This post (Activities for Toddlers) is a continuation of our Outdoor Activities series. Our goal with this series is to provide you with a resource of simple activities to do with your little ones. Check out the other post in our series: Infants. Next month we’ll bring you ideas for Preschoolers.
Here are some fun ideas to get outside with your 1-3 year old and enjoy the beautiful summer days to the fullest.
The easiest and arguably best option for an outdoors activity with your toddler is to take them somewhere in nature and let them find their own activities. Find a safe hike and let them take the lead on their wobbly little legs and see what interests them most along the way. Take note of some of their favorites. (Do they always carry around rocks or would they rather watch birds?) When you get home, make a nature play area in your own backyard out of whatever is most exciting to them.
Bonus: by letting them choose the activity you can avoid the infamous toddler meltdown
Toddlers still learn a lot through experiential learning with their senses, but it is fun to provide a little bit of extra imagination aspect to sensory bins for them. Create a beach at home with a small tub, sand, and seashells. Next, add a bucket of water and shovels. Fill a bin with rocks and give them small trucks and excavation tools. Add pretend animals to a bin of mud to stimulate imaginary play.
Most kids seem to love water and adding ice to water play is a fun twist. There are tons of ideas that range from as simple as giving them a bucket of ice and some cups and spoons or those that require more preparation. You can freeze toys or fruit into ice, make colored ice for painting, or create ice boats. Here are some examples and tutorials from Happy Toddler Playtime. These are perfect for a hot day!
All you need is paper and crayons and random items in nature and you can discover what patterns they make. Leaves, bark, flowers, grass, or even hard-packed dirt make simple and interesting rub patterns. This is a great way to practice Leave No Trace, since the item can stay in nature, and the rubbing can come home with you!
You can get an online guide or pamphlet (often found at your local nature center) and go searching for animal tracks. Since toddlers are low to the ground they are actually some of the best spotters of animal tracks around! If you don’t have access to an area where you can see the real thing, you can make your own with stamps or drawings. Hannah Pruitt from HiB Birmingham came up with stamping animal prints in clay or modeling dough. A great homemade dough recipe can be found here. For those avoiding gluten, try this one. Hannah recommends the Terra Animals for footprints.
Story Time Outside
Bring reading outside. Whether the story is nature related or just any favorite book, bringing books outside allows you and your little one to enjoy nature and stories together. You could even bring a smaller book along on hikes for a fun break when those little legs need to sit down. Need ideas for a book? Check out our book reviews!
Get a group of friends together. This can be at a local park, trail, or someone’s backyard and have everyone come prepared with a simple and active game or dance. It doesn’t have to be fancy at all – Simon Says, Hokey Pokey, or “racing” from one spot to another are all a blast for little toddlers. An added bonus is that everyone has some of their favorites and then you get to learn more ideas to get the wiggles out when your child tires of just running around in circles. Guaranteed that this activity can be just as entertaining for the adults as well!
There are so many ways to play with them – make your own, bubble machines, wands, sock contraptions, and giant ones. There’s no denying the fact that toddlers just love bubbles. Bring some to a local playground and you are sure to make friends fast!
Arts and Crafts
We tend to think that arts and crafts can be messy, require lots of materials, and lots of preparation. Try adding a nature aspect to your crafts. It makes them more fun and manageable.
- Buy some contact paper and collect small leaves and flowers and then stick them together to create cool window hangings.
- Bring out the washable paint and paint rocks, sticks, or pinecones to keep the mess outside and limit what supplies you need.
- You can use these items as stamps on a large sheet of paper to make a nature mural.
- Give your kiddo a paintbrush, water, and some stones and let them discover how they change when they get wet.
Family Outside Time
Finally, taking your toddler outdoors doesn’t have to be all about them all the time. Sometimes just bringing them along for the ride for whatever you want to do or older kids happen to be doing can be the most fun and open them up to new experiences. Don’t underestimate your toddler’s ability to participate in family activities!
Do you have an activity your toddler loves to do outside? Share with us below! And check back next month for Preschool ideas.
Photos Courtesy of Kirby Crawford, Hannah Pruitt, and Ali Chandra