Keeping inquisitive toddlers busy can be a challenge for even the most creative and engaged parent. When the toys and crafts of the indoor realm lose their shine, head outside! These 40 outdoor activities for toddlers will expand their mind, encourage their imagination and keep them active throughout the day.
Creative Outdoor Crafts and Activities for Toddlers
Get those creative juices flowing with simple art-inspired activities that toddlers can manage. These outdoor activities will enhance fine motor skills, foster inventive thinking and leave the yard looking more beautiful than before.
Paint the Sidewalk
Whip up a batch of chalk paint and hand kids a paintbrush. Watch as they transform your driveway into something colorful and creative. Chalk paint is easy to make and easy for toddler-aged children to apply to large surfaces using big paintbrushes.
Shower Curtain Painting
Hang a clear shower curtain liner up in the backyard. String it between two trees or attach it to a flat surface. Let tots paint the curtain using your preferred brand of toddler paint and an array of sponges, paintbrushes, and other tools that can be used to apply paint to a surface. You can even pour paint into squirt guns and let them create masterpieces. Consider using washable paint that can be sprayed off of the liner at day's end so you can store the curtain for another day of outdoor play.
Make a Sidewalk Chalk Maze
Use chalk to make a maze in your driveway or on the sidewalk! You can make a giant maze for children to navigate themselves, or you can make a small maze where they can roll toy cars and trucks through. Make both types of mazes to develop gross and fine motor skills.
'Paint' the Garage
Grab a bucket of water and a few paintbrushes and paint the garage using water. The water will quickly dry in warmer weather, and kids can continuously paint their surface with pretend paint.
Construct a Sensory Bin
Sensory bins can indeed be done indoors and outdoors, but moving a sensory bin outside to play is a great idea when you're filling it with messier materials. Make any sensory bin that appeals to your child. Use rice, birdseed, corn kernels, beans, pom poms or water beads to create the base of your bin. Add in small toys, cups and spoons for filling and scooping, and items with different textures and shapes. Be sure to keep your eyes on kids at all times when they're exploring a sensory bin. Tiny bits often go in mouths and up noses when parents and caregivers are not looking.
Bubbles are so much fun for kids of all ages. Your toddler might be too young to make a homemade bubble mixture or blow the actual bubbles themselves, but they can certainly chase the bubbles you blow all over the yard! Blow bubbles of all shapes and sizes and watch your toddler's joy and excitement as they hunt them down and pop them as they float overhead.
Introduce your child to color mixing. Make several batches of different colors of water. Use cups to dip into the colored waters and pour them into clear plastic bins. Kids can add different colors to the bins and be amazed as the colors combine and change.
Paint Pretty Rocks
Rock painting is a timeless activity that older toddlers can do. Be sure to choose smooth, slightly large rocks to give kids enough surface area to work with. Use chalk paint or washable paint to cover the rocks. When kids are done, use epoxy to seal the color in (without a sealer, the rain will remove the paint over time). Display the rocks in your garden when they are dry.
Make a Toilet Paper Bird Feeder
Birdwatching is a fun family activity, and there is no better way to draw birds into your natural space than with a good bird feeder. Make a simple bird feeder with your toddler. Spread peanut butter onto a toilet paper roll and then roll the item in birdseed. Set it in the yard and wait for your feathered friends to come visit you.
Toddler Activities That Develop Gross Motor Skills
Run, jump, crawl, and play. Toddlers need to move! The great outdoors is the perfect place to let them roam about freely, learning to work those little arms and legs. Use your time outside to work on gross motor skills via fun and developmentally appropriate activities.
Wash the Family Cars
On a sunny afternoon, fill sudsy buckets up and wash the family cars. Let tots dip large sponges into the buckets and clean the sides of the vehicle. Get the hose out and instruct them to rinse off the tires of the car.
Make an Obstacle Course
Obstacle courses are a lot of fun for people of all ages, toddlers included. You can make an obstacle course that is developmentally appropriate for your toddler-aged child. Include aspects like crawling through large spaces, throwing balls, hopping in and out of hula hoops, and sliding down a slide.
Ride a Balance Bike
Balance bikes help toddlers develop a sense of their physical space, so when it comes time to take on a two-wheeler, they are more than ready for the challenge. Encourage toddlers to bike around the block. Use this time to talk about street safety and develop vocabulary by pointing out different objects you see along the way.
Play With Different Sized Sports Balls
Toddlers sure do love to throw, kick and roll balls of all sizes around the yard. Get out lots of different balls and explore their uses. Bounce a large bouncy ball on a hard surface, kick a soccer ball back and forth, and throw a small ball across the yard.
Do Some Reading Under a Shady Tree
Not all outdoor activities have to be go, go, go. Set a blanket out underneath a shady tree and bring out a few of your child's favorite picture books. Read under the branches, make text-to-world connections, and relax in nature.
Play Color Hop
Toddlers love to learn their colors, and there's no reason you can't take this learning outdoors. Using chalk, create large circles on the driveway, all in various colors. Instruct kids to hop into the blue circle or the red one. You can extend this activity by using other shapes in addition to circles.
Nature-Based Activities for Toddlers
Young minds expand when exposed to nature. There are so many unique and interesting activities that toddlers can be a part of, by simply immersing themselves in the natural world.
Have a Little Picnic
Pack up your kid's favorite finger foods and spend lunchtime having a picnic in the grass. They will get a kick out of eating alfresco, far from the dining room table.
Go on a Nature Walk
Nature walks can be done in any season. Check out the foliage, look for woodland creatures, and collect cool sticks, rocks, and leaves while walking through nature.
Plant Little Seeds and Watch Them Grow
Gardening is a great family activity, and even young toddlers can help. Let them practice digging small holes in the dirt. Help them drop a few seeds into the soil and water the seeds. Children eagerly look forward to checking on their plants' progress every few days.
Go on a Developmentally Appropriate Scavenger Hunt
Scavenger hunts can keep kids busy for hours. Some scavenger hunts can be quite complex and lengthy, but you can create simple ones for your toddler. Start with what they readily know. Think of outside objects they could easily identify. Additionally, look for items like rocks, birds, sand, cars, flowers, and leaves. This is a fantastic way to enhance vocabulary in young children.
Hunt for Bugs
Bugs are fun little creatures to observe outside. Go on a bug hunt with your toddler. Keep your critters in a bug house while you watch them crawl around. Remember to let the bugs go free at the end of the activity, so kids learn to respect nature and all creatures.
Nature Stamp Painting
Your child can literally paint and create with anything, including elements of nature. Try some nature stamp painting on a lovely autumn day. Use leaves, sticks, acorns, and rocks as stamps. Have your child dip the objects into paint and roll or stamp them onto paper.
Make Nature Fossils in Playdough
Make a batch of homemade playdough and take it outside. Press all sorts of items found in nature into the playdough, creating interesting shapes and impressions in the dough.
Make a Wildflower Bouquet
Head to a field and pick pretty wildflowers. Show your toddler how to snap the flowers at the stem. Bring the bunch home and display them in your house, or give them to a neighbor or friend.
Do Tree Rubbings
Attach large white paper to a tree trunk. Using large toddler crayons (with labels removed), help your toddler rub the side of the crayon on the paper. What do they see? The patterns in the bark should appear before their very eyes.
Make Sticky Art
Take a roll of contact paper outside and use tape to fasten it to a flat wall space, sticky side out. Kids can then adhere all sorts of found objects to the paper, such as twigs, leaves, and feathers. This activity is a unique tactile experience for toddlers.
Imaginative Outdoor Activities for Toddlers
The imagination is a powerful thing, and young children need to use theirs... often. Go outside and encourage your toddler to play make believe while exploring the beauty and wonder of nature.
Make a Mud Kitchen
Just by using pots, pans, large spoons and ladles, and a tub of soapy water, kids can create mud pies in an outdoor kitchen. Help them make their pies and then wash their items off in the makeshift sink.
Dance in a Forest or Field
Sometimes you just need to dance. Head to a forest area or a field, or even your backyard. Make sure you have plenty of flat, open space to move freely. Play some tunes on your phone and dance in the sunlight.
Make Nature Soup
Using a large pot and a spoon, make a batch of nature soup. Anything can go into nature soup. Toss in non-poisonous berries, leaves, twigs, rocks, and dirt. Mix it all up, dump it out and start all over. Be sure to monitor young children when they play this game of pretending, mainly because the concept of soup might confuse them, and they may try to take a taste.
Play Pirates, Mermaids, Fairies, and More
Dress up as pirates and make a climbing structure your ship. Put on fairy wings and fashion a little stick fort in the forest. Be mermaids for a day and lounge around in a paddling pool. Encourage dress-up and pretend play in the outdoors to boost imagination.
Make Monster Truck Roadways
If you have a sandbox or a decent-sized patch of dirt, make trails and roadways for toy cars. Zoom them over little hills, along pathways, and around corners.
Go on a Stuffed Animal Parade
Gather up your child's favorite stuffed animals and head out for a stuffed animal parade. Pile your toddler and their toys into a wagon or another push toy and walk around the neighborhood.
Set up a tent in the yard and spend the day pretend camping. Put a sleeping bag, toys, and books in the tent and a small chair outside of the tent. Spend the entire day in and around the tent, mimicking a day of camping in the great outdoors.
Create a Jungle or Zoo in the Sandbox
Using small, plastic toy animals, create a jungle or a zoo in the sandbox or garden area. Have kids be the zookeepers and set animals up in pens or spaces. Talk about the different animals, their names, and other animal-related terminology as you play.
Wonderful Water Play Activities for Toddlers
If the weather is agreeable, get outside and let the little ones get wet. There are so many fun, educational and creative things to do with the world's most wonderful resource!
Water an Alphabet Garden
Using chalk, write out the letters of the alphabet. Fill a watering can with water and call out a letter. Kids then have to pour water on the letter that is called out, erasing it with the water. Be sure to write the letters horizontally and spread apart so only the called-out letter gets erased when it's watered. If your child only knows a few letters, that's okay. Use what they know and add in a few extra letters each week.
Sail Little Ships
In a large tub or small pool, sail some ships. Use plastic ships from an indoor toy box or make little ships using plastic eggs or other materials that will readily float. Kids will have tons of fun pushing the little boats in the water.
Turn on the Sprinkler
Running through a sprinkler is a classic outdoor activity. Turn the water on and run along with your toddler on a warm summer day.
Make a Homemade Water Table
Make a homemade water table using a large plastic bin. Fill it with objects that sink, float, pour, and do other fascinating things that toddlers love to manipulate and experiment with.
Go Puddle Jumping
If it rained the day before, put boots and a raincoat on and grab an umbrella. Head outside to find the biggest puddle and jump right in. Yes, your tot will be soaked, but nothing is more liberating than splashing around in your clothes.
Take an Umbrella Walk
Rainy day? No problem! Get out umbrellas and rain boots and walk through the neighborhood following a storm. Kids adore holding their umbrellas in the air, and it isn't every day that they get used. Anytime a toddler can open up an umbrella feels like a bit of a special occasion.
Floating Number Matching Game
Start helping your toddler learn numbers one through five. Write the numbers on the sidewalk with chalk. In a tub, float foam bath toy numbers that correlate with the numbers you wrote down. Ask them to match the numbers floating in the bucket to the numbers written on the sidewalk. This is a bit of a higher thinking skill, but young children can master it with practice. You can also do this with a few well-recognized letters of the alphabet and with shapes as well.
Benefits of Playing Outdoors
Getting young children outside has ample benefits to their health, growth, and development. Young children who spend time outdoors receive more exercise, which is a boon to their physical well-being and cognitive health. Gross motor skills develop as children have the space to move about freely in unstructured areas, and opportunities to increase vocabulary are plentiful as children encounter new objects and experiences in the vast environment. There's also evidence that preschoolers have fewer behavioral issues when they are connected to the outdoors and nature. Additionally, their social skills grow when playing outdoors with others. No matter the season, get your toddler outside and get playing!