Toddlers are little balls of energy — like puppies, but louder and, let’s face it, even harder to entertain. It’s okay to admit that you might be struggling to keep your adorable little boogers from going insane on a daily basis. There are a lot of hours in the day and a parent’s brain has a lot of tabs open. Sometimes changing up the scenery and going into the yard is enough to spark their imaginations. However, if you’ve got a stage four clinger and need help finding ways to engage them, these might help.
While your perfect little pipsqueak may not be ready for the hard and high ones, they’re definitely ready to play catch. Start with a light, soft ball and see how well they do just rolling it back and forth between your laps. If they’ve mastered that skill, try some gentle underhand tosses. There’s a big chance they won’t catch most of your throws, so stop as soon as you see any frustration. But, this teaches hand-eye coordination and helps them learn persistence.
2. Kick The Ball
Just like catch, this is a great tool for teaching coordination. Gently kick a big ball back and forth or give your kiddo a goal to shoot for, like under the slide or between two lawn chairs.
3. Slide Ball
Best played with at least a couple of toddlers, Slide Ball not only teaches coordination but it can also teach team work. Your station is at the top of the slide. Have toddlers rotate who will wait at the bottom of the slide for you to roll the ball down to them. They should then take turns passing the ball to each of their friends until the last tyke hands it back to you.
4. Monkey In The Middle
This can be played with another adult or a bigger kid, but never underestimate the worth of a good wall. You can always just (gently) bounce the ball off the wall just above your toddler’s reach. Just make sure you let them catch every third or forth toss.
5. Bubble Catchers
Toddlers love bubbles! Make it a learning experience by having them count how many bubbles they can pop.
6. Car Race
Use sidewalk chalk to draw a track on the driveway or back porch — the longer and loopier, the better. Give your toddler a car and let them crawl all over as they adventure along the track. If you’re feeling energetic, grab a car and race them.
7. Mud Fun
Mud. Is there a more glorious substance in all of creation? Not if you’re a toddler! You can wait for it to rain or make your own mud, then stir up all kinds of learning opportunities. You can count tallies, practice drawing simple shapes, write out the alphabet or a million more options. As your last muddy mission, leave some hand prints in the middle. Your toddler will enjoy checking on them each day to see if they harden up and stay put or if they disappear.
8. Hide and Seek
You guys have probably played this indoors. However, as long as you have a securely fenced in yard or your toddler has an outstanding sense of their boundaries, why not try it outside? It can be a lot of fun to see just where your kid thinks is an acceptable hiding spot.
9. Escape the Water Jet
If it’s warmer, maybe it’s time to invest in water play. Every kid loves jumping through sprinklers or trying to escape (or capture) the hose spray. If you live in a drought-affected area (Heeeey, Cali!), consider pulling double-duty and only doing this when it’s time to water the garden.
Where there’s a toddler, there is sidewalk chalk. Doodling is fun, but how about drawing an old school hopscotch area and showing those newbs how it’s done?
11. Chalk Maze
Got a kiddo who loves mastering the mazes on their kids’ menus? Try drawing your own on the driveway and then letting your toddler solve it. You could even attempt drawing a gigantic one for them to walk through on their own.
12. Jump Rope
It’s going to take some real time until your toddler can jump rope on their own. You can, however, turn a rope very slowly and teach them the basics. This not only works well to teach coordination, it also teaches them timing and anticipation.
13. Rock Stacking/Cairn building
Working on coordination and balance? Show your toddler how to stack rocks. You could even try to teach them a very simplified lesson on way-finding and how people use cairns to find their way in the wilderness. It’s also a very simple, quiet mindfulness exercise — it might sound crazy, but it’s never too early to teach mindfulness.
14. Stone Painting
If you have trouble letting your toddler create messes inside, it’s totally understandable. But, outside is a totally different concept. Toddlers will have a ton of fun selecting the most perfect, flattest rock to use as a canvas. Afterwards, encourage them to find a special place to leave the rock outside to “decorate” the yard. (And avoid adding more clutter inside.)
15. Splatter or Finger Painting
Another great messy activity that your toddler will no doubt love. Splatter or finger painting outdoors is always better because it offers easier cleanup.
16. Treasure Hunt
Scatter your toddler’s favorite (weather-proof) toys throughout the yard and then let them adventure around to find them.
17. Musical Chairs
Got a yard full of toddlers and not enough chairs? Use paper plates on the grass for an impromptu game of musical chairs.
18. Sponge Darts
Use that sidewalk chalk to draw a gigantic bulls-eye on the drive or patio. Next, let your toddler lob wet sponges at it and try to hit the center.