Toddlers need half an hour each day of structured physical activities. They need an additional hour of unstructured activities, too. Here are some outdoor physical activities you can do with your toddler to meet those needs. Plan to do several activities each day and to stretch each activity to 10 minutes or longer if your toddler's attention span will allow. Also, remember to practice sun safety measures
when playing outdoors.
Do Yard Work
Just don't call it work
. Toddlers scarcely realize how much work it is to pull weeds, dig in the dirt, harvest vegetables, sweep porches or refill bird baths and feeders. So get little hands involved with all the tasks that you might perform yourself and find mundane or tiresome. Not only will you be helping your toddler be more active, you'll be laying the groundwork for him to perform these tasks independently one day.
Play in the Sand
If you've got a few hours to spare and some ambition, you can build your child a sandbox
. But even if you don't, a large plastic container or a small child's swimming pool will work, too. Be sure to provide plenty of props, too, like cups or old baby wipes containers for filling, dumping and molding as well as dump trucks and other vehicles for moving sand around.
Make a Maze
Plant stalks of corn or sunflowers in a simple maze configuration for summer fun or use hay bales or empty boxes to create a walk-through maze. Hay bales are especially fun when placed in a single layer since they provide a soft, low climbing structure. Another maze of sorts that my son loved was just made of grass. I'd let the grass grow a few extra inches and then mow a zig-zag pattern that he could run through. After a couple of days I'd mow the rest down and start all over again.
Make Some Art
Art is usually a fine motor activity, but when you take it outside it's anything but. He'll be able to use his whole body when coloring with sidewalk chalk and won't be confined to just a tiny piece of paper. Take turns tracing each other's bodies in funny positions. Grab a bucket of water and some paint brushes and let your child paint
the fence or side of the house. If you have an easel, consider taking it outside once in a while for a more active art experience.
Have a Parade
The point of a parade is something near and dear to the heart of the toddler: It's all about showing off and celebrating. So any time you have cause, grab a portable radio or sing a happy tune and march around the yard. A new dress? New shoes? A new stuffed animal or toy? Potty training success? These are all reasons to happily march around the yard and even around the block.
Have a Scavenger Hunt
Pick several toys or other objects and hide them around your yard or the immediate surrounding area in a park. You can create a list with drawings or pictures of the objects and help him cross them off. Don't hide things in difficult spots and exercise caution when hiding beloved objects like security blankets or pacifiers. Some toddlers love this and think it's very fun to find their favorite objects, while others melt down at the mere thought.
Purchase some bubble solution or make your own homemade bubbles
and bubble wands
and head outside. Young toddlers will enjoy chasing the bubbles down and popping them while older toddlers can blow on the bubbles to see how long they can keep one in the air. make sure you don't just stand in one spot, but keep moving and your toddler will follow.
Set up an Obstacle Course
Use whatever you have on hand. Set up a crawl under a lawn chair followed by a roll through the grass, a circle around a tree stump and finally a dash around the edge of the patio. Add to the fun by starting the race with a whistle blow and holding up a crepe paper ribbon to break through at the finish.
Have a Fire Drill
You can get some physical activity in and practice safety skills by performing a regular fire drill
. A fire drill with your toddler can involve a lot of movement, especially if you practice "Stop, drop and roll" and crawling out of a smoky room.
Most toddlers have been in the car or on walks through city streets enough to notice traffic signs and lights and are putting together the concept of red meaning stop
and green meaning go
. This is a great first game for toddlers and it's one that all ages can enjoy together.
Play Hide and Seek
Some toddlers might be frightened by hiding or not being able to find you if you hide, so exercise caution when playing this game. Hide in obvious areas with a leg or arm visible at first until he is comfortable playing. Make little noises by clearing your throat or coughing to aid him even further in finding you. Initially when you begin the game (by counting and then announcing that "ready or not, here I come") you may need to count for him. You can also just count very slowly to 3 in order to teach counting and then work up incrementally to 10.
If your toddler picks something up inside the house and throws it, take this as the perfect cue to head outside and have some fun with balls. You can take turns kicking and throwing, set up baskets with plastic containers or boxes and create targets with hula hoops.
Take a Walk
A walk can be a great morning or evening routine for your and your toddler. Even if it's just a trip around the block, you'll be that much closer to meeting your child's activity needs for the day. Walks afford many teachable opportunities and since the environment is changing every day there's no end to the variety of things to talk about and explore. If your toddler isn't walking well, resist the urge to carry him or let him ride in a stroller. Make your walk close and short and take along one of these walking toys
Have Fun with Water
If the weather permits, get your toddler involved in some water play. A small child's pool (with proper supervision and safety in mind
, of course) or even just a sprinkler will provide lots of ways for your toddler to move. It's also one activity that toddlers seem to enjoy much longer than just playing with a ball or toy, so be sure to make it a regular part of your days when you can.