Check out these outdoor activities for 1 year olds! From places to go, to sensory activities at home, you’ll find the perfect ideas.
When my kids were little, our local park boasted huge, grassy lawns, tons of trees, and little knick knacks they loved to play with.
In fact, one of their favorite games was to find all the baby pine cones, which they’d collect and gather at one of the bases of the trees. And each time we’d go back to the park, we’d still find their stash exactly where it was.
Even when they were really little—as in, barely learning to walk—that still didn’t stop us from trekking outdoors. Of course, we’re not talking miles-long hikes, though I’m sure plenty of families can pull that off. I’m talking about the simplest activities to get outside.
Heading outdoors did more than fill our day. Just being outside was enough to calm a brewing tantrum, get extra energy out, or drive their curiosity. Living in an apartment made us yearn for the outdoors, with our patio as our only option.
Awesome outdoor activities for 1 year olds
Maybe you’re a first-time mom looking for things to do outside now that the weather is getting better. It doesn’t hurt that your 1 year old loves being outdoors and even sleeps better when you’re out and about. You might have a busy body on your hands who constantly has to be outside.
Or perhaps she isn’t walking yet, so you’re struggling with ideas for outdoor play. You keep seeing activities for older toddlers, but none that are exactly suitable for a 1 year old who still puts everything in her mouth.
Perhaps you’re bored playing indoors, only to feel guilty for even thinking that way.
I hear you, friend.
While plenty of activities cater to older kids, that doesn’t mean you and your 1 year old are stuck indoors. Thankfully, young toddlers don’t need much to enjoy themselves outdoors—the simpler is usually the better. But you may need to make a few changes to accommodate their age and stage.
As one parent said after reading the article:
“Thank you so much!! This was super useful for me and my little ones… I am going to go play outside with my 1-year-old and she’s gonna be so entertained with all of your ideas! Thank you again!” -Emmalee
Take a look at my favorite outdoor activities for 1 year olds, perfect for the next time your little one itches to get out of the house:
Outdoor water activities
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- Swim in a pool. And by “pool,” I mean anything from weekly mommy and me swim lessons to an inflatable pool in the yard. (Take a look at these children’s books about swimming.)
- Squeeze water squirters or bath toys. Toss bath toys into a bucket full of water and bring it outdoors!
- Splash around in the sprinklers. Let your toddler play in the sprinklers when you normally run them.
- Squeeze washcloths. Fill a bucket, water table, or inflatable pool with water. Then toss in a few washcloths and let your toddler squeeze the water out.
- “Paint” with water. Want your little one to paint, but minus the mess? Grab a bowl of water and show her how to dip a brush and paint on a surface. Any sidewalk surface will do, as will a chalkboard stand (just make sure to dry the board after, or else it’ll start to peel).
- Play at a water table. Once your little one can stand well, a water table is a fantastic activity she can explore.
Best Choice Products Water Table
Backyard or park outdoor activities
- Play “chase.” Take advantage of large, grassy space and chase your 1 year old. Take turns chasing each other, though my bet is that she’ll want you to chase her more often than not!
- Sidewalk chalk. Grab chunky sidewalk chalk and show her how to make marks on the ground.
- Dig in the dirt. Let her get her hands dirty by finding a patch of dirt and exploring what’s inside. Monitor her if she tends to put her hands in her mouth, but otherwise, enjoying nature is a fantastic way to play!
- Play with a ball. Grab a small ball and play catch, bounce it, or roll it back and forth outdoors.
- Picnic in the yard or park. Pack a few finger foods or even your dinner and eat outdoors! This is a fantastic way to transition into play time outdoors after you eat.
- Blow bubbles. She may not be able to blow as well, but she’ll love chasing the bubbles all day long.
- Put a tent outside. Whether a camping or beach tent, or even one made from home, set up a tent outdoors for fun play time. Bring toys, books, and snacks inside, and let her roam in and out.
- Explore a sandbox. Fill a sensory table (or even just a large cardboard box) with sand. Then, place small toys, trucks, or shovels inside and encourage her to explore and feel. Place a larger tray to catch messes, and monitor closely so she doesn’t put food in her mouth.
- Collect leaves. Take a walk around the block or park and collect fallen leaves. Bring them home and talk about their differences, from color to size to texture.
Take a look at these 1 year old lesson plans organized by theme.
Outdoor places to visit
- Watch outdoor plays. Visit your city’s website and find out if they’re hosting seasonal outdoor plays. Usually in the summer, these plays are often free and catered to kids. I’d take my family, along with a picnic blanket and goodies, for a fun family event.
- Visit gardens. In Los Angeles, we have a slew of different gardens to visit, from botanical to Japanese to rose gardens.
- Attend a local festival. Many cities host local festivals that include rides, petting zoos, and entertainment for your little one.
- Hit the beach. Spending a few hours at the beach is a perfect way to be outdoors. The sand, water, and other experiences can make for a wonderful trip. Don’t forget to pack these beach essentials for toddlers!
- Shop at the farmers’ market. Besides supporting local economies and clean food, shopping at local markets is a great way to spend time outdoors.
- Pick fruits and veggies at a farm. Live near a farm? Check if they offer seasonal fruit picking. Strawberries, for instance, are perfect for this age, since they sit low to the ground. Plus, picking strawberries is less expensive than buying them ready to go. Many farms also have petting zoos. (Check out these children’s books about farms.)
- Go to the zoo. Learn all about the animals you read and sing about by bringing her to the zoo.
- Go on a (short) hike. Find a low-key hike. Set a timer so you know when to head back—that way, you’re not walking too long. Or simply bring a hiking baby carrier or jogging stroller when she gets tired. (Definitely don’t bring a “regular” stroller on a hike!)
Take a look at these places to take a 1 year old.
With the weather warming up, spending time outdoors is a must, even for your young toddler. Hopefully these outdoor activities for 1 year olds have given you inspiration for your next outing. And remember, simple works—collecting pine cones at a park can be all it takes to keep your little one happy outdoors.
Get more tips:
- Toddler Beach Essentials for Stress-Free Family Fun
- 31 Playful Things to Do with Your One-Year-Old
- How to Entertain Your Baby
- Play Ideas for Toddlers for the After Work Hours
- How to Set Limits with Your Baby (And Almost Toddler)
Free printables: Want more ideas and activities for your 1 year old? Join my newsletter and grab your printable calendar of fun and simple play activities! Check them off as you go along, or use the blank template to add your own ideas. Get it below—at no cost to you. As one parent says:
“Thank you! I’m glad I came across your list. It is age appropriate, inexpensive and not messy. We really appreciate it.” -Sally S.
Thank you so much!! This was super useful for me and my little ones!! I hope you are staying safe!! I am going to go play outside with my 1-year-old and she’s gonna be so entertained with all of your ideas! Thank you again!
Nina Garcia says
Yay, so glad to hear that, Emmalee! Thanks for the well-wishes, and same to you and your fam! Stay safe and healthy.