As the weather warms up, we’re pretty sure you’ll want to get out of the house with your toddler and either spend some time in the garden or head to a local park.
There are lots of fun outdoor activities for toddlers you can do with just a bit of pre-planning and using things you already have in the house.
So take a look at some of our favourite outdoor activities for toddlers – from the classic teddy bears’ picnic to blowing picture bubbles to water balloon fights.
Here’s our pick of 20 amazing things to do outdoors with your toddler…
1. Do some washing
Toddlers love imitating what parents do – even those daily chores we don’t love, like washing clothes. So, set your child up outside for a toy-clothes washing session in the garden or backyard with a couple of bowls and some pegs. Pour some water into both bowls, then add a little squirt of bubble bath or washing-up liquid to 1 of them, for a nice bit of froth. Then your child can ‘wash’ their toys’ clothes and doll blankets in the frothy bowl, ‘rinse’ them in the plain-water bowl and ‘peg out’ (with your help) the washing on the line to dry.
2. Make a pot-and-pan sandpit
Get some pots and pans – or even an old casserole dish if you have one – and fill them up (separately) with water and sand (you can buy bags of play sand for £3 to £4 from Argos and Tesco). Add plastic jugs or cups and some plastic toys to bury or float – and you’re all set for play.
3. Slot some flowers
This lovely activity, first shared with us by mayasmoonplay on Facebook, is perfect for developing your young toddler’s fine motor skills. All you need is a colander and some flowers from your garden or around your local area – dandelions or daisies work best as their stalks are thin enough to fit through the colander holes. Place the colander upside down in front of your toddler and show them how to post the flower stems through the holes – and then watch as they take over and create their very own flower-studded masterpiece.
4. Invite the toys to a picnic
Pic: Getty Images
Lay everything out as you would for a picnic but invite all the soft toys to join in. Small plastic cups for your guests and little triangles of bread will complete the feast. Encourage your child to offer the toys something to eat and drink – and talk together about which food the toys like (and don’t like) and what the toys are chatting about. Don’t forget to remind the toys to say please and thank you – and to share nicely!
5. Get sensory – with feet
Sensory activities for small children are often very hands-based. This game is all about feeling with your feet! Get several low-sided plastic crates (big plastic bowls will do if you don’t have any crates) and fill each one with a different texture. It’s up to you (and what you can get your hands on) what you choose but our favourite ideas are dry rice, pasta, flour, old pillowcases or blanket, water, jelly, wet mud, and sand. Ask your child to close their eyes, then dip their feet in a crate, and say how it feels.
6. Play hide the teddy
Hide a teddy bear in your garden (or corner of the park) and get your child to look for it. When they’ve found it, they have to chase you around until they ‘tag’ you (touch you on the shoulder with the teddy). Then, it’s their turn to hide the teddy and, once you’ve found it, you have to chase your child around and tag them. Play as many rounds as you can until you’re exhausted!
6. Play squish jelly
Make up some jelly and plop it in a bowl to play with outside. It’s fun to mould, squish, pick up and squeeze – and if some goes in your child’s mouth every now and again, well, there’s obviously no need to stress…
7. Do some ‘magic’ painting
On a nice, sunny day, give your child a jug, cup or bowl of water and a paintbrush – and go outside to ‘paint’ the fence, the slide, the gate, the back door, a pavement slab or two. You can just ‘paint’ water all over or make patterns with stripes or hearts or dots. And when it’s all dry, you can start all over again…
8. Catch bubbles
Pic: Getty Images
Open a pot of bubble mixture and blow bubbles for your toddler to chase after and pop. With older toddlers, you can encourage them to try to catch the bubble without bursting it – show them how to slow down and hold out an open palm under a bubble. You could also challenge your child to see how long they can keep a falling bubble up – by blowing it, waving their hand under it or fanning it with paper….
9. Build your own racing track
Use string or wool (or chalk if you have a patio) to mark a winding figure-of-8 path that ends back where it starts. Then make another path, exactly following the first one but 1 metre or so away, so you end up with a track. Send (or push) your toddler round on their ride-on car, balance bike or trike. Accompanying driving noises essential!
10. Make footprint art
Pic: Getty Images
Lay out several pieces of newspaper and then squeeze a few different colours of non-toxic liquid paint into separate paper plates. Get your toddler to choose 2 colours. Put the paper plates holding the colours they’ve chosen in front of your toddler and encourage them to put a foot on each plate – and then walk over the newspaper. Remember to keep a bowl of clean water and a towel handy for washing and drying feet in between each go.
11. Colour the pavement
Find some coloured chalk (it washes off easily) and a quiet pavement, patio or driveway. Make giant hand and footprints, or draw a traditional hopscotch grid.
12. Blow dandelions
This is such a fine but simple garden activity – grab some dandelions (hopefully you’ll have a few!) and get your child to blow them everywhere.
This can also be a lifesaver for keeping kids amused when you’re trying to hang up the washing, too.
13. Make a veggie patch
Give your toddler his own space on your veggie patch and don’t be afraid to let him get dirty – if he wants to make mud pies first, let him! Try planting vegetables that have big seeds, such as butternut squash, as your toddler will find them easier to handle and plant.
Your toddler won’t have the patience to wait for months for plants to sprout, so opt for veggies that will appear quickly, such as red lettuce.
Mix flowers in between the veg, as they’re fast-growing and good for the environment.
Encourage your toddler to look at the wildlife while he’s planting. Share in his excitement of finding bugs in the soil – he’ll find them fascinating even if you’ve seen them all before.
14. Try bucket gardening
While you’re working outside, give your toddler a small bucket or raffia bag and let him help with jobs like picking up cut grass or old leaves. He’ll relish the responsibility.
15. Bake mud pies
Tip some earth into a bowl (check for stones and insects) and add a little cold water until it’s a good, thick texture (if it’s too wet, it won’t be mouldable). Fill some yogurt pots or flowerpots with the mud and leave to dry.
Then gently tip out and, hey presto, you’ve got baked mud pies.
In this forerunner to hopscotch, use chalk to draw flowers, stars or whatever you like at short but varying distances apart and see if your toddler can jump from one to the other.
17. Play the aim game
Place a bucket on the ground and get your toddler to take 5 steps back. Then see how many balls she can throw into the bucket. If she gets all of them in she takes another step back.
18. Play What’s the time, Mr Wolf?
Mr Wolf is ‘it’ while the rest of the children stand at the far end of the garden calling, “What’s the time, Mr Wolf?” ‘Mr Wolf’, who’s standing with his back to the players, replies with a time, such as “4 o’clock”, for example, and the players take four steps towards him.
The children ask again, and this time Mr Wolf might say, “10 o’clock,” at which point all the players move ten steps closer.
After a few calls, Mr Wolf suddenly answers, “Dinnertime!” and turns around and chases the players. Whoever is caught becomes the wolf the next time round.
The game ends when everyone has been caught and had a chance to play Mr Wolf, or when they’re all exhausted.
19. Water spraying
Save old spray bottles from toiletries, rinse them out well and let your little one use them to water the garden. Do it from different distances to see where the spray goes.
20. Play the hot and cold game
Hide a little prize in the garden and let your toddler go off hunting for it. Use clues like ‘you’re too cold,’ to ‘warmer’ and ‘boiling hot’ when he finds the prize.