We all know the benefits for children of spending more time outdoors – self-development, better learning and problem-solving ability, improved heath, increased self-confidence and more.
But when you spend all day in child care, it’s easy to run out of ideas. And those ideas need to be inexpensive – ideally, free!
Here’s some inspiration to get preschoolers up and outside. Some activities are focused on play-based learning and others are just for fun or to burn off excess energy and are great for either a child care centre, or for playing in the backyard.
But they all include the things that 3 and 4 year olds love to do most: throw, pour, sort, build, collect, explore and get messy!
Knock ‘em down
Collect multiple tins and plastic containers and place them in a group on an outside table. Make sure they’re items that won’t crack or break if they fall down.
Get the children to stack the items high on top of each other. Then they can throw soft balls or bean bags to knock them down. Balls of foil are quite light and make it more challenging to knock down the items.
To create a game like bowling, give them points for how many they can knock down at once.
Find the matches
Preschoolers love to sort objects. Ask them to collect a lot of different items – toys, balls, dolls, etc. They can place the items in a big pile outside.
If they’re out in nature, the children could run around collecting sticks, leaves and stones to add to the pile.
Then have them sort the pile into different groups – colours, sizes, etc. They could work together in pairs, helping each other find items in the pile to add to the groups.
This one lets children have fun getting wet while also helping you get things done.
Give them sponges and water buckets, and let them help clean down the outside equipment and plastic toys.
Watch them grow
At this age, it’s important for children to take on small responsibilities, like cleaning up or feeding a pet. Making a garden is a great responsibility, and teaches them how food and plants grow.
Flowers are exciting because they grow fast and can be different colours. Use flower seeds that are a mix of colours, so the children can guess what colour their flowers will be.
If you have the room, you could grow food, like carrots or tomatoes. Children are more likely to eat something they’ve grown themselves.
This activity allows the children to let off some steam while giving their memories a workout.
Collect a small group of items, such as dolls or cars, and have the children memorise what they are.
Then hide those items outside and have the children search for them.
They could work in pairs to help each other remember what all the items were.
Silly obstacle course
Take some items outside to make an obstacle course. Some obstacle ideas include:
- jumping in and out of a hula hoop twice
- hopping on one leg from one obstacle to another
- throwing a certain number of objects into a bucket
- running around a tree 3 times
- crawling through a long box
To make it more challenging, they could hold hands with a buddy and try to complete the course without breaking apart.
Get the older children involved in creating the obstacle course. Encourage them to be as silly as they like.
How old am I?
Have the children collect objects and use them to layout a big number on the ground to show what age they are (i.e. a big 3 or 4).
If they’re more advanced and can spell their name, they could lay out the letters with objects they find around them.
Water cup races
This game will wear the children out, though they could end up a little wet!
Set up lanes for races. Put an empty container at the end of each lane. Try to keep the containers consistent in size.
Set up each child at the beginning of a lane. Give them a cup and a full container of water on the ground.
The goal is to fill their cup with water, race to the empty container and drop the water into the container. Then they race back and do it again. The first to fill up their container wins.
Tip: Don’t make the container too big or the lane too long, or they’ll run out of puff quickly!
Hopefully this gives you some great, inexpensive ideas for activities to get your preschoolers out and about!
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