Backyard Fun with Preschoolers: Simple and Easy Ideas


In the spring and summer, our backyard is my favorite place to be. Every time I step outside, I dream of sipping my ice-cold sparkling water on the deck or reading my book undisturbed in the hammock. I imagine a calm and peaceful afternoon, feeling the refreshing breeze and listening to bird songs.

But usually, within 30 seconds, my children are fighting over what appears to be the only decent toy in the sandbox. Inevitably, someone is calling my name to wipe away a spider web. And I have one child, in particular, who is sure to declare, “I need you to play with me!” every 10 minutes. 

Of course, boredom is good for kids, and it will force them to be creative and discover ways to entertain themselves. 

But sometimes, it helps to have a plan and some ideas in your back pocket. Here is a list of activities for SIMPLE and easy backyard fun with preschoolers this summer:

backyard play with preschoolers

Art activities:

  • Try painting outside! Fold cardboard boxes to make easels, or use rocks to hold paper down. When they are done, you can have them jump in the kiddie pool or stand under the hose to clean up.
  • If you don’t want to deal with paint, just use paintbrushes with water to paint on the sidewalk, fence, or deck.
  • Collect items from around the yard (leaves, sticks, rocks, toys) and tell them to make different shapes with their items.

Move indoor activities outside:

  • Bring out a flat sheet and build a fort.
  • Use magna-tiles or Duplos to build bridges and other buildings.
  • Hide animal or dinosaur figurines around the yard, and send them on a “rescue mission” like Paw Patrol or Octonauts.
  • Have a dance party!
  • Lay out beach towels and do some yoga.
  • Bring some books to read while laying on a picnic blanket.
  • Play-Doh. (As far as I’m concerned, Play-Doh should *always* be an outdoor activity. No more picking up specks of dough from your kitchen floor!)

Sidewalk Chalk Ideas:

  • Draw an obstacle course for running, jumping, and spinning.
  • Write the alphabet (or children’s names) and have them trace or copy.
  • Draw a scene to inspire imaginative play. (Ex: Draw the sun, moon, and stars and let them pretend to be astronauts. Draw flowers and let them “water” them.)
  • Play tic-tac-toe, hangman, or Pictionary.

Life skills:

  • Practice cutting with a pair of scissors and a bin of weeds or grass.
  • Practice pouring with a large bin or kiddie pool and an assortment of measuring cups, containers from the recycling bin, etc.
  • Give them a tape measure to practice measuring whatever they find.

Scavenger Hunts:

  • Find one item for every color of the rainbow.
  • Find objects according to shape.
  • Choose an item (leaves, sticks, sandbox toys, balls, etc.) and have each child find the amount that matches their age.
  • Choose an object and make each child find a small, medium, and large item.

Go Old-School:

  • Play Red Light, Green Light.
  • Play freeze tag, “Mother, May I?” or Duck, Duck, Goose.
  • Lay on a picnic blanket and look for shapes in the clouds.
  • Move across the yard in funny ways: wheelbarrow, crab walk, backwards, hopping on one foot, etc.

This summer is not going to look at all like we expected. My husband and I won’t be taking our 10th-anniversary trip, and we likely won’t be traveling to Florida to visit our grandparents. There won’t be doing camp or swimming lessons.

But our backyard is still open, and it’s still my favorite place to be. I’m excited about all the memories we’ll make out there this summer. Pass me my sparkling water.