Garden fun for toddlers this summer

Summer is nearly here (well, I hope it is anyway!) and I am making some not so grand plans. Last year, I had three seperate ‘bucket lists’ of things for ToddlerGirl and I to do: outdoor activities to try, exciting day trips to enjoy, and local events to go to, a whole summer of fun. This year, heading into my third trimester and feeling more waddley by the minute, I am keeping it much less ambitious!

Great garden fun for toddlers

We will hopefully make the odd outing and festival but my main focus is much nearer to home: our back garden. Fingers crossed for sunshine as it makes entertaining a toddler at home so much easier. OK, so I wasn’t exactly lying on a sunlounger sipping cool drinks last summer while ToddlerGirl amused herself happily all day (despite what I may have been envisioning this time last year!) but it was about as relaxing as I can get with my super active little girl.

Here are a few of the back garden activities that went down well with her last year – and that I shall definitely be repeating in the months to come!

Water play

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, mix toddlers with water and you have hours of entertainment…

Water play for toddlers

1. Create a themed paddling pool
ToddlerGirl adores simply splashing around in her paddling pool but adding a few extras really helped extend the play. We had a sea-inspired pool, with shells and all sorts of underwater creatures which she loved. And a flower themed pool, with lots of fallen petals and leaves, which were scooped out and stirred back in many, many, many times!

2. Set up a water wall
I saw a few of these on pinterest last year and knew ToddlerGirl would have a lot of fun with one. We used a few recycled plastic bottles and let her loose. It’s amazing how much entertainment can be had from this.

3. Painting with water
So, so, so easy! This activity was wheeled out several times over the summer and kept ToddlerGirl quietly occupied for ages. (See my post Playtime Pinspiration: Painting with water for more details.)

Messy play

Toddlers love getting stuck in to anything remotely messy (well, mine does at least!). But messy play isn’t always that appealing in the house. Taking it outdoors makes it much more manageable.

Outdoor messy play for toddlers

4. Construction themed sensory bin
Very simple to put together: some rice, pasta, a couple of containers and utensils, plus a Happyland construction set featuring three vehicles and little people. This provided scope for imaginative play as well as some general fun with scooping and pouring.

5. Playing in the mud
A variation on the construction sensory bin, this time in her mud box, which went down really well!

6. Mud kitchen
More mud – and so much fun for ToddlerGirl. She loved this, playing happily for well over an hour. Now the sun’s out, I’ve created another mud kitchen for her to enjoy; read all about it in my blog post Marvellous mud kitchen.

7. Really, really messy whole body art
This was possibly one of ToddlerGirl’s favourite ever painting activities. She started with the paintbrushes, quickly moved onto using her hands, then her feet came into play and soon there was paint everywhere! We got some lovely hand and footprint pictures out of it and she also really enjoyed coating her legs and arms, just for the sake of it. I had the paddling pool out and just dunked her in it afterwards to get rid of the majority of the mess so it wasn’t tracked into the house.

Messy painting outdoors for toddlers

Take indoor activities outside

The novelty of being outdoors can breathe new life into every day activities.

Taking indoor activities outside

8. Drawing on cardboard
We did a lot of drawing outside last year. Most of the time, I simply moved her little art table into the garden but ToddlerGirl also really enjoyed using a large piece of a cardboard box to sit on and scribble on.

9. Pasta ‘n’ playdough
Again, it was really easy to set ToddlerGirl up with this on her little table outside. She was absorbed in sticking pieces of dried pasta into the playdough, making patterns and sculptures, and I got to sit in the sunshine as she played. Win-win.

10. Make a book den
It’s really not summer unless you make a den, is it?! We made several, mainly using some garden chairs with white blankets thrown over the top. Nothing at all complicated – but ToddlerGirl loved them. After the first time, she would often start hauling the blankets outside by herself to get me to make her a new den! We piled cushions inside, had some tea parties, and chilled out reading lots of books. Lovely!

Get active

There are, of course, lots of simple opportunities for toddlers to be active outdoors – and you don’t need lots of special play equipment.

Outdoor obstacle course for toddlers

11. Outdoor obstacle course
We do quite a lot of indoor obstacle courses to burn off excess energy when the weather isn’t great. This took the idea outdoors, with several different ‘stations’ laid out as a circuit for ToddlerGirl to explore. I used whatever I had to hand: a few mats laid out to create ‘islands’ for her to jump onto; her step and a ramp to walk up and jump off; her mini bowling set; and, best of all, a balance beam put together using a left over plank of decking.

I can’t wait to do it all over again this summer!

For more great ideas for outdoor play this summer, take a look at my Outdoor Play board on Pinterest. Some of my favourites include making a DIY sprinkler, creating amazing outdoor play spaces, taking art outdoors, and physical activities for toddlers and children.

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6 Comments on “Garden fun for toddlers this summer”

  1. TheBoyandMe says:

    What a wonderful selection of outdoor play activities! I agree that taking indoor play activities outdoors can be wonderful fun for infants, it somehow revitalises a toy or play focus that they may be getting bored of.

    Nipping over from Country Kids.

    • Thank you! I’m just waiting for the weather to get really good so I can take advantage of our back garden again this summer (and being pregnant in my last trimester, I’m looking forward to it all the more!!). Thanks for stopping by :)

  2. Great ideas for lots of active and creative fun in your own garden! I particularly love the idea of the obstacle course! I hope the last trimester goes well and you can put your feet up and enjoy the summer, thanks for linking up and sharing with Country Kids.

    • Thanks! ToddlerGirl does love anything that involves running, jumping and climbing :) My summer plans aren’t looking too good right now, here’s hoping the weather improves a bit!

  3. Mudpie Mama says:

    These ideas are fab, and like you say, much easier to set them up and just let them go. You might just get that chance to relax ;-)
    Thanks for linking up, hope to see you again from tomorrow x


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