Outdoor Activities for Toddlers

The great outdoors can be the best classroom of all.  

Are you looking for fun activities to do with your toddler at home? Our team of early childhood curriculum experts thoughtfully curated these activities from our proprietary Life Essentials® curriculum to help your family Learn On® at home. Whether it’s during mealtime, playtime, clean up time, bath time or bedtime – our at-home curriculum is built so you can easily integrate learning opportunities in seamless, easy and fun ways.

Dirt to Mud

Level of instruction: Moderate

When: Outdoors, Playtime

Time recommendation: 10-15 minutes

Participants: One-on-one, Child-led, Siblings

Learning Domain: Cognitive Development

Learning Standards: Explores solids and liquids, Experiences a variety of sensory activities

Materials: Bag of topsoil, water, plastic container, a variety of cups, spoons, plastic garden tools, towels, etc.

Instructions:

First, fill the container with topsoil, and encourage your child to play in the soil with cups, spoons, and other garden tools.
After your child has played with the soil for a couple of days, change the dirt to mud! Add small amounts of water until you get a muddy consistency. Invite your child to roll up his or her sleeves and dig in! Discuss how the mud feels different than the soil. Encourage your child to use spoons, cups, and other tools in the mud.

Observe your child’s interest in playing with the tools and soil. Does your child enjoy playing in the dirt or the mud? Does your child discuss how the dirt and mud feel?


Craft Stick Dough

Level of instruction: Moderate

When: Playtime, Outdoor

Time recommendation: 15 minutes

Participants: One-on-one, Siblings, Child-led

Learning Domain: STEM

Learning Standards: Fine motor development, Cause and effect

Materials: Straws or craft sticks, homemade or store-bought play dough

Instructions:

Use the playdough to create two three-inch balls of dough. Then place five to ten craft sticks or straws in one of the dough balls. Invite your child to the table and show him or her the dough with the sticks or straws. Tell your child, This is yours to take apart and put back together. Can you pull the stick out? Look, you can put the stick in this ball now! Your turn. Encourage your child to take the items apart and explore putting them back together. Invite your child to build with the materials for as long as he or she is interested.

Does your child take apart the balls of dough and sticks? Does your child attempt to put the sticks back into the balls of dough? Does your child explore and build with the materials?


Texture Talk

Level of instruction: Easy

When: Playtime, Outdoor, Mealtime

Time recommendation: 5 minutes

Participants: One on one

Learning Domain: Language and Literacy

Learning Standards: Shows understanding of familiar words, Receptive language, Uses new vocabulary

Materials: Materials with a variety of textures

Instructions:

Provide a variety of different textures for your child to touch and explore. Touch the different materials, and say, Ahh, that feels so soft/rough/smooth, etc. Would you like to touch these things? Gently guide your child’s hand to feel the different items. Encourage him or her to describe how the item feels.

Does your child repeat words that you use to describe the textures? Does your child describe the textures with one or two-word sentences, with or without prompting?


Look for Living Things

Level of instruction: Easy

When: Playtime, Outdoor

Time recommendation: 15 minutes

Participants: One on one, Siblings, Entire Family

Learning Domain: Cognitive Development

Learning Standards: Recognizes living and non-living things

Instructions:

Take your child outside for a walk. Tell your child that he or she will be looking for things that are living. Discuss what it means when something is living. For example, say, This table is not living. It was built. You and I are living. We can move and breathe. Is the blanket living? Now, we will go outside to look for living things, like animals. As you and your child walk outside, point out all the living creatures that you see, such as birds, insects, squirrels, butterflies, or other living things near you. Ask your child, Do you see that squirrel running in the tree? Is the squirrel living? Encourage your child to share what he or she has seen with other members of your family. Can you tell your sister about the living things you saw? Do you remember the flying bird?

Does your child look for living creatures? Does your child recognize different living creatures in the environment?


Icy Interactions

Level of instruction: Moderate

When: Outdoor, Playtime, Mealtime

Time recommendation: 10 minutes

Participants: One-on-one

Learning Domain: Creative Arts

Learning Standards: Explores solids and liquids, Examines and manipulates objects, Cause and effect

Materials: Ice cubes (add food coloring if desired), plastic bin, water, spoons, scoops, cups

Instructions:

Invite your child to explore the ice and the water. Encourage him or her to feel the ice. Discuss with your child how the ice feels. Invite him or her to describe the texture of the ice. Encourage him or her to practice scooping and pouring the water. Invite your child to observe the ice cubes melting. If food coloring was used, invite your child to identify the colors they see in the water. Discuss with your child how the ice changes throughout the activity.

Observe your child’s interest in the ice cubes melting in the water. Does your child explore the ice cubes and water with the provided materials?

Find more activities for you and your toddler

  • Getting Ready for the Day: Turn routine activities at the beginning of your child’s day into learning moments.
  • Playtime: Playtime is a great way to teach your toddler without it even feeling like learning.
  • Mealtime: Learning can happen at any time – even while eating.

Or return to the Life Essentials® At Home page to explore more activities for other age groups.