Our backyard is on a steep slope making it not very kid-friendly. When my daughter wants to play outside, we are confined to the flat patio (at the bottom of the slope) or our driveway. We’ve gotten good at finding outdoor games to play in these small spaces.
Though our play area is a bit tight, these games and toys mentioned below still provide a great way for my kiddo to burn off her excess energy.
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Sensory bins provide a lot of fun for little hands. My daughter is always entertained for a minimum of a half hour each time I give her a sensory bin to play with. There are so many types of filler you can use for sensory bins. For outdoors I recommend materials such as bird seed, sand, raw oats, or dry dog food, since you wouldn’t necessarily have to clean up any that gets spilled out of the bin. I do not recommend using fillers such as kinetic sand or uncooked rice as any spillage that remains would be harmful to birds and other animals that ingest it. Pictured below is our bird seed sensory bin.
I Spy is a great game for small spaces because no set-up is necessary. You can make it more challenging by looking for small items (butterflies, ants, etc…) or by limiting the game to a certain category (white items only, or nature items only). Make it physically active by having the child run over and touch the item once they spy it. Make it even more fun by playing I Spy using the clouds.
Horse shoes are another fun game for small outdoor spaces. We have a kid-friendly plastic set like the one pictured below that keeps my daughter entertained for a good chunk of time while helping her fine tune her gross motor skills. If you don’t have a dirt spot to put the posts in, consider using a plant pot filled with dirt or sand. Ring toss would be a similar option.
Soccer balls or beach balls are also a lot of fun out on the patio. Despite what you may think, you don’t need a ton of space for kids to enjoy these toys.
Sidewalk chalk is great for patios, driveways and (you guessed it) sidewalks. You don’t have to worry about clean-up since it’ll wash away the next time it rains. For added fun, include some stencils. To make it more interactive, use the chalk to make a game of hopscotch. There are many variations of hopscotch that can be enjoyed for hours of fun.
Painting with water is another easy form of outdoor entertainment for small spaces. Simply hand kids a clean paintbrush and a small amount of water in a container large enough to dip the paintbrush into. Encourage them to “paint” pictures on the sidewalk, driveway, or patio with the water. You could even make it educational by asking children to practice drawing letters, numbers, or shapes with the paintbrush and water.
Water tables are another great outdoor toy for small spaces. Of course, you don’t have to buy a water table to have fun with water outside. Just look around and get creative with what you have. A wagon (like we used to wash our pumpkins), or some buckets and plastic measuring cups will provide tons of fun. Or you could create a DIY water wall. This is on our to-do list for this summer! Of course, always be sure to supervise children closely when around water.
Small world play is great for the kids’ imaginations. Make your garden a fairy garden, or turn a patch of grass or gravel into a dinosaur world and encourage hours of imaginative play.
Gardening with kids is a great way to spend time outdoors together. Though it’s not technically a game, it’s always tons of fun for my kiddo. If you don’t have room for even a small raised bed, use large buckets or pots to do some container gardening. I strongly encourage you to try gardening with your kids. Your efforts could be rewarded with butterflies and vegetables!
Bubbles are one of our favorite things to play with outside. You don’t need a lot of room to run around chasing bubbles. With all the bubble-making toys available, you don’t have to get light-headed to entertain the kiddos this way. The one pictured here allows the kids to play mostly independently. You could also try a bubble machine, but the few we have tried have required frequent changes of batteries and constant bubble solution refills. So we’re still on a hunt for a good one. If you know of one, feel free to leave a suggestion in the comments below.
Balloon Tennis is one of my daughter’s favorite outdoor games. I love it to because it’s an active game that is easy to put together. Blow up one balloon per child and give each child a kid sized racket to hit their balloon around with. You can easily make home-made rackets by using packing tape to attach a craft stick handle to a large, heavy-duty paper plate.
Sprinklers attached to the end of the hose are great for burning off steam on a warm summer day. And you don’t need a ton of space to enjoy running through the sprinklers. This is our favorite one.
Some other toys kids can enjoy in small outdoor spaces include magnifying lenses, pin wheels, and hula hoops.