Outdoor Activities for 18 Month Old Explorers



Jun 23, 2024

Welcome to the wonderful world of toddlerhood, where curiosity knows no bounds and every day is an opportunity for discovery! As your little one turns 18 months old, you'll notice their boundless energy and growing enthusiasm for exploration. What better way to foster their development than in the great outdoors?

18 month old outside driveway

Even better, research has shown being outside is beneficial for toddlers social, emotional and motor skill development. Not only will it help uplift parents and caregivers’ spirit but also your child’s well being. 

I have three kids and at 18 months of age none of them could get out of the door fast enough. They knew where their shoes were and constantly threw them at me as their signal for me to take them outside. It didn’t matter if it was dark or light outside or what type of weather,  they were rearing to go.

In this blog, we'll explore a variety of outdoor activities for 18 month olds. My activities are all activities I have done with my 18 month olds to help them engage with the outdoor world and add some fun! 

Development of 18 Month Old

The toddler stage, particularly around 18 months, is a time of rapid development in various areas. Understanding these developmental milestones can help you plan the perfect activities to foster their learning. And the best part is that all these skills and developments happen outdoors if not similar but better than when indoors.

18 month old outdoors

Motor Skills of 18 month old

  • Gross Motor Skills: At 18 months, most toddlers can walk confidently and may even begin to run and climb
  • Outdoor Ideas: playset, parks and open spaces
  • Fine Motor Skills: Toddlers are refining their fine motor skills. They can typically pick up small objects with their thumb and forefinger (pincer grasp)
  • Outdoor Ideas: Sand boxes, Chalk, Outdoor Kitchens, Water Tables

Language Development of 18 month old

  • Vocabulary Expansion: By 18 months, many toddlers can say several words and understand way more than they can speak. Simple phrases and two-word combinations are spinning in their heads, but most likely not able to come out just yet. Encourage language development through reading, singing, and talking to your toddler.
  • Outdoor Ideas: Pretend Outdoor Restaurant, Red Light Green Light, Duck Duck Goose, discuss what you see during your hikes or walks
  • Imitating Sounds: Toddlers love to imitate sounds and gestures. 
  • Outdoor Ideas: Animal Pretend Play, Simon Says, clapping hands and feet

Cognitive Skills of 18 month old

  • Problem-Solving: Toddlers are becoming more adept at problem-solving. They may figure out how to open doors, fit shapes into corresponding holes, or solve simple puzzles. 
  • Outdoor Ideas: Scavenger hunts, bubbles, play kitchen
  • Object Permanence: Many 18-month-olds begin to grasp the concept of object permanence, understanding that objects still exist even when they are out of sight. 
  • Outdoor Ideas: Hiding objects in the yard to find, playing hide and seek

Social and Emotional Development:

  • Social Interaction: Toddlers are becoming more interested in other children and may engage in parallel play—playing alongside but not necessarily with their peers. 
  • Outdoor Idea: Anywhere outside where other children will be, think playgrounds and parks
  • Emotional Expression: Your toddler may start to show affection, imitate adult behaviors, and begin to assert their independence. 
  • Outdoor Idea: Great news this can be done anywhere your toddler is!

How do I Keep my 18 Month Old Toddler Busy at Home?

Keeping an 18-month-old toddler busy at home requires a balance of structured activities, free play, and creativity. Switching it up helps, but really an 18 month old wants to explore.

18 month old outside on mini playset

Most times a toddler is happy to hang around outside while their parent gets some chores done. Mine like to help garden, rake leaves and pick up sticks for instance.

The outdoors is a great place for a toddler to explore. A backyard is perfect or if you want to mix it up take him/her to the park, on a hike, to a farm, or many other outdoor locations suitable for toddlers.

How Much Time Should an 18 Month Old Spend Outside During a Day?

This is a question that doesn’t have a definite answer. Mine would be, as much as possible and the more the better. I strive for outdoor play in the morning, afternoon and a little after dinner before bed. 

However, weather and life can get in the way as well as older siblings’ schedules. Some days you might spend most of the day outside while other days mostly inside. As long as you are regularly taking your child outside, I think that is what counts.

Angela J. Hanscom, author of “In Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident and Capable Children” recommends “kids of all ages should get at least three hours of free play outdoors a day.” Sadly research today estimates the average child only gets 4-7 minutes of outdoor play a day. That is not enough in my opinion. 

Outdoor Activities for 18 Month Old At Home

Sensory Play

Create a sensory haven in your backyard by setting up a dedicated play area with bins of water, sand, or mud. Provide cups, spoons, and simple toys for endless exploration. Sensory play not only entertains but also enhances your toddler's cognitive and motor skills.

If you have a sandbox in your backyard this works great too! My daughter can spend almost a full hour playing in the sandbox. She loves to scoop sand into a bucket then dump it all out.

Water Tables work as great sensory play. Place balls, buckets or duckies in the water and step back and watch. My toddlers liked to transfer water from one bucket to another and back again. 

Pro Tip: You can never go wrong with water play with kids, especially on a hot day. 

Bubbles Bubbles and More Bubbles

Toddlers are fascinated by bubbles! Blow bubbles and watch your little one gleefully chase and pop them. This activity not only entertains but also improves hand-eye coordination and teaches cause and effect. 

Or get a bubble machines and watch as hundreds of bubbles fill your backyard. You might want to get  a speaker and create a bubble dance party!

Yard Work

We all know we have endless amount of yard work to do, let your 18 month old help. Mine have always enjoyed helping in the garden, racking leaves and water plants. At this age my children want to do what mommy does so I take full advantage of that to get my work done too!

18 month old helping rack the leaves

Chalk it Up

Gather your chalk and take to the driveway. Your toddler won’t be able to draw amazing pictures, but will enjoy line making and exploring with different colors. 

Pro Tip: Create a path down the drive way and have an older child or yourself run down the path. Your toddler will be happy to follow suit, and might just run or walk that path for some time!

Mini Obstacle Course

Design a miniature obstacle course using soft play equipment, such as tunnels, low hurdles, and balance beams, think crawl tunnels, jump ropes, wood, and hula hoops for set up. 

18 month old outside playing
My 18 month old son taking a break on his obstacle course

This activity encourages physical activity and helps improve your toddler's coordination and motor skills. Join in the fun and cheer them on as they navigate through the course.

This is great if you have other children at home too and older children for your toddler to watch how it goes!

Nature Art

Engage your little artist in nature-inspired creativity. Collect leaves, flowers, and twigs during your nature walk, and use them to create simple art projects. Press leaves onto paper, make nature collages, or dip leaves into paint for a fun and messy outdoor art session.

Some of our favorite nature art crafts are Nature Butterflies, Caterpillars and Suncatchers

Outdoor Story Time

Instead of reading inside, take the book outside. Lay a blanket down and enjoy the fresh air as you cuddle up and explore new places. Picture books are a great way to introduce new vocabulary to a young toddler.

Pretend Play

One of our favorite activities outside is for my 18 month old to cook me my breakfast, lunch or dinner. We use our outdoor kitchen and she has a blast. Best thing about having an outdoor kitchen is that it will get many years of use. My 10 year old niece still uses it!

Outdoor Activities for 18 Month Old Away from Home

Nature Walks

Take a leisurely stroll through a nearby park or nature reserve. Encourage your toddler to observe their surroundings, pointing out colorful flowers, fluttering butterflies, and chirping birds. Let them touch and feel different textures, like the bark of a tree or soft grass beneath their tiny fingers.

18 month old outdoor activities nature walks

This simple activity stimulates their senses and introduces them to the wonders of the natural world. Make it into a longer walk by bringing a hiking carrier and go for a hike with your toddler

My toddlers love to record their hikes with me in their Momma and Toddler Hiking Journal.

Picnic Playdate

Pack a simple picnic and head to a nearby park for a picnic date. Lay out a blanket, and let your toddler explore different textures of food while enjoying the fresh air. This activity is not only a sensory experience but also a great opportunity for social interaction with other toddlers during a playdate.

Animal Spotting

Visit a local zoo or wildlife sanctuary for a day of animal discovery. Alternatively, explore your neighborhood for birds, squirrels, or even insects. Use simple books or apps to identify different animals and make it a learning adventure for your toddler.


Playgrounds are the perfect spot for your 18 month old to use up some energy. This age their climbing skills are limited so be ready to spot your toddler as they explore the equipment. Also great for developing social and emotional skills.

18 month old activities playgrounds
Love different features at different playgrounds

Try out different playgrounds in your area. Each playground will have different equipment and challenges for your toddler to conquer! 

Also another great activity for moms with multiple kids. Playgrounds are great for a wide range of ages.

Water Exploration

An 18 month old is fascinated by water. A hot day is the best time to take your toddler to a local pool, beach or lake. Ensure they are dressed appropriately, toddler water shoes a must, and are wearing sun protection.

Bring some flotation devices if your toddler will wear them.  If heading for the beach bring a couple beach toy essentials, a bucket and shovel at the minimum, as toddlers often can be afraid of the ocean and not spend as much time in the water as you expect.

Bike Ride

An 18 month old sometimes needs a rest. Instead of sitting in the stroller, why not place your toddler on the back of your bike on a baby bike seat and get a bike ride in for yourself. This is one of our favorite outdoor activities with my toddlers. 

For more details on how to get started read How to Start Cycling with a Toddler.

bike ride with my toddler

We often ride to the local park or out to town for a treat together. A toddler won’t see a bike ride as captivity, but a fun new way to explore!

Or you toddler might start exploring their own bike. I love a balance bike as my children's first bike. It teaches them coordination and balance and has avoided the need for training wheels for all three of my kids!

Visit Local Farms

Local farms have events and outdoor activities for toddlers. In fall you often find apple picking and autumn festivals that may include hay rides. Winter time you can explore tree farms, holiday festivals and campfires. Spring can be a time for new blossoms and wild flowers, while in summer time you can find local fruit picking.

18 month old outdoor activity: picking fruit
Grape picking in fall

The world is a vast playground waiting to be explored by your 18-month-old adventurer and you. These outdoor activities not only provide entertainment but also contribute to their physical, cognitive, and social development. So, grab those tiny shoes or sandals, slather on some sunscreen, and go on an outdoor adventure with your little one – because the best memories are made outdoors!