5 Games to Play Outside with Your Toddler

With the heat and humidity beginning to subside, now is a great time for toddlers to benefit from quality time outdoors with a parent. Aside from the standard games like baseball or soccer, what other activities appeal to younger children?

5 ideas for outdoor fun! Spend some time outside with your little one! Tweet this!

There are countless options for parents who want to encourage their toddlers’ sense of wonder and curiosity about the outdoors. Here are five ideas, each followed by a few related book titles. Most of these books are available at the Memphis Public Library.

1. Go On a Bug Hunt

With your toddler, use a sheet of plain paper to draw several pictures of critters that are common in your area (for example, caterpillars, butterflies, beetles, worms, spiders, and ants). Next to each drawing, print the bug’s name, leaving a place for a checkmark when one is found outside. When the hunt is over, help your child post the completed list on the wall or refrigerator for all to admire.

An Ant’s Day Off, by Bonny Becker
The Very Quiet Cricket, by Eric Carle
The Gentleman Bug, by Julian Hector

2. Create A Nature Collage

Take a grocery bag with you as you and your child take a nature walk in your backyard, through the neighborhood, or in a local park. Help him collect small, lightweight, natural objects, such as colorful leaves, interesting twigs, small pebbles, and seeds, and put them in the bag. Once several objects have been collected, attractively arrange the objects and glue them to a piece of construction paper. When it dries, help him choose a place to display the collage on the child’s bedroom wall or on the family refrigerator. This is a great opportunity to promote a feeling of accomplishment and encourage a love of the outdoors.

Wonders of Nature, by Jane Werner Watson and Eloise Wilkin
A Walk in the Wood, by Dot Barlowe

3. Backyard Safari

Poke a few holes in the lid of a plastic jar, and use it to help your child gently collect a few live bugs for later identification. A magnifying glass will help your child get up close and personal with her collection. Encourage her to draw the bugs he or she collects. Afterwards, have her release the bugs back to nature. Search for and share information about each bug that she found. For instance, explain how the caterpillar will grow into a butterfly, or how some beetles outgrow their shell and grow a new one.

Backyard Safari, by Tony Yelle
Caterpillars and Butterflies (Backyard Safari), by Trudi Strain Trueit

4. Play a Game of “Simon Says”

Games like Simon Says can be a way to enjoy the mild weather and get some exercise too. Encourage your child to make the challenges silly and fun: Simon says jump on one foot three times, sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star while hopping on both feet, or sing the ABC’s while running to the tree and back.

Simon Says! by Shen Roddie
Simon Says Yee-Haw Like a Cowboy, by Sarah Vince
Simon Says Shapes, by M.H. Wilshire

5. Dance with Ribbons

Take lengths of colorful ribbon and tie a knot in the middle of each one for the child to hold onto easily. Have her dance while moving the lengths of ribbon back and forth in the air. Make the ribbons short enough for the child to avoid tripping on. If possible, play some music for the child to dance to!

Dancing Feet! by Lindsey Craig and Marc Brown
Giraffes Can't Dance, by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees

Young children are energetic and curious! These activities will help satisfy their curiosity about nature, provide wholesome outdoor activities for fresh air and exercise, and create valuable bonding time for you and your child!

By Marsha W. Coker, Ed.D.