Keeping Toddlers Busy in the Garden – A Guest Post by Building Blocks and Acorns
Hi, I’m Louise and I’m so excited to be guest-posting here at ‘Our Little House in the Country.’ My usual ‘home’ is Building Blocks and Acorns, where I share the activities I do with my two year old son, on my days off as a Primary School teacher and nursery worker. Often, the activities we do have a nature or sensory focus.
We are fortunate enough to have a little space at the back of our house to call our own; our garden. It’s not huge, but its ours and we love it. My two year old (who is lovingly known as ‘Darth’ over on my page, thanks to my husband’s love of all things Star-Wars,) loves getting outside. But using the same space every day, it was difficult to try and think of ways to keep him entertained.
Until I realised that I really didn’t need to try that hard… he is simply happy being outside and I don’t need a garden full of toys (so I don’t need to spend much money,) on keeping him busy and active outside. Here are some of the simple activities we do in our garden and down at our allotment…
Dressed for the Weather
We try to get out in the garden every day, in (almost) any weather. I love these all-in-one waterproof suits that go over little one’s clothes, so I can layer ‘Darth’ up to keep warm and keep all of his clothes clean and dry underneath. Of course, it’s all about making sure that they’re safe. But also, if you’re worried about them getting wet or dirty, they won’t be able to fully engage in their play (or charging around the garden… a favourite pastime of ‘Darths!’)
I showed ‘Darth’ some moss that was growing in between two of the paving slabs and how to use his thumb and index finger (known as a ‘pincer’ movement,) to pick it up. In no time, he was happily clearing the moss out (you could even add this to a nature table afterwards, too.) Other jobs that require fine movement could include moving small stones, pulling out new weeds, or putting seeds into a bird feeder.
Playing with Nature
Last year we made a natural play-pit with sand in one half, and river pebbles in the other. Even in wet weather, ‘Darth’ has somewhere to play and I love how he uses it in different ways. Sometimes, he brings his digger outside and uses it for construction play. Other times, he sorts the pebbles, lines them up or adds other objects from the garden in there. It’s one of his favourite places to be in the garden.
This may be stating the obvious… gardening in a garden! But it’s so important to get your little one involved with nature at an early age (and so many toddlers love to ‘help,’ too!) ‘Darth’ loved picking runner beans from his bean tipi in the summer. You can head over to You Clever Monkey, to read my guest post all about gardening with children.
Sweeping up Leaves
Sweeping up leaves (or raking with a toddler size and safe rake,) is great fun for little ones, but a chore to many adults. I love how ‘Darth’ enjoys sweeping up and sees it through until he’s got all of the leaves he set out to move.
Using a Wheelbarrow
As we have an allotment, ‘Darth’ has seen us use a wheelbarrow (and had a few rides in it,) which he absolutely loves. For Christmas, he was really excited when my Mum gave him this green wheelbarrow and he’s insisted on bringing it back and forth to the allotment on our daily walks there ever since. Simply putting natural found objects in it and pushing it around keeps him entertained… although it makes me rather nervous when he tries putting the newly collected eggs from the chickens in there!!
This is currently being used as ‘Darth’s’ shed, although it should be a play house! Whether you use a blanket and a couple of pegs, or a play (or even tree house,) giving your little one their own space to call ‘home’ for an hour or so outside, is a wonderful way of encouraging imaginative play – you’ll be amazed at the language and play ideas that your little one develops through play like this.
Caring for Animals
Whether it’s putting bird seed out to encourage feathered friends into your garden, planting bee and butterfly friendly plants or caring for a pet; taking care of animals is a wonderful activity for children to do. ‘Darth’ loves caring for our chickens. He helps to change the water, collect the eggs, feed them and put them back in their enclosure at the end of the day after they’ve been roaming our allotment. He has learnt about being gentle with them, washing his hands after being in contact with them and their feeding equipment etc. and has such a caring nature, I really think this has helped to develop that.
Wheels in Motion
Okay, so most of the play that ‘Darth’ does in the garden is nature-based. But there is also a place for the odd ‘toy,’ too. I love that something like this can also develop those imaginative play skills. He collects natural objects from the garden and puts them in the back of his car (or in the trailer,) and goes off on his own little adventures in the garden!
Counting and Sorting Natural Objects
Using egg boxes outdoors is a great open-ended play opportunity. ‘Darth’ loves to count the eggs he’s collected from the chickens, but also loves to use the empty egg box to collect natural found objects, sort them and count them. Using small baskets is great for this, too (take a look at our ‘nature-inspired play space’ post.)
- Use a child-size watering can and collected rainwater, to water the plants
- Have a space for your little one to dig, using child-size and safe hand tools
- Make a bird feeder
- Blow bubbles
- Use plant pots – these are great as containers to sort things in, but also for counting and stacking
- Make a house for beneficial insects to live in