Outdoor activities for children
It's sunny and playing outside provides babies, toddlers and children with wonderful opportunities to explore and encourage all areas of their development.
Daily trips outside can improve children’s appetite, give them more energy and help them to sleep soundly at night. Babies really benefit from watching leaves move, seeing the different colours and hearing new sounds.
Because babies learn through their senses, and more particularly though natural objects, having the opportunity to touch and explore the many different textures available outside is very beneficial for their development. HOWEVER there are many safety factors to consider, as they are very vulnerable, and are unable to care for themselves.
Activities for babies:
• Place your baby on a blanket on the grass underneath a secure line of rope, placed well out of their reach, and then tie safe things such as scarves, streamers etc. on the rope so that the baby can watch them moving in the breeze.
• Make daisy chains and place them around your baby’s neck or on their head. Your baby will love pulling them and playing with them.
• Place your baby on a mat with a basket of different flower petals, leaves, twigs etc. Your baby will love playing with the different textures, and will enjoy the smells and the natural feel.
• Lay your baby on its tummy with flowers and leaves all around, and with some out of reach. This will encourage them to stretch and try to explore.
• Always ensure that your babies have sun block on, and that they are kept in the shade with their heads covered. This is vitally important because babies and children have such sensitive skin
• Supervision is essential at all times.
• Ensure that the flowers used are ‘safe’. Foxgloves, laburnum, poppies, lily-of-the-valley, lupines, rhubarb leaves and deadly nightshade are potential killers. Also beware berries!
• Watch out for wasps and mosquitoes.
A child’s intellectual development is greatly influenced by the environment in which he or she grows up. Outside there are a great variety of bright, beautiful and natural resources which they should be encouraged to explore, experience and enjoy. They are also now mobile so benefit hugely from climbing, running, riding on tricycles etc. REMEMBER they have NO sense of danger, so must be supervised at all times.
Activities for toddlers
• Develop their curiosity by allowing them to explore many different places such as the park, garden, beach and woods.
• Every toddler loves to hide and surprise an adult. Creating hiding places with blankets, sheets etc will provide them with hours of fun!
• Get them to create ‘their garden’. Use safe gardening tools; encourage them to play with the soil and fill and empty pots. Also provide them with safe bulbs and seeds to plant, particularly ones that grow quickly, such as watercress.
• Toddlers love all weathers! When raining they love splashing in puddles
• They love to climb. Outside climbing frames are excellent, and provide ample opportunities to help them to develop their balance and co-ordination.
• Always apply sun block in summer, even if the day seems cloudy.
• Ensure that all climbing frames and swings are firmly fixed to the ground and away from concrete surfaces.
• Make sure that there are no garden poisons left around. Toddlers do not develop a sense of what they can and cannot eat until they are about two or three and will happily eat plants, stones and drink weed killer!
• Always keep garden equipment locked away when not in use. Toddlers love nothing better than copying ‘grown ups’, and forks, spades and hoes can cause serious injury.
• BEWARE any water! Ponds and swimming pools are lethal, and should always be fenced in or covered up. Toddlers can easily drown in only 2 inches of water.
3-5 year olds
As children learn to move around independently, they approach objects and places that look appealing, intent on exploring them. This exploration is very important for their development. They will begin to understand different concepts such as heat and light, and with this knowledge comes an awareness of the environment.
Outside also offers them considerably more space in which to climb, run, walk and develop their strength and muscles. Research has shown that children who have good physical development grasp concepts more quickly later on.
Activities for 3.5yr olds.
• Create a miniature garden. These can be made in trays using many different plants and textures. Moss, stones, ferns etc can teach them much about plant life and encourage their early Maths and Science skills.
• Create a wormery! Ask the children to fill an old fish tank or something similar with alternate layers of sand, soil, moss, grass and twigs. Then go on a worm hunt. Children are fascinated by the paths created by worms.
• Make a bird cake. Using bread, cheese, bananas, nuts, and bacon rind mixed with peanut butter and melted fat will create an interesting and (for the birds) delicious cake!
• Set up an obstacle course. These can be made from boxes, ropes, and an old strawberry net and if available an old tyre. Encouraging them to hop, skip and jump between the obstacles is excellent for their physical development.
• Team games are beneficial for this age group as they encourage co-operation with their peers. However, supervision is essential as their social and emotional development is quite volatile and arguments can flare up very quickly. Games like ‘Grandma’s Steps’, ‘What’s the time Mr Wolf?’ and ‘Hide and Seek’ are enormously popular.
• Again the sun block! There are now very good ranges of protective swimwear available. These have a protection factor of 90, which blocks out 98% of UVA and UVB rays.
• Although they are much more aware of danger at this age, be careful with gardening equipment, lawn mowers etc, as they are very dangerous.
• With the bird cake make sure there are no children with nut allergies.
• Check equipment regularly. Their play at this age can be quite rough, so proper maintenance is necessary.
• Beware of water.