Backyard Lessons for Your Pre-Toddler


Spring is in the air, and our twin pre-toddlers are clamoring to play alfresco. Ava often taps on the backdoor chanting, “deh-deh-deh.” I have yet to translate Ava-ish, but I’m pretty she’s saying. “I want to go outside.”

Spring is a welcome season as we venture into the open air giving us a reprieve from entertaining our kids indoors. We can creatively teach our children as their different senses are stimulated. Exploring fingers find new textures by feeling the grass, a tree trunk, and rocks. They hear new sounds from the wind blowing, planes flying over head, motorcycles zooming by, and dogs barking.

Kaitlyn has learned to call dogs “bah” after the barking sound they make.  Unfortunately, she calls any four-legged animal “bah”. That lesson will come another day.

Our backyard is an outdoor learning-lab far more effective than any Baby Einstein DVD I play for them. It’s cheap and educational. Here are our favorite alfresco activities:

Outdoor Learning Lessons for Your Pre-toddler (12 to 14 months)


  • Play “where’s the baby?” Look for her while she hides behind a tree or other large obstacle.
  • Roll a ball to her as you both sit in the grass. Or, play ball. She should be able to throw by now, but help her if needed.
  • Show her how take drop a leaf in the wind. Let her watch it spiral to the ground.
  • If you have a dog, let her play fetch with him.



  • When the wind blows, raise your arms to the side like airplane wings, and chant “wind-wind.”
  • Say “broom-broom” when you both hear a vehicle drive by.
  • Give him directions to follow. Say, “bring me that stick” or “bring me the ball.”
  • Give him a stick and let him tap it at a rhythm. Let him copy your tapping going faster and slower.


  • Let her smell something fragrant like a flower. At first she may be confused, but show her how you smell it. In time, she’ll figure it out.



  • Let him feel objects that are only outdoors like the bricks on the side of a house, a tree trunk, a stick, or rocks. Be sure you tell him what each object is as he touches it.
  • Let him play in a sandbox. Bring a cup and show him how to fill it with sand and then empty it.
  • Let him feel the metal bars on a swing set. Describe if it is hot or cold.



  • Show him how to march in the grass by raising your knees high. Let him copy you.
  • Fly like an airplane by raising your arms to the side and say “zoom-zoom” as you walk in circles.


  • Show her how to pretend, she’ll learn how to do this by herself soon. You can pretend to plant flowers, mow the grass, or drive a car.


Self Awareness

  • Point out a walker or jogger as they pass by. Ask him to point to his feet, then ask him to walk too.

Problem Solving

  • Cover or hide a toy outside. Let him see you, and then ask him to find it.
  • Place a toy on top of a slide or playground equipment. Let him find it.

Question: What are your favorite outdoor teaching activities?

These activities were inspired by the book Teach Your Baby by Dr. Genevieve Painter

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6 thoughts on “Backyard Lessons for Your Pre-Toddler

  1. I love all of your Backyard Lessons! Outside is so much more fun than any TV. I’m incredibly thankful that my 18 mo. old loves outside…he would live outside if I let him!

  2. My baby Maia has an epilepsy condition that’s why she’s a bit delayed in her motor skills. She’s 1yr7mnths and doesn’t walk yet. She walks if we hold her hand. We’re still keeping our fingers crossed she’ll be able to walk before she turns 2.

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