Activities

25 nature-inspired activities for toddlers

From painting sticks to making mud pies, have some outdoor fun with your little one with any of these nature-inspired activities.

By Isa Down

25 nature-inspired activities for toddlers

Photo: iStockphoto

Plant a garden

Planting a garden doesn’t have to be complicated. One great way to welcome spring into your home is by planting Easter grass. Grab a flowerpot and some potting soil and wheat seed, and spend a rainy day planting the seeds with your little ones. Your children will be delighted to water the earth, and watch the grass slowly grow. (Click here for more tips about gardening with kids.)

mom and kids planting a garden outsidePhoto: iStockphoto

Go on a scavenger hunt

Write a list of things to search for, then head out to explore your backyard or a local park. You can pick a theme for your hunt, like “things that are green,” or have a more precise list, such as five pinecones, three round pebbles, and so on.

little girl and woman looking at pine conesPhoto: iStockphoto

Paint with nature

Pick out evergreen branches, pinecones, leaves and grasses, and use them as paintbrushes. Discover how each one creates a different mark on the paper.

little girl holding a stick looking up at a treePhoto: iStockphoto

Build a green bean tent

In your garden, build a cone-shaped tent out of poles and wire, and plant your green beans at the base. As summer draws near, your green beans will grow up, up, up, filling in the tent. Your little one can sit inside, surrounded by leaves and green beans.

seedling sprouting in the dirtPhoto: iStockphoto

Do nature rubbings

Grab a leaf, a piece of paper and some crayons, and create beautiful nature-inspired art.

little girl doing leaf craftPhoto: iStockphoto

Catch a bug

Pick up a net at the dollar store and go exploring for bugs and butterflies. Whether you catch them or not, running after butterflies and bugs will yield endless squeals of excitement.

two kids looking at a butterfly with a magnifying glassPhoto: iStockphoto

Dig a hole

Who doesn’t love to dig holes? Gather your kid-friendly spades, or let your little ones use their hands. You can even have them dig the holes for the flowers or veggies that will be planted in your outdoor garden beds.

toddler digging through the dirt with gardening toolsPhoto: iStockphoto

Get muddy

The only thing more fun than digging a hole is pouring water into it afterwards and making a mud pile.

toddler digging in the mudPhoto: iStockphoto

Look up

Lie on your backs together and watch the scene go by above you. Pick out cloud shapes, watch birds soar overhead and try to catch the dandelion puffs that float past.

dad and daughter pointing at cloudsPhoto: iStockphoto

Paint sticks

Gather sticks of varying shapes and sizes, and paint them. These sticks will become many things to your toddler: a magic wand, a horse, a car…

toddler holding a stick in the forestPhoto: iStockphoto

Create a nature table

With everything you’ve gathered in your day—pinecones, acorns, leaves, sticks, pebbles, butterfly wings—create a special space for your child to display her treasures and keep enjoying them inside. A small table in the corner or a space on the bookshelf are good spots.

25 nature-inspired activities for toddlersPhoto: iStockphoto

Collect rocks

Stones were made for toddlers to roll, skip, stack and topple.

two girls collecting rocksPhoto: iStockphoto

Try shadow painting

Find an old white sheet, and lay it in the grass beneath a tree. With paint and paintbrushes, paint the outlines of the shadows that the leaves and branches cast on the sheet. 

toddler looking at his shadowPhoto: iStockphoto

Create an egg-carton garden

Place soil into an old egg carton and plant seeds with your little ones. Keep them watered and in the light, and watch as the seeds you planted begin to turn into small shoots, and eventually real plants. You can choose to plant these seedlings in your garden as well.

tomato plants in egg cartonPhoto: iStockphoto

Make a treasure mobile

Attach your treasures to yarn or twine and hang them from a stick. You now have a mobile created from the treasures you collected that your little one will love to keep in his room. Need inspiration? Check out this awesome nature mobile on sheknows.com.

nature mobilePhoto: sheknows.com

Create pinecone bird feeders

Smear pinecones with peanut butter and dip them in birdseed. Once hung on your favourite tree outside, they become instant bird feeders.

pinecone bird feederPhoto: iStockphoto

Match colours

You can play eye-spy, or simply gather same-coloured materials together. Look for things that are red, or yellow, and match the color of your child’s green shorts to the green grass or green leaves.

dad and son pointing outsidePhoto: iStockphoto

Count tree rings

When you’re out for a nature walk, keep an eye open for fallen trees. When you find one, practice your toddler’s counting skills by counting the number of rings on the tree trunk, which correlates with how many years the tree has been alive.

Child's hand on tree stump, tree ringsPhoto: iStockphoto

Go on a nature walk

There does not need to be a purpose to being outside. Take the time to really listen to your toddler’s observations.

toddler holding a stick pointingPhoto: iStockphoto

Get low

Lie in the grass on your bellies and watch as little bugs crawl past through the grass. Talk about what it would be like to be as tiny as a bug, living amongst the grass.

mom and son playing in the grassPhoto: iStockphoto

Re-grow your food

Next time you cut into an avocado, save the pit. If you put it in some water and follow the instructions here (under “Planting: Houseplant”), the seed will grow roots. Once enough roots are present, you can plant the pit in a garden pot and watch as it grows into an avocado tree.

avocado and pitPhoto: iStockphoto

Float a walnut-shell boat

Each half of a walnut shell makes a perfect sailboat! Using a hot glue gun, create a mast with a small twig or toothpick, and attach a piece of cloth that has been cut into a triangle as a sail. Take your sailboats to a pond or creek, or even to your backyard kiddy pool, and set sail!

walnut shell sailboatPhoto: iStockphoto

Imitate animals

Play a game of imitating the animals you see: Fly like a bird, crawl like a ladybug or jump like a cricket.

dad and son spreading their arms like birdsPhoto: iStockphoto

Make mud pies

On an old piece of wood, or tree stump, or even the sidewalk, you can make mud pies, cakes or pancakes. Let them dry in the sun and watch as your mud turns back into dirt.

little boy playing in the mud, toddlerPhoto: iStockphoto

Explore

The best nature-inspired activities come from free play in nature. Children benefit in countless ways from exploring nature at their own pace and letting their imaginations run free. Let your kids lead the way!

dad and son walking outside through a fieldPhoto: iStockphoto

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