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The Great Outdoors and Your Toddler

The Great Outdoors and Your Toddler | Gryphon House

Spring has arrived, and summer is just around the corner. That means it’s the perfect time for a change in scenery. The weather is just right for you and your child to take playing—and learning—outdoors! With trees blooming and the weather changing, scientific discoveries are right at your child’s fingertips; new words will be added to their vocabulary as they’re exposed to new colors and objects; even number skills can get a boost as your child counts the flowers that have sprung up overnight. Parenting toddlers is always an adventure!

Summer is a great time for parents to get involved with their child’s education, but it can be hard to come up with new ideas as the dog days approach. Thankfully, there are resources to help you find new outdoor activities for preschoolers. One of the best places to look is Ruth Wilson’s new book Learning is In Bloom: Cultivating Outdoor Explorations. This book contains thoughts on how children interact with nature and activities for toddlers that take learning out of the classroom and into the wild. Here are a few simple activities to try out:


Living Things in and around a Tree


What You Can Do:

  1. Focus your child’s attention on an individual tree. Ask them to be very quiet and to look and listen for animals that might be using the tree as their home.
  2. For each animal they notice, ask why they think the animal lives in a tree. Is it providing shelter? Food?
  3. After a few minutes, have your child look closer at the tree—at the bark, its roots, the high branches. Provide hand lenses, binoculars, and digging tools to help with looking. Talk about how other plants can live on or around trees too and see if you can find any.
  4. Record your child’s findings on the piece of paper. If they can’t find any creatures, tell them what they could be looking for that proves animals were there like partially eaten leaves, fur, or feathers.


Mini Gardens and Mini Forests


  • Natural materials like sticks, pebbles, seeds, and leaves
  • Playdough
  • Trays or shoebox lids

What You Can Do:

  1. Spread some playdough on a tray or shoebox lid, directly on a tabletop
  2. Collect pieces of natural material like short sticks, leaves, or pebbles
  3. Encourage your child to make a mini forest or garden by pressing the materials into the dough

Let’s Find Shapes!


What You Can Do

  1. Read a book about shapes to your child to get them familiar with what they’ll be looking for
  2. Go for a walk outside and ask your child to look for lines that are straight and lines that are curved, and to look for different shapes in nature

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