Outdoor activities are an important part of exploring, getting fresh air, and exercising. With many businesses closed or implementing reduced capacities, parents and caregivers may find themselves relying more heavily on outdoor activities to entertain their toddlers.
When planning playdates and activities, we have to make sure to use social distancing rules. Even if you’re outside, it is important to maintain appropriate space between people. Playdates are still possible and can still be safe if you’re careful about the activities you plan. For some inspiration for outdoor toddler activities that maintain safe social distances, check out these five ideas:
- Scavenger Hunt
Take inspiration from Natalie Mead in San Francisco and make an outdoor scavenger hunt. At 7 a.m., Mead hides items in her large garden for kids, families, and adults to find. She hid a few items, and then wrote a prompt in chalk (for instance: “I spy five Hot Wheels.” She changed the items every day and received help in the form of toy donations from her neighbors.
Although Mead set up a new, small scavenger hunt every day, you could do a larger scavenger hunt for longer outdoor time. Round up some of your child’s favorite toys, accessories, or packaged snacks and hide them around the yard. Just make sure to write down what you hide and where so nothing gets lost!
If you want to make it a bit more educational, you could also create a list for an outdoor scavenger hunt at a local park. Include things like acorn, dandelion, squirrel, or blue jay. Try to find as many items on the list as possible. This will probably take more time to complete but will require less prep from you.
- Day Camps
Day camps are great for parents who work or need time to themselves. For those who want to be extra cautious and keep things 100% outdoors, some day camps in the city are held completely outside. Usually these camps are located in major public parks, which can be very convenient for parents and caregivers who work in the city.
While in these camps, children take part in safe and socially distanced games with other kids their age. This gives them an opportunity to make new friends and socialize in a time when they might not often see other kids. The downside for these is that they’re typically only through the warm weather months, and they may be canceled if the weather is poor.
If you’ve never heard of geocaching, it’s sort of like a treasure hunt. Someone has hidden a small container in your area, and you can find the hiding location through Geocaching.com. You will receive the coordinates to search for the item. When you find it, you may find small treasures or just a simple finders’ log. Mark yourself and your family down in the finders’ log or take a small treasure and replace it with your own. Then, rehide the geocache container for the next “cacher” to find.
This activity is great for families. Adults can choose the locations and use their phone or another GPS-enabled device to get in the vicinity of the cache. When you know you’re close, encourage your kids to start looking around. If you are looking for a cache with small treasures inside, be sure to come prepared with treasures to swap. These could be friendship bracelets, Hotwheels, bouncy balls, or whatever small toys you have laying around.
- Noodle Tag
Tag is a fantastic way to burn off energy and get some exercise. Kids can run around for 20 or 30 minutes without realizing that they’re exercising. It’s also such a simple game that it’s great for kids of all ages, even toddlers. And the best part is: parents can just sit back and relax.
If you’re trying to keep socially distant, touch tag is not really an option. However, there are ways to play safely, even during a pandemic. Instead of tagging each other by physically placing your hands on your opponents, equip someone with a pool noodle when they are “it.” If you get touched by the pool noodle, you’ve been tagged.
Pool noodles are a little over five feet long on average. So if kids are using these to extend their reach, they’re able to stay pretty far from their target while still being able to play.
- Sidewalk Chalk
Sidewalk chalk has been a favorite outdoor activity for decades. It’s a cheap and easy way to get creative. And there’s no big mess to clean up since it’s done outdoors and the chalk washes away in the rain or with a hose.
With a bucket of sidewalk chalk, your toddler can express some creativity or play some sidewalk chalk games like hopscotch. If you’re having a playdate, split the driveway into halves and keep each toddler to their own zone. This way, they can be creative and play together from a safe distance.
During the pandemic, many people in the US have been using sidewalk chalk to encourage the front-line workers in their area. You can encourage your little ones to do the same. Have an older child or adult write the encouraging message and the toddlers can decorate it!
With classes held from home, businesses closed, and kids seeing their friends less often, planning socially distanced activities is essential. To develop good social skills and start building friendships, parents and caregivers have to go the extra mile to find activities that are still possible during this pandemic. Try one of these activities the next time your toddler has a playdate or is feeling too cooped up. It will work wonders for their mood.
GUEST BLOGGER: Sandra Chiu works as Director at LadyBug & Friends Daycare and Preschool, with facilities serving families at multiple locations in the Chicagoland area.