Want to take your toddler outside but out of ideas? Check out these outdoor activities for 1 year olds! From places to go, to sensory activities at home, you’ll find your perfect idea right here.
Our park boasts huge, grassy lawns, tons of trees, and little knick knacks my then-1 year old loved to play with.
In fact, one of his favorite games was “Let’s find all the baby pine cones” which he’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 his stash exactly where it was.
Even when my little ones were really little—as in, barely just 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 just the simplest activities to get your 1 year old out of the house.
And if your 1 year old is like anything like my kids were, heading outdoors did more than just fill your day. Just being outside was enough to calm a brewing tantrum, get extra energy out, or drive their curiosity. Living in an apartment also made us more likely to yearn 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 he 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 your 1 year old isn’t walking yet, so you’re struggling with ideas for outdoor play. You keep seeing activities for older toddlers, and none that are exactly suitable for a 1 year old who still puts everything in his mouth.
Perhaps you’ve found yourself counting down the minutes until bedtime because you’re bored playing indoors… only to feel guilty for even thinking that way.
I hear ya, 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 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!” -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. Want to keep your toddler mud-free? Get a sprinkler pad like the Tobeape splash play mat:
- Squeeze sponges. Fill a bucket, water table, or inflatable pool with water. Then toss in a few sponges (the ones without the hard scrub surface) 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 him 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).
- Play at a water table. Once your little one can stand well, a water table like the Paw Patrol Water Table is a fantastic activity he can explore:
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 he’ll want you to chase him more often than not!
- Sidewalk chalk. Grab chunky sidewalk chalk and show him how to make marks on the ground. And avoid messes and broken pieces by using a chalk holder.
- Dig in the dirt. Let your toddler get his hands dirty by finding a patch of dirt and exploring what’s inside. Monitor him if he tends to put his hands in his mouth, but otherwise, enjoying nature is a fantastic way to play!
- Play with a ball. Grab a small, sensory ball like one of the Infantino balls, 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. Bubble toys like the Lovelion Dolphin Bubble Blower make blowing bubbles easy for 1 year olds. He may not be able to squeeze it himself, but he’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 your toddler roam in and out.
- Explore a sandbox. Fill a sensory table (or even just a large kitchen Tupperware) with sand, beans, or rice. Then, place small toys, trucks, or shovels inside and encourage your toddler to explore and feel. Place a larger garbage bag or tray to catch messes, and monitor closely so he doesn’t put food in his 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.
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 Ferris wheels, carousels, 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 with your toddler. 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 strawberries 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 for your little one. (Check out these children’s books about farms.)
- Go to the zoo. Learn all about the animals you read and sing about by bringing your 1 year old to the zoo.
- Go on a (short) hike. Find a low-key hike to take your 1 year old. Set a timer so you know when to head back so he’s not walking too long. Or simply bring a hiking baby carrier or jogging stroller when he gets tired. (Definitely don’t bring a regular stroller on a hike—learn from my mistake!)
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)
*Note: Given the current global crisis, this activity isn’t feasible. That said, save it for the future when it becomes available again!
Don’t forget: Grab my 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. Join my newsletter and download 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.