During the first years of a child’s life, they are working to learn and develop an understanding of the world around them. Being outside allows infants and toddlers a new sensory experience. Sights, sounds, smells, and textures are different and exciting in nature. Additionally, there are also health benefits to a child being outside, like fresh air and sunshine! Here are some outdoor activities for infants and toddlers in your care:
Take a walk
The easiest way to get you and your little ones outside is to take a walk! Place the child in a stroller or have them walk beside you. This is a great opportunity to use some enhanced language. Tell children about what you see and ask them some questions about what they are experiencing. Do they smell anything? Is it a good smell or bad smell? Babies can practice pointing and you can take them to explore what they are interested in.
Take floor time to the outdoors! Take an activity mat or blanket onto a grassy surface. Place some toys on the blanket or let your mobile infants and toddlers touch grass and leaves (keep an eye on them to make sure the outdoors doesn’t go in the mouth!). Roll babies over and let them see the sky. Ask toddlers about the clouds or the weather.
If it’s warm outside, water play is a great way to engage infants and toddlers. If you have a water table or splash pad, throw some toys in and let them explore. Fill bowls or cookie sheets with water, add some measuring cups and spoons, and let them scoop, pour, and splash around with the water. Try filling spray bottles with water and let children “spray paint” the porch or walls.
Many activities you do inside can be moved outside. Read a book under the trees with the child. Take instruments outside and let them play along with the birdsong. Use leaves and sticks to paint on the sidewalk or driveway. Give children wooden spoons and let them experiment with walkways, trees, grass, and rocks to see if they make different sounds.
As you embrace some more outdoor activities, it will be increasingly important to ensure that you are keeping young children safe. Umbrellas and hats help block the sunshine. Sunscreen is safe to apply on infants older than 6 months. On hot days, it is best to limit time in the outdoors. On cold days, you can bundle the little ones up. Layers help keep infants warm and can make the trips back and forth indoors and outdoors a bit easier. Remember that if you need mittens, a hat, socks, etc., so do the children in your care. A good rule of thumb is to keep babies and toddlers in one more layer than what you need as an adult. Ensure you take off extra layers when inside to avoid overheating.
For more information about working with infants and toddlers or about the Virginia Infant and Toddler Specialist Network, email us or visit our website. We are happy to share with you information about our program and the trainings that we offer in your area.
Written by Jess Templeman, Child Development Services Project Manager, at ChildSavers.
This project was supported by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) Grant # 93.575, with funds made available to Virginia from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Points of view or opinions contained within this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of VDOE or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.