With summer finally here, we are itching to get outside as much as possible. I grew up in one of those families where we stayed in the backyard all day long, only stopping to eat when my mom dragged us inside or—even better—brought lunch to the back deck. I have so many memories of my amazing childhood backyard, and now as a parent myself, I recognize how much my mom did to make that a wonderful space for us.
We just moved into a new house with a great backyard, and we are settling right in and making it our own. I’ve been trying to find fun, affordable ways to outfit our new outdoor space with things that will be fun for Cullen, as well as things that will entice his creative side and get his little brain working as hard as his little legs.
Here are 10 ways we’re bringing the fun outdoors this summer!
Backyard Fun for Toddlers 1 of 11
Click to see 10 ideas for bringing the fun outdoors this summer!
Picnic Table 2 of 11
I've been stalking these on Craigslist for weeks. Cullen loves eating in his own little seat, as long as it is not the high chair (of course). One of his favorite things is having snacks with his buddies all seated at the same table. I want to get a picnic table to put in the yard this summer, and then bring it inside to the playroom for snacks and arts & crafts during the colder months.
Obstacle Course 3 of 11
When we need something new to do, I toss a bunch of different things out into the yard and have Cullen follow me through a backyard obstacle course. We usually use our play tunnel (from IKEA), a few big balls, buckets and cups, and some other household stuff. Cullen has fun running around the yard, and sometimes the dogs even join in on the challenge.
Sidewalk Chalk 4 of 11
When the crayons and markets are all broken or dried out, it's time to move outside to the pavement. At his current age, Cullen actually has more fun directing ME to do most of the drawing and writing, but it's still a nice way to be outside and enjoy some fresh air and sun. I'm also using it as a way to help him learn his colors, letters, and shapes, as we identify all the things we draw!
Sprinkler! 5 of 11
My neighbors have a fun twirly, whirley sprinkler in their yard, and I love listening to their kids shriek and scream as they run through it on warm days. Of course there is the more economical version of just turning on the hose and letting your toddler go nuts, depending on the age, this might be just as fun. But I can see eventually getting a fancy sprinkler made just for kiddos, and telling all Cullen's buddies to come over and bring their swimsuits!
Bubbles! 6 of 11
What is it about kids and bubbles? You can get a giant bottles of bubbles with a basic wand for about $1.00 at most grocery or craft stores. Or you can get fancy and get the elaborate wands or bubble machines that automatically blow them for you. Either way, they provide great entertainment, and even better photo opportunities!
Digging 7 of 11
Toddlers generally love to dig, whether it's in sand, rocks, or just a good pile of dirt. We don't have a dedicated sandbox in our yard, but that doesn't stop Cullen from pulling out all his beach toys and collecting rocks, grass, sticks, and gravel.
A Playhouse 8 of 11
This is another item I'm tediously hunting for on Craigslist. There seems to be a good resale market for those, and buying used (just hose it down!) brings a huge cost savings from full-priced retail. Cullen loves to go in and out of things, and I know he'd love using all the little doors and windows. And with another little brother on the way, I think something like this would have a few good years of use ahead of it before we consider upgrading to a full-sized swing set.
Wheels! 9 of 11
Cullen just got his first set of wheels—a cozy coupe car that I found for free on the side of the road. I cleaned it up really well with a little elbow grease, and of course he doesn't know the difference. (He might eventually notice it's missing the steering wheel though - oops!) At friends' and grandparents' houses he also loves ride-on toys and other things he can push around. I can see this lasting him for a long time, as I remember playing with mine until I couldn't fit inside it anymore.
A Pouring Center 10 of 11
When it's too cold for water, and you don't want to deal with the mess of sand, consider creating a homemade pouring table. We've been using dried beans, but you can also use rice, lentils, dried pasta, buttons, anything that you can trust your toddler not to eat (this is key!) and that will pour easily between cups.
Water Table 11 of 11
And when the sun comes out and the temps heat up, it's time for water table fun! We just ordered a stand-up water table for Cullen to use this summer, but until now we've been improvising using his old infant tub and a bunch of measuring cups. You can also do this with a shallow storage container or a big bucket. Get creative! And be prepared to do a lot of laundry.