There’s good reason it is now entrenched in pre-school planning that toddlers should have access to outdoor space, ideally in a free-flowing way.
Most parents would be concerned if a childcare environment wasn’t regularly enabling their their little one outside – there are so many benefits of outdoor play for children.
However, achieving those same standards at home isn’t always as straightforward as we’d like.
There are a number of things we can do to ensure we get out more with our little ones – a great physical and mental boost for parents too.
Get the right kit to get outdoors
Firstly, it’s worth remembering that the ‘great outdoors’ for a toddler, still new to the world, need not mean much more than your garden (however small), a little patch of grass on your housing estate or the local park. The world, both indoors and out, is still full of wonder to them. You don’t have to set your sights too high.
The number one thing to get right is ensuring your toddler (and you) have the right gear to enjoy being outside and stay safe and happy. In summer that means picking or creating a shady area to explore, trying to encourage them to wear a hat and, of course, slapping on the suncream. In winter, wellies and good coats will keep them warm and dry and wanting to continue to play. It also means you’ll be more relaxed about letting them do the things all children really love, like channelling their inner Peppa Pig or splashing around in the mud in their favourite wellies (such as these from Muddy Puddles). Don’t feel you can’t rely on reins as a safety net especially when walking near roads – and there’s no need to spend a fortune on them. Simple and cheap ones do exactly the same job.
Consider having a big tub by the backdoor with the essentials in it to avoid scrambling around and making the process of getting outside too exhausting. That’ll be especially helpful if you have a baby to juggle alongside your toddler and are perhaps timing your outing to coincide with a nap in the pram for them.
Plan some outdoor activities
Many children are better at amusing themselves outdoors than they are inside, but having a few activity ideas up your sleeve is ideal in case they lose focus or become bored.
Bubbles are an endless source of amusement for most little ones – give them a stick and they’ll delight in chasing and popping them. Let them take an old toy truck outside and make tracks in the sand or mud. There are loads of things you can do even on a rainy day.
Invest in some pavement chalk and encourage them to express themselves or, on a dry day, they can paint on paving with just a paintbrush and some water and the mess will clear itself up! You can also consider a scavenger hunt either looking for specific items or random pretty leaves, stones and the like. You can even make a piece of artwork with them when you get home.
Don’t overlook the famous National Trust 50 things to do before you’re 11-and-three-quarters list – there are loads of toddler friendly activities on it.
Most of all remember that whatever the weather, getting outside will almost always do both you and them a lot of good.