Connecting with toddlers outdoors can be both fun and rewarding (for us as adults too). I gravitate toward the outdoors as it means less ‘’thinking work’’ for me as a mom, and I reap the benefits of being in nature too!

I tend to overcomplicate things but here are some of the best & really simple ways I know to engage with my toddler outdoors:

Nature Walks: Leisurely walks in nature in a park or along a forest trail allows them to explore the surroundings, observe insects, flowers, and trees. We encourage them to touch and feel different textures. Our bag of river and beach toys as well as our waterproof picnic blanket stays in our car boot – keeping the prep/packing aspect simple.  

Simple Garden Play: If I don't have loads of time I'll set up a safe outdoor play area with toys like balls, bubbles, chalk and a spray bottle, shovel for the garden, watering can. You start drawing on the rocks/gravel/bricks with some chalk and watch your toddler come over to join you in no time!  Use the spray bottle to wash away the chalk – a great activity to strengthen those little hand muscles!

Picnics: Pack a picnic and enjoy some food together outdoors. Toddlers love the novelty of eating outside, and it provides an opportunity for relaxed conversation and bonding. Take breakfast outside and onto a blanket. Or how about taking sandwiches to the park? A packet of biscuits, sliced fruit, some popcorn adds to the fun of eating outdoors.

Nature Crafts: We love collecting leaves, rocks, or flowers and using them for simple nature-inspired crafts like leaf rubbings or rock painting. Don't need much stationery - some glue, paper and scissors and a pack of crayons. Use some glue to stick leaves on some paper – draw legs/feelers and wings to make insects. This allows toddlers to express their creativity while connecting with the natural world. Collecting pinecones to decorate the table at home or round pebbles from a stream to add to the plant pot in the garden allows them a sense of purpose/accomplishment.

Outdoor Storytime: Taking books outdoors and reading stories together under a tree or on a picnic blanket is restful and builds their little minds/imagination/vocabulary. 

Cloud Watching: Lie down on a blanket and watch the clouds float by. Encourage toddlers to point out shapes they see in the clouds and use their imagination to create stories.

Outdoor Music and Dance: Play music outdoors and encourage toddlers to dance and move to the beat. You can also make simple musical instruments using natural materials like sticks and rocks. 

Sometimes we have the gift of a whole morning outside and sometimes there is only a half hour gap to enjoy the sunshine - no matter the amount of time you have - it really is just about quality connection that can happen quite simply - if we let it. 

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