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Having fun outdoors with your toddler

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By now your toddler is full of energy – it can sometimes seem like they’ll never tire out! With everyone having spent more time indoors this year, you might have found it hard to let them burn off enough steam. But there’s nothing stopping you spending time outside and letting them use up all that energy – even if the weather’s not the best.

It can sometimes be hard to think of new things that will keep your kids busy. But simple things like playing and running around outside are great fun for your wee one. Here are some ideas that other parents have found helpful. To avoid any meltdowns, try packing a snack like a banana or an orange will often keep them going until you get home.

When you’re out and about, don’t forget to follow physical distancing and hygiene guidelines.

Out and about

Tip #1: Go, go, stop!

Speed up any slow walk when you’re out and about by trying this quick and easy game. Just say ‘go’ to get your wee ones walking quickly, then suddenly surprise them by shouting ‘STOP!’

Why not take it in turns – wee ones will love bossing around a grown up!

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Tip #2: Shadow chasers

If the sun’s out (it does happen!) getting your little one to chase a shadow outdoors can be a really fun activity. Can they jump on it or make their shadow dance?

For extra giggles, can they make shadow shapes with their hands and fingers – is it a dog, a bird or a giraffe?

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Tip #3: Chalk the walk

One way to burn off energy during the day is to let your little one make some chalk art and turn any outdoor surface into a new adventure.

For extra fun, why not draw a magic door and see where it takes them - across the sea, into space, or even back in time to the dinosaurs!

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Tip #4: I can see a rainbow

For a free outdoor game next time you’re out for a walk together, ask them how many colours they can spot along the way. Red, orange, you name 
it - there’s every colour in the rainbow out there!

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Tip #5: What’s that sound?

A fun way to distract little ones when you’re out and about is to ask what sounds they can hear. Whether it’s water, birds, cars or rustling leaves – there are so many exciting sounds out there. Was that a motorbike? Or an airplane?

You could even make an unexpected sound to keep it fun - “ROAR!”

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Tip #6: Give them freedom

Toddlers can get really fed up being put in a buggy every time you have to go somewhere. If you have time, try letting them walk alongside you for a more fun journey - it might take you a little longer to get to where you need to go, but tiring toddlers out helps them sleep better at night.

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Tip #7: Hot lava

A quick way to cool down tempers when you’re outside is to pretend the lines on the pavement are an obstacle course of hot lava. Get them to skip and jump over the lines and cracks and see who can get the furthest without stepping on any.

If you need to hurry them along, why not pretend that a volcano is going to go off soon.

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Fun with nature

Tip #1: Park fun

A park is a whole world to a toddler. So take a trip to your local park and let them run wild and enjoy the freedom and space. See where their imagination takes them! To help keep everyone safe you can find the latest guidance here.

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Tip #2: Treasure hunting for gold

For a fun game that can keep your toddler busy, hide toys around the garden. Some of the toys can be seen easily, but try making one or two a bit harder to find. This can be a good game to play with them while you’re tidying the garden or hanging out the washing.

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Tip #3: Ball games for toddlers

This is a nice tip for when you need a bit of a rest from all the running around. How high can your toddler throw or roll a ball? Can they throw it above their heads, or can they roll it to the plant pots?

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Tip #4: Five, six, pick up sticks!

If you’re running out of ideas to keep your little ones entertained, why not step outside, get them to find a stick and see where their imagination takes them. Because it’s never just a stick. Today it could be a magic wand, an air guitar, or a bow and arrow.

You could even ask them to draw with it on the ground – the possibilities are endless. You’ll never get stuck with a stick!

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Tip #5: Creative fun

A cardboard box can be turned into so many different things in one afternoon. See if you and your toddler can turn it into a shop, a car, or even a castle. If you’re drawing and painting on the boxes, try and do it outside to save on any mess in the house.

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Tip #6: Discovery bottles

Bring nature indoors by making a lovely discovery bottle together. This video from our friends at Smart Play Network shows you how.

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Fun in the rain

Tip #1: Jump in puddles

Playing in the rain is lots of fun too. Pop on their wellies, raincoat and get out there! They’ll love splashing in puddles as they skip down the street.

Why not ask them how high they can jump to make an extra big splash?

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Tip #2: Singing and playing in the rain

Even on rainy days (and let's face it, we have plenty of them!), walks can be cheered up by some singing and splashing through lots of puddles. Even though it might mean you have a bit more washing, your toddler will love being able to have lots of fun getting messy outside.

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Tip #3: Splashing around

Kids love water, so what better way to calm them down than by getting them to focus on creating a magic potion? Fill a little washing-up basin with warm water and let them splash and wiggle their fingers through it for some messy fun.

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What the parents say

Washing hands

It’s fun to play outside. Mud is good! However, it’s really important that we wash our hands when we get home. When we do, we lower our chances of catching and spreading germs.

Wash thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds - the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice. Doing this helps us all stay safe!

What the professionals say

“For toddlers, playing is as important as eating the right, healthy food. Playing helps them develop their personality and most importantly it’s fun. But playing doesn't mean going out and spending lots of money. Chances are you’ll got loads of things around the house that will be just as fascinating to your toddler as expensive toys. Want to know your child’s favourite toy? It’s you. And playing will help you bond with your child. Kids love playing with parents, using them as a horse to trot around the house. Spend time playing with your child each day, even if it’s only a short period of time. This gives you both quality time together and makes for a happy child.”

Carol Ramsay, Family Nurse Supervisor, NHS Tayside Family Nurse Partnership (FNP)

Tickle for ticks

Remember to check for ticks after playing outside - particularly if you've been in long grass or woodlands. These little critters attach to skin underneath clothing and can make little ones poorly. Why not make a fun game out of checking for ticks - by having a good look then tickling for lots of giggles? For guidance on how to remove ticks, visit NHS inform.

Last updated: 2 Feb, 2021