We’re lucky to have an acre of garden at home, and for me and my wife, being able to enjoy this with our three kids as they’ve grown up has been the joy of our lives.
We particularly loved playing with the children when they were little – so here are 30 fun-packed backyard activities for toddlers that will help your family make some memories like we did. 🙂
What Are Some Good Outdoor Activities For a Toddler?
Toddlers have a lot of energy, and the backyard is a great place for them to run, jump, skip, and dance. Your yard can also be a calmer space, where your little one can learn about nature and growing things, and perhaps even help you with a few simple gardening tasks.
Love messy play but don’t want to trash your kitchen? Take those paints and water games outside! You get the idea – so let’s cut straight to that list of our favorite outdoor activities for you and your toddler to enjoy together.
Backyard scavenger hunt
We all love a good scavenger hunt, so don’t save them for the Easter Egg trail. You can hide small toys, painted rocks, or even (carefully wrapped) candy in your yard, and set your little one off on a hunting expedition.
A young toddler won’t be able to read clues like an older child can; however, you could draw or print out pictures of what you’ve hidden, and ask them to find them among the grass and plant pots. Or, encourage them to practice counting by asking them to spot four painted pebbles in the yard.
This is a great one if you’re looking for a longer activity because there’s a crafting element as well as outdoor sporting fun.
You can make your crazy golf holes out of all sorts of things from the craft, toy, and recycling boxes. Cardboard tubes, plastic bottles, skipping ropes, buckets, toy bricks… You can also make flags together for the holes.
As for the holes themselves… Well, don’t go digging up the lawn! Paint circles on the grass to act as holes. You can even buy lawn paint, which could be handy if you want to create a soccer pitch or tennis court in your yard.
Plant pot painting
Painting with toddlers is a messy business, so the backyard can be a good place. Stick an old sheet or newspapers down first, though, unless you fancy brightly colored pavers…
Terracotta plant pots take paint really well. If you don’t have any, you can pick them up pretty cheaply in any outdoor store. Have fun painting on colors and designs, then when the paint is dry, seal them with a spray-on varnish. You can even plant flowers or herbs in them afterwards, and your patio will look bright and beautiful!
Remember making mud pies? You can take that one step further by making a mud kitchen. Use an old table or upturned box, and give your toddler some old bowls and kitchen utensils. They can have a great time playing at cooking, using dirt, leaves, and bits of old twig from the yard.
You’ll also get to practice your acting skills when you’re handed a slice of “pie” to eat…
Painting on a big scale can be great fun. Get the biggest piece of paper you can find, or tape smaller ones together. You could even use an old white bedsheet.
Stretch it out, secure it at the corners, and give them a few pots of paint and big brushes. If this is a success, you could think about making an art wall in the yard. Use blackboard paint to create an art space that they can use over and over again.
At some point, every small kid will ask to make slime. It’s like a rite of passage for today’s toddlers. Slime making is a task that’s next kept to the garden, as it can get messy.
Before you start, watch this guide to making slime.
This is next-level mud pies: the witch’s kitchen. If you have some sort of Halloween cauldron, perfect. If not, choose the biggest, darkest, oldest pot you can find in the kitchen, but be prepared to have it filled with all sorts of icky stuff…
You and your toddler can then devise a spell: can you turn Mom or Dad into a toad (worth it to watch your partner pretend to hop)? Can you make yourself invisible (lots of role play fun)? Can you make it rain (cue the hosepipe)?
One of the loveliest things to do in the yard with your toddler is some actual gardening. Start small and easy with some seeds, ideally something colorful that grows quickly (beans and sunflowers are always popular for these reasons).
You can also grow oregano for their pizza together, or basil for their pasta. These small early steps help to introduce children to growing food, and helps teach them where their food comes from. Here are some easy seeds to plant with kids.
An all-time favorite. Flat rocks or pebbles, acrylic paint, and a clear spray-on varnish. Your toddler can paint on all sorts of designs, which can then be varnished to protect them.
Scatter these mini works of art around the yard as decorations or use them in scavenger hunts. They also make cute presents for grandparents.
Here’s a great way to use up some energy on a warm day. Play catch in the yard with water balloons, and see who gets wet first! It’s a gentler, toddler-friendly version of a Nerf gun battle. Don’t go into this expecting to stay dry yourself, and bring the laundry inside first.
The yard doesn’t have to be a place for sports or messy activities. It’s also a lovely place to read a story together. Set up a rug on the grass or curl up on a chair on the porch. Enjoy the warmth of the sun and the scents from the plants while you read together.
All kids (and their parents) love shelter building. You don’t need your own woodland and a whole heap of sticks to make a shelter or fort: two garden chairs and a blanket will do.
If you have a corner behind a tree or a gap between shrubs, this can make a perfect little den for the summer.
The quickest and easiest outdoor activity: bubble blowing. Small kids love watching the bubbles, and you can take it in turns to be blower and catcher.
Run out of bubble mix? Here’s how to make your own bubble solution at home.
You must remember this from school: making rubbings using leaves and crayons. For very young kids, it’s simply a pretty art activity, while older children can learn about the structures of leaves.
Use lots of different colors, then you can cut out the rubbings to make a collage. If you do this in the fall, you can add dry leaves, twigs, and cones to create a nature-inspired picture.
This is a bigger project but it’s a great way to engage toddlers with our resident little critters. The easiest way is to buy a bug hotel from somewhere like Amazon, then check in regularly to see who’s moved in.
If you want to make your own, here’s how to make an easy bug house.
How about a sporting competition? Races, throwing contests, relays, pillowcase races… Make medals out of tin foil and ribbon, and have an awards ceremony at the end.
Note: parents never win. We reckon even Usain Bolt never wins a race against the under 5s.
The backyard is the best place for water play, better even than the tub. You don’t have to get the wading pool out, because a bucket or bowl of water will do just fine if they’re playing with toy boats, mermaids, or fishing games.
If it’s a hot day and they want to really immerse themselves as well as their toys, dig out the old baby bath, which is quicker and easier than preparing the pool. And of course (deep breath), there’s always the hosepipe…
Sand – excavation game
We love this. If you have a sandbox, fantastic. If not, fill any decent size bowl or box with play sand. Bury dino toys in the sand to play paleontologist, or get out the toy diggers to level the land for building work.
Playing with sand is a lovely sensory experience for young children, as well as giving them a sense of exploration and discovery. Hide something unexpected in the sand, like a new little toy or a pretty shell or rock you’ve found.
Possibly the king of all backyard toys, and perfect on a hot day. If it’s family-sized, get in yourself, and have fun with squirty toys, plastic fish, and mermaid costumes.
When you’re two, there’s nothing like the satisfaction of being able to throw and catch a ball or bean bag. A simple game of catch in the garden is such fun for both of you, and a great way of helping toddlers develop coordination and ball skills.
Don’t have any paper? If you have a stick of chalk handy, all is not lost… Chalk washes off pavers, so this is a really cheap, easy, and sustainable way of drawing together.
And while you’ve got the chalk out, introduce your kids to this real retro game! You may even get Grandma to join in, because everyone knows how to play hopscotch! (Just in case she’s forgotten, here are the rules of hopscotch.)
If you want them to mow the lawn when they’re in their teens, get your kid into gardening now. Joking aside, learning how to plant and nurture food and flowers is so important for kids, and they’ll grow up with a real appreciation of nature.
While you’re planting or repotting, give your little one a trowel (a real one, or get them a set of kids’ garden tools) and let them “garden” alongside you in a safe patch of soil. They can help you pop in the plants and water them when they’re in. Kids are also really good at spotting worms, so set them on a worm hunt to gather these helpful critters.
Eating outside can be a big adventure when you’re small. Lay out a blanket on the lawn, and bring their lunch outside on plastic plates.
If you can, add a treat food like strawberries to make it even more special. Invite VIP guests like their favorite soft toys for a traditional “Teddy Bear’s Picnic”.
Feed the birds
Give your feathered friends a treat by making them a special birdie snack. It’s fun to make bird food together, and your kids can watch the little diners tucking in. Here’s an easy recipe for bird food that you can make together.
If you have a good-sized lawn, it’s simply the best place for dancing! Jump, skip, and twirl around the yard, enjoying the space. If you can get music into your yard, even better.
Bean bag toss
Here’s another classic game: throwing bean bags into boxes. Bean bags are easier for younger kids to handle than balls, so it’s a good way to introduce them to throwing eye-hand coordination.
You have to wash the car but there’s a toddler in tow… Give them their own bucket and sponge, and let them clean their ride-on car, bike, or scooter alongside you. If you’re feeling bold, they can even help you hose down the Big Car.
Hide and seek
You’ll have to make the call whether this is safe in your yard, and if your yard can be secured. Let’s be honest, toddlers aren’t the best at hiding, so you’re unlikely to lose them among the shrubs for hours.
If you have a couple of trees to hide behind and maybe a table to hide under, you’re onto a winner. Of course, you have to take your time to find them, and their joy at outwitting you will be enormous! Pick a comfy spot when it’s your turn to hide (over thirty, crouching behind a bush really hurts the knees after a while).
Use skipping ropes, boxes, hula hoops, and balls to create a fun outdoor obstacle course. This can either be set up as a race between two or more kids, or an individual challenge. Older kids can even be timed.
So there we have it – a list of great fun things to do with your toddlers and little children in the backyard.
Some of my favorite memories involve playing with my kids in the garden – digging holes, spraying the hose and playing ball.
So I hope this article provides some inspiration for things to do in the yard with your youngsters. I know from experience they grow up fast – so enjoy playing together while you can! 🙂