There are so many ways to play outside with a crawling baby!
Once babies start crawling it is truly off to the races and it can be challenging for parents to find new ways to keep up with them! One thing I’ve noticed with my little boy is that the more wide open space he has, the better, so we try to take our little man to the backyard as often as possible to make use of it and give him room to run…crawl.
Of course, playing outside with a crawling baby can bring up its own challenges! The most important aspects of outdoor play are that the baby can explore their environment, get lots of physical activity, and engage with her parents and siblings. During this stage, it’s also great to find as many ways to encourage your baby to crawl as possible so they get lots of practice!
With this in mind, here are 7 ways to play outside with a crawling baby!
1. Let your baby play outside in a sandbox
A sandbox is a classic outdoor activity for kids and it’s no surprise why – sand will be a totally new texture for your baby to explore!
Crawling babies will have a new sensation on their hands, legs, and knees as they slightly sink into the sand and they will be mesmerized as they try to pick up the sand, only to have it slip through their fingers. If the sand is wet, they will be able to move the sand around and watch it stay in place. Place a few toys into the sandbox with them and let them crawl around to retrieve the toys and see how they work in the sand.
Even older kids still like sandboxes, so let brother or sister get in there with the baby and build structures with molds or their own two hands for the baby to destroy.
You can buy a sandbox that is ready-made out of plastic or wood and it might even come with a few attachments or toys to help get things started. Don’t forget that you’ll have to buy some play sand, too! Speaking from personal experience, you’ll probably need more sand than you think you do so be sure to get the capacity of your sandbox and compare it to the size of the bags you are buying!
2. Create an outdoor baby obstacle course that challenges them
Once your baby has explored the backyard and needs something new to entertain them, creating an outdoor obstacle course can be a great option. While parents probably need to make sure the course is safe and practical, older siblings will love searching for items to add to mix as well as coming up with unique ways to redirect the baby around the space.
Here are a few ideas for obstacles:
- Cardboard boxes cut to make tunnels or turns
- Pool noodles set up ‘croquette style’ for the baby to crawl under or ‘speed bump’ style to crawl over
- Outdoor chair cushions to make the baby crawl over
- A small play slide that the baby will need help climbing up and sliding back down from
- Dad taking a nap in the grass – the baby can punch and pinch him like normal and then continue on with the course! I may or may not have some experience with this one.
3. Use your baby’s favorite toys for a scavenger hunt
With so much wide open space, it might be nice to give your little one a little direction or even try to keep him in the same general area for more than a couple of minutes.
Try collecting a few of his favorite toys and take them and the baby outside. Let him play with one toy while you spread out the rest of the toys nearby where he can still easily see them. Walk over to the closest toy and start playing with it to encourage him to scoot over there to retrieve it. Continue this method until the baby has found all of his toys and he’s ready for a break!
4. Go for a ‘walk’ in the backyard
Many babies will follow mom and dad around the house wherever they go throughout the day. Unfortunately, babies can easily find mischief to get into while they are crawling around the house and it can become a constant struggle to keep objects out of a babies hands and mouth!
Mix things up for your baby by letting her follow you around outside as you take a walk around the yard. Yes, she will still stop frequently to explore the grasses and flowers, but, you know what, parents need to stop and explore flowers sometimes too! As your baby gets older, these little walks can set the stage for real nature walks in parks or local forests.
5. Let your baby chase the dog
If your baby is like my babies then they love all animals, especially dogs!
With the whole family outside, you can let the dog and baby entertain each other as the baby crawls after the dog, chasing it around. This can be great for the pup too because sometimes pets can feel a little neglected when there are babies in the house getting all of the attention. I know that our dog absolutely loves our new son because he is always trying to play with him. Of course, sometimes the baby’s idea of play is grabbing ears and reaching inside his mouth, but it is still quality time!
Note: This one is highly dependent on the temperment of your dog and you should make a decision based around how it has acted around others in similar situations. If your dog does not respond well to a baby’s play in general, then he is probably not going to want to play outside with a crawling baby! Use your best judgement!
In our case, our dog loves the baby and has never even batted an eye his way when he gets pinched, poked, or otherwise bothered with an infant’s rough playstyle. Of course, we still try to tell him no, anyway!
6. Play ‘keep away’ with parents or older children
I’m not suggesting that we get all crazy with a cutthroat game of recess-style ‘keep away’ with the baby, but the basic idea is the same. In this version, the baby will always get the object being passed back and forth before she gets upset!
Sit dad and sister, or whoever, a few feet apart from each other with the baby in the middle. Grab a toy that the baby loves and play with it and laugh until she starts to come after it. Just when she gets close, throw it to the other person and let them laugh and play. Once the baby reaches the second person, let the baby have a turn with the toy.
You can repeat this with different toys for a little while and as long as the baby understands she will get a turn she will keep crawling right on after those toys!
7. Bring a walker outside to let them practice walking
Ok, so this isn’t crawling, but the next natural progression is to let them practice walking when they are able to start working on it. Our little girls loved their walker and our son is no different!
The biggest gripe I have with walkers in general, however, is that babies are often steering them into walls and furniture because they are still having a hard time keeping things straight while they practice walking. I find myself having to constantly redirect him, turn him around, and otherwise stay involved while he is using his walker and it just seems like less fun.
Outside, meanwhile, he can walk around in any direction he wants and we don’t have to worry about him running into something! This can be a great opportunity to let babies take more than a few steps in a row, allowing them to get a better feel for what walking really feels like.
The best areas for walking outside are going to be on short grass or an area that is just bare dirt. You could even let them hold on to a water table in the backyard to get some practice standing up and have fun at the same time! We don’t let our baby practice on sidewalks or the concrete of the back patio because we know he’s going to fall over at some point and we want to keep that little head safe!
Benefits letting babies crawl around outside
It’s easy to find ourselves cooped up inside these days now that we have so many smartphones, tablets, and TVs to watch. When I was a kid I remember being outside almost constantly and my favorite memories always included playing outside with friends or simply exploring my surroundings.
By getting the family off the couch and outside into the sunshine, we can break up that routine a little and get some fresh air in the process!
Here are a few benefits of play outside with a crawling baby:
- A little sunshine can provide numerous health benefits such as vitamin D production, day/night sleep patterns regulation, autoimmune disease prevention, and the release of endorphins
- Fresh air can help bring in more oxygen to the body – leading to a sharper mind, improved digestion, and better heart health
- Playing in dirt can have some surprising health benefits such as autoimmune health, better digestion, and even improve mood and reduced anxiety
What kinds of things do you do to play outside with a crawling baby? Let me know in the comments!
It can be exhausting, but so much fun at the same time!