You do not have to be bored sitting and watching your children play at the playground. There are simple ways to connect the outdoor playtime with simple, fun activities and learning at home too.

I tend to look at a visit to the playground as my chance to sit and watch-finally!  I am up and down on my feet all day: up the stairs, down the stairs, criss-crossing the house.  I don’t have extra energy to burn, but my children do.  They need outdoor time to be ‘centered’.  Most children do. It is important to get out, breathe in the fresh air and soak up some Vitamin D. There is so much wonder in God’s creation when we get outdoors to explore.

I definitely try to balance my children’s outdoor time with free play led by them and some intentional activities suggested by me. Children need to feel in control-sometimes.  It’s a tricky balance of being the adult/parent/teacher and allowing your child to develop traits of leadership and choice so they can develop a sense of self-worth and know that you value them and their choices.
Playground image in the background text in the foreground reads play and learning at the playground.

Play and Learning at the Playground

The playground is a great place to provide children with an opportunity to lead. It is also a great place to sneak in some exercise as a mom just by playing with my kids. We play hide-and-seek (my children often tell me where to hide), we run laps around the playground and we climb, jump, and balance.  The babies can play too. I hold on to them to let them slide, and play in the grass. Print out a backyard scavenger hunt for the preschool kids, and explore!

Access to nature is very important for children: Vitamin D exposure, fresh air, and so many science and math opportunities!

The other day we collected acorns, and then had to do it again today. That turned into a whole thematic unit on trees!

After we got back to the house, we counted the acorns (math), sorted them into ‘big’ and small’ (math), and wrote the word ‘acorn’ on the ‘Aa’ page of my son’s alphabet book (language/literacy). Then, we read a book about Autumn and leaves falling that my son remembered had an acorn in it (language/literacy). After, we colored these tree template coloring sheets. They are easy to adapt to any season.

When all was said and done, we had spent over an hour on a focused theme that targeted multiple subjects for toddlers and preschoolers.  I LOVE activities that provide me with so many teachable moments! Before you head to the playground next time, print out this free printable scavenger hunt. It will add a layer of learning and fun to the kids’ outdoor playtime.

How to teach a preschool activity free download.

Explore the playground, and visit it regularly.  You can use apps like Yelp to locate all the playgrounds in your area and try a new one each week. These are  the best free and cheap kids activities of the outdoor variety.

Check the ground for new elements like leaves and acorns. Collect them, count them, make a nature collage on paper or cardboard with them so you have a conversation piece for dinner time.

Run and play with your child.  Even if my children do not nap after we visit the playground, they are much calmer and in good moods (usually) for the rest of the day. I think peace is found in nature. Next time you have a tough day, get outside to break things up and let everyone gain release.

Swings at the playground text reads new blog post play and learning at the playground.

Give your children that time to let them lead the activity; show them you value them.  These activities are great for children ages 1 and up, not just the preschool set.  And, even if you don’t have a ‘walker’ yet, playgrounds have swings, grass, and slides that you can help your infant explore.

Do you find that outdoor time is essential for your child? What fun do you and your child have at the playground?

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This post was featured in A Complete Guide for Stay-at-Home Moms: Exercise Inspiration. View all of the activities for kids that get mom moving too PLUS exercise workout ideas for moms HERE.


For more outdoor fun at the playground, check out this post:
Learning about Trees for kids-reading, writing, math, and nature exploration to take learning from the playground to the home. Great, simple ideas for toddlers and preschoolers shared by The Stay-at-Home-Mom Survival Guide.