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Outdoor Play for Infants and Toddlers – Lee Scott


Goddard School Educational Advisory Board member Lee Scott gives six outdoor play ideas for infants and toddlers.

Summer is a great time for playing outside with your child. Many fun outdoor activities support sensory integration, language development and fine and gross motor skill development. Of course, you will also be out in the fresh air and sunshine. Here are six activities to enjoy in the summer sun.

  1. Use water and sand for sensory play. Provide plastic buckets, and let your child mix and handle water and sand. She will love the textures. Sing a song as you play to describe what your child is doing. Try “Here We Are Playing in the Sand” sung to the tune of “Here We Go ‘round the Mulberry Bush.” Singing and talking while playing is terrific for early language development.
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  1. Go for a walk. You can walk in the backyard, in your neighborhood or in a nearby park. As your child looks around and points to things, talk about his observations. Pick up flowers, leaves, stones and sticks. Let him feel the items, but be careful not to let him put them in his mouth. Children learn by observing and experiencing new things. Your descriptions of the items will help your child build language skills.

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  1. Enjoy early science activities without the mess. Show your child some ice cubes and watch them melt while asking your child what is happening to them. Place ice cream in a sealed plastic bag and let your child play with it until it melts. Remember to talk about what is happening and repeat the activities a few times.


  1. Set up a station for messy art. With finger paints and paper, encourage your child to use her hands and feet to create a design. The best part is that you can clean up with a hose while she enjoys playing in the water. Let your child hose you off, too.


  1. Create an outdoor obstacle course. Start with big cardboard boxes, blankets draped over a chair and other large objects. Include your child’s favorite stuffed animal or a ball. He can then explore the course by going in, under and around the items. Give simple directions, such as “Roll the ball into the box” or “Let’s have Teddy go through the hoop.” Your child will build language and listening skills while working on his gross motor development.


  1. Let your little one crawl, walk and run. My nephew took his first steps when we were playing outside with a few balls and he stood up to get one that had rolled away. Luckily, we got a snapshot before he sat down again.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset