Play Outside! Fun Ideas for Creative and Imaginative Play

July 25, 2014 at 11:30 AM Leave a comment

ASTRA---Outdoor-Play-Toys_sAs computer screens, tablets and mobile devices continue to infiltrate the lives of younger and younger children, there are health supporters and movements that are reminding parents, educators and caregivers the importance of children going outside to play.  


According to outdoor advocate Richard Louv, and author of “The Nature Principle,” and “Last Child in the Woods,” “While the study of the relationship between mental acuity, creativity, and time spent outdoors is still a frontier for science, new data suggests that exposure to the living world can even enhance intelligence.  At least two factors are involved:  first, our senses and sensibilities can be improved by spending time in nature; second, the natural environment seems to stimulate our ability to pay attention, think clearly, and be more creative.”

Add to our obsession with electronics the overscheduling that overtakes many families, along with the urge to keep children safe, and it’s little wonder that many kids experience much of their lives framed by four walls around them.  This is particularly true for children with special needs.   So let’s encourage kids to get out and get real!

There is no more fertile a ground for a child to master his or her physical skills than running, leaping and jumping outdoors. There are great products out there to encourage outdoors sports and activities.  For kids who have physical disabilities or even those who are already active, there can be other outdoor play options.   So let’s explore a few. 

Park, Beach and Playground Play

Take the toy on a trip.  It is fun to think about making that board game even more exciting by taking it to a picnic table in the park.  Bubble toys are perfect for the outdoors and building blocks or construction toys become more real when surrounded by nature.  Mix it up a bit by using natural elements as pieces in the game or get extra points if the word you spell relates to outdoors or nature.

Here are some toys just waiting to get out of the box:

JUMBO Bananagrams –This letter game is great for outdoor play.  These large rubber tiles are well suited to stepping outside and come complete with their banana-like traveling pouch.

Little Tikes Bubble Machine—Outside bubbles soar with the wind, fly upwards and sparkle in the sunshine.  Great for chasing or just creating as kids watch them float along with their imagination.

Step 2 All Around Wagon—Take to the streets, parks or beaches with a mode of transportation all kids can appreciate.  Encourage young ones to take along friends – real of stuffed – to share the adventure.

Educational Insights Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game—What better way to experience squirrels playing than in a natural setting of trees and grass.  Add a squirrel spotting competition as a side game. 

Little Tikes TotSports Bean Bag Toss—Throwing a bean bag is easier than a ball.  It’s a great way to practice pitching and a good excuse to take over sidewalks or patios for this simple outdoor sport.

Hasbro K’Nex Lincoln Logs—Log cabins come alive in nature where gardens turn into wildernesses and back yards become the backwoods.


Creative Play Outdoors

Take the art making outside! This could be an art project inspired by the natural setting like an easel set up in a local park or taking pictures of natural scenes.   Crafty ventures can increase a child’s self-confidence in his or her ability to conceive, construct and create.  This type of play also allows him to explore emotions and express them in healthy, productive ways. 

Here are a few artistic toys that desire some time “out:”

Crayola Table Top Easel—Take this easel on a trip and let little budding artists paint the colors of nature.

Spin Master AquaDoodle Draw ‘n Doodle Jumbo Deluxe Mat—Spread this mat out on lawns or picnic tables and just add water to reveal the colors underneath.  No need to worry about spilling or splashing while doing outside drawing, doodling or otherwise depicting the beauty of nature.   

Melissa & Doug Scratch Art Sketch Pad Book –This spiral bound pad is perfect for roving to remote areas of the yard or far away fields.  Travel light with no paints or brushes.  Kids just scratch with the stylus provided as colors burst from behind the black background. 


Imaginative Play Outside

Being outdoors makes pretending more dynamic, adds diversity to the fun and introduces more elements of movement in the inventive or sociodramatic play scenarios.  Imaginative play is also an excellent way to teach negotiation skills, shared vision, group dynamics and the ability to strive for a shared play theme.

Here are some products can use some fresh air:    

Polaroid 300 Instant Print Camera—Kids can become instant nature photographers documenting the caterpillar as it crawls across the ground or capturing the butterfly before it flutters away. 

Fisher Price Kid-Tough Binoculars—Allow children to make a big deal out of exploring  the natural world with these durable binoculars crafted just for kids. Go on expeditions to nature preserves and or take with on a trip to the zoo.  Everything is more interesting magnified.    

The Singing Machine Portable Karaoke Machine—Make any yard an outdoor theater or outside steps a fresh-air stage.  Young ones can put on a show at any outdoor event.  This karaoke machine is as mobile as you need it to be and brings the entertainment to picnics and beach parties. 


This article was written by Ellen Metrick, Director of Industry Relations & Partnerships for the National Lekotek Center. Lekotek is a not-for-profit and leading authority on toys and play for children with disabilities. Lekotek is dedicated to providing children of all abilities access to the benefits of play experiences. Visit for a complete listing of toys for children with special needs and follow us on Facebook!

Source: Your Neighborhood Toy Store Blog, July 15, 2013


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July 2014


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