Category Archives: Toddler Date

20 Outdoor Games for Children

For my “Cheap Dates with Toddlers” series: I encourage you to head outdoors to the park of your choice, and try out any of these fabulous outdoor games!  [I don’t re-blog often, but this is a great post!]

Our Little House in the Country

outdoor games

Hi there, today I am sharing our top 20 outdoor games.  Some of these games can be played indoors but most are more suitable for getting active outside in the fresh air now that Spring is here!  In case you need instructions on how to play these games I have linked them to other great sites and blogs about games for children. I’ve also included some photos of my children having fun outdoors!

Doodles and OOdles having fun with pretend cafe play outside Doodles and OOdles having fun with pretend cafe play outside

  1. Skipping games
  2. Treasure hunts
  3. Parachute games
  4. Duck duck goose
  5. Hopscotch
  6. Hide and seek
  7. Tag
  8. Clapping games
  9. Obstacle courses
  10. What time is it Mr Wolf
  11. Simon Says
  12. Stuck in the mud
  13. Musical Statues
  14. Red light, Green Light
  15. Horse/Donkey basketball
  16. Scavenger hunt (we use picture clues)
  17. Hot/Cold (searching for objects, the closer you get the hotter you are)

    Oodles and Doodles playing parachute games with daddy and a friend Oodles and Doodles playing parachute games with daddy and a friend

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Cheap Dates with Toddlers: Farmers Markets

marketI love taking my kids on outings to farmer’s markets – the toddler and the teenagers! It’s a chance to be outdoors, walking, surrounded by people of all ages from your community. Every time we go we run into someone we haven’t seen in ages, and it’s a nice chance to say a quick hello.

The market stalls offer a visual feast… I’m not really a visual person – I may not even notice if there’s art on the wall if I eat a long dinner in a restaurant – but at a farmers’ market, I love the colors and textures: the glossy green zucchini, the bright red bell peppers, the lumpy brown potatoes, the yellow sunflowers, and more.

Shopping at the market is also a great chance to be aware of food and where it comes from. summer we might go home with lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes for fresh summer salads. In late season, it’s parsnips, sweet potatoes, and squash for autumn vegetable soups. You can talk with your kids about those seasons and talk about celebrating each one.

All season long, there’s fresh-baked bread, homemade jams and other goodies, and fresh cut bouquets of flowers. Many markets also sell arts and crafts.

Several locations have food trucks in if you’d like to grab a pizza dinner or an ice cream cone while you shop. Several locations also offer live music – usually of the folk or bluegrass variety, and can be a nice opportunity for a family picnic while the kids dance around.

Bring re-useable bags along when you come, and bring cash. (Some markets have ways to buy market money with a credit card, I think, but I’ve always just found it easier to bring cash. It also helps me set the budget for what I’m buying that day. When I run out of the cash I brought, we’re done… no matter how tempting that toffee is….)

Here’s the 2019 summer schedule for markets on the Eastside of Seattle

Tuesdays: Bellevue – Crossroads.12 – 6:00 (6/4 – 9/24).

Wednesdays: Kirkland – Marina Park. 2 – 7 (beginning June 5)

Thursdays: Bellevue – north of downtown. 3 – 7 pm. 1717 Bellevue Way NE. May 16 to October 10.

Fridays: Kirkland/Juanita. 3 – 7 pm. (June 7 – Sept 27) 

Saturdays: Issaquah 9 – 2. (May 4 – Sept 28) Pickering Barn (across from Costco) 1730 10th Ave N.W.

Saturdays: Redmond 9 – 3. (May 4 – Oct 26) at Redmond Town Center.

For lots more ideas on fun, cheap activities to do with your toddler, click on “toddler date” in the categories list to the right.

photo credit: NatalieMaynor via photopin cc

Cheap Dates with Toddlers: Garage Sales


Any Friday or Saturday, drive around a residential neighborhood, and you’ll see the signs.

In winter, after my kids finish their scheduled activity, whether it’s dance class or coop preschool, I usually just want to go home when we’re done, back to a warm dry house. But in the spring time when the weather is beautiful, sometimes I just want to be out for a little while longer. Garage sales offer an easy opportunity.

I will pick a sign to follow, and see where we end up. We then walk around and look at things. Sometimes you have a total dud of a garage sale, when there’s nothing that appeals to anyone in the family. But, much more often, you’ll find something that you child thinks is a treasure. Once my daughter found a great tie-dyed jumper – it was a little big on her then, but it ended up becoming her favorite sun-dress not just that summer but for two or three summers to come, for $1.00 or so. My other daughter found a Japanese tea set she fell in love with. We found some great stuffed animals, some DVD’s, some books, a bike…

Now, I’m not a big fan of a lot of clutter in my life, so I’m always very clear that each child can pick out a MAXIMUM of one item. And sometimes we don’t find anything to bring home. Our approach was always that it’s more about the process than the product. It’s just interesting to see what things people are casting out of their lives. As my girls got older, it was interesting to pontificate on the family’s story. We would guess how old their kids were now based on what types of kid stuff they decided they’d outgrown. We found it sad when there was an older woman selling lots of men’s clothes and items, and wondered if her husband had recently passed. Sometimes we walked away wondering: why did they ever buy those items in the first place???

A garage sale is usually a quick outing – 15 minute or so, but often just a fun moment of serendipity in a day.

photo credit: Nomadic Lass via photopin cc

Cheap Dates with Toddlers: Nature “Shopping” and scavenger hunts


Are the long months of winter/spring/rainy season getting to you and your kids? Are your kids starting to make you crazy? Here’s a quote I love:

“If your kids are bouncing off the walls, remove the walls.”

Even if it’s pouring rain, you can still go out in nature. That’s what rain coats and boots are for! On especially rainy days, I like going for hikes in the woods, where the trees help to shelter you from the worst of the rain.

Try Nature “shopping”:  Take your kids out in the woods, and let them make collections. They can gather rocks, or seashells, or autumn leaves, or pinecones. Whatever they choose. As you explore, let them gather as many as they want (you may even choose to bring along a bucket or bag for them to collect into.) Near the end of your hike, pick a sheltered spot to examine the collection. Talk about colors, sizes, shapes, textures. Compare and contrast them. Sort them into categories. (Not only is all this fun for kids, you’re also teaching some foundational skills for science learning here… did you know that many Nobel winning scientists talk about the time they spent exploring nature as a child as one of their fundamental learning experiences?)

When you’re done examining them all, tell your child they may choose one special item to take home, but that you will leave all the other items out in nature. Remind them that these things serve a homes for animals and are also there for other children to see and discover. [Note: it helps to tell your child at the beginning of the process that they will need to leave most of these items in the park at the end of your time there.]

Collecting photos: You could also tell your child that you want to collect photos to make a nature book with. Tell them that on your walk, they should point out to you anything they think is special, and you will take a picture of it. Later on, it’s easy to do some quick cut and pasting into a word document or whatever to make up a page with a collection of photos that you can print and post at home. (If your child wants to take the pictures, check out these tips.)

Note: if your child wants to collect bugs, this may be a way to satisfy them without letting them pick up and carry the bugs home!

Scavenger Hunts: for ages 3 and up, you can prepare a list of things you would expect to be able to see or hear or do on your outing. Bring stickers along and as you’re out on an adventure, any time you find one of the items on the list, your child can put a sticker on it. Then when the scavenger hunt is complete, you can have a snack together as a reward. Ideas for scavenger hunts (some borrowed from Teacher Ann at Tiny Treks… )

  • Things to listen for: crows, woodpeckers, running water, wind in the leaves, people’s voices in the distance
  • Things to look for: pinecones, mushrooms, ferns, moss, spider web, bugs
  • Things to do: balance on a log, jump off a log, splash in a puddle, throw a rock in a stream, build a ‘log house’ with sticks, make a circle of rocks

If you’re in the Pacific Northwest, I have a series of handouts about plants you’ll find in our woods, and a scavenger hunt where kids search for salal, Oregon grape and more. Find them all here.

I find that being inside with my toddler and trying to encourage him to use his inside voice and inside manners all the time can be exhausting. Letting him run outside and be as loud as he wants is such a relief. Both of us feel much better after our time outside.

There’s also lots of great benefits to outdoor time:

More tips for scavenger hunts:

Cheap Dates with Toddlers: Buses and Trains


If you don’t regularly use these, you can convince your child that a ride on public transit is almost as good as Disneyland!

For the bus, plan a short simple outing at non-peak travel times, and get a transfer when you board – you’ll be able to ride back out for the single fare. Focus on enjoying the journey, not just the destination.

On light rail or Sounder rail, you can go on a scavenger hunt for the public art at their stations: see (Also, check out this great article, which is focused on light-rail-based adventures, but also has plenty of “cheap date” ideas for downtown Seattle: