If you’re looking for fun outdoor games to tempt your toddler into the great outdoors, look no further.
We’ve compiled a list of the best outdoor games for younger kids so you can enjoy time outdoors as a family.
Please keep reading to find out which fun outdoor games made it onto the list.
Does my toddler need to spend time outdoors?
We all benefit from time spent outdoors, and toddlers are no exception. Time spent playing outside gives your child plenty of opportunities to develop motor skills, movement, and coordination.
Unlike the four walls of your living room that limit children when they play indoors, the outside world provides plenty of space and fewer rules so your child can go wild.
Many parents find their toddlers sleep better after spending time outside. The fresh air works wonders, as does burning off some steam. Toddlers enjoy being let free from the confines of indoor spaces and allowed to roam. So find a safe outdoor space where your toddler has the green light to explore.
The benefits of outdoor play for toddlers
According to a study published in the South African Journal of Education, time spent outdoors improves preschool children’s cognitive, linguistic, social-emotional, and motor skills.
According to this article, published in the Porto Biomedical Journal: “While playing outside, children benefit from being exposed to sunlight, natural elements, and open-air, which contributes to bones development, stronger immune system, and physical activity”.
It’s clear being physically active is great for toddlers, and time spent outdoors is an easy way to achieve that.
If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of outdoor play, take a look at our article 5 Reasons Why Your Kids Need To Spend More Time Outside.
How do I get my toddler to play outside?
How do you get toddlers to do something they don’t want to know? Um, let us know if you find out!
Toddlers are strong-willed little human beings, as you have probably already discovered. The best way to get your toddler to play outside is to make it fun.
Make sure your toddler wears suitable footwear and the right clothes for the climate. If your toddler isn’t keen on putting on a winter coat, stick it in a bag so she can have it later when she wants it.
The following list of fun outdoor games and activities should be enough to entice your toddler out to play. Toddlers love repetition, so once they find an outdoor game they love, you’ll be stuck playing it for a while.
Hopefully, this will encourage them to stay outside longer and allow you both to enjoy some time spent in nature.
Free-range games to play outside with toddler
A free-range childhood is all about exploring, natural curiosity, and taking (safe) risks. Free-range play is the ideal outdoor activity to keep your toddler entertained.
Here are some free-range games to play with your toddler:
Well, that’s what you’re there for, right? Spend some time together exploring the area, whether you’re deep in the forest or on a grassy meadow.
There are plenty of things to see outside. Pay attention to the different sights, smells, sounds and textures and discuss them with your toddler. This is a great way to teach your toddler to slow down and notice the world around her.
Toddlers love finding things, so a scavenger hunt is a perfect outdoor toddler activity. Shout things out and see if your toddler can find them.
You could tie this game in with the changing seasons by searching for different colored leaves in the autumn and different types of wildflowers in the summer.
Fun toddler games to play outside
You don’t need to plan anything complicated to keep a toddler entertained outside. The following simple activities should help pass a little time in the great outdoors:
Bubbles are fun and pretty and unpredictable – and toddlers love them. Get a bubble wand and blow bubbles for your toddlers. See how many they can pop. If there is a light breeze, you might be surprised at how far the bubbles can travel. Follow them and see where they go.
If you have a toddler, it’s likely you already have a pocket filled with twigs and stones, and feathers. Toddlers love finding treasures as they go about their day and often want to collect a pile of keepsakes.
Take a bucket with you on your travels so you can fill it with things they find along the way. By the end of your walk, the bucket will probably be full of flowers, leaves, acorns, and sticks. For extra wholesome points, you can create a nature picture with them when you get home.
Outdoor games for kids party
If you’re planning a toddler birthday party outdoors, the following outdoor games for kids might be fun to try:
Teddy bears’ picnic
This classic outdoor game is still popular with children today. For a fun outdoor birthday party, ask each guest to bring their favorite teddy with them. Set out a picnic blanket and a toy tea set and watch the children get lost in their imaginative play.
Hide the teddy
Select a brightly colored teddy, hide it in the garden, and send all the guests out to look for him. The winner gets a prize! You can hide as many bears as guests if you like, so that each child receives a keepsake from the party.
Outdoor games for preschoolers
Preschoolers will probably love all the games on this list, but they can also enjoy more complicated activities. Try the following fun outdoor games for kids with your preschoolers:
It’s time to go searching for animals. On your walk, take a pair of binoculars, a pencil and notepad, and a camera. Look out for pawprints on muddy days and see if you can figure out what type of animal left them. Look for animal homes in the woods and see if you can work out who lives there.
Use the binoculars to find birds and wildlife hiding in the trees. Ask your preschooler to take photos or draw pictures of the animals you discover on your adventure.
This classic car game works outdoors too. As preschoolers learn letters and figure out sounds, this is one of the great outdoor games for kids to develop their knowledge.
This fun game can be played anywhere and requires no equipment whatsoever, making it the perfect outdoor game for your outdoorsy parenting toolkit.
Garden games for kids
If you’re lucky enough to have some outdoor space, make sure you use it. Children should spend time playing outdoors most days, and this is certainly easier when you have a safe space right on your doorstep.
Here are some fun garden games to entertain your children in your own backyard:
Water play is lots of fun for toddlers, especially in nice weather when it can help to cool them down.
Fill a washing-up bowl with clean water and give them sponges and washing-up brushes so they can clean their toys. Of course, they’ll make a mess but they’ll also have plenty of fun – and their toys might be a little cleaner by the end of this outdoor game.
Sidewalk chalk drawing is an excellent way of entertaining children of any age. Older children will love drawing and writing all over your patio, and younger children will have fun coloring in the driveway.
You could draw round your toddler’s shadow and ask her to color in her outfit. You could use the sidewalk chalk to draw a road or farmyard for your children to use with their toys.
Outdoor games for families
Here are some suggestions for classic outdoor games for kids that you can enjoy as a family:
Hide and seek
Toddlers are famously terrible at hiding, but they’ll love a family fun game of hide and seek. They will squeal with delight when they find you.
Family kick about
Your toddler will love it when you kick a ball about as a family. Keep this fun outdoor game friendly and gentle so they can have fun chasing after the ball.
They will love passing the ball to you and feeling part of a team. Chasing a ball around will be great for their motor skills and coordination.
Outdoor games without equipment
If you’re looking for easy, equipment-free games you can play with your entire family, look no further:
You’re the forest fire, and the children are the animals escaping the fire (a bit dark, no?). Ask each child to choose which animal to be.
Have the children line up on one side of the space. Their aim is to get across the grass without you catching them.
Next, shout out an animal’s name, and then that animal has to start running, to see if you can catch it. Toddlers will love running between your legs and escaping capture during this game.
If you fancy a family walk, suggest a going on a nature trail. Look out for things of note to point out along the way.
Are there any waterfalls to see or fun trees to climb? Make the walk as interactive as possible. Stop to build an outdoor cubby or den, or take a turn on a tree swing, and be sure to see who can find the best stick along the way.
Outdoor games for kids – social distancing
If you’re looking for outdoor activities to entertain kids during social distancing, try these out for size:
Create an obstacle course the children can navigate. You don’t need any fancy equipment; it can be as simple as ‘run round that tree, jump on the tree stump, spin three times and find a leaf’.
Have the children race around the course separately; you can compare times if they’re feeling competitive. You can include as many physical exercises as you like so they can have fun and get fit.
Hopscotch is a favorite outdoor game that kids can play while adhering to social distancing rules. Set up a hopscotch on the floor and challenge all the children to find a stone to play with. They can take it in turns to play and see who can balance the best.