Whether your outside space is a balcony, sidewalk or grassy backyard, here are fun ideas for ways for kids to play when you can’t have playdates but need a break from being indoors. Go way beyond bubbles and sidewalk chalk with these easy DIY ideas for outdoor activities—some for sitters, some for crawlers, and some for walkers.
1. Rainbow Scavenger Hunt
Take your child around your yard or neighborhood and look for items that are the color of the rainbow. From a red stop sign to a yellow leaf to a purple flower, spotting items and learning color names can be a fun activity for you both. With younger babies, carry them to each item and let them explore its color and texture before moving on.
2. Treasure Hunt
Fill some bags, boxes or those plastic Easter eggs with kid-friendly treasures (like stickers or fuzzy pom poms) and then hide them in plain sight in your yard for your child to find. This also works great indoors. For crawlers, spread them out on a picnic blanket and let your child discover each one.
3. The Coolest Play Boats
Ice cubes are a great way to stay cool on a hot summer day. And the colorful ice boats at Busy Toddler use food coloring to keep kids delighted and spark their imagination. These boats require some parent prep ahead of time, which you can do with your little ones watching or helping. Then let loose the boots in an outdoor water table, bucket or inflatable backyard pool. Kids can move them across the water and watch the colored cubes melt.
4. Mess-Free Painting
Giving a baby a paintbrush can mean a big, old mess—unless you let them paint with water. On a sunny day, hand your child a paintbrush and a small cup of water and let them paint the steps, driveway or a fence. You'll be surprised at how much kids love this simple task.
5. Shaving Cream = Sensory Fun
We love this idea from Fantastic Fun and Learning. Put the shaving cream into a squirt bottle and mix in some food coloring, then let kids squeeze it onto contact paper and explore with their fingers. This activity is great for little ones learning to sit and crawlers who won’t go slip-sliding anywhere too fast. Just keep a close eye on them so they don’t try to taste the foam or smear it on their clothes.
6. The Cutest Nature Jam
When little ones bang on pots and pans indoors, it can be headache-inducing. So take all that noise and energy outside. Donna Bozzo, author of What the Fun?! 427 Simple Ways To Have Fantastic Family Fun Play, suggests pulling loud kitchen tools and utensils outdoors and letting your baby make music. Attach the makeshift instruments to a fence, tree or other stationary object so they don't disappear. Or, lay them down in the grass for a different kind of sound.
7. Guess Which Color
This splatter-paint art project from A Crafty Living is worth the mess it makes. Squirt some washable paint in large blobs on a big sheet of paper and then cover each with a cotton round (the paint blob should be slightly smaller than the cotton round). Strip your babe down to their diaper and help them smack each white round with their feet or a rubber mallet to discover which bold color will burst out. When you’re done, you’re left with a museum-worthy piece of modern art…and a happy baby in need of a bath.
5. Backyard Sensory Barn
Babies love to engage their senses, and this sandbox sensory play activity by Click Pray Love allows your mini-me to have all kinds of tactile adventures. Fill a , plastic container, plastic kiddie pool or other large, low container with sand or rice and some barn- or farm-themed toys. Watch as your child digs through the sand to discover hidden treasures. Switch out the farm theme for a dinosaur dig, car and truck rally, or seashells and sand dollars, whatever you have on hand and whatever your kid loves.
9. Mix Natural Sights and Sounds
All you need is a clear water bottle and a curious baby to make these DIY nature bottles from life coach and mother of four Leighann Marquiss. Help your child collect objects from your yard or a local park and place them in the bottle. Be on the lookout for dirt, grass, flowers, sand, stones, sticks, acorns and other small items that fit in the bottle. (As always, keep a close watch so baby doesn’t put their finds in their mouth.) Then seal the cap on the bottle and let your child turn and shake it to their heart’s content.
10. Nature Storytime
Take your favorite book outdoors to really bring the story to life. Choose a book with nature themes and point out the sun, wind, leaves or whatever you see when you read about it.
— Whitney C. Harris