Outdoor Physical Activities for Toddlers

Get Outside and Get Active With Your Toddler

Couple walking and swinging toddler between them
 Hilary Helton/Getty Images

Toddlers and children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control. 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, rake leaves or refill bird baths and feeders. Get little hands involved with all the tasks that you might perform yourself. 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, 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 plastic molds as well as dump trucks and other vehicles for moving sand around.

Create Some Art

Art is usually a fine motor activity, but when you take it outside it becomes a gross motor activity as well. Your toddler will 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 anytime 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 meltdown at the mere thought.

Chase Bubbles

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, including boxes, mats or large toys. 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.

Play Red Light, Green Light

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.

Play With Balls

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 you 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 instead.

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.

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