created a Sensory Exploration Day for the boys, I created another Sensory/Play Day this week — focused on teamwork and FUN. It was so simple to plan, relatively inexpensive to execute, and lots and lots of fun. But more importantly, during our series of activities, I didn’t once hear “Mom, I’m bored,” or “Mom, what can I do now?” I heard a lot of “Which activity is next?” and “Can we do this again?” It became the MOST AWESOME summer day, and we never even left our front yard.
Here’s how we did it. You can follow this, or plan your own messy fun day, and let me know your ideas so I can try them next year! 🙂
Establish the ground rules:
We started our day with me setting some rules, just to get them out of the way. They were catered to my boys, but you can of course make your own.
Create a team name, team banner and team cheer:
Right after reviewing the ground rules, I “forced” my boys to work together as a team to decide what they wanted to be called. No, there was no other team they were competing with or anything like that, but I wanted them to have a sense of being “in this together,” so they each had to agree on what their team name would be. The Jaguars. Spelled wrong, like Jagwars. But who cares.
Next, the boys picked activities out of the bucket containing pieces of paper with the various activities for the day written on them.
This one requires a bit of prep work in advance. Here’s what you need: a disposable plastic container, and some random little stuff you want to freeze into a block of ice. Fill a container about 1/3 full with water and toss in a few trinkets (I used pennies, crayons, and some plastic creatures from the dollar store.) Freeze it. Then add another few inches of water and toss in some additional trinkets. Freeze it. Then add one more layer of a little bit of water and freeze it. You’ll end up with a container filled with a block of ice with various tiers of treasures frozen inside. Open the container, turn it upside down, and use a little warm water to heat the bottom of the container so the ice block slides out.
Now, let the excavation begin! We started this activity indoors, but when the boys started chiseling like madmen with forks and little ice chips were flying all over the kitchen, we decided to move it outside. Safely on the front lawn, they picked at their ice blocks, melted away sections of it with warm water, and dug out their treasures. We did this same activity a few years ago, and it went better this time! I think they had better understanding of how to use water and tools and strategies to get the stuff out.
I made this one up, and it actually worked out well! I simply wrote down one word per piece of paper, and handed three words to the kids. They had to discuss and form a sentence. Little D eventually defected, but he hung in there for the first few sentences. The boys had fun figuring out what order to stand in while displaying their words to make sentences. For example, they talked about whether they should be “Can I play?” or “I can play.” It was a quick exercise, but fun. Especially because I slipped the f word into one of the sentences. NO, not that f word. Fart. It always gets a laugh in this house of boys. I’m not proud of it. But it made them smile.
Water balloon toss:
We used Bunch-o-Balloons to quickly fill them up. Then we simply drew targets and point values on the driveway, and the boys tossed and splashed away! Note, it the boys are distracted from the chalk targets on the driveway, they will realize their proximity to each other and this WILL become a full contact water fight.
Carry it all:
This was my attempt to work teamwork into the day. I’m so frustrated lately with how the boys try to compete with each other over meaningless things like who gets up the stairs faster or who brushes his teeth first, so I tried to come up with a quick and easy way for them to see that if they actually worked together, they’d have even more success. I know — hokey. BUT EFFECTIVE!
I laid out a bunch of random stuff from our garage and challenged R to get it all over from the grass to the middle of the driveway as fast as he could. 37 seconds and a few back and forth trips later, he was done and proud.
Then I told E to do it. 19 seconds. So of course R was ANNOYED.
Then I asked them to do it together (note, D had again defected to play on his own. So much for teamwork! I’ll chalk it up to age 4 attention span). Anyway, R and E completed the task in just under 10 seconds. WOW!!! How’d they do it? They had learned from watching the first two runs, and they discussed a strategy and plan before they began their team run. It worked! They went from that original run where R put some stuff in the big yellow tub, but had to go back for the big red ball, to E solving the ball issue by kicking it to the driveway, to filling the tub in a certain order together and kicking not just the red ball but also throwing the yellow ball, instead of trying to carry it in the tub. Success. And they had fun doing it, and I never once mentioned the word “teamwork.” And, the cheeseball mom in me said in a slightly sarcastic tone with a bunch of loaded commentary, “Oh! Wow — look at that. When you worked TOGETHER, the whole task was easier, you were both involved in the process, and you beat your fastest individual times. Hmmm.”
This one is simple. We sat down together and enjoyed ice cream cones/sundaes. It would be smart to do this in the afternoon, but I achieved supermom status for a little while by allowing my kids to 1) do this before lunch and 2) scoop as much ice cream as they wanted (only one went way overboard, and he didn’t end up eating it all!). It was a nice break from the activities, and a fun time to chat.
Sponge-paint . . . each other:
This is one that I know makes a lot of parents –even fun-loving friends of mine! — cringe. I let the boys sponge-paint each other. Weird? Maybe. But super-fun. I was prepared with Crayola washable paints — I was hoping for Crayola washable finger paint, because that washes off even more easily based on my experience, but the store didn’t have any when I was preparing for this day. So, I went with Crayola washable Kids’ Paint instead. I also bought cute little animal-shaped sponges, but of course anything could work — even a rag or cotton ball or paint brush. The idea was that the kids would actually sponge-paint the cute shapes on to each others’ backs and arms and legs and bellies . . . and look like they had colorful, fun tattoos at the end. But I’m sure you can guess what really happened. Full. On. Paint. Chase. They ran around with the sponges dripping in paint, chasing each other and splattering/smushing paint all over each other. And they LAUGHED and had an awesome time. Goal achieved!
At the end of the chaos, I simply walked them inside to the shower and washed them off! Easy clean-up. And lots of fun.
This one was inspired by R blowing asparagus breath at E last week, knowing that E hates asparagus. This time, each child selected a snack, gobbled it up, and then blew his breath at this brothers, who had to guess what the snack had been. It was gross, but hilarious. One chose Pringles, one chose Fruit by the Foot, and one chose a Hershey’s Kiss — so each food had a strong, distinct smell when blown at someone else in near proximity.
Shaving cream mess:
This is another one that is horrifying to anyone who doesn’t like mess. 10 cans of shaving cream. Four high energy, silly boys (because a friend had come over for the afternoon). Free for all. They chased each other, they filled balloons and created silly string shaving cream squirters out of them, they high-fived each other and watched the excess cream fly into the air, and again, they LAUGHED and had the most awesome summer fun.
[Note: We had to power-wash the driveway to get rid of all the marks from the shaving cream. Be prepared for that if you try this at home. I had a grumpy husband over it.]
Other than the driveway, this one was easy clean-up, too. See next activity!
Sprinkler obstacle course:
The goal was to set up a course with the kiddie pool, some hula hoops. water squirters and sprinklers. We did it earlier this summer, and it was a great way to get some energy out while staying cool. But this time, we instead just used one sprinkler — a tug-of-war sort of game from LIttle Tikes (Little Tikes Splash Face) and used it to wash the shaving cream off of everyone! More fun while staying cool, AND cleaning up from the prior exercise.
At the end of the day, we were wiped out but so glad we had had the most awesome summer day without even leaving the front yard.
What made it the most awesome summer day without even leaving our front yard? According to my boys, “It was messy and it was stuff we don’t get to do every day,” and “especially the shaving cream, because that was soooo messy!” According to me, it was awesome because we were together, I was playing/involved in the fun (yes, I had paint all over me, too), it was perfect for entertaining kids of different ages, and it turned an ordinary day at home into something new and different.
What will you do for our own most awesome summer day?