Herald Journal Columns
June 13, 2005, Herald Journal

Spring and summertime fun


With the rain that we had in the past month, I found my children playing in the same creek filled with rain water that I played in as a little girl.

With that rain, brings water, and water with dirt makes mud, and what child does not like playing in the mud?

My twin brother and I used to love putting on our rain boots and “tromping” through the mud.

We loved to make mud pies and squish the mud through our fingers and toes. I also recall the occasion that I lost my boots in the knee high mud. My feet came out of the mud, but not my boots.

The rain water creek also played host to many boat races. We made the boats out of any materials we could find – scraps of wood, cans, cardboard boxes, etc. and we’d set them sail down stream, following them as they moved with the current and the wind.

That was good, old-fashioned spring and summer time fun. A few weeks ago, my children participated in some of that old-fashioned fun.

They enjoyed “tromping” through the mud, and making mud pies and parfaits. We each also made our own boats out of scrap material we found around the house and set our boats sailing as well.

Nostalgic it was – to be having the same fun in the same creek, 30-some years later with my own children. Some things don’t change, and I am so thankful for that – fun in the mud – the same fun now, as it was years ago.

I also watched my son having fun tramping through the field of mud in our backyard, and he, too got his boots stuck in the mud, left them there, and kept on hiking through the mud with bare feet and enjoying every step.

I was getting just as much enjoyment out of the situation as he was. I watched him through the kitchen window enjoying what nature has to offer in creating wonderful fun and memories.

There certainly is cause to celebrate! The days are getting longer, the sun feels warmer, and summer days are just around the corner.

So here are some fun ways to enjoy the season in all its glory.

Help children get off the couch by giving them a great place to get dirty.

Of course, just plain old playtime in the mud is fun, but here’s a recipe for a mud parfait. This idea is from the jas.family.go.com website.

To make the parfait glass, you will need a rubber band, a clear two-litter bottle with cap, x-acto knife or scissors (for parents to use) and some type of craft glue that works with plastic.

Make the parfait glass several hours before heading for the mud to allow the glass time to dry. In the meantime, the little cook may want to collect parfait ingredients, such a twigs, pebbles, and leaves.

Using a rubber band around the bottle as a guide, cut around the bottle about four inches from the bottom (parent’s or adult’s job). Trim the base section again just above the molded ridges, and discard the center portion.

Turn the top and bottom parts upside down and glue the spout with the cap onto the center of the base.

When the glue is dry, your child can fill it, alternating layers of mud with the “fixings” – pebbles, leaves, dirt, sand, leaves, etc. Top it off with a leaf or a rock “cherry.”

If playing outside is out of the question, fill a small tub with dirt, set it on the garage floor (maybe with a piece of plastic underneath) with a container of water, some plastic spoons, maybe a garden trowel and some plastic cups. Add kids and wait.

Make a flowerpot chime

Add some beautiful music to the season’s warm breezes with this wind chime made from small terra-cotta pots.

You will need: one five-and-one-fourth inch diameter plastic flowerpot saucer, five one and one-half inch diameter clay pots, acrylic paint, clear acrylic finish, pushpin, scissors, string, hole punch, five leaf shapes cut from a green soda bottle, five small bells, and 11 buttons.

Paint the saucer and pots. When the paint dries, add a coat of clear acrylic finish. Let it dry.

Using a pushpin, make a hole in the center of the plastic saucer and at four equidistant spots around the side of the saucer. Widen the holes with scissors or a compass point, if needed (a parent’s job).

To attach the outside hanging pots, cut four one-and-one-half inch foot lengths of string.

To make each chime, punch a hole in the end of a plastic leaf and tie it onto the end of the string. Next, slip on the bell; tie a knot about three-fourth inch above the bell, thread on a button and then a pot (upside down).

Thread the end of the string out through one of the side holes in the saucer (thread from the inside and make sure the saucer’s upside down.) To fasten in place, run the string up through one hole in a button and then down through another hole and knot tightly. Repeat these steps with the three other pots.

For the center pot, repeat the last steps, but use a string that is three and one-half feet long. Also, before you thread the string through the center of the saucer, check your length (all the pots should hang at the same level, or close to it, and you will want about two feet of string above the saucer. Then knot the string at the correct length.

Attach a button above the knot, thread the string through the saucer, add another button and knot to secure. This craft idea was also from the mentioned website.

Tie the leftover string above the saucer into a loop to form a hanger, and you’ve got some lovely wind chimes that will remind your ears of the precious hands that made the “music.”

Scavenger hunt

Here are more ideas to get kids outside, from the jas.family.go.com website.

Plant signs – a plant emerging from the ground, a bud on a tree or a bush or leaves that have just emerged, lilacs in bloom, flowers in bloom, a mushroom, sap oozing from a tree

Sound effects – Children can find these clues with their eyes shut – frogs and toads, a clap of thunder, the pitter-patter of rain drops, music from an open car window, a woodpecker knocking, a bird singing, a cricket chirping

Human hints – Every year we humans do things that announce the arrival of spring and summer – here’s some to look for – a baby out in a stroller, a screen where a window used to be, laundry hanging out to dry, bathing suits in the stores or in a shop window, someone rollerblading, skateboarding, walking, or running

Critter clues – Pets and other animals naturally know it’s a season change as well, here are some critter clues to look for – a dog or cat shedding, a brightly colored bird, a salamander, a newborn of any species, a turtle out and about

Spring smart fact, from the website – Male birds signal spring and the coming mating season by getting dressed up. Male goldfinches that are a brownish gray in the winter, sprout yellow feathers. Many ducks, like mallards, change also, and the black starling gets a new look too – his black beak turns bright yellow. They want to show off!

Have fun observing all the seasonal changes in their glory!

Beach ball tether

It’s fun to be outside in the beautiful weather and it’s fun to play some new games too.

Here’s a fun and easy game idea with a beach ball from the book, “Parents Play and Learn,” by Marge Kennedy and Karen White and the editors of Parents Magazine, Roundtable Press, Inc., March, 2000.

You will need a six-foot rope or longer, a beach ball, a sturdy tree limb or other high support for the rope, and a plastic bat (optional).

Tie one end of the rope securely around the blow spout of a beach ball. If the rope is too thick or the spout not quite long enough, connect the rope and spout to each other with a short length of string tied tightly to each.

Secure the other end of the rope around a sturdy tree limb or other support, leaving the ball to dangle at about your child’s hip level.

Demonstrate hitting the ball with a plastic bat or with your hands and let your child play!

It’s a great version of tether ball, which was a favorite game of my friends and mine when I was younger.

Have a wonderful week playing in the mud, planting vegetables and flowers, looking for signs of the season or just enjoying the outdoors!