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10 Simple Calming Outdoor Activities for your Irritable Toddler

Inside: Discover 10 easy fun and calming outdoor activities for toddlers when they’re tired, stressed, and overwhelmed. 

Over the past year and a half, children have been forced to spend more time indoors than ever before, and this has had tremendous effects on their ability to regulate their emotional responses to both their own stress and that of others. 

I think I can speak for many parents when I say that our own ability to control personal stress and anxiety has been put to the test, making it more difficult for us to see our children’s struggles. 

Toddlers, in particular, can struggle with emotional regulation that can worsen when they don’t have an outlet for their boundless energy.

This often leads to what parents see as negative behavior and can end in frustration for everyone. 

One of the absolute best strategies for helping your small  child boost their emotional regulation skills is simply taking them out into nature and engaging them in outdoor activities for toddlers. 

toddler outdoor activity

Often, the simple act of engaging in outside nature play for kids together can do wonders for your toddler’s mental, physical, and emotional health.

I’ve gathered together some of The Best Calming Outdoor Activities for Toddlers to get you started. From there, the possibilities are endless!

Calming Benefits of Outdoor Activities for Toddlers 

According to the National Wildlife Federation, “the average American child spends as few as 30 minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day.” Many more hours are spent in front of a tablet, handheld gaming device, or television screen. So, what are the calming benefits of outdoor activities for toddlers? 

  • Outdoor play provides a healthy physical outlet for pent-up energy
  • When your child spends time outside, it raises their Vitamin D levels, which has been clinically proven to reduce depression and anxiety 
  • ADHD symptoms have been shown to improve when children spend time in nature
  • Spending time in green spaces instantly begins to reduce stress
  • Unstructured outdoor play protects children’s emotional development 

10 Calming Outdoor Activities for Toddlers

Go On a Nature Walk

The best part about nature walks is that you can take them virtually anywhere. Use this as an opportunity to incorporate local parks and trails into your outside activities for toddlers, and keep your little one engaged by giving them an “exploration bag” to collect leaves, pretty rocks, and flowers.   

Make Rock Pictures

Toddlers love collecting rocks of different shapes and sizes, so use their natural curiosity to help them create pictures of animals, letters, and numbers with their newfound treasures. Your toddler can also sort them by size and shape, and they can be fun to paint as well. 

Related resource::: Give your child the lifelong superpower of emotional regulation skills with the Calm Kids Set

Nature Color Sorting 

Spend some time outside with your toddler gathering leaves and flowers and let them sort into different color groups. This is a fun way to create nature collages as well. All you need is glue or mod podge and construction paper. 

Create Sidewalk Chalk Art 

My toddlers spent many stress-relieving hours outside with a few pieces of sidewalk chalk and a bucket of water (for ‘chalk painting’ as they called it). You can also help your child make beautiful sidewalk chalk mosaics with masking tape and chalk. Check out how by visiting Bilingual Beginnings for step-by-step instructions. 

outdoor play for toddlers chalk art

Have a Toy Wash 

Toddlers love to help with “grown-up” chores, and involving them in these activities can help them feel valued and appreciated. Grab a few plastic tubs and your child’s most-loved toys, and take them outside for a good scrubbing. Your toddler will enjoy this activity’s repetitive nature, as it helps them to focus in order to accomplish a task. 

Make Shadow Art

I love this shadow art activity from Emma Owl because it’s a wonderfully simple way for your toddler to improve their focus, which in turn can lower a child’s anxiety.

All you need is paper, a pencil or crayon, toy dinosaurs or other figures, and a sunny day. Show your toddler how they can make shadows of different sizes depending on the time of day and angle they’re drawing from. They’re guaranteed to love it. 

Make Rainbow Foam  

This easy-to-make DIY Rainbow Foam from the Play Inspired Mum is the perfect outdoor calming activity for toddlers. Involving them in the creation process helps them develop several valuable skills, such as experimental play, creativity, and fine motor skills. The best part is that you probably have all the ingredients in your kitchen.

Play in the Sand 

Another fun outdoor kid activity is to have your toddler grab their favorite dump trucks, buckets, and shovel and head to the nearest sandbox or beach (if you’re lucky). The texture of the sand offers lots of calming tactile sensory input, and your toddler will love building sandcastles or filling up their trucks for transport. 

We made this simple sandbox with rocks, tree stumps, landscape fabric and about 20 bags of sand.

outdoor play sandbox toddlers

Skip Rocks

If you live near a lake, pond, or even a stream, help your toddler collect some quality skipping stones and have them give it a go. For the most part, they’ll just throw the rocks into the water, but that in and of itself is a calming activity.

Talk with them about the ripples each stone makes as it plops into the water and see who can throw their rock the farthest.  

Blow Bubbles 

There is nothing more relaxing than watching bubbles float lazily on the breeze when it comes to calming outdoor activities for toddlers. This calming outdoor activity never grows old, and it requires your toddler to concentrate on using their breath to create their own bubbles which is a great way to incorporate mindfulness activities for kids. 

Related resource::: Want to discipline without emotional damage? The Positive Discipline Set is for you.

positive discipline kids

Using Outdoor Activities for Toddlers to Calm and Regulate emotions and behavior

Using outdoor play for toddlers really is the best and easiest way to improve a child’s behavior and mood. 

On the days you think parenting a toddler might make you go insane, just remember that a a little sanity is just one small step (outside) away.

Want to Raise an Emotionally Healthy Child that will thrive out in the world? I created a free 5-day parenting course for you! (sign up below)

Other parenting articles you’d love:

75 Awesome Calm Down Strategies for Kids (that they’ll actually want to try!)

The Best Mindset for Parenting a spirited Emotionally Intense Child

10 Insights of Remarkable Parents from a Family Therapist

Easy Ways to Bond With Your Child (even when there’s no time in the day)

10 Everyday Ways to Improve Your Child’s Mood and Behavior

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