Top Backyard Activities for Outdoor Play
Enjoy these fun options for outdoor play without playground equipment. Games and activities using toys and other props support gross motor movement and fine motor skills. Here are some low cost, low-prep backyard activities for outdoor play without playground equipment.
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Outdoor play is important for early childhood development. It builds social, gross motor and spatial skills. It gets kids in touch with their surroundings for sensory experiences.
Outdoor play spaces differ for everyone. Some have large backyards. Some have a deck or paved area only. Others have access to a playground nearby.
In this post I offer a few suggestions for games and activities to do outside when swings and slides and other equipment are not available.
What can we do outside without a playground?
Here are ways we can play with toys and games in outdoor spaces.
1. Scavenger hunt
Give each child or team a list of objects to find. Your list might include: green leaf, brown twig, flat rock, pine cone, clothespin, sandal, toy shovel.
Pictures of items can be included for young children.
2. Sand play and water play
Fill a small wading pool or large plastic container with play sand purchased at a local hardware store. Add toy cars, funnels, plastic rakes, shovels, measuring spoons. Cover the container when not in use.
You can do the same procedure for water play.
You can also make a mud play area with a simple setup like this mud pie kitchen from Tinkerlab.
Use store-bought or homemade solutions with a variety of wands.
This DIY bubble station from Crafty Mama in ME will ensure a steady supply of homemade bubble solution!
Pack a picnic basket with crackers and cheese, finger sandwiches, thermos or drink boxes, along with a checkered tablecloth.
Spread a blanket under a tree or lounge in the hammock with picture books about nature.
Here are some book suggestions.
The Grouchy Ladybug - Eric Carle
Bugs A to Z - Scholastic
Bunny's Noisy Book - Margaret Wise Brown
The Water Hole - Graeme Base
6. Nature Walk
Go exploring with binoculars and magnifiers. Look at leaves and insects up close.
Dress up in costumes. Carry banners or wave flags made by the children. Ride on tricycles or pull wagons.
8. Obstacle course
Identify natural props for going under, over and around: under the tree branch, around the lilac bush, over the big rock!
You can also build a backyard obstacle course with man-made props.
- Go through this obstacle course from Frugal Fun for Boys like an American Ninja warrior.
- Hoola hoops and water balloons are just part of the fun in this obstacle course from Pre-K Pages.
- Start with a colorful tunnel in this rainbow obstacle course from Sunny Day Family.
9. Relay races
Establish a start line and a finish line, allowing lots of room between them for the races.
Include options such as wheelbarrow races, walking backwards, hopping on one foot.
Provide skipping ropes, hoops, and sports balls.
Make a ring toss game with recyclables.
Place large toy dump trucks and other vehicles in an area with pea gravel or loose earth for digging.
More outdoor fun!
This follow-the-pine cone trail is a fun game for toddlers and older kids too!
Be sure to pack sunscreen, bug spray and other essentials when heading outdoors.
Keep hydrated (drink water), wear a hat and protective clothing, and seek out shade, or stay indoors, during the hottest part of the day.