10 Essentials for Toddler Environments - Outdoor Edition


Here it is - the next post in our series of essentials for the environment. This time we are talking about toddlers and outdoor environments. 

1. Things to climb
Many toddlers love to climb, and if we don't give them suitable opportunities to climb, they will seek out opportunities (and the ones they seek out aren't always the best choice!) Having a variety of opportunities for children to climb in different ways and to different heights will meet the varying stages and risk confidence levels of the children in your space. Climbing frames and ladders are a great place to start. 
2. Things to jump on or off
Toddlers have an innate need to move, and this often means jumping and bouncing around. Logs or small boulders can provide opportunities for children to climb up and also jump off. Be mindful of your softfall or surfacing in areas where children are jumping. You could also use crash mats and soft play/foam shapes for jumping on and off. We've seen some services also making use of small trampolines. Again, do your research on where and how to safely use trampolines with children. 
3. Space to move - big body play
Are you sensing a pattern here? It's a lot about movement right? Toddlers need to move. They need open space to run and spin and roll and twirl. They need opportunity to crash and wrestle and jump and tumble. Soft play matting is great for this, as are large open areas of grass. 
4. Gardens that are touch safe
If you plant a garden in a toddler environment, it will be manhandled. Flower petals will be picked and herbs sampled. Ensure that you plant durable, hardy gardens that can withstand some love. Plant flowers that are fast growing. Involve children in gardening experiences. 
5. Things to throw
Balls and bean bags are your friend. Create spaces where children can throw things (exploring the trajectory schema) - use baskets and tubs as targets, set up a small basketball hoop. Get creative!
6. Mud, sand, water and other messy play
Young children are sensory beings. But that doesn't mean that they need goop and coloured rice - our natural environment is full of sensory rich stimuli. If you are upgrading or planning an outdoor environment, give thought to adding a mud pit as well as a sandpit (typically a staple in early childhood settings), or a trickle stream for regular water play. You can also use a water trough with some simple resources such as sieves, strainers, measuring cups, funnels and pipes/tubes. 
7. Things that make noise
Toddlers (and young children in general) are told to be quiet a lot. There are a lot of places where they can't explore noise and sound and be their loud selves. Outside is the perfect place for noise making. You might create a music wall on the fence, or have some pots and pans for banging around. 
8. Bikes, wagons, wheelbarrows
For those young ones exploring the transportation schema - these are a must. Having resources that enable you to move yourself or something/one else are vital. If you have bikes, consider having ones with two seats, or a basket on the front or back. It's about transportation and also the push/pull element. You might also think about adding prams. ]
9. Balls
We mentioned balls earlier with the "things to throw", but balls are also great for rolling, bouncing, catching, kicking. Have a variety of sizes, colours, weights, textures and even shapes (oval like a football for example)
10. Loose Parts
It's a given right? Planks, pipes, buckets, baskets, logs, fabric. Loose parts can be used for transporting, sorting, building, creating. They have endless play affordability and should be in every space. 
Okay, honestly I could have added some more... but I promised to cut it down to ten. Which ones do you already have in your environment? What are you planning to add now? Let us know in the comments!

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