Keeping Kids Engaged: What Are Some Good Outdoor Games For Toddler Development?

Outdoor plays are important to toddlers not only for the sake of physical activity but also to support their overall development. Exposing children to nature and objects are beneficial for their sensory development. Push and pull games help in muscle development, while plenty of other activities develop their balance, coordination, and climbing skills. 

Letting your child outside is necessary for them to soak up the much-needed Vitamin D. Social interactions and group plays encourage your child to foster better social relationships.

Toddlers exposed to natural outdoor plays have varied learning experiences, social opportunities, and a great sense of freedom. 

That is why parents of toddlers need to understand how outdoor activities are crucial in their child’s growing years. 

Importance of outdoor games

By the time your baby reaches the toddlerhood years of 2 to 3, they reach another developmental milestone.

This is where they begin to speak, move, play, learn, and become more curious about the world around them. 

For toddlers, the great outdoors is their first classroom where experience, education, socialization, and entertainment happen. 

Admittedly, the majority of children today are enslaved to technology, spending more screen time than outdoor time.

Yes, even the little ones rely on technology to tame tantrums and keep them entertained for hours. The thing is, gadgets are limiting, unhealthy, and are a host of a lot of psychological and emotional problems for a growing kid. 

Here are the important points of letting your child in a play-based experience through outdoor games. 

1. Physical development

A toddler girl is playing with a ball outside on a sunny day

The development of the child’s fine and gross motor skills, muscle development, and coordination happens through physical activities.

As they move their bodies freely, they develop their agility, balance, and coordination.

2. Sensory learning

They say children explore their environment through their hands, mouth, and bodies.

Giving them a safe place while letting them discover the world around them is a great opportunity for sensory development. It provides more room for spontaneous education as they satisfy their curiosity. 

3. Improved overall health

Babies are given Vitamin D from infancy to combat bone and skeletal deformities.

As they grow older, they can get this Vitamin from their food and sunlight exposure.

By playing outdoor games, toddlers also build stronger immunity and decrease their risk of obesity. 

But outdoor games do not necessarily mean playing under the sun only. You should also let your little ones enjoy the different seasons outdoors.

4. Intellectual development

Outdoor games spark creative games as your child moves around and explores the environment. It teaches them organization skills and creates avenues for creating fictional worlds.

Children also navigate through their make-believe worlds where they can separate them from reality. Challenges and unstructured games build better brain and intellectual functioning. 

5. Social interaction

Two toddler girls are sitting on a blanket outside at the park, playing and interacting with each other.

Meeting other children is the foundation for building your child’s interpersonal skills. He will learn how to interact with other children, participate in cooperative gameplay, and develop self-confidence.

Toddlers exposed to social events and gatherings build better relationships and leadership capabilities.

Their interaction is also one way of fostering language development. 

Outdoor games for toddler development

There is an endless list of outdoor activities and free play you can encourage your toddler to do.

Sometimes, the involvement of family and caregivers makes these activities more fun and engaging for the little one. 

1. Exploring natural objects

At two years old, babies are fascinated and curious about many things.

A toddler boy is using his chalk to write on the stone ground at the park

Let them discover a variety of objects with different shapes, colors, mass, and textures by letting them wander around with supervision.

Let your little one discover dandelions, herbs, grasses, and flowers, and make it an educational and quality outdoor play. 

2. Playing ball

Kids love balls, and playing with them enables them to utilize their growing bones and muscles. Pass a ball around, roll it, or play catch.

They can also do toddler basketball, hockey or bowling, and other engaging ball games. On the plus side, ball games tire them out easily and release all that bubbling energy.

3. Push and pull games

Have your child drag a wagon, toy car, or cart around the yard.

This activity helps practice their fine and gross motor skills, where they will learn to control body movement.

It also develops spatial awareness for your child to learn the relationship between his body, the surroundings, and the space around him. 

4. Soap bubbles

A toddler girl is happily running around outside and popping soap bubbles that are floating in the air

Include bubble-blowing in play dates and family gatherings to entertain your toddler for hours.

Let them enjoy catching, bursting, and chasing them for a super enjoyable activity. It’s also an excellent game to introduce basic counting for simple learning your child will surely love. 

5. Running 

Even without toys, toddlers will still enjoy the good old game of running, playing tag, skipping, or hide and seek.

Let your baby mingle with other children if you are in a park and play areas.

Children build up their social skills as early as toddlerhood by interacting with other kids in simple games.

6. Playing in the mud

It can get messy and gives mothers worry about organisms thriving in the mud. But sometimes, these activities are important for children to develop their tactile skills.

A toddler girl has her boots on and is playing with the dirt and mud outside on a dirt road

Kids need to get dirty to build their immunity, although the idea of introducing microorganisms is not as pleasant to parents.

They do need them because you do not raise children in a sterile environment. Let them get dirty and make it a fun learning activity. 

7. Sandbox

Tickle your child’s imagination while developing sensory and fine motor skills by placing a sandbox in your yard.

A toddler is playing in a sandbox at the park

Place the toddler’s favorite toys, bucket, metal cups, and other objects in it for him to play with. This is a great activity to get children to soak up some sun and inspire their creativity.

You can use wet or dry sand for it, depending on your child’s preference. 

8. Obstacle games

Build a small ramp or bridge, tunnel, wall climbing area, and similar structures that engage the child in mobile activities.

Babies as early as 8 months old enjoy getting on their feet and climbing up the crib, and it goes well into toddlerhood.

Obstacles give them the opportunity to practice balance and motor planning.

Children will also understand height and depth and challenge them to take risks, boosting their confidence.

9. Water games

Playing in a shallow pool or running under the sprinkles during a hot summer day is a surefire enjoyable toddler activity.

Water games do more than cool your toddler down in dog-day weather. It is also essential for early childhood development. It develops your toddler’s hand-and-eye coordination, motor skills, and sensory perception. 

10. Riding a trike

A bike or a trike ride in the neighborhood is a fun exercise for older toddlers. They are mostly ready for balance bikes, trikes, or pedal bikes around three years of age.

If you think your child can already handle it, it is okay to let them try.

Riding a bicycle or tricycle exercises their core muscles and develops cognitive skills.

Re-routing and unexpected obstacles on the road spur the child’s problem-solving and decision-making skills. 

Tips for creating a safe outdoor play space

Whether indoor or outdoor, any space has compromised safety if you have an energetic toddler running around.

A toddler girl and boy are facing each other and playing outside on the grass

That is perhaps why some parents are reluctant about letting their children out, which is justifiable if children are unsupervised. 

Keep some of these safety points hazard-free for your backyard and child play area:

  1. Always keep a watchful eye on toddlers without any distractions.
  2. Be mindful of how your little one is breathing as he/she is playing outside. For example, some kids have a harder time breathing when it’s pollen season.
  3. Toys must be large and not pose a choking hazard. Toddler toys must not be any smaller than a D-size battery. 
  4. Remove sharp and pointed objects, thorny plants, and poisonous weeds from the yard or play area.
  5. Ensure that the structures, such as climbing walls, are well-fitted and materials do not break easily. 
  6. Do not let the baby play outside in the middle of the day or when the sun is scorching hot.
  7. Dress the child with appropriate clothing that does not limit movement and protects them from the environment.
  8. When doing water play, supervise your children closely. Empty all containers, especially basins and shallow pools, after using them to prevent drowning accidents. 
  9. Give your baby freedom but supervise their activities. 

Can I use adult sunscreen for toddlers?

Yes, you may. While some sunscreens are specifically labelled kids, toddlers can use the same sunscreen meant for adults as long as it has at least SPF 30 and broad-spectrum coverage.

Do I need to reapply sunscreen after my kid’s sun exposure?

For adults and kids alike, re-applying sunscreen every 2 hours is a must. That is because some of the ingredients contained in the sunscreen have already broken down after sunlight and air exposure. You need to re-apply the sunscreen to ensure that you and your kid are still protected from the sun’s harmful rays.


Outdoor games are an essential part of the toddler’s development. Parents should ensure these activities are met by setting time for outdoor recreation. 

Toddlers need at least an hour to an hour and a half of playing outdoors daily. According to the CDC, toddlers need to be active for at least three hours every day for both outdoor and indoor activities. Children should not be inactive for long periods as it can affect their growth and development. 

As parents, especially the working ones, spending time with kids for outdoor games is a luxury. But, parents and caregivers should understand how important it is to allow children outside.

It doesn’t need to be every day but set aside some time a few times a week. Take them out, bond with them and other children. Let your toddler open his eyes to the wonders of the world around him.


Was this article helpful?

Ann Marie is a licensed nurse in the Philippines. She experienced handling and assisting deliveries of newborns into the world. She also trained in labor rooms and pediatric wards while in nursing school - helping soon-to-be mothers and little kids in the process. Though not a mother by nature but a mother by heart, Ann Marie loves to take care of her younger cousins as well as nephews and nieces during her free time.

Leave a Comment