Simple Backyard Activities for Toddlers



Aug 12, 2022

Got cabin fever?  Going crazy inside? Take your toddlers outside and see how it lifts both your toddler and your spirits. Don’t be surprised when you only have to go as far as your backyard. There are so many fun simple activities you can do with your toddler in your backyard.

Having a moment when you can't think of any? No problem let me take you through my favorite backyard activities for toddlers!

toddler outdoor backyard fun

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase. Rest assured all products I suggest are products I have bought or would buy based on personal experience or through my network of other mommas

Importance of Outdoor Play For Toddlers

Outdoor play is very important for your toddler’s development. Pediatrician Katie Lockwood says a child needs three hours of outdoor play a day. This time will contribute positively to the physical and emotional well being of your toddler.

“Outdoors promotes active engagement with their peers and the natural environment, and helps them develop respect for the world and consideration for others around them.”Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)

Some activities are better suited for different seasons. Check out Top Toddler Outdoor Activities for Autumn or 25 Great Winter Activities for some more inspiration.

How Do You Make a Backyard Fun for Toddlers?

A toddler doesn’t need much to have fun outside. However, having a couple clutch items will ensure your toddler finds your backyard magical. But remember, the best thing you can have is a big imagination.

Keep reading to find all my ideas on how to make your backyard fun for toddlers or check out Best Outdoor Toys for 2 Year Olds!

How Do I Keep My Toddler Busy In My Backyard?

The great thing about a toddler is it takes very little to entertain them. A toddler loves to explore and finds entertainment in the simplest thing. Ever notice that when a toddler receives a gift that they often like the box more than the actual gift?

One of the important milestones for children is being able to mimic others. Do you ever notice your toddler doing things you do? You are washing dishes and all of a sudden your toddler pulls a chair up to try to help wash the dishes with you.

backyard simple toddler activities
My toddler helping me water the flowers

Mimicking behavior is a way toddlers learn and you can be sure they are watching you, Fatherly Article. If you go outside and start gardening or doing an outside chore your toddler will most likely join you. You are a child’s first role model so ensure you are setting good examples.

As long as you can find things to do outside in your yard your toddler will keep busy.

There are many things you can do with your toddler outside. Continue reading and see my 24 simple backyard activities for toddlers.

How Do I Keep My 3 Year Old Busy Outside?

Imagination play is important for 3 year olds. Some of my backyard ideas for toddlers enable pretend play, think outdoor play kitchen. But the best thing you can do for your 3 year old is get involved with their play.

“When children pretend with their parents, their games become more advanced, because adults can boost a child’s imagination to another level,” says Jacqueline D. Woolley, Ph.D

One of the best things about having children is being able to relive your childhood. Your 3 year old will love to help you do chores outside; hint they won’t think its’ a chore. Or read to find more ideas to keep your 3 year old busy and happy outside.

How Do I Entertain my Toddler All Day?

A change of scenery helps to split the day up and provide different stimuli to your child. Going outside in the morning and again for some time in the afternoon will help to entertain your toddler when you are with him/her all day.

toddler backyard activities
My toddler filling up pots of water with his water table

Toddlers have shorter attention spans than adults, so one item doesn’t keep a toddler’s attention. Starting with a structured activity helps, but don’t be surprised if your toddler deviates from your plan and finds a new way to play. This is okay, encouraged really!

Read on for my simple backyard activities for toddlers.

24 Outdoor Backyard Activities for Toddlers

1. Play On The Swing set

If your toddler is lucky he/she might have his/her own swing set in the backyard. Or maybe just a baby swing in the backyard hanging from a tree. Either or these is a great outdoor activity for a toddler.

backyard toddler activities swings
Swinging is always a big hit in our backyard

If your toddler doesn’t seem interested in the swing set you could always go down the slide or swing. It won’t be long before your toddler is by your side also wanting to play with you. Remember toddlers love to do things WITH YOU not just as YOU watch.

See how many different ways you can go down the slide. Try high fiving your toddler as they slide down. On the swing do an underduck, where you run under the swing as you push. 

Maybe your toddler is lucky and your swing set even has a sand pit. Let them get their toes dirty with you and hide dinosaurs or gems in the sandbox for the other to discover.

2. Plant a Garden

A great outdoor learning experience is to plant a garden with your toddler. Whether you have raised garden beds for vegetables or planting wildflowers, both are exciting for your toddler. 

Toddlers will love getting their hands dirty, and well, every other bit of themselves as well. When you plant the garden you can first dig for worms or explore what lays in the soil.  Does your toddler have a birthday coming up, you might want to get them his/her own gardening tools. The set comes with a cute short book to get your little one in the gardening spirit.

toddler backyard activities garden
Best part of a garden is eating the produce!

Every day you can make it an activity to check on your garden. Bring water buckets or the hose and water your garden.  See how many days it takes for the vegetables, fruit or flowers to grow.

The best part will be when it is time to harvest. Your toddler will enjoy eating their own produce, mine sure do! Or seeing the flowers bloom before their eyes. Although mine try to pick the wildflower garden every chance they get!

3. Build a Play Fort

Do you ever notice toddlers love to be in closed spaces? They will crawl into boxes, wagons, laundry baskets or anything they find. An outdoor play fort is right up their alley of fun!

Use your imagination to create one. If you have a fence you can use that as one side and chairs on the other to drape a bedsheet over.

Or you can find large sticks or snow poles and make a tee-pee style play fort.

4. Cook in Pretend Outdoor Kitchen

Pretend play is a critical part of a toddlers development. A great outdoor pretend play is through an outdoor kitchen. You can either buy one or make one yourself. We built ours into the bottom of our playset.

backyard activities for toddlers play kitchen

Let your toddler bring over water or make mud in the sink. You can always give them a bath later! Sit down and let your toddler pretend to be the chef and cook you breakfast, make you a treat and pour you a drink. 

5. Make S'mores

S’mores is a childhood favorite. Start a fire in your fire pit and go find a nice long stick with your toddler. Work together to roast your marshmallow, but remember you will need to teach your toddler not to get too close to the fire.

If you think your toddler is too young for a full S’more just let them eat a roasted marshmallow. After your stomachs are happy your toddler might just snuggle up and watch the fire flicker. Fire is pretty cool to look at for a young person, well I love it too!

6. Camp Outside

Want to have a real adventure for your toddler, try camping outside in your backyard. Set up your tent in the afternoon and let your toddler play. Mine love to go in the tent and have story time there, bring toys in, or just run around inside.

If you have any pretend camping toys for your toddler this would be the perfect time to get them out. My toddler boys love their pretend campfire set and full camping set. You can also set up a play tent for your toddler outside and “play camping” during the day.

backyard camping with your toddlers

If you stay out all night make sure you have a safe toddler sleeping arrangement. 

7. Stargaze with your Toddler

On a clear night take a stadium blanket outside and lay in your grass. Lay down with your toddler and point out the stars. See if you can find the little or big dipper.

Ask your toddler to find the brightest star, farthest star or stars that are close together. You can have your toddler make a wish on a star or you can tell your toddler stories about the stars. 

8. Do A Scavenger Hunt in the Backyard

Everyone loves a good scavenger hunt, especially if you have a nice prize at the end. The prize doesn’t have to be big, maybe just a snack or ice pop once you find all the objects.

Don’t make the scavenger hunt (click to download mine) too difficult, your child is only a toddler. Fine tune your hunt to things you know are in your backyard. You can have them carry around the paper or you hold it as he/she goes from one object to the next.

Great thing is you can change up the items and keep playing. 

9. Have An Outside Picnic with your Toddler

Lay out a blanket and have lunch outside. Just make sure you also eat outside with your toddler. Perhaps make sandwiches and bring along fruit and crackers. Or maybe just a picnic snack is the right option.

Take the time while you both are sitting down and eating to talk to your toddler. Ask about their day, what they want to do next or silly things like their favorite color. There is nothing a toddler loves more than your undivided attention.

10. Draw with Chalk

Chalk is such a great cheap invention. There are so many games you can play with chalk. You can draw pictures, letters, numbers or create hop-scotch, car tracks and more. 

Your toddler might not have the best drawing skills yet but practice makes perfect! My toddlers love to trace objects, from scooters to hands to my full body. Let them go crazy.

If your toddler is tired of chalk try letting them dip the chalk in water first. Then have them draw and watch as the color has changed to become more vibrant.

11. Practice Backyard Sports for Toddlers

simple backyard activities for toddlers soccer

Backyards are perfect for playing sports. Your toddler might already have a sport they like playing, perhaps from watching a bigger sibling or the game on TV. The best thing about sports is it requires you to play along as well!

Soccer is a great sport for toddlers, just be warned they might like to pick up the ball and throw, not just kick. Get a small soccer net and ball and practice the concept of kicking the ball in the net or dribbling the ball. My son likes to play goalie.

An up and coming sport of disc golf might also be fun. If you have a basket in your backyard or a big trash can to throw into. Give your toddler a disc and see how far he/she can throw. My sons have been “playing” since they have been able to hold the disc, thanks to their uncle.

Ball and bat is another toddler capable sport. Either try to throw the ball to your toddler, let your toddler throw the ball to you or have a stand to hit the ball off of. 

Or any other sport you have around. Your toddler is never too young to start learning.

12. Build A Backyard Toddler Obstacle Course

This is a big favorite in our house. Create an unique obstacle course that will provide lots of entertainment. The best thing is you don’t need anything specific for it. Just look around your garage or shed and see if you can find objects to make a course.

toddler obstacle course backyard
Two blanks started our toddler obstacle course

For our son’s 3rd birthday party we created a fun toddler obstacle course for all the kids; they had a blast. And sometimes your toddler will only do certain obstacles or add on rules or use the obstacles in a different way than intended. Let them; it is their imaginations at work!

13. Toddler Water Immersion with a Pool or Sprinkler

Nothing is better on a hot day than setting up the toddler pool or sprinkler. Dress your toddler in appropriate swimwear and make sure to put sunscreen on your little one.

If your toddler has another sibling to play with in the pool, great; otherwise you might want to put on your own swimsuit. Toddlers love to play with you in the water and is a great way for you to cool off as well.

If a sprinkler is more up your alley, make it more fun with a game. See how many times your little one can jump over the water or run through it. Some sprinklers you can shoot at others, see who can spray the other the most.

14. Water Table Fun

Water tables are pure genius for toddlers. Either fill them with water, (your toddler will love doing this for you), snow or sand. 

If the water table is filled with water your toddlers might transfer water out of the water table to buckets and back again. Transferring water over and over again is an activity I have seen most toddlers love.

simple backyard activities mud soup
My 3 Year Old Making Mud Soup

When the water table is filled with snow or sand it works as a great sensory activity for your toddler. You can put other toys in the sand or snow and have them dig them out or color the sand or snow for more fun!

15. Throw Water Balloons with your Toddler

You can’t go wrong with tossing water balloons with your toddler on a hot summer's day. The bright colors of the balloons will attract your toddler’s eye and you will find it hard to pull them away from the balloons. 

Just make sure you have enough balloons! This is also great if you have other siblings or friends over.

16. Do Toddler Nature Arts and Crafts

Nature provides us with great objects for awesome arts and crafts. Whether you collect the objects on a hike or just in your backyard there is plenty for you to do. It works best if you have an outdoor table for your toddler to work on their projects.

Caterpillar Craft


Outdoor Sundial

Toddler Suncatcher

Some fun ideas are collecting leaves and flowers for a suncatcher, caterpillar or outdoor sundial. You can also paint leaves and rocks and maybe even use marshmallows as paint brushes. 

17. Ride A Toddler Balance Bike

When learning to walk babies gravitate to push toys. Once they can walk toddlers still love pushing around toys or riding on them. A balance bike is a perfect fit to teach your toddler balance and introduce the concept of riding a bike.

Balance bikes work great on pavement, but when they are first learning grass is safest. Have them ride their balance bike to the garden or playset. My toddlers even love to ride their balance bikes in the backyard in the snow. 

backyard activities for a toddler bike
My toddler and his Strider balance bike

Looking to get your toddler a bike check out, Best Bike for Toddlers.

18. Bubbles, Bubbles and More Bubbles

toddler backyard activities bubbles

Bubbles, enough said right? If you are a parent to a toddler you know how much bubbles captivate your little one. Your child is running around trying to pop as many bubbles as they can or shooting out as many bubbles in their bubble gun

Try different bubble wands for different size bubbles. Your toddler might even get the hang of a stick and rope bubble maker!

For parents of younger toddlers I suggest you create the bubbles and they chase. Younger toddlers have the tendency to dump out all the bubble liquid.

19. Go Bug Exploring

toddler backyard games
My toddler ready to go find some bugs!

Go on a search for bugs in the yard. Whether the bug is a caterpillar, ant, worm, beetle or lightning bug doesn’t matter. Your toddler will enjoy the search. You might have to dig in the dirt or slowly wade through the grass.

If you have your own bug catcher kit, perfect, take it with you. If not, that’s okay, just finding the bugs is fun in itself. And maybe for the next occasion a bug explorer kit might be in the cards. My boys love theirs!

20. Play I-spy with your Toddler

I-spy isn’t only for long car rides. It can be a perfect easy game for your toddler and you to play in your own backyard. Introduce the game with you spying objects for your little one to guess.

Once your child gets a hang of the game don’t be surprised if he/she starts spying objects for you to find. 

My toddler loves to play this game and often might spy things that are not in our yard. Just beware your toddler might change the rules of the game on you!

21. Paint Tin Cans and Go Bowling

Tin cans make for great bowling pins. And another fun activity toddlers love is to paint outdoors. First collect 6 tin cans and find some paint. Next let your toddler paint the cans. 

After the paint has dried all you have to do is find a ball and you get yourself an outdoor bowling alley! 

22. Pretend to Mow the Lawn

Ever notice your toddler watching out the window as you or your partner mow the yard? Your toddler will love to “be like mommy or daddy” and also mow the yard. 

A push lawn mower is a great first birthday present or Christmas gift for a young toddler. Your toddler will spend lots of time walking the backyard pushing the mower and “pretending”. Bonus fun if the lawn mower makes popping noise or blows bubbles! 

23. Have a Backyard Toddler Dance Party

simple toddler activities for the backyard dance party
Dance Party in the Playhouse!

Kids love to dance and move their bodies. All you have to do is play some music outside and move to the beat. Find an outdoor speaker, or even just play from your phone.

Some great toddler dance party songs are:

  • Party Freeze Song- all varieties 
  • We are the Dinosaurs
  • Happy by Pharrell
  • Shake it Off by Taylor Swift
  • Favorite Nursery Rhyme songs - “Five little monkeys jumping on the bed”
  • Any favorite disney songs of your family
  • Baby Shark

24. Crack Glow Sticks in the Dark

Wait until dark and then activate several glow sticks. Both your toddler and you should wear the glow sticks on your arms, neck or legs and run around outside.

Your toddler will find it magical how they glow and light up where you are. The more people glowing outside the better! 

Hint: Glow sticks can often be purchased at the dollar store!

Thanks for reading my simple backyard activities for toddlers! Hope your toddler and you find some new ideas and have fun!