These Ideas were originally written for Parentmap in 2013
When my eldest daughter was working through the National Trust’s list of ’50 things to do before you are 11 3/4′. I was inspired to create a companion list for my younger children. Some of the challenges on the National Trust list, like picking wild blackberries were easily completed by young children but I felt a list of basic foundational outdoor experiences for babies, toddlers and preschoolers could work alongside it.
I realise that we are fortunate to live in a house with a garden and nature all around us but I tried hard to make the experiences accessible to all, in all weather and without an outdoor space at home. There are many amazing things that young children can experience outdoors, these are the ones I believe are essential .
20 things to do before you are 5.
- Splash in a puddle: Put on your rain boots and/or waterproof trousers and splash in puddles large, small and muddy.
- Blow a dandelion clock : counting out the hours of the day as you blow
- Play in sand: In a sand box, at the park or at the beach. Playing with sand needn’t be limited to building sandcastles. Explore wet and dry sand, fill containers, hide things in the sand, draw in it with a stick or make a dinosaur swamp.
- Walk through crunchy autumn leaves: You could also catch some from the trees as they fall, take them home and print with them or make a crunchy collage.
- Catch blossom from a tree.
- Play in the snow: If snow is thin on the ground head out to a snow park or if you live in a country where you don’t have snow, set up some icy play in the sunshine.
- Grow a flower from a bulb or a seed: Guess the colour of the flower that will grow or grow a tall sunflower and measure it as it grows.
- Ride a tricycle, bicycle or scooter.
- Make a mud pie: You could even build a mud kitchen using old pans and kitchen utensils.
- Walk barefoot on grass, mud or sand: Walking barefoot helps children to balance and strengthens muscles in the foot. It is also a great way to stimulate the senses and talk about different textures.
- Collect natural materials from the woods, beach or park: Collect shells, leaves, pinecones or seeds. Put double sided tape on a pair of boots or a hat and help the children collect items to stick on. Use them to make pictures, sculptures or for small world play.
- Go on a bug hunt: Dig for worms, look in dark places or watch spider webs wet with dew.
- Play with a stick: Sticks can be swords, fairy wands or pencils. We have a huge collection outside our front door as our only rule is ‘No sticks in the house’.
- Go for a walk in the woods.
- Paddle barefooted in the ocean, lake or stream: If your budget or location doesn’t allow you to get to the seaside, lake or stream, paddle barefooted in a puddle.
- Play Pooh sticks.
- Throw and kick a ball: Start with large balls and as children get older experiment with different shapes and sizes.
- Go fruit picking: At a farm or pick wild berries in the woods or park.
- Run in an open space.
- Chase and blow bubbles.
My little ones are over 5 now but still their favourite thing to do is climb the tree in our front garden, make a mud pie or potion (my 8-year-old carried a pot of gooey mud home from school yesterday) or collect and create with sticks, petals and stones.
What would be on your list?