One of the best things about parenting a toddler is that they can find wonder in the simplest of things. Take a neighborhood walk, for example. Kids are thrilled by the possibilities—what will they find? Who will they see? Where will they go? The next time you need an easy toddler activity that takes little-to-no planning, spice up your walk with one of these ideas.
1. No matter where you walk with your little one, you can count on them to pick up the oddest treasures. In fact, we’re willing to bet your tot comes home from each family outing with at least three of the following stuffed into a pocket: feather, coin, dropped hair tie, wrapper, rock, flower.
Our suggestion? Lean in. Rather than quickly reaching for the hand sanitizer in your back pocket as you remind them to “leave it, please,” give them a small bag or box to keep their special finds safe on your walk. Call it a mini scavenger hunt and you’ve got a wonderful new way to explore.
2. Car trips call for the license plate game. Isn’t it only fair that neighborhood walks should have something similar? Keep your wee one motivated to move when you play the alphabet game (numbers work, too!). See if your kiddo can find all the letters—from A to Z—on street signs, on cars and even on houses.
3. While it’s usually easy to get kids outside on a sunny day, it's harder when the rain is falling. Count on a simple walk around the block to lift everyone’s spirits on a gray day. And you can encourage your kids to get a little wet with a promise of puddle-jumping good times. All it takes is rain boots and a sense of adventure to find just the right ones for splashing. Fair warning: You may have to add extra blocks to your typical route for this one. Puddles never get old!
4. Neighborhood scavenger hunts were all the rage in the early months of the pandemic for a reason. Not only are they easy to plan, but with so many ideas out there, you can do a different one every day and never seem to run out of options. Find all the colors of the rainbow, different textures, nature sounds, vehicles, trees… let your imagination run wild. They’ll love the hunt; you’ll love the simplicity.
5. Turn your walk into an art project precursor when you go out in search of leaves, flowers, pine cones and other natural elements. You can’t go wrong, because no matter what your kiddo finds, it can be used to make magical sun paper prints that develop in the sunlight. You’ll need special paper for this one, and a bit of patience as your kiddo both seeks out nature’s treasures and then puts them together. Too much work? Stick with the nature theme and stuff paper and a few crayons into your diaper bag to make bark rubbings. You’ll come home with fridge-ready art.
6. Turn your walk into a beautiful day in the neighborhood when you and the kids pick up trash. All you need is a bag, gloves and some hand sanitizer, and you’re ready to leave the world a little better than you found it.
7. Challenge your tot to a game of Follow the Leader. Can your mini-me walk like a duck? Walk backward? Do a silly dance? Remember to take turns leading—is there anything toddlers love more than being in charge? And have fun coming up with actions to follow. It’s a great one to pull out when your kiddo needs a little extra motivation to make it home because it’s simply irresistible.
8. Ideas that take a little prep ahead of time and give you an at-home activity first are always a hit. If you’ve got some extra flower seeds from your spring planting, turn them into seed bombs that you can “plant” at a local public park or walkway. This one’s a twofer because you can take your tot out to find the flowers on a walk later in the year.
9. I Spy is a toddler favorite for a reason. It blends just the right amount of mystery with all the colors of the rainbow. If your kiddo needs a distraction during the walk, trot out this favorite and make it happen. I Spy something blue… green …brown; you know how to play. Set your sights on the fun.
10. While binoculars might be a bit much for toddlers, listening for different birds is right up their alley. See if you can spot any of the winged pals you hear as you make your way down the street. Follow it up with a book that identifies local species, and your kiddo will want to take a walk every day to figure out which feathered friends are around.