Toddlers love outdoor play, and time spent outside offers many benefits for their health and development. You don't need a slide, swing, playhouse, or trike in your backyard to entertain your little ones though. Simple activities involving paint, water, sand, soil, and other natural materials can keep toddlers amused for hours. Here are five activities that require little preparation and are a favorite with youngsters. Through these activities your toddlers develop their language, social and motor skills, and their imagination and problem-solving skills.
Although you can buy specific tables for water play, a paddling pool or large tub is all you need for fun with water at home. Simply fill your container with water, adding food dye for a more colorful activity, and give your tot a range of measuring spoons, cups, jugs, and funnels. Your little ones will enjoy scooping and pouring the water, transferring it from one utensil to another. An alternative activity using water is washing their toys, plastic dishes, or cloths. Just remember that young children should be supervised at all times when playing with water.
If you don't have a sand pit, all you need to do is fill a large tub with play sand. Besides a bucket and spade to make sandcastles, toddlers will enjoy transferring sand between various small containers, sifting sand with a colander, making patterns in the sand, and driving toy vehicles through it.
You can set aside an area of soil in your yard for your little ones, or fill a container with soil for them to play with. Soil lends itself to similar activities to sand play, but if you add water to the soil, toddlers can have fun making mud pies. Alternatively, you can let your kids get involved in growing flowers, fruits, and vegetables in your yard, even if it means they just potter about with a child's trowel and watering can while you tend to your crops.
Although you might not think of painting as an outdoor activity, you don't need to worry about the mess when in your yard. Simply lay a big sheet of paper down, provide nontoxic paints, and give your toddlers a range of utensils to paint with. You don't need to stick to a paint brush, as little kids will enjoy the different patterns they can make using a whisk, car treads, a textured ball, and vegetable stamps. You might also like to fill a spray bottle with colored water, offering an alternative way to explore painting. While you're outdoors, you may want to paint on what's around you. Rocks are ideal for this.
Make the most of the natural materials in your backyard. Show your tots how you can do rubbings using bark and leaves. Alternatively, collect pine cones, leaves, twigs, and stones to make a nature box, which allows sensory exploration. Another option is to look for creepy crawlies in your yard; turning over a large stone can reveal worms, woodlice, beetles, and many other bugs.
These are just five ideas for outdoor fun at home with your kids. You can transfer many of the activities you enjoy indoors to your backyard, adding a twist to take advantage of the extra space and the freedom to make a mess. With a bit of imagination, you can come up with all kinds of outdoor activities that will keep your little ones entertained for hours.