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Toddlers in Nature

Four Nature Inspired Summer Activities for Toddlers

Outside–or in Louie-speak, ousside–is currently my one year old’s favorite word. Few things make him happier than toddling around barefoot outside. Yes, I said barefoot. Hello, free sensory play! 


If your family is anything like ours, we’ll be spending hours outside this summer. While it’s always fun to keep the old reliables like sidewalk chalk and bubbles in the rotation of summer fun, I’ve put together a list of nature-inspired play to keep your littles (and mine!) creating and exploring outside all summer long. 


Botanical Bracelets

Outdoor book list

Kids are hard-wired to love collecting treasures! Finding and collecting odds and ends helps them categorize the world around them and feel their first sense of ownership. Head outside for a nature walk, and build a simple botanical bracelet from the leaves, sticks, and flowers your little one collects. Create the bracelet by looping a piece of tape (with the sticky side out!) around his or her wrist. Cover the bracelet with all of the natural treasures you find along the way! 

Egg-Carton Picnic

Eating outdoors

Raise your hand if you have a kid like mine who would prefer to live on snacks alone…


At our house, we serve a lot of what we jokingly call baby charcuterie. It’s an easy way to offer a variety of foods that our little guy will eat rather than immediately throw to the floor in disapproval. Ah, toddlers are fun sometimes, aren’t they?


Arrange an assortment of proteins, grains, produce, and treats into an empty egg-carton, and head outside for a picnic. This DIY bento box is a fresh way to offer your little one some familiar foods, and it provides a bit of novelty that might get them interested in tasting something new. Fishing little snacks from the sections of an egg-carton is also great fine motor practice, and let’s be honest—all meals are just better eaten outside!


Nature Prints

Play dough

Create a nature print by helping your little one roll out dough or clay into a thin layer and press the textured side of leaves or flowers into the dough to leave different, nature-shaped impressions. Building with dough and clay helps strengthen the muscles in developing little hands, preparing kids for important skills like writing and gripping later.


We made our own salt dough using THIS recipe and added turmeric and cocoa powder to create these beautiful, earthy colors. (Just a heads up: I noticed the tumeric can stain lighter surfaces.) Obviously, traditional Play-dough works just as well if you already have it on hand, but homemade salt dough is some extra peace of mind if your little one is still in the stage where everything is explored with the mouth! 



Have a Camp “In”

Toddler playing

Okay, this one breaks the rules a little because it doesn’t actually get you outside. If you’re from the Midwest like we are, though, you know that playing outside isn’t always easy by mid-July when the temperature nears 100° and the humidity is equally high.  


Bringing nature inside is a fun way to escape the heat or keep the kids busy on a rainy day. Instead of a campout, have a camp-in! Throw some blankets over chairs to pitch a tent, or build one with your play couch like we did here. Build an indoor campfire from brown bag “logs” and flameless candles. Make mess-free “s’mores” from cardboard squares, black construction paper and cotton balls. A camp-in provides endless opportunities for dramatic play, cozy reading time, indoor picnics, and more! 




Get outside and explore nature in these fun items!

About the Author

Brittani is a thirtysomething wife to Jeff and momma to one year-old, Louie. When she isn’t chasing around a rascally toddler, she works full time as an elementary educator in an urban school district, teaching many immigrant and refugee students. At home and in the classroom, she’s a firm believer that play is learning and mess is creativity! Over the weekend, you can catch her DIYing her latest home renovation project, sipping an iced coffee with oat milk, or exploring St. Louis with her family! 


Brittani Allen

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