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.
Simple ground rules. (including them not whining if I take pictures or video!)
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.
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.
I’m not proud of it. But it got a laugh.
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.
Pop them on yourself or toss them at the targets.
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.
This post by Karen Lesh was originally published in 2018.