I have always been happier to stay indoors than to get out and about in the great outdoors, but of course all this had to change when we had children. When Dexter was born and up until the age of two, we lived in a flat in the city centre of Liverpool, so it was vital we got out into the world as much as possible with not having a garden. Thankfully, now Felix is here, we have moved out into a small rural village and have a decent garden for both boys to play in which is perfect for outdoor activities.
Why is Outdoor Play So Important?
Did you know 1 in 3 children between the ages of two and ten are classed as overweight*? It’s an incredible statistic which isn’t helped by the number of kids who prefer to stay indoors playing on video games or watching TV rather than being outside in the fresh air. As parents, it’s immensely important that we encourage outdoor play from an early age so that our kids grow up to be adults who actually want to be outside.
The benefits of our preschoolers playing outdoors is not just limited to encouraging an active lifestyle; being outside also builds an appreciation for the environment and nature, develops social skills and helps our toddlers to understand risk whilst developing their independence. All pretty important life skills, wouldn’t you agree?
There are so many different ways to make playing outside enjoyable and fun for our kids, no matter the weather. As long as you have the right clothes and shoes, you should be able to get out in the garden whether it’s really hot, snowing or it’s pouring with rain.
Outdoor Activities and Play Ideas for Toddlers
Sand and Water Table
Toddlers love the process of pouring water in and out of cups and the sensory experience of playing with sand, so a water play table is a great investment for your garden, whether you buy one or make your own. A sand and water table was one of our very first purchases for Dexter when we finally got a garden of our own and it’s great to be able to just open the back door and let him have fun with it. Even in the midst of winter he begs to pull on his boots and raincoat and get outside to have a tinker with it, although some days he lasts less than ten minutes in the freezing cold!
Outdoor Sticky Wall
I love this activity which I found on Pinterest. All you need is contact paper and sticky tape. It involves using the contact paper to create a sticky wall where your toddler can find things in the garden to pop onto it such as leaves, petals and, if your toddler is anything like mine, numerous other bits and bobs which they’ll quickly learn won’t infact stick to the paper.
Tuff Tray Messy Play
Using a tuff tray or tuff spot is my new favourite sensory activity, and it makes sense to get it set up outdoors so you can make the play as messy as possible.
The options are unlimited when it comes to creating tuff tray activities, but these are some of my favourites:
- Dinosaur Painting
- Car Wash Tuff Spot
- Shaving Foam Painting
- Dinosaur Swamp Sensory Play
- Number Fishing
- Farm Yard Tuff Spot
- Town and Road Map
If you’ve got a paved area in your garden, there is no simpler activity for your toddler than to give them a bunch of chalks and let them go crazy drawing whatever their heart desires. The best bit? There is no need to clean up, as the next time it rains, your toddler’s artistic efforts will be simply washed away forever more.
Learning how to garden and to grow your own produce is an amazing skill to pass onto our children. If, like me, you have no idea where to start when it comes to getting your toddler to garden, read this detailed post by Claire from Ladybird Adventures, who explains exactly how she started the gardening process with her little ones as well as what seeds and bulbs are easiest to begin with.
Teddy Bear’s Picnic
We love getting outside with our teapot, cups and saucers plus numerous teddies, setting up our very own Teddy bear’s picnic. Since being introduced to Five Minute Mum’s Instagram by a fellow toddler Mum, we’ve also started playing the tea party game which is great at developing fine motor and maths skills.
Create a Bug Hotel
As much as I can’t stand creepy crawlies, they are actually really good for your garden as Sarah explains in this blog post about creating a bug hotel.
This is a great activity for toddlers who can help find the resources needed to make it while also learning about the huge number of different insects that grace our beautiful planet.
And If You Don’t Have A Garden?
Not everyone has a garden, but luckily there’s still plenty of ways to get active outside with your toddler! Here are some of the things we loved doing when we didn’t have a garden.
Visit the Local Park
Get down to your local park and let your toddler use the playground equipment available. Now Dexter is two and a half, he loves trying to clamber up the climbing frames, adores slipping down the slide and likes nothing better than being spun round and round the roundabout.
I’m always guaranteed a long nap time once we get home and it’s a fantastic way for your toddler to burn off some of that excess energy. Dexter also really loves meeting new people whenever we go to the local park- he’s much more sociable than me!
Go on a Scavenger Hunt
Savenger Hunts can make a normal trip to a country park, woods or the beach even more exciting. It’s a great way for toddlers to learn about the environment around them while developing gross motor skills.
Some of our favourites with free printables:
Visit a Farm or Animal Sanctuary
We love heading to our local farm and wetlands centre to spend time with nature. It’s great to see your toddler interacting with the animals by feeding them and there’s often lots of other activities to get involved in too such as soft play, outdoor play equipment, train rides and sand pits.
Rent an Allotment
Did you know that if you fancy growing your own fruit and vegetables, you can rent an allotment plot from your local council? This is perfect for those of us who don’t have gardens to get our own little space where we can spend time outdoors, as well as meeting new people who rent the adjacent plots.
Hopefully I’ve given you some inspiration to try some outdoor activities for toddlers. Let me know how you get on!