Preschooler’s Favorite Outdoor Activities

As we all navigate the benefits and drawbacks of screen time and technology for kids in our quickly changing world, with opinions and recommendations on the subject coming from every direction, one thing remains consistent: The importance of outdoor play.

At Primary Beginnings in Raleigh, NC, our curriculum is designed to encourage every child’s development while nurturing their creativity--and a huge part of that involves outdoor play. Follow along as our preschool teachers share nine engaging activities outdoor activities for preschoolers you can enjoy at home.

Why Outdoor Play Time Matters

Why do we encourage outdoor activities for preschoolers? Beyond the simple joys of fresh air and sunshine, outdoor activities offer countless benefits for children's physical, cognitive, and emotional development.

Physical Development

Outdoor play encourages children to move freely, promoting the development of gross motor skills such as running, jumping, climbing, and swimming. These activities help strengthen muscles, improve coordination, and enhance overall physical fitness.

Cognitive Development

Exploring nature stimulates curiosity and encourages children to observe, explore, and make discoveries independently. Outdoor environments offer endless opportunities for sensory exploration, critical thinking, problem-solving, and hands-on learning, nurturing cognitive development and creativity.

Emotional Well-being

Spending time outdoors fosters a sense of connection with the natural world and promotes emotional health, too. The freedom to explore, play, and interact with the environment instills confidence, resilience, and a sense of wonder in children, nurturing their emotional development and a positive attitude toward nature.

9 Fun and Educational Outdoor Activities for Preschoolers

While you probably won’t have any trouble coming up with fun games to play outside, it can be trickier to come up with activities that are as educational as they are entertaining. Here are a few of our favorite outdoor activities for preschoolers. 

1. Nature Scavenger Hunt

Encourage preschoolers to explore their surroundings and engage their senses with a nature scavenger hunt. Provide a list of items to find, such as:

  • Rocks
  • Leaves 
  • Flowers
  • Ants
  • Animals 

This activity promotes observation skills, attention to detail, and an appreciation for the natural world.

2. Sensory Bin Play

One of our favorite outdoor activities for preschoolers is sensory-based play. Creating an outdoor version with a bin filled with natural materials like sand, water, pebbles, and leaves offers an immersive tactile experience that ignites senses and sparks creativity. As they dig, pour, scoop, and explore the varied textures, children develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Water play introduces concepts of volume and cause-and-effect, while pebble arrangements inspire problem-solving and leaf exploration connects them to nature's beauty.

Sensory-based activities stimulate sensory awareness and encourage imaginative storytelling and cooperative play. We've found sensory play fosters holistic development in young minds through hands-on engagement.

3. Outdoor Art

Set up an outdoor art station with easels, paintbrushes, and non-toxic paints. We let our preschoolers portray their creativity and express themselves through painting, drawing, and creating nature-inspired artwork, and encourage you to do the same! Using leaves, flowers, and twigs, outdoor art promotes self-expression, fine-tunes motor skills, and creates an appreciation for nature.

4. Garden Exploration

At Primary Beginnings in Raleigh, we have a garden area where we encourage little ones to tend to the plants. That's why one of our favorite outdoor activities for preschoolers is gardening. Gardening goes beyond just planting seeds and harvesting vegetables—it cultivates a deeper understanding and appreciation for the natural world. As children participate in every stage of the plant life cycle, from sowing seeds to nurturing growth and eventually harvesting, they develop a sense of connection to the earth and its processes. 

Gardening also instills valuable life skills such as responsibility, patience, and perseverance. As children take on the role of caretakers for their plants, they learn the importance of regular watering, proper sunlight, and protection from pests. They understand that nurturing plants requires dedication and commitment, teaching them the rewards of patience and the satisfaction of seeing their efforts yield results. Gardening also fosters a sense of stewardship for the environment, as children learn the importance of sustainable practices and caring for the earth's resources. 

5. Obstacle Course

Obstacle courses are a fun outdoor activity for all ages that has stood the test of time. Yet, we all keep circling back to outdoor obstacle courses because they are just as fun as they are stimulating.

Perhpas you've participated in field day or supervised such an activity for little ones. One of the most fun and simple outdoor activities for preschoolers is an obstacle course. It can be set up using cones, ropes, hula hoops, and other props simple props. The obstacle course also provides opportunities for preschoolers to develop problem-solving skills and spatial reasoning as they strategize how to navigate each obstacle.

Two caucasian boys are playing with a hola hoop. This photo is intended for use with the blog titled, "Outdoor Activities for Preschoolers."

The collaborative nature of the activity encourages social interaction and cooperation as children cheer each other on and work together to overcome challenges.

6. Bug Hunt

Encourage preschoolers to embark on a bug hunt and observe insects in their natural habitat. As they observe insects up close, they are introduced to a fascinating array of shapes, colors, and behaviors, prompting questions and fueling their thirst for knowledge.

This hands-on experience promotes scientific inquiry as preschoolers engage in observational skills and critical thinking. They learn to identify different insect species, observe their habitats and behaviors, and make connections between insects and their environment. Through this process, children develop an understanding of ecological relationships and the interconnectedness of all living things, laying the foundation for future scientific exploration.

7. Outdoor Music and Movement

Create a music and movement area with instruments such as drums, tambourines, and bells. Preschoolers can dance, sing, and make music while enjoying the outdoors. The benefits of music are plentiful. It encourages self-expression, rhythm, coordination, and even some physical fitness as your preschooler moves to the beat!

8. Cloud Watching

One of the most timeless outdoor activities for preschoolers is simply watching clouds. Encourage preschoolers to lie on their backs and gaze up at the sky, observing the shapes and movements of clouds. This simple yet magical activity promotes mindfulness, relaxation, and appreciation for the beauty of the natural world.

9. Hopscotch

Hopscotch can be a fun way to enhance balance, coordination, and counting skills. Create a hopscotch grid using chalk on a sidewalk or pavement, with numbered squares arranged in a linear pattern. Preschoolers take turns tossing a small stone or beanbag onto the grid and hopping through the squares, avoiding the one with the stone and picking it up on the return journey. This game encourages physical activity, spatial awareness, and turn-taking skills, all while having a blast outdoors.

Contact Primary Beginnings for More Outdoor Activities for Preschoolers

Incorporating outdoor activities into preschoolers' daily routines not only promotes physical health but also enriches their cognitive, emotional, and social development. Whether exploring nature, engaging in sensory play, or embarking on imaginative adventures, outdoor play offers endless opportunities for learning, growth, and discovery. 

At Primary Beginnings in Raleigh, we promote a variety of outdoor activities for preschoolers that are as fun as they are stimulating for developing minds.

If you’re looking for a preschool that prioritizes outdoor play--and a holistic curriculum--contact Primary Beginnings today by filling out the form below.