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Sunshine, is that you?

Believe it or not, it’s almost time for spring! The warming weather means it’s a great time for outdoor play with your little one! Outdoor play becomes even better when toys are added.

These are the best outdoor toys to help development. Remember, all outdoor play should be supervised to ensure children stay safe.

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Sandbox. A warm-weather classic! Sandboxes are great for sensory development. From touching sand for tactile play, to using the vestibular sense to balance in the sand, to using proprioception to play with sand, baby is getting a full sensory experience. It’s also a great way to work fine motor skills by scooping, picking up, and playing with sand. Just remember, try to avoid baby using the taste sense with a mouthful of sand!

Sidewalk chalk. Sidewalk chalk is a way to make writing and drawing so much fun! This fine motor activity gives children who are beginning to learn how to write and spell a fun opportunity to practice communication skills. It’s also a great sensory experience, especially in using the proprioceptive sense because children learn how hard they need to press while using the chalk.

Water and sand tables. These tables have become a popular warm-weather toy! They can be placed outside and allow children to safely play with water and sand while walking and standing, which promotes gross and fine motor developmentBe sure to check the age recommendations before purchasing, as some are made for children 4+.Water table:

Outdoor swing. No matter if it’s at the local park or in your own backyard, a swing is a unique sensory experience for you little one! While swinging, they learn balance and body awareness, two important senses, and use core strength to stay upright. There are even some social-emotional benefits to swings, as the repetitive motion can be calming. Make sure the swing is secure before using (both to the “swing set” and that baby is secure in the swing).

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Imitation toys of “grown up” outdoor activities. A great way to promote executive function development is to have baby imitate what the grown-ups are doing! There are many different outdoor imitation toys, including push lawn mowers, gardening sets, playhouses and outdoor explorer kits, all of which can promote problem solving and mental flexibility. You can even have children work in the garden with a grown-up using their kid toys to strengthen the social-emotional connection!

Wheeled toys. As children get older and steady on their feet, they can go on outdoor adventures using a wheeled vehicle! These include scooters, wagons, tricycles, bicycles and play cars. All of these are good for motor strength and promoting the vestibular (balance) sense. Additionally, using a wheeled toy requires learning a new skill, remembering how to do it, and problem solving when it doesn’t work, which is a great executive function exercise. Make sure that children wear the proper safety gear, such as a helmet.

Play tunnel: A play tunnel makes crawling in the yard fun and mess-free. It’s a great way to strengthen baby’s crawling skills, or to have a child practice some different motor moves.

Bubbles. These can be a fun way to improve gross and fine motor skills! Children usually chase after bubbles and use their hands to hold the wand and create more bubbles. They also help with visual tracking skills and attention. Try to having children catch, poke or stomp on the bubbles! Try to discourage children from eating bubbles. While they are minimally toxic, they can lead to an upset stomach if children ingest them.

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Beach ball. Play ball! Beach balls are a lightweight and safe to toss baby’s way. They’re a great way to work motor skills, through throwing, kicking, hitting and catching. Beach balls are also great for the body awareness sense, as baby learns to map out their body in their mind in order to properly catch and kick.

Sports equipment. There are many different ways to introduce children to sports during outdoor play using small, child-friendly sports equipment. These include child-sized basketball hoops, plastic baseball bats and tee, plastic golf clubs, lawn bowling, small soccer ball, etc. These help with all kinds of motor skills, as well as the vestibular and proprioception senses. Additionally, playing games helps with executive function skills, and can even teach children new words and phrases!

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No toys? No problem! The outdoors are also a great place for unstructured play! Whether it’s exploring their backyard or running around the park, nature helps kids use their imagination and creativity while playing. So let your little one explore and enjoy the great outdoors.