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21 Creative Park Activities for Preschoolers (3-5 Year Olds)

As a Mom of a 5-year-old who loves parks, I’m going to share really creative park activities for preschoolers that keep us busy outdoors, for hours.

How do I entertain my child at the park?

preschooler running toward playground, text overlay "21 cheap and easy things to do at parks with your preschooler"

Mama, I started to ask myself this same question when my little guy was barely walking. It seemed like we had hours upon hours to fill up in the day, and I needed ideas that were cheap and convenient (and didn’t involve a screen).

We naturally turned to the parks near our home.

And I can honestly say that over the last 5 years of going to parks with my little guy, that we’ve (yes – some of these ideas were mine, and some my preschooler came up with on his own) come up with some of the most creative park activities for preschoolers (and toddlers).

Below you’ll find my favorite list of park activities we’ve done together over the last 5 years.

These are cheap and easy, meaning:

  • Everything you need you’ll find at the park, OR
  • They use common items that are easy to transport TO the park (we walk to many of the parks we go to)

I can’t wait for you and your preschooler to try some of these park activities!

Hint: I always like to let them use their own imagination and even be bored some so that they develop playing skills. BUT…it’s also a great idea to have a few of these activities in the back of your mind so that you can extend their outdoor play with a suggestion.

Park Activities for Preschoolers – Creative Things to Do at the Park

In this section, you’ll find perfect outdoor activities for 3–5-year-olds, no matter what your park looks like.

1. Play “Bubble Armies”

Someone (or a bubble gun) blows lots of bubbles, and your preschooler gets to swat at them until he smashes as many of the “army” of bubbles as possible.

Hint: other kids and Moms will think you guys happened upon a nest of wasps, the way you’ll be flailing about! Also, you can use a new fly swatter to do this, too.

2. Measure things

Ahhhh the power of a ruler or one of those retractable measuring tapes (the smaller kind) to keep a preschooler’s attention!

Slip a measuring tape or ruler into your pocket, and when you get to the park, let your preschooler have fun measuring different nature items. 

3. Find a ______ Stick

Our little guy has always been into sticks. And since he hasn’t ever tried to poke anyone’s eyes out, we’ve been totally cool about it.

He loves to hunt for sticks.

Sometimes, we sent him off for a specific stick mission (this can really focus him for awhile):

  • Find the BIGGEST stick
  • Find a bent stick
  • Find a stick that still has leaves on it
  • Find a walking stick
  • Etc.

Psst: not feeling good about sticks? I read and LOVED the book It’s Okay Not to Share, which talks about sticks, plus so much more.

4. Bubble Target Practice

5 year old using a water gun to spray down bubbles floating in the air

Fill up a few water guns (I used to bring a container of water, in addition to water to drink, and put it in the bottom of our stroller to re-load water guns), and bring a bottle of bubbles.

Each person takes a turn either blowing the bubbles and stepping back, or being the person with the water gun who is trying to shoot down as many bubbles as possible.

5. Setup an Imaginative Play Storyline Before You Leave the House

Before you head out to the park, read a story about fairies, or trolls, or something magical.

Then, tell your preschooler you’re going to help them look for this magical creature’s home at the park! This can go on for 30 minutes or more.

6. Time them Running around the Perimeter

My husband stumbled upon a goldmine of an activity once at a park when he told our little guy he was going to use his watch to time him running around its perimeter. This went on for like 15 minutes!

Playground Activities for Preschoolers

Is your outdoor time today at a playground?

Great! Here’s some awesome outdoor preschool play ideas specific for playgrounds.

1. Send Race Cars Down the Slide

Put a few of their favorite cars into your pockets, then let them sit at the top of a slide and watch the cars “race” down the slide.

2.  Create a 2-3 Step Circuit

3-year-old climbing up the small ladder on a playground, doing a circuit park activity

You can give your preschooler instructions for a circuit for them to complete. For example, tell them to first swing on a swing for 30 seconds, then run over to the big wheel he has to turn three times, then go down the slide.

You’ll need to talk them through it, but what great practice listening to instructions and doing a sequence of events.

Hint: they absolutely love it if you time them. Gets them soooo excited!

3. Spin off a Toy on the Merry-Go-Round

Suggest that your little one put one of their toys – something they can wash, like a car – onto the merry-go-round. Then, they can swirl it around as fast as it takes for the toy to magically swoosh off.

4. Bring Suction-Cup Bath Toys

You know those bath toy sets where you suction cup a few to the wall and then put water down through them (like this one)?

After a rain, bring 3-4 of them with you, plus a little bucket or even spoon. Let your preschooler suction cup them to the outside of the plastic playground equipment, then have some awesome water play by scooping up rainwater from a puddle and putting it through the “system”.

Nature Park Activities

Nature activities make some of the greatest ideas for how to use a park and entertain your preschooler outdoors.

Not to mention, for some great learning opportunities!

1. Witness the Life Cycle of a Frog

preschooler with stick poking near where frog eggs were found in a really small pond

Do you have access to a pond or creek or body of water that you frequent often?

We had this little pond at a park near our home and it gave us the best surprise: frog eggs.

Over the days and weeks one summer, we got to follow frog eggs turn into little tadpoles, and then into baby frogs. What a cool experience that had my little preschooler really excited to come back!

2. Follow the Ants back to their Hill

Find a long line of ants, and help your preschooler follow it all the way back to their ant nest (hint: not a good idea to do with fire ants, as we had in Houston. Works really well in other locations, though!).

3. Find the Highest-Splashing Rock

Let them plunk different rock sizes into a pond or creek or river and see which makes the biggest splash.

4. Race Sticks Down a Creek

Put two different sticks into a moving creek at the same time, and see which one “wins” (reaches a certain point down the way first).

5. Conduct Citizen Scientist Experiments

Did you know that you can sign you and your child up to be what’s known as “citizen scientists”, and then collect data to help with big projects?

Use sites like Zooniverse.org to browse and pick out a project to work on together. Then, head to the park and collect your data!

6. Go Post-Rain, Mushroom-Hunting

large group of mushrooms in author's front yard after a rain

After a rain storm, mushrooms might pop up all over the place (depending on which part of the country you’re in).

Go on a walk to your nearest park, and make it a game to find any and all mushrooms you can. Keep count!

Bring a magnifying glass and let your little one check out any mushrooms they can find (without touching any – here’s some more information on safe mushroom play).

7. Use a Species Identifying App

Identify a bird you find through the Merlin Bird Photo ID App, or a feather you find at the park through the Feather Gallery App.

You can find other apps to help you identify things in nature.

8. Do a Nature Scavenger Hunt

One day, I took a clipboard of mine, printed out a nature scavenger hunt, and gave him a crayon to use. He had SO MUCH fun going around our neighborhood and completing this.

Plus, he felt kind of important with his clipboard. Just sayin’.

9. Start a Nature Journal

You can use a blank notebook, or an actual nature journal for kids – doesn’t matter.

Do things like:

  • Allow them to tape in items from nature, such as a leaf, a flower petal, a small twig, etc.
  • Allow them to trace the outline of something from nature.
  • Ask them for observations from the park, then write it down for them in their nature journal.

10. Find Shapes in Nature

Bring a set of post-it notes and a pen. Give your preschooler a mission: to find an object that is shaped like what you draw on the post-it note (and give them the post-it note, saying “ready, set, go!”).

Then, draw a shape on each note, like a square, a triangle, a rectangle, a circle, etc. See what they come up with!

Bonus Family Park Activity

Got the whole family, or at least a sibling, in tow?

Great. Check this one out.

1. Long-Distance Bubble Tournament

Bring a small bottle of bubbles for each kid to the park that you’ve dyed a different color ahead of time. Have your kids see whose bubble goes the longest distance.

Let your little one’s creativity and imagination (and turbo energy) play out in the great outdoors with these park activities for preschoolers. I have so many fond memories of each of these activities with my own little guy, and we’re still making up more as we go (even now that he’s in Kindergarten)!

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Amanda L. Grossman is a Certified Financial Education Instructor, a 2017 Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Money Prodigy. Amanda's kid money work has been featured on Experian, GoBankingRates, PT Money, CA.gov, Rockstar Finance, the Houston Chronicle, and Colonial Life. Read more here.