Free Outdoor Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers to Do in the Backyard

Updated on February 15, 2018
ThePracticalMommy profile image

Marissa is the writer of ThePracticalMommy and the blog Mommy Knows What's Best. She is a stay-at-home mom to four and was a teacher.

Free Outdoor Activities for Kids

Climbing on a jungle gym or climbing up to a tree house can be great exercise for kids!
Climbing on a jungle gym or climbing up to a tree house can be great exercise for kids! | Source

Fun Outdoor Activities for Kids

I was sitting outside, watching my son play in the yard, when it dawned on me: he wasn’t playing with his toys or going on his slide. He was pointing out clouds, bringing me flowers and finding bugs. What a wonderful way to spend an outdoor afternoon, and it didn’t require any store bought items to do so!

Here is a list of fun, "natural," and free outdoor activities you can do with your child in your own backyard:

Cloud Watching—Any Age

Most people have the tendency to look down no matter what they are doing. If they only took the time to look up on a beautiful day! My son and I did just that. We watched the clouds roll by, and identified any shapes or forms we saw in them. It was fun to witness the vast horizons of his imagination, and what an awesome way to relieve stress for me.

Required: a nice patch of grass and a bit of imagination

Kids Playing Outside

What did you like to do when you were outside as a kid?

See results

I Spy with My Little Eyes... Great Game for Toddlers!

Find colorful objects, plants or animals, like this Cardinal, to play I Spy.
Find colorful objects, plants or animals, like this Cardinal, to play I Spy. | Source

I Spy—Any Age

When you are outside, there are so many things to view and notice. A simple game of I Spy can open your eyes to even more that is seen by another’s perspective. I played this with my son on our nice spring day. “I spy with my little eye something that is red”, I called out. He went running through the yard, identifying all things red and kept going until he found the item. Then it was my turn. “I spy something that is green, Mama!” he giggled. Of course, he picks green, the color of all of the trees, grass, bushes, quite a few toys…

Required: knowledge of colors and a bit of patience

Rock Collecting and Digging in the Dirt: Fun for Toddlers or Preschoolers!

Find those rocks!
Find those rocks! | Source

Rock Collecting—Ages 2 and Up

This isn’t an actual collection, per se. It’s more of gathering all sorts of rocks, making a pile and then sorting them out. I set a timer (on my cell phone), and we run about collecting as many different rocks as we can find. When the timer is up, we count the rocks to see who has the most. We also take the time to note the different shapes, colors and sizes, although my son always seems to like the red stones in our landscaping…For older children, actually identifying the types of rocks could be fun as well. That may require a trip to the library for an education on rock, but that's for a different day.

Required: rocks, counting skills, possible trip to the library

Water Painting—Ages 1 and Up

This is a fun activity to do on a patio or sidewalk. You simply dip an old paintbrush (my husband is also an artist, so we have those around), a small broom, or an old sock into a small container of water and paint a picture. It’s fun to watch it fade away and paint another picture, again and again. You can play a game of tic-tac-toe with this idea; play it fast, before the game fades away!

Required: water, small container, old sock or paint brush, imagination

Bird/Plant/Tree/Bug Identifying—Ages 2 and Up

Ok, so I put these all in the same category since they basically consist of the same concept: find a bird/plant/tree/bug, and name what kind it is. This depends on the area in which you live and it too may require some background knowledge or some crafty names you and your children come up with on your own. My son and I come up with our own names, which makes it all the more entertaining, since he’s a silly little toddler.

If you're going to try bird watching, why not make your own bird feeder? The bird feeder will attract wild birds that are common to your area. It's a fun and easy project for your children to help with too! When the birds arrive, take pictures and name the ones you see.

Required: eyes, big imaginations or knowledge of birds/plants/trees/bugs

Excellent Resource for Identifying Birds!

Climb a Tree! (Adult Supervision Required)

Climbing shorter trees can be fun for kids!
Climbing shorter trees can be fun for kids! | Source

Any Other Ideas for Outside Fun?

Is there a ‘natural’ or free game/activity that you play with your children? Please share in the comments below! Thanks for reading.


©ThePracticalMommy

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 4 years ago from United States

        Pinkchic18, Glad you like the ideas! :)

      • Pinkchic18 profile image

        Sarah Carlsley 4 years ago from Minnesota

        Nice ideas here. It is always a task to keep little ones busy. Especially boys with lots of energy!

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 6 years ago from United States

        Glad you love it, Kelley! :D

      • profile image

        kelleyward 6 years ago

        I love this hub! Thanks for adding mine to your list! Have a great day! Kelley

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 6 years ago from United States

        ComfortB, I'm the same way with bugs-- mostly with the gnats and annoying ones. They would keep me indoors all the time if it wasn't for my kids.

        Have you tried any methods for getting rid of the bee nests? I believe there are natural (or chemical)ways out there to either get rid of the bee nests or make them want to relocate (a hose or sprinkler comes to mind...). Google could probably help with that one. ;)

        I hope you're able to get outside in your backyard and enjoy it someday! Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 6 years ago from United States

        Turtlewoman, isn't it amazing how kids see beauty and wonder in all things? I bet the twins loved those walks. My 1 year old daughter is the same way now. :) Thanks for reading and commenting!

      • ComfortB profile image

        Comfort Babatola 6 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

        I must confess that I'm a deterrent to my six year old's desire to playing out more. I can't stand bugs and worms. When we moved here (Georgia) from NY, it was a totally different experience for me. I'm surrounded by beautiful wildlife, have a backyard play area that costs us thousands, and it's laying waste 'cause we've got wasp and bees nesting in it, and they come back every year. Plus my garden has been abandoned because of these bugs. lol.

        Thanks ThePracticalMommy for sharing this. For my kids sake, we need to get out more and enjoy the scenery.

      • Turtlewoman profile image

        Kim Lam 6 years ago from California

        I adore this hub! Kids are fascinated with everything so they're quite easy to amuse! When I used to be a nanny, I would take the twins on a stroll every day. They were about 2.5 yrs old so every rock, sidewalk, tree, lemon, squirrel was entertainment for them. Needless to say, it made my job easier. And I love ISpy!, voted up and beautiful and all the smiles. :-)

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 6 years ago from United States

        farmloft, that's great that Grandma plays outside with the kids! I bet they love it. :) Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

      • farmloft profile image

        farmloft 6 years ago from Michigan

        I spy something with my little eye and it is "read". Enjoyed your hub! When my grandkids come over they know to wear old clothes because they're going to get outside and get dirty at Grandma's.

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 6 years ago from United States

        Kelleyward, glad you loved it! Thanks for reading and commenting! :)

      • profile image

        kelleyward 6 years ago

        Love this! Voted up and Shared!

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 6 years ago from United States

        rlaha, I too remember being outside playing quite often. It was always so much fun! I'm glad you found the hub to be useful! Thanks for reading and commenting. :)

      • rlaha profile image

        rlaha 6 years ago from Spartanburg, SC

        Children need to get out and play more. I remember as a kid I would be playing hide and seek outside or riding my bike. I would also have sprinkler parties where we would put the sprinklers out on our lawn during the summers and my friends and I would run through them. Those were fun times! Thanks for sharing! Voted up, useful and interesting!

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 6 years ago from United States

        tillsontitan, I love taking the kids outdoors. We've been loving this winter because we've actually been able to enjoy being outdoors without freezing or getting sick (although we do miss the snow...). Collecting lightning bugs was a favorite pastime of mine when I was a kid, and I'm sure some day my kids will like it as well. Thanks for reading and commenting! :)

      • tillsontitan profile image

        Mary Craig 6 years ago from New York

        How wonderful to take advantage of the great outdoors. New parents need to read this so they can keep their kids away from video games. My kids spent entire days outdoors. Collecting lightning bugs (fireflies) was always a favorite of my kids but I made sure they let them go before they went to bed. Loved this hub and voted up and useful.

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 6 years ago from United States

        Ruchira, your son sounds like my youngest brother who loves to find creepy creatures and keep them in a jar! That's a fun age too. For now, I'll stick with the I Spy and other simple games. I'm not ready to have any more 'pets' to take care of just yet! ;)

        Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

      • Ruchira profile image

        Ruchira 6 years ago from United States

        Hi Practical Mommy,

        Such a beautiful hub. I remember playing most of the above with my once upon a time toddler...now he 9 and loves to dig and find snails and caterpillars and all sorts of small creepy animals inside the mud...lol

        And then he will put them in a jar and bring them in the house...gross!!

        This hub made me go back in time...so I am still in AWE of it :) voted way up as beautiful :) Thanks! Gotta share it now and get all mom's to awe about it as well ;)

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 6 years ago from United States

        Nell Rose, I bet it was so much fun to live near a river when your son was little. I would have loved it! We take my kids to the local ponds and lakes to have fun like that. It is so much better than watching Tv or sitting in front of the PC all day. :) Thanks for reading and commenting!

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

        Hi, these are all great ideas, so many children these days just stay inside and play with the pc or watch tv, and of course these can be done mostly for free, and they learn so much. I remember when my son was small, we live near a river, and we always went fishing with the little nets on the end of the pole, I had a fishtank full of tiddler fish! lol! great fun!

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 6 years ago from United States

        arusho, I'm glad you like the ideas! It would be so much fun playing I Spy on a road trip, but we never could since my son and I get carsick so easily..we like to sing silly songs instead, and it keeps us busy. Thanks for reading and commenting! :)

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 6 years ago from United States

        Sunshine625, it's only just about 50* here, but it's soo nice! I'm glad you still have fun doing all of those things. They keep us young! My son wanted to play with his chalk today, but it was ruined from being left out in the rain/snow. We opted for a walk with his scooter. He was even more adorable with his little helmet on, trying to keep up with his sister and me.

        Have fun! Thanks so much for reading and commenting! :)

      • arusho profile image

        arusho 6 years ago from University Place, Wa.

        Good ideas. My daughter already does the rock collecting thing and I spy, which is great to play on long car drives. Great hub!

      • Sunshine625 profile image

        Linda Bilyeu 6 years ago from Orlando, FL

        I still like doing all the activities in your poll...chalk is my favorite though:) Your son is adorable! Your ideas were very creative! It's 80* today and I'm looking forward to going out to play soon!:)

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 6 years ago from United States

        prektjr.dc, this time of year is perfect for collecting leaves and making crayon rubbings! Thanks for reading, commenting and voting up. :)

        thefamilytoolkit, fort-building is fun as well. That's at the top of my son's list now-a-days. Thanks for reading and commenting! :)

      • thefamilytoolkit profile image

        thefamilytoolkit 6 years ago

        Great ideas, thank you! I also think fort-building is a fun activity.

      • prektjr.dc profile image

        Debbie Carey 6 years ago from Riverton, KS, USA

        LOVE it!! Great ideas! I also love collecting leaves and putting them in clear contact paper (or laminating is best) and they can look at them, do crayon rubbings, use magnifying glass, etc. with them Voted up and useful!

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 6 years ago from United States

        ajaodegaard, raking leaves and jumping in them is an awesome free and natural activity that is perfect for this time of year! And you're right: these activities would be fun to do as adults, and might even be stress relievers. Thanks for reading and commenting! :)

      • ajaodegaard profile image

        ajaodegaard 6 years ago

        I think these activities can be great no matter what your age, sometimes its fun to do the little things like this when you are older. Another great free activity that is fun this time of year is raking leaves and then jumping in the piles of them :)

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 6 years ago from United States

        jacqui2011,the best things in life are free, right? :) Thank you for reading and commenting!

      • jacqui2011 profile image

        jacqui2011 6 years ago from Norfolk, UK

        Great ideas that children will love. Fantastic and especially great that not all things cost money to do. Well done. Voted up and useful.

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 6 years ago from United States

        a herdman, I'm glad you enjoyed this hub! After cleaning up the yard today, my son and I once again will be entertained by some of these activities. Thanks for commenting! :)

      • a herdman profile image

        a herdman 6 years ago from In the South - USA

        Enjoyed your hub and the good ideas. Outside activities are so great for children.

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 6 years ago from United States

        frugalfamily, my son LOVES bugs, so collecting them is fun (for him!)! I love the idea of the shadow pictures made from objects, construction paper and the sun. My son would really enjoy that! Thanks for sharing :)

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 6 years ago from United States

        Sinea Pies, I wish I lived near a beach! Collecting shells is a lot of fun, and I like your idea of painting them and making pictures out of them. Thanks for sharing!

      • frugalfamily profile image

        Brenda Trott, M.Ed 6 years ago from Houston, TX

        I love the description of your son collecting bugs! Here's another outside activity. Find several different items like a key, a spoon, and a fork. Place them onto a series of sheets of construction paper and let them sit in the sun. After naptime, go back and see the shadow picture the sun made of your object.

      • Sinea Pies profile image

        Sinea Pies 6 years ago from Northeastern United States

        I love it! Are you anywhere near a beach? I live near Lake Ontario and there is one beach where small seashells wash on shore. Not only can you collect them and have fun wading in the water but you can bring them home and paint them. I remember gluing them on paper, inside out, and painting them to look like flowers. Voted beautiful.

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 6 years ago from United States

        Thank you, Alvin for reading and commenting!

      • alvinalex profile image

        alvinalex 6 years ago

        Nice Hub! With Great suggestions I just love it:) Thanks to Share.

        ~

        Alvin

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 6 years ago from United States

        Scavenger hunts are so much fun! I like your idea of using pictures of items and taping them around the yard. Thanks for reading and sharing your idea. :)

      • profile image

        mommyloves2write 6 years ago

        These are terrific suggestions. We go to parks and go on long walks or bike ride.

        When my kids were younger, I would hide picutres of items in the yars (with tape). Then they had list and had to go on a scavenger hunt and find them. We would repeat it while they hid their eyes.

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 6 years ago from United States

        I like that activity too, SharkFuel, since it's a teaching opportunity. :)

      • SharkFuel profile image

        SharkFuel 6 years ago

        Most of all I like Bird/Plant/Tree/Bug Identifying activity in this hub. It allows kids to get more information about the nature and very helpful for child development.

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 6 years ago from United States

        Sharkfuel, thanks so much for your kind comment! I appreciate your feedback. :)

      • SharkFuel profile image

        SharkFuel 6 years ago

        Great parenting advices and very valuable information on activities for children. I hope that experienced parents would agree with me that all these activities have a very positive impact on development of children. So, that's why both existing parents and parents to be should pay a special attention to this hub.

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 7 years ago from United States

        RTalloni, mini picnics are a great idea! Perhaps I'll have one today since it's so nice outside. Thanks for reading and commenting! :)

      • RTalloni profile image

        RTalloni 7 years ago from the short journey

        Very nice and very important activities. Good for you for posting this reminder to do these things with children!

        I think that regular mini picnics are important, too. They should be on the schedule for at least once a month--once a week if possible.

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 7 years ago from United States

        No problem, nicolerkilpatrick! Thanks for reading. :)

      • nicolerkilpatrick profile image

        nicolerkilpatrick 7 years ago

        Great suggestions! Thanks.

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 7 years ago from United States

        I hope you have many fun afternoons, tammybarnette! Thanks for reading. :)

      • tammybarnette profile image

        Tammy Barnette 7 years ago

        I have a 3 year old and she has taught me so much. Thanks for more ideas of how we can enjoy our afternoons:)

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 7 years ago from United States

        Thank you Maggie.L, for commenting and reading! :)

      • Maggie.L profile image

        Maggie.L 7 years ago from UK

        These are lovely ideas for having fun with your child outdoors.

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 7 years ago from United States

        Thanks for the vote, Laura! And I'll be sure to check out your hub. :)

      • Laura du Toit profile image

        Laura du Toit 7 years ago from South Africa

        Thanks for the great tips. Playing in mud is another favorite among young children and I have a hub on this subject. "How-To-Love-Mud-as-Much-As-Your-Toddler". Mud pies and building dams can keep them occupied for hours.

        Great hub - voted up.

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 7 years ago from United States

        You're welcome, mama_em! Thanks for reading and leaving a comment! :)

      • mama_em profile image

        mama_em 7 years ago

        Great ideas - thanks so much!

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 7 years ago from United States

        Samantha_Marie: Thanks for the comment and for reading! These activities are fun; I was happy to share them. :)

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 7 years ago from United States

        Kaye: The rock gathering can be a lot of fun, especially when it's turned into a competition of sorts. Thanks for the comment and reading! :)

      • Samantha_Marie profile image

        Samantha_Marie 7 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

        Great hub and great suggestions! Thanks.

      • Kaye McCulloch profile image

        Kaye McCulloch 7 years ago from Australia

        What a great hub. I too love those moments when i realise my children are completely enthralled in their own imaginative or inquisitive world outside, with not a toy in sight! I love your rock gathering idea, I will have to try that one I think.

      • J.S.Matthew profile image

        JS Matthew 7 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

        You are very welcome.

        JSMatthew~

      • ThePracticalMommy profile image
        Author

        Marissa 7 years ago from United States

        Thank you very much, JS Matthew, for your kind comment and for reading!

      • J.S.Matthew profile image

        JS Matthew 7 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

        You have wonderful suggestions! Thanks for posting this article. Very informative! Voted up!

        JSMatthew~

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, wehavekids.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://wehavekids.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)