When Julian was a toddler, entertaining him in the afternoon was best done outside. Inside he was totally crabby from about 3 to 6 pm. I discovered outdoor toys and activities that kept him busy, and was lazy enough to just put them all in the backyard at once so that he could roam from activity to activity over the course of an hour. It worked so well that I have invited other people to bring their babies over to enjoy our backyard festival.
Here are the main ingredients I rely on for backyard play with a toddler.
- The key to the party is water. I have had enormous success entertaining a little dude as young as 10 months with a large plastic mixing bowl full of water and some measuring cups or spoons. That’s the first station.
- The tunnel. You’ll use this thing for YEARS. That happy kid is Holden – he’s a tunnel man. (Great deal on a play tunnel from our affiliate Amazon.)
- More water. Level up with a kiddie pool. You can get away with putting just a few inches of water in it. (And once you do that, you are now on lifeguard duty, so I would only do it with two adults present. And if you do have two adults present, one of them can drink a margarita with her feet in the pool.)
- Bubbles. These require some actual effort on your part. Unless of course you buy an automatic bubble blower. Which is fun until it’s not. It’s not fun when the batteries die or the bubble juice spills out and you don’t have anymore. Ready yourself for a tantrum in that case. But before that? Bliss!
- Tent. If you like the tunnel idea, or already have one, kick it up a notch with a tent. We have one that is made for kids for this crawling around purpose. You might have a real tent that you don’t use too often. If so, consider setting it up in the backyard and leaving it for a few weeks of summer fun. The one in this picture pops open with no effort and collapses down to store against the wall in your garage. My eight-year old still uses it.
- Push toys. Other features of my festival are a large inflatable ball and some push toys. The Little Tikes Push & Ride Racer is good because it rolls well over grass and is pretty durable. Also, if you have two toddlers at your festival, one can push and one can ride. When this gets boring, marry your water station with the car, and let the kids “wash it”. (See our car wash activity >)
- Chalk. For older toddlers, chalk is a lot of fun. It costs around a dollar for a box. Pour a pitcher of water over the drawings to erase. Julian likes this part just as much as the scribbling. Crayola has made all sorts of variations on chalk with kits that promise to be 3-D, glittery, and other advancements, but I have found those are usually disappointing. Stick with plain old sidewalk chalk.
What do you get the most use out of in your backyard?