Summer is officially here! The sun is shining down (intermittently!) on Tots Play headquarters, so we felt inspired to share some of our favourite outdoor games to play with toddlers and preschool children. Here are our top 8 ideas for making the most of the beautiful weather (before the rain clouds come back)!
Children love mark-making, and practising holding a chalk is a perquisite to writing skills. There are many learning opportunities and games that can be played with a little concrete space and a handful of chalks. You could play hopscotch (don’t expect little ones to be able to hop and jump, but they will love watching you modelling it and trying to copy). Practice drawing pictures and discuss what you have created. Your little one might even want to copy or go over your marks. For older toddlers and preschoolers, you can draw shapes, numbers, colour spots, names, letters or figures. Ask your child to recognise the different marks and jump between them.
Image from www.parentmap.com
2) Outdoor Painting
Painting with water is a great way to “paint” with zero mess, although you may need a spare change of clothing after. All you need is a concrete floor or pavement, a paintbrush and a bowl of water. Children will see the marks on the floor as they use the water to paint with. There are lots of opportunities to discuss why the water disappears. You can either put it down to “magic” which children will love, or use it as an opportunity to introduce complex words like evaporate into their vocabulary. Don’t worry that a concept might be too complicated, research has shown that using a “grown-up” vocabulary is great for young children’s language development. You can also take more traditional painting outside. Tape the paper to a small plastic table or on the ground to stop it blowing away, and you can allow your little Picasso to express themselves without having to worry about the paint ruining your carpet!
3) Go for a walk
Now you have a little walker, you can start to ditch the pram or carrier, although we recommend that if you have somewhere to be, you leave an hour earlier at least - toddlers are not known for their speed! As you walk, they will want to stop at look at everything from an ant to a stick. Indulge their curiosity and allow them the time to explore the environment. Ask them questions about their senses: what can they see, hear, smell, touch and even taste (if blackberries are in season)?
4) Set up an obstacle course
You don’t need any special equipment for a toddler obstacle course; use whatever you have access to. Children will love helping you to set it up and will find new and inventive ways to use objects that you may not have thought of. A chair can be a tunnel or bridge to go over, a hoop can be a jumping spot, a tree stump could be a mountain, the edge of a lawn could be an athletics track. Use the space you have in your garden to your full advantage. No two obstacle courses will be the same.
5) Hide and seek
Children love this game but it can be a little scary for parents and toddlers sometimes. Your child may worry where you are and you may worry where your child is! Always set clear boundaries and keep an eye open when you’re supposed to be counting (we know this is cheating, but I am sure your toddler won’t hold it against you!). When you hide, keep it simple - even if you know an awesome hiding place, stick to the areas they will look in straight away and make sure part of your body is visible so they can spot you easily. The sense of achievement and excitement when they find you is magic.
6) Throwing and catching games
Your toddler may not be able to catch at this early stage but the more experience they have with throwing and catching, the quicker they will learn these important gross motor skills. It is important to pick the right throwing object, it needs to be light enough for little hands to throw but not so light that it will easily blow away (balloons are best for indoors for this reason). Toddlers are still sensory sensitive, so for an extra learning opportunity, look for balls that are textile or have flashing lights. We have some great sensory balls available in our online store HERE. Once you have the right object, you can play simple throwing and catching games, set up a hoop or bucket to throw into or kick the ball towards a goal. It doesn’t need to be a complicated game with loads of rules; don’t expect too much, except fun of course!
Image from movingsmartblog.blogspot.com
7) Blow bubbles
This is a favourite activity inside or out. Bubbles are a big part of our Tots Play classes and they are always a winner. They are particularly good outside though because they won’t make the carpet wet or the laminate flooring slippy and the children will have physically further to chase them as they dance unpredictably in the wind. You can count the bubbles, talk about their shapes and sizes and notice how they feel when they pop on you.
Image from www.kidspot.com.au
8) Hot and cold treasure hunt
Hide a toy in the garden or park and your toddler will love the adventure of finding it. To keep their interest, make sure your hiding place isn’t too good! An excellent way to help your little one find the 'treasure' is to use the hot and cold vocabulary. When they are close they are 'hotter', when they are going away from it they are 'colder'. Using this method develops their language skills and problem solving abilities. They might want to hide it for you afterwards: this is a fabulous learning opportunity, but don’t be surprised if you still haven’t found it by sunset.
Tots Play understands how toddlers learn
All these activities encourage physical activity and curiosity about the world around them, both of which toddlers need to aid healthy physical and mental development. Each of these ideas will give you the opportunity to spend some quality interactive time together and to and explore the environment.
Here at Tots Play , we understand how toddlers learn and grow, and provide lots of ideas and opportunities to enjoy this fabulous age of wonder and possibility. Find out HERE where your local classes are running and pop along to learn even more activities that support and compliment your growing bundle of joy.
Happy Summer and Happy Playing!
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