I know at my house trying to find new activities to keep the kiddies occupied and learning can seem like a full time job. Sometimes toys just don’t get the job done. That is why I am always on the lookout for new craft projects or games that my wife and I can do with our little ones. One thing we as parents have learned for sure is if you can get outside everything is better. So with warm weather comes ample opportunities to introduce our preschoolers to the great outdoors. If you are in the same boat as we are and have young children I’m sure you would probably appreciate if I shared a few of the games we play at our house. So below you will find a list of some of our favorite activities. By doing simple little activities mentioned below you can take advantage of your little one’s natural curiosity about the world around him –and encourage a lifelong interest in the natural world with these fun activities.
Outside Kids Activities for Kids Under 5
- Cloud Watching: Take your little one out onto the lawn or to a nearby park on a sunny day. Spread a blanket on the ground and lie down on it on your back with your child beside you. Point out shapes in the clouds and encourage your child to see his own. Encourage the imagination of your child—urge him to tell stories about the shapes he sees! Just how did that giraffe get up in the sky?
- Sandcastles: For this you’ll need a sandbox or a wading pool with a supply of fine grained sand (if you life close to a beach that is even better); water, buckets, containers, a spade and plastic knives and spoons as appropriate. Wet the sand and encourage your small one to get his hands into it, mixing the water in, then packing the wet sand into buckets and containers to make the structure. At this age a compacted bucket with a few windows scooped out by you may be the extent of your architectural ambitions, but your little one will enjoy building something out of nothing and playing with the resulting castle. On a side note my kids seem to have more fun destroying the sandcastles I build just as much or more than building them.
- Nest building: This allows your preschooler to get down and dirty— at least in a manner of speaking. Set up your nest building in an easily hosed down area for quick clean up. Supply dirt, water, sticks and twigs, leaves and grass. Mix dirt, leaves and grass into mud in a basin or bucket. Then allow your little one to experiment with forming handfuls of the mixture into a nest shape under your supervision. Let him add in the twigs and sticks to provide more stability to the nest. When you are finished you can allow the nest to dry and keep it or dispose of it in an unused part of your yard or the trash.
- Finger painting: A time tested and tried activity—and one that lends itself to being done outside in an area that can easily be hosed down afterward for quick clean up. Provide an artist smock for your youngster—an old adult or older child’s shirt with sleeves rolled up will protect clothing. Using non toxic paints and lots of water, allow the child to go to town, mixing colors together and diluting with water for interesting effects. Allow the resulting art to dry and display indoors!
- Hot Potato: Preschoolers are still gaining mastery over their so called “gross motor skills”—coordinating arms and legs, hands and feet. The old game of hot potato is a good activity helps with balance as well. You’ll need a medium sized ball that your little one can easily maneuver about. Best done with a group of children, it is also a game you and your child can play alone. The child is designated “it”and pushes the ball around with his or her feet—no touching with hands allowed, maneuvering the ball out of either an imaginary circle (or one drawn on pavement in chalk) which is the “oven”. You or the other children attempt to keep the “potato” in the oven, that is, inside the circle. Once the ball goes beyond the circle, the game is over and can be begun again or another child chose as “it” if playing in a group.
- Making Volcanoes: You can surprise and delight your small child by bringing a small scale volcano to life. Discuss with the child what a volcano is –an age appropriate picture book will be a wonderful aid to understanding and prepare the child for the “real life” miniature version. Gather together baking soda, vinegar, red food coloring and play sand. For the younger crowd, form a volcano with sand or dirt, leaving a hole in the top for the materials, kids in the older end of this age group can be allowed to form the structure themselves. Depending on the size of your volcano, add ½ cup of vinegar to which red food coloring has been added to the hole in the top of the volcano. Then when the child’s attention is engaged, add 2 tablespoons of baking soda to the vinegar. The resultant “eruption” should surprise and delight your preschooler!
- Rock Hunting: A good activity that combines a nature walk with a chance to improve your young one’s observational and language skills, you’ll need a bag for collecting rocks and a sunny day on which to begin your treasure hunt. Encourage your child as you walk together to find rocks of various shapes, sizes and textures. Place them in the bag, and once you’ve accumulated a good amount, return to your patio. Wash the rocks together in a dishpan or shallow dish—wet rocks reveal colors and patterns that might not be otherwise visible. Sort through the collection with your child, sorting according to size, color and texture. You can create a display after using compartmented craft storage boxes available at the local craft store, or allow the rocks to dry and “return them to the wild”. This is also a great activity for older kids and can be made even more fun with the addition of a rock tumbler.
- Rubbing art: Using newsprint or recycled paper and crayons with wrappings removed, encourage your little one to take “rubbings” of various textures and objects encountered during a nature walk. This can be done with objects such as tree trunks, fence posts or pebbled pavements, or small items can be collected (leaves, grass, larger rocks) and brought home to be placed beneath the paper and rubbed to reveal textural patterns. The resulting works of art can be displayed in the child’s room or bound together into books with a hole puncher and some string.
With just a little investment of time and supplies, you can open up a world of new discoveries to your toddler though kindergarten age child. You may be encouraging the next generation of naturalists and geologists with these fun outside kid’s activities!