a peek inside the fishbowl

13 Apr, 2009

Space to play

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Easy ways to make kids happy

This happens to us more often than not. We meet someone new who lives in our neighborhood, they look at us, pause, and say, “I know you! You have THOSE GIRLS WHO ARE ALWAYS OUTSIDE!”

It’s true. We are the proud parents of the girls who are always outside. When you’re a kid, there is no place better to be.

Sarah paints

Now that Spring is finally here I feel like our house has magically expanded and has become three times larger than it really is. Suddenly there is proper space for the girls to play. And I love it.

When the girls were smaller we hung out in our fenced backyard, but for the past few years we’ve moved our play to the front of the house. It’s sunnier, warmer, drier, and we have better access to the toy box in the garage. Besides, there’s always someone driving/walking/cycling by our house. Neighbors tend to congregate and chat (sometimes someone even brings out a bottle of wine) while the children pull every toy out of our garage. Playing on the front lawn is a very social event.

Don’t get me wrong, we play outdoors during the cold months too, but it’s not the same as playing outside when the weather is fine.

I love holding the the door wide open and yelling: “RUN LIKE THE WIND” while the girls scamper across the threshold. (I don’t know where that started exactly, but I on some level it gives them an extra boost, and they DO actually run like the wind.)

They are never bored outside. There is so much to do, they have no reason to be bored.

Our garage stores many things which they can use to keep themselves entertained: hockey sticks, buckets and shovels, a plasma car, bikes and scooters, sidewalk chalk (sometimes we make our own!), and balls of all kinds. Now that I am thinking about it I’ve realized there are a few items they almost always use for outdoor play:

  • a large beach umbrella
  • a pup tent
  • a sleeping bag and blanket (not kept in the garage, but we have some reserved specifically for outdoor use)
  • skipping ropes
  • jars and buckets

It’s crazy how much play value they get out of these simple things. They rig up endless combinations, endless storylines, and it keeps them busy for hours. The jars are for making stews and potions and for bug collecting. The skipping ropes are for skipping sometimes, but are also used for making pulleys and horse harnesses and to tie up villans. The blankets are used to build shelters or just provide a cosy spot to read.

The water in our bird bath is frozen this morning, but it is going up to a balmy 12°C today. I can’t wait to get out there.

This post is part of the Carnival of Play, hosted by Phd in Parenting

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14 Responses to "Space to play"

1 | porter

April 13th, 2009 at 10:59 am


I love ‘run like the wind’.

I always say (and now the girls do to) ‘The dirtier you get the more fun you’ve had’ and it’s the truth. They head out with rubber boots on and when they are set to come back in they strip down at the door and run straight into a hot bath!

2 | scatteredmom

April 13th, 2009 at 12:20 pm


Jake was always one of those outside kids too. :) It was fantastic! Now that he’s older he’s still outside a lot, but we have to work at it more.

You forgot to mention sticks. It’s amazing what a stick can become in the hands of kids with a good imagination, huh?

3 | Mike Lanza

April 13th, 2009 at 1:08 pm


Great article! Indeed, it feels to us, too, like our house has expanded a lot since Daylight Savings Time and spring have arrived. A family with two kids just came over for dinner and the parents wanted their kids to stay inside after dinner, and we all felt trapped and claustrophobic.

I just published an article that is very relevant called Display Your Play on my blog, Playborhood.com.

4 | Javamom

April 13th, 2009 at 1:18 pm


On my street in my neighbourhood everyone spends the later afternoon hours in the front of their house. My neighbour and I are even considering moving part of our veggie patch to the front…why not have the squashes and pumkins grow in the front instead of crowded in the back?

Those who have private driveways (like us) have the ability to attract kids on wheels! And like your girls, we have a bin with toys and chalk and bubbles and what not. It’s nice to sit on the newly created steps with a cool drink (or wine…or coffee…) and watch the neighbours go by and chat!

Spring has sprung…and I for one am so happy to shed the winter layers!

5 | carrie

April 13th, 2009 at 2:27 pm


The last of our snow melted this week, and I am SO glad to be outside again. I bought my 2 1/2 year old new splash pants and rubber boots. I told her she could wear them and get as dirty as she wants to. Now she runs around the yard yelling “I’m as dirty as I want to be!” So am I for that matter – I have been poking around in the flower beds and it feels so good. I don’t remember being inside at all as a kid – we were always in the yard or out on our bikes. Kids need to be free to play and explore, even if it’s only in their own yard. There are far too many empty playgrounds and yards out there – send your kids out to PLAY folks!

6 | Trea

April 13th, 2009 at 3:01 pm


I applaud that you have raised kids that love being outdoors more than indoors – this is my goal for my toddler and future children. We gave up cable when we bought our first house (too expensive and really, TV is just a good way to spend several hours of your life you’ll never get back), and this means we either rent quality programming or we do something else. Unfortunately, I’m about to become a spring hockey widow thanks to the Canucks and their playoff ranking, but as long as the sun is shining, outside is where I’ll be, too! Pregnant and stuck in my Adirondack chair with a cold beverage watching my 20 month old play with a bucket of water, ideally.

7 | BeachMama

April 13th, 2009 at 6:59 pm


I love your ‘run like the wind’ :). We are huge backyard dwellers, one of the few in our neighbourhood. We have playstructure, sandbox, toybox. And an above ground pool for the warmer days. J has just started playing out front with the neighbourhood kids, something I am still getting used to. But I do love just opening the door and letting them go!

8 | Chantal

April 13th, 2009 at 7:41 pm


our kids play in the front yard as well. With all our neighbours kids and their yards it is like we have our own personal football field to play in. And it is often used as such (not many girls in these parts). Fun is always had and the beer the parents enjoy here and there are pretty good as well.

9 | Shan

April 13th, 2009 at 9:41 pm


The place to hang out in our neighbourhood is our neighbour’s driveway across the street. And that’s for kids and parents alike. We live in a small rural town and the sidewalk (for bike riding, scootering, skipit-ing, chalking etc) is across the street. Also my neighbour has a paved driveway, which used to be a big deal since most driveways around here are gravel. We’re seeing a lot more paved driveways then there used to be. Take a drive by after school there will be a gaggle of them roaring around over there. I have a hard time dragging mine in at the end of the day.

10 | Loukia

April 14th, 2009 at 10:14 am


My boys also love love love playing outside. They can’t get enough. Although they did play outside a bit during the winter, it is nothing like being outside in the spring/summer. In the front yard, or in the backyard, they just love to play… in the sandbox, with their trucks, collecting rocks, whatever – as long as it is light out, they are outdoors! :)

11 | Get outside! Carnival Posts (Part 5) | PhD in Parenting

April 15th, 2009 at 11:11 pm


[…] Space to Play: Andrea from a peek inside the fishbowl writes about her girls being the ones that are “always outside“. Read her post to learn more about how she has created an outdoors family. […]

12 | A Magical Childhood

April 16th, 2009 at 5:50 pm


We love the outside too, and here in Minnesota you learn to REALLY appreciate it when you can finally be out there without your nose freezing shut! ;)

I love your list of stuff your kids have for outside. I think tents especially are a universal lure for kids. Mine also love being up in a tree and my little guy loves the tractor tire sandbox.

Lovely blog! Nice to meet you. :)

~ Alicia

13 | Quick! >> a peek inside the fishbowl

April 19th, 2009 at 3:14 pm


[…] See, I told ya that blankets are The Best Toy Ever. […]

14 | PLAY! Definitive Resource on Play and Parenting | PhD in Parenting

April 20th, 2009 at 11:07 pm


[…] Space to Play (by Andrea @ A Peek Inside the Fishbowl) […]

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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