Create a magical world of your very own, where your toddler can explore, imagine and experiment…
Plant a sensory garden
To create a toddler-friendly garden, you need to choose robust plants that are safe for hands-on fun.
Herbs smell amazing and will withstand endless plucking by little hands, as will shrubs such as lavender and buddleia.
Cosmos is colourful, fast-growing and picking the flowers just encourages more to bloom.
Lamb’s-ear has thick grey leaves that feel super-silky to touch. Or how about planting greater quaking grass, which rustles in the slightest breeze?
Check the Royal Horticultural Society’s list of potentially harmful garden plants at rhs.org.uk
Make a hill-and-hole
A ‘hill-and-hole’ takes just an hour and a roll of turf to create, but you’ll be amazed how many ways it will inspire your toddler to play, from mastering the wobbly art of walking up and down a hill, to rolling balls and cars.
To make a hill-and-hole in your lawn, attach a short stick and a sharp knife to the opposite ends of a half-metre length of string. Poke the stick into the ground and, keeping the string taut, cut a metre-wide circle into the grass.
Then make another adjacent circle. Use a spade to lift out the two circles of turf and keep to one side.
Remove soil from one circle to create a shallow hollow, heaping it up on the other circle to create a mound.
Tread in the soil to compress, then re-lay the turf, using cuttings from a roll of turf to cover any bare areas. Water thoroughly. Don’t walk on or allow to dry out until the grass shows healthy growth.
Create an outdoor kitchen
Your toddler may already have a wooden play-kitchen inside, but he’ll still prefer concocting meals in a outdoor cook-station, just like you enjoy a BBQ more than cooking inside.
Attach a couple of wide sections of wood to a wall to make shelves and paint on a couple of circles to act as hobs.
Stack with a few old pots, pans and wooden spoons, and you have a kitchen that will entertain him for hours.
Stocking up on ingredients is just as much fun as doing the cooking. Your toddler might come back from a walk in the woods with a pocketful of pinecones, or bring a bucket of shells from the beach, or fill a tub with grass clippings when the lawn is mown.
Pebbles, leaves, seed heads and soil all make for great cooking items, and if you’re feeling really brave, add a bucket of water and a plastic jug to the mix.
Handling and mixing all these different textures is a sensory experience and he’ll learn all about cause and effect as he tips the contents of one pot into another.
Get the chalks out
A deck is perfect for drawing on, as long as you don’t mind a mess, or turn a fence into a huge art station.
Screw a piece of external plywood board firmly to the fence, and cover with two coats of an exterior blackboard paint (try Rustins Quick-Dry Black Blackboard Paint, £5.52 for 250ml, amazon.co.uk), using a roller to get a smooth finish.
Add a bucket of oversized chalks (try ELC 20 Jumbo Coloured Chalks, £4, elc.co.uk) and let your toddler loose to exercise his imagination.
He’ll develop his fine motor skills too, and having an oversized canvas to create his masterpieces will increase his confidence in mark-making.
Plant a fairy ring
Got daisies in your lawn? Transplant them in the shape of a big circle to make a fairy ring for your youngster to play in.
Use a knife to loosen the soil around the daisy plant, being careful to lift its leaves and roots too, and cut a slit in the grass to plant it in its new fairy-ring spot, and water well.
Daisies are perennial, which means they'll grow year after year, so your fairy ring will last more than a summer.
Build a den
Make a den with a lightweight tarpaulin with eyelets, a few tent pegs and bungee cord (camouflage tarpaulin, £4.99 for 1.8m x 2.4m; pack of 10 tent pegs, £1.95; bungee cord, £1; surplusandoutdoors.com).
Attach the top of the tarpaulin to a fence, then peg the bottom out to make a cosy den; suspend it just above toddler head-height for an airy but out-of-the-sun picnic. Or peg it over the washing line for an instant tent.
Swap sand for gravel
If you’ve got a sandpit table, and your child has passed the stage of putting everything in his mouth, try bagging up the sand and tipping in fine gravel (check it’s child-safe first) instead.
Add some toy dumper trucks and a digger and his building site is complete.
Alternate between the sand and gravel every month, and your tot will use the pit far more frequently, as it will make for a whole new sensory experience.
Try filling it with water too, or in varying combinations of sand, gravel and water.