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Embracing Nature: The Benefits of Outdoor Play for Toddlers

Updated: Apr 30

 Outdoor play is not only enjoyable; it's essential for a child's physical, mental, and emotional well-being. From the early stages of infancy to the energetic years of toddlerhood, each age presents unique opportunities for exploring the great outdoors. Let's delve into the importance of outdoor play for toddlers and discuss the appropriate amount of time they should spend outside at each stage of development.

Newborn to 12 Months:

Even the youngest of infants can benefit from spending time outdoors, soaking in the sights, sounds, and sensations of nature. Aim for at least 15-30 minutes of outdoor time each day, weather permitting. Take your newborn for leisurely strolls in a baby carrier or stroller, allowing them to experience gentle breezes, dappled sunlight, and the rhythmic motion of walking.




Find a shady spot in your backyard or local park and spread out a blanket for tummy time sessions. Encourage your baby to explore natural textures and elements, such as grass, leaves, and flowers, under your close supervision. The fresh air and sensory stimulation provided by outdoor play can help soothe fussy babies and promote restful sleep.

12 to 24 Months:

As babies transition into toddlers, outdoor play becomes even more important for their physical and cognitive development. Aim for at least 60-90 minutes of outdoor playtime each day, divided into shorter sessions to align with their attention span and energy levels. Take advantage of opportunities for free play in safe, supervised environments like your backyard, playgrounds, or nature trails.

Engage your toddler in simple outdoor activities that encourage gross motor skills, coordination, and exploration. Practice walking, running, climbing, and jumping on playground equipment or natural obstacles like fallen logs or rocks. Encourage sensory exploration through activities like digging in sand or mud, splashing in puddles, and collecting natural treasures like sticks and pinecones.

2 to 3 Years:

Preschoolers are full of energy and curiosity, eager to explore the world around them. Aim for at least 90-120 minutes of outdoor playtime each day, offering a mix of structured and unstructured activities to keep them engaged and active. Plan regular outings to parks, nature reserves, or outdoor play areas to provide new experiences and opportunities for exploration. Gardening is a great way for little ones to understand nature while getting their hands dirty.

Encourage imaginative play outdoors by creating open-ended play spaces with loose parts like buckets, shovels, and building blocks. Foster creativity and problem-solving skills by building forts, creating obstacle courses, or pretending to go on nature scavenger hunts. Take advantage of natural elements like trees, rocks, and hills to encourage physical challenges and adventures. Have your little join you while doing yard-work. Bubble lawn mowers are a great way to allow your toddler to feel as though they are helping while also teaching them the importance of contributing to household chores.

3 to 4 Years:

By the age of three, children are developing more advanced motor skills and social abilities, making outdoor play even more beneficial. Aim for at least 120-150 minutes of outdoor playtime each day, allowing for plenty of opportunities for active exploration and social interaction. Encourage cooperative play with siblings, friends, or other children at the park, promoting teamwork and communication skills.


Engage your preschooler in structured outdoor activities like bike riding, ball games, or nature walks to further develop their coordination and endurance. Encourage curiosity and scientific inquiry by observing plants, insects, and animals in their natural habitats. Provide opportunities for creative expression through outdoor art projects like painting with watercolors, making nature collages, or creating outdoor chalk murals.

In conclusion, outdoor play is essential for toddlers' physical, cognitive, and emotional development. By providing ample opportunities for outdoor exploration and adventure from infancy to preschool age, parents can help their children build a lifelong love of nature and a strong foundation for healthy, active living. So, grab your sunscreen and bug spray, and get ready to embark on countless outdoor adventures with your little ones!


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