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Bringing The Outdoors In

A collection of nature objects in jars on a table.

This week’s blog post is written by Explorer Family Mom Brittany Williams from @bbwilliams21. Brittany has written this post for us today to talk about bringing the outdoors in. Brittany is a mom of 1, living in the beautiful state of Tennessee. Some days, we aren't able to go outside and struggle to keep our little ones entertained. It can be overwhelming to find activities to keep them occupied all throughout the day. Brittany has written a post for us today about bringing the outdoors in. Sometimes, it's just as easy to incorporate the outdoors with indoor play. Here is all about bringing the outdoors in!


Bringing the Outdoors In: Nature Crafts for the Whole Family

Several rocks in a basket on the table.

Being outside is beneficial for so many reasons that I know we can all get behind, however, has there ever been a time that getting outside is just impossible? I am sure you can think of a time when the weather was not safe to be in, or your family just needed to be inside for whatever reason. Being inside is not a bad thing or something that should be looked down upon.

As I said in my last blog post, Children Have Rights, Too, it’s all about balance. In this post, I am going to outline some specific ways you and your family can bring the outdoors in. You will gain insight into what loose parts are and how to incorporate them into your everyday life. You will also leave feeling empowered and that even though we love and want kids to explore (outside), it is ok to sometimes do that inside.

Outdoors, what does it look like for your family?

Several baskets on a table featuring natural products like sea glass and wine corks.

What does your family like to do while outside? Maybe it's to go on a hike, play at your local park, some form of water play, or just simply being outside. So how can you bring those same or similar activities inside? If you’re a family that likes to go hiking - or better yet, you don’t actually enjoy hiking - there are some great songs and activities that focus on the same gross motor skills you get while exploring outside. These are things you can easily do inside! YouTube is a great resource for finding songs, such as I’m Going on a Bear Hunt, The Ants Go Marching, and We Are the Dinosaurs, to name a few. These are all great songs that can easily involve gross motor play. Gross motor activities are anything that involves the large muscles in your arms, legs, and torso and are key in childhood development. Disclaimer: I want to apologize in advance for your kiddos falling in love with the songs mentioned above and take full responsibility for them being asked to be played over and over. Fair warning: They are catchy and will get stuck in your head!

Water Play, But Take it Indoors

Several jars of nature collectables on a table.

Ok, hear me out… your kids would think you are basically the coolest parent ever if you let them wear their bathing suits, put on some goggles, and let them play with toys in the bathtub that are usually only allowed in the pool. This IS going to be messy so be prepared with setting expectations before you begin and have plenty of towels on hand. It will be key to use language like “your job is to not get any water outside of the tub, if this happens you will have to be all done with this activity.” Using very specific and direct language and sticking to what you say will be critical for this experience to go well. As a reminder, if you say something like “Your job was to keep the water in the tub, and if you continue to choose to splash the water you’re going to have to be all done”  - then if your child keeps doing the thing you asked them not to do, you will need to stick to your word. This will be a wonderful time for your child to really use their imagination and can be a great and enjoyable opportunity for some basic learning skills. There are several water activities that can be done inside, not just in the bathtub, that your child may enjoy! They can easily do water activities in a sink or a large bin sitting on the floor. Grab some cups, measuring spoons, strainer, plastic animals, etc, and watch them have an absolute blast! Pro tip: get some kid-safe color tabs to change the color of the water!! (Crayola Bath Drops are great)

Open-Ended Materials & Loose Parts

Four small jars holding nature objects like drift wood and shells.

I talked a little bit about open-ended materials in one of my Kids Who Explore podcasts and how these materials can totally replace your typical big-box store toys. We all know that toy marketing is strong and kids will hear and see things and then automatically have the desire to want that specific item. They can crave things that others have or things that catch their attention - like those bright and colorful toys and the ones that make all the noise. And I’m not saying to never get your child those items, I am here to let you know I have gotten them for Ava and other kiddos in my life. But how many times have you gotten a delivery to your house and your kids could spend hours playing with the box it came in? From my experience, kids lose interest in those shiny objects faster than they do if they are left to their imagination and can have true freedom of the material. Open-ended materials are defined as “materials that have no directions and can be used by themselves or with other materials. Items that can be carried, lined up, redesigned, taken apart, moved, and put back together in multiple ways.” The child is left to determine what materials they use and exactly how to use them. Other examples include paper towel rolls, egg cartons, boxes, various containers, bowls, blocks, sticks, rocks, sand, dolls, cars, fabrics, measuring & pouring devices, various recycled materials, buttons, spools, beads, straws, and SO much more! There are tons of open ended materials out there, just be sure you are aware of the materials you are offering to your child and the potential choking hazard of some of the smaller items.

Inside Isn’t Bad, It’s What You Make It.

Glass jars with plants growing in them.

To recap, we all want our children to explore all that the wonderful outdoors has to offer, but sometimes, that isn’t always possible. Being inside doesn’t have to mean kids are on screens all day. Lead by example and play with your children. Set up your indoor spaces to allow for open-ended materials to be brought in. Invite your child to go find some things outside that they can bring inside and create a scavenger hunt—make it a game! They will love it!

All in all, just because you have to be inside or you are choosing that for your family it doesn’t make you a bad parent. It doesn’t mean you don’t think children deserve to be outside. It means you are human and we just have to do what’s best for our children and families. I will say this time and time again, being present and engaging with your children will go a long way for many years! Enjoy the great indoors!


Thank you for taking the time today to read Brittany’s blog post on bringing the outdoors in. Don’t forget to tag us in your adventures using @KidsWhoExplore and #KidsWhoExplore #KWE for your chance to be featured on our Instagram page!

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