All kids benefit from exploring the great outdoors — even babies. Being outside allows young children to discover new sights, sounds, and things to touch, and it’s how they begin to understand the great, wide world around them.
Scientific inquiry is a huge part of early childhood education, and there’s no better way to spark that creativity than to get outside. Here are 50 fun, easy ideas for activities and games that toddlers are sure to love.
50 Outdoor Education Games and Activities
Outdoor Nature Activities
1. Outdoor scavenger hunt: Hide objects in the backyard and ask your toddler to find them.
2. ABC garden hunt: Practice letter recognition; make things harder by asking your toddler to remember each item in the order in which they’re spotted.
3. Name-writing activity: Take a nature walk to find objects like twigs, rocks, and shells, then ask your toddler to use them to form the letters of their name.
4. Go on a bug hunt: Identify cool new bugs while practicing one very important life skill: “look, don’t touch.”
5. Make bird feeders: Make bird feeders and watch the neighborhood avians feast.
6. Measure items in nature: Walk through the forest with a ruler and ask your child to measure the interesting things they come across.
7. Play-Doh imprinting: Take a nature walk and use Play-Doh to make imprints of the objects you find, fossil-style.
8. Play a name game: See how many plants and animals your child can recall from memory, then go out and look for them at a nearby park or reservoir.
9. Bird watching: Identify birds and describe their unique, often funny, sounds.
10. Inukshuk building or stone-stacking: This fun and meaningful art form also teaches mindfulness and patience.
Outdoor Science Activities
11. Mini DIY kaleidoscopes: Make a homemade kaleidoscope to explore light, reflections, and symmetry.
12. Watermelon seed counting: Practice counting watermelon seeds, then sort the seeds from largest to smallest.
13. Frozen dinosaur dig: Freeze plastic dinosaurs in ice cube trays and help your toddler set them free.
14. Make a miniature science lab: Collect various items from the garden and place them on a small table, then ask your child to identify and label each on a piece of craft paper.
15. Fly a kite: Take your child to a park to fly a kite, then discuss the kite’s shape and color.
16. Blow giant bubbles: Buy giant bubble kits at the store — it’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
17. Teach about bees: Explain why bees and pollination are so important to our ecosystem, then get outside and hunt for bees in the backyard or a local park.
18. Learn about biodegradable materials: Talk about decomposition and explain how materials degrade over time: It’s a good segue into topics like recycling and composting.
19. Ant-watching: Find ants — master builders who gather and work together — and watch them do their thing.
20. Explore microscopes: Inspect leaves, dirt, and sand to see what’s hidden inside.
Outdoor Art Activities
21. Make bubble art: Make colorful art using bubbles and paint.
22. Paint with squirt guns: Fill plastic squirt guns with watercolor paint and spray a sheet of craft paper.
23. Make seashell art: Hit the beach to find some shells, then use them to make a portrait or spell out words or names.
24. Flower painting: Create masterful art by combining watercolors and flower petals.
25. Shadow puppets: Hone your toddler’s fine motor skills by making shadow puppets in the sun. Add sidewalk chalk for a creative touch.
26. Outdoor name art: Use sidewalk chalk to spell out friends’ and family members’ names.
27. Window painting: Use washable window markers to give your home some (impermanent) flourishes.
28. Outdoor chalkboard game: Turn sidewalk chalk and an empty patch of pavement into a fun game of Snakes and Ladders or Tic Tac Toe.
29. Easy friendship bracelets: Use beads and other materials to create colorful bracelets, then encourage your child to give them as gifts to grandparents, siblings, and friends.
30. Pinwheel craft: Make and decorate a cardstock pinwheel; tape it to a straw and watch it blow in the wind.
Outdoor Life Skill Activities
31. Nature’s cereal: Fill the bottom of a bowl with coconut water and add fresh fruit and seeds.
32. Fairy play garden: Pretend your backyard or the forest is full of fairies; encourage your toddler to find them all.
33. Plant seeds: Practice planting vegetable and fruit seeds with your toddler.
34. Plant flowers: Plant store-bought potted flowers and plant them in your garden. On rainy days, whip out the protective newspaper and try this activity inside.
35. Harvest herbs: Plant herb seeds and watch them grow throughout the season; use safety scissors to snip off your spoils.
36. Go pick berries: Find a local berry farm and set out to pick summer bounty like strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. Bring it home and enjoy your hard-won snack.
37. Plant seeds in glass jars: Plant sunflower seeds in clear jars — you’ll be able to watch them grow.
38. Kiddie pool fishing: Fill a kiddie pool with water and plastic fish. Let your toddler practice their fishing skills with a plastic net or magnetic fishing rod.
39. Homemade ice cream: For lactose-intolerant kids, be sure to substitute dairy products with plant-based milks.
40. Fruit yogurt popsicles: Mix yogurt and fruit in popsicle trays and freeze them overnight.
Outdoor Exercise Activities
41. Water play with flowers: For some sensory playtime in the sunshine, toss real or fake flowers into the kiddie pool.
42. Water spray alphabet hunt: Practice sounds and letter recognition with water.
43. Yoga and stretching: Tote a yoga mat to the park or the beach, teach your child some basic poses, and practice stretching together al fresco.
44. Sand play sensory bin: Fill a bin with sand, plastic toys, and tot-friendly digging tools, then let your little one dig for “buried treasure.”
45. Play hide and seek: This is a timeless favorite that kids of all ages never fail to love.
46. Play tag: Burn off the wiggles and soak in some sunshine during a rousing game of tag.
47. Water balloon fight: Fill small balloons with water — it’s a great way to cool off.
48. Hopscotch: Hopscotch cultivates gross motor and math skills. Bonus points if your toddler can use sidewalk chalk to draw the hopscotch board.
49. Play with helicopter seeds: Grab some helicopter seeds and watch them flutter up to the sky, then down to the ground.
50. Balancing games: Practice gross motor skills by playing balancing games; ask your toddler to copy you when you, say, balance on one foot.