by Anna Karsten

Best Outdoor Activities for Toddlers

There’s no question that toddlers need to be outside as much as possible. Outdoor playtime has so many benefits: it strengthens their body, the exposure to light and sun builds a better immunity, it enhances their sensory skills and it helps them shift their emotional state if they’re agitated.

Besides the obvious going to the playground, what else to do with a toddler outside? 

Some days you just feel stuck on how to keep a 2-year-old occupied indoors. The good news is that there is plenty of outdoor things to do with a toddler. So whenever you need inspiration, here are my top outdoor activities for toddlers. 

1. Make Bubbles

Making bubbles is one of the most popular outdoor activities for 1-year-olds and up. There are so many ways to play with them. You can make the bubbles and your kid could try and catch them, which adds running as a great physical activity.

It usually comes along with lots of laughter, too. There are all sorts of bubble makers out there: wands, sticks, or machines that turn bubbles into multiple shapes such as hearts, fish, circles, or stars.

Most of the bubble blower machines (especially this cute whale) don’t even require blowing into them, which as a breathing exercise can be a bit challenging for younger children.

Toddlers love to explore shapes and to watch how things move around them, so following a bubble’s track up to the sky will be quite amazing for the little one.


2. Paint and Create Sensory Bins

Some of the activities we would like to do with our toddlers, like color mixing or sensory bins, can get pretty messy, so moving them outside is a wonderful alternative. This way everybody is relaxed enough to enjoy the playtime, without worrying about cleaning or setting too many limits.

Toddlers are all about experiencing the world around them with their whole body. Set up bins or trays with all sorts of objects and texture for them to explore, such as:

  • In regular plastic bin mix rice, beans, lentils, chickpeas.
    Just let your kid touch them and feel their different texture and shape. If you have a two-year-old, show her how to sort them into different cups.
  • Take a canvas, finger paints, and you can start your art projects.
    Your toddler will love to dip his fingers in the paint and explore the colors. You can even mix the colors and learn how new ones are created. Besides the fun and the creativity you’ll foster in your child, you’ll have a painting that you can keep as a great memory and you can even display it in your toddler’s room. It will boost their confidence and they’ll feel that they have your support and appreciation.
  • Pouring water.
    It’s such a simple activity, but to toddlers water is fascinating. You could try all sorts of fancy gadgets but just start by giving your kid some cups, or stuff from your kitchen: a colander, a spoon, or a syrup cup is more than enough for him to greatly enjoy pouring water from one to another and to observe the process.

3. Play in the Sand or Dirt 

Sand or dirt can be easily found anywhere. Grab a basic set of sand toys and buckets and your toddler will play with it for a long time.

One-year-olds will probably use their hands more, but older kids will love to make shapes, dig, use bulldozers or dump trucks to fill them with sand and just move it around


4. Take a Walk and Explore the Nature 

Nature gives us endless resources for interesting discoveries and fun. All you have to do is just take a walk in the park or in the forest with no toys.

Don’t rush, just follow your toddler’s pace, you’ll notice how she gets interested in nearly everything: stones, branches, pathways, the sound of the wind blowing through the trees, the leaves. 

Explore together their shapes, the texture, which one is soft, sticky, or grained. Learn about different sizes, break some branches, and observe their different length.

Toddlers love stories and they will absorb every word you say. This will instill in them the love for nature and will help them become more aware of their surroundings. 

You could give your toddler a small backpack so they can collect and keep the little treasures they find on the way.

5. Draw with Chalk 

Drawing with chalk is not just entertaining, it’s also a great exercise for hand-eye coordination and stimulating the toddler’s creative abilities.

Draw all sorts of shapes, characters, or familiar objects, like types of pasta, for example, which you can later discuss at dinner while eating penne. All toddlers enjoy seeing the same object in different dimensions and places. 

You can also mix it up with toys. You can draw roads or houses, bring small cars or dolls and then play around by making up all sorts of stories for and with them. 


6. Go for a Ride with a Balance Bike or Scooter

At around 18 months, you can already introduce a balance bike to your toddler. It will be a while until they start to really master and enjoy it, but becoming familiar with it early on will help with their interest and desire later.

Every child is different, but at around 2 years you can bring home a scooter, as well. Encourage your toddler to take any one of them for a ride and just enjoy their learning process. Soon it will be hard to keep up with them.

7. Take your Toddler Climbing/ Bouldering

Outdoor activities are a perfect way to keep your toddler physically active. Climbing is one of the best. It actually comes naturally to a toddler, because they are at the stage where they seek to build their gross motor skills.

Climbing has great advantages, it helps toddlers develop spatial awareness, balance, and body strength.

You could look for an outdoor climbing wall or use nature’s resources: branches, rocks, trees. This is a sure way to keep a 2-years-old occupied. Mastering a new skill is their ultimate goal.

8. Visit a Zoo or a Farm

If you have a farm nearby or you can get to a zoo, it will be an amazing experience for your toddler. All the animals from the books you’ve been reading together will have a whole different meaning once a toddler sees them live for the first time.

You’ll have lots to talk about and explore: the sounds they make, their color, what they eat, how they move, and so on.

If you’re visiting an orchard or a garden, you’ll be able to dive more into how the plants and trees grow, how they make fruits, about the bees that make that possible.

Just take your time to open up a whole new world to your toddler. They’ll talk about it for months.


9. Enjoy the Rain

There is no reason to avoid the rain. Prepare the waterproof rain gear for your toddler and yourself, because she’s going to ask you to join.

Jumping in puddles is a childhood favorite. You can even take the balance bike with you, your toddler will love to speed through the water and watch how it splashes all over.

P.S. Watching the worms as they wriggle on the sidewalk is an activity itself. 

10. Set-up an Outdoor Pool/ Trampoline / Slide / Swing

If you have a backyard, use it to set-up a pool in the summertime. And if your space allows it, you can also install a trampoline, a small slide, or a basketball basket.

Keep it simple, though, and observe what interests your toddler more.


11. Play with Balls 

Your toddler can never have enough balls. And one of the best games for 1-year-olds is to just go outside and throw the ball, push it, watch it bounce.

The great outdoors is a safe space for them to feel free enough to explore a ball’s movement without any restrictions.

With an older child, you can also sort them by color or size and then exercise throwing and catching. It helps them build both their fine and gross motor skills.

12. Garden and Clean

If you have some work to do around your yard, by all means, involve your toddler. They love to help and do practical jobs. Hand them an age-appropriate broom or mop and they’ll work hard at cleaning.

If you want to plant something, it is a wonderful opportunity to introduce your baby to gardening. They can water the plants, dig, or throw some seeds in the plant pot. You can then watch together how the plants grow. 


13. Go to the River, Lake or the Sea

If you have a lake, a river or the sea nearby, take advantage of that. Gather some pebbles and throw them in the water, the sound of the splash will bring so much joy to your toddler. You can also observe the water’s ripples.

If you’re lucky to see any fish, it will be so exciting for them. Learning about the world around them is a toddler’s magic power.

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