The other day I was looking up ideas for outdoor activities to do with the baby (toddler). He loves playing outside, but we usually end up pushing him on his bike for hours, up and down the gravel driveway. His legs are still too short to reach the pedals by himself so mama turns into his official pusher.
While I love his love for the outdoors, I began looking for OTHER things to do outside. Other things that would help him explore, expand his knowledge, spark creativity, or just give mama’s back a break from bending over and pushing him on his bike.
I compiled a list of activities we could do outside and figured other homesteading parents might find it useful, or even be able to add to it!
Jack is 2, so a lot of these are for younger kids, but some could be easily adapted for older kids as well.
For more ideas, check out my friend’s post on Ways to Keep Your Kids Entertained So You Can Get Stuff Done.
Gross Motor Outdoor Activities For Toddlers
Create a Balance Beam Out of a Log or Plank
Last summer while my husband was milling a maple tree with an Alaskan mill, Baby Jack discovered that the outter-most slice (which was flat on the top, but curved on the bottom) was an awesome balancing challenge. He would stand on the flat side and try to balance on it. While this is aimed at young kids, who doesn’t still love to test their skills by walking across a log over a creek? You can dial the challenge up or down by increasing the height, or putting one end higher than the other.
Possibly after you’re done with your sensory box (see below), tie found items to the end of twigs to make natural paintbrushes. Grasses, leaves, feathers, pinecones, etc. all make great paintbrushes. For this I recommend using store-bought paints. Things like pinecones and cattails might be better rolled than pulled like a paintbrush.
Create a Path
Create a path of stones or leaves and jump from one to the next. Think natural hopscotch. Jump with both feet, or only one. Just from one to another, or skip one in the middle!
One of my favorite childhood memories is talking a nature walk with my class and collecting natural ingredients to make dyes. The next day we all brought in white t-shirts and tie-dyed with the colors we made. Berries can make a dye anywhere from red, to blue, to pink colored. Beet skins, onion skins, red cabbage, spinach, orange peels, wildflowers and tree bark can all lend color to water.
Add plant material to a metal or old saucepan and add twice as much water as plant material. Simmer for at least an hour. Then let the water come to room temperature and strain.
For long-lasting dyes, you’ll need to process your fabric in a “fixative”. For fruit dyes, simmer the fabric in 1/4 cup salt and 4 cups water. For vegetable dyes, simmer in one cup vinegar and four cups water. In both cases, simmer for one hour. Rinse in cold water and then dye.
Paint a Tree
Keeping on the paint theme, scour the woods for a fallen branch that calls to your child. Take it home and let him paint it – try painting it with your fingers, or the natural paintbrushes from #9. Or find some bio-degradable paint and paint live trees!
Collect leaves, grasses and flowers. Place them between two white pieces of paper and gently pound with a hammer. The colored liquid inside will come out when the material is bruised and leave a pressing.
Or check out this post by my friend at Everyday Chaos and Calm: Flower Sensory Play
Catch a Spider By The Toe
Early in the morning, go out with a piece of black construction paper and “catch” a spiderweb with it while making sure to preserve the shape. Use this to start a conversation. Don’t worry too much about ruining a spider’s house – most spider species build a new web every day.
Fine Motor Outdoor Activities For Toddlers
Collect a number of leaves and string them together with shoestring. For older kids, you can create a mobile of found items – sticks, leaves, feathers, etc. At the end you have a work of art you can hang in their bedroom or outside from a tree.
String Play – For the Birds
In another string game, string together cheerios or slices of fruit with shoestring and leave them outside for the birds to enjoy. Hang them just outside of your window so you can watch the fruits of your labor.
Trace a Shadow
Lay out large white paper or construction paper under the shadow of a tree on a sunny day. “Trace” the outline of the shadow. Trace the outline quickly, as it’ll change with the moving sun, but once the outline is traced, you can fill in the design with your own imagination!
Color the Skies
With a sketch pad, lay out on a blanket and draw the passing clouds that you see. For older kids, this can be an introduction into the different types of clouds or the different layers of atmosphere.
Sensory Outdoor Activities For Toddlers
Collect small rocks, twigs, leaves, flowers, etc. and put them in a quart-sized mason jar. Fill the jar with water, afix the lid and enjoy shaking or turning the jar over again to make an all-natural snowglobe.
Create a Water or Sand Table
This can be as simple or as complicated as you make it. A water table could be simply a cookie sheet on the ground, or a standing table with a lip. Include different sized cups, hand shovels, nesting containers, legos, anything that can scoop or hold water or sand.
Create a Sensory Bin
Children learn about the world around them with their 5 senses. Exploring with their senses creates nural pathways that are later used for learning other things such as music and language. Collect things like twigs, feathers, pinecones, rocks, felt, paper, etc. and put them all in a shoebox. Your child can help pick out the things to add to the box and together you can pick up each item individually and talk about it’s size, texture, if it’s rough or soft. Encourage them to talk about each item using all 5 sense.
Art and Math Outdoor Activities For Toddlers
Get natural colored paint swatches from the hardware store. Go on a nature walk and find things outside that match the colors on the swatches. This can always become a competitive game – checkmark the colors that you find and see who can find the most at the end of the walk (or day, or week)!
Collect a number of twigs and create letters of the alphabet by tying the twigs together. This helps kids mentally break the lines of the letters down and physically construct them again.
Home at Last
Create a fairy home out of moss, rocks, grasses, twigs, etc. This can be a temporary home, or a permanent one you and your little can go visit – and add to – on a regular basis.
Make a Face
After a good rain (or if you have access to a creek), plaster mud onto the side of a tree. Add twigs and rocks, etc. to make a face.
Collect Natural Objects and Sort Them
Go on a nature walk with your child and collect flowers, nuts, leaves, feathers, rocks, etc. At the end of your walk, group them by type, size or color. For similar things of different colors or sizes, you can put them in order of smallest to largest, for example, or shades of color.
For more great ideas like these, I love this book on unschooling, and using nature to do it:
I’ve compiled this list from unschooling, forest schooling, homesteading and homeschooling blogs all across the internet, but I would LOVE to hear from the collective knowledge of you as well! Please comment below and add your own ideas so we can collectively make one giant list!