Turning Inside Out

Childhood 101 } Turning Inside Out- Indoor Outdoor Play

One of the things I love to do is take toys we would regularly associate with indoor play outdoors. It is amazing how the change of play environment invites new ways of exploring and interacting, playing and learning.

Some of the inside play things we regularly enjoy outdoors include…

Blocks and figurines invite lovely imaginative play as children create and interact with their very own fantasy lands.

Childhood 101 } Turning Inside Out- Inspiration for Outdoor Play

Our adventures continue in Little World!

Taking dress ups and play silks outdoors also encourages imaginative play, providing children with more space to assume their chosen ‘role,’ whether it be pirate captain, firefighter chief or cheeky garden pixie.

Childhood 101 | Turning Inside Out

Our garden fairy loves looking for butterflies and dragonflies.

Art materials with (or without) an easel. Drawing materials, such as pencils, felt tipped pens and pastels, are easy to transport but painting outdoors can be lots of fun too. As well as providing lots of natural inspiration, taking art materials outdoors can also encourage new ways of using the materials.

Childhood 101 | Turning Inside Out - Simple Outdor Play Ideas

Lots of tall lines in this painting. I wonder if they are inspired by the avenue of tall conifers we were standing alongside?

Books are also all too easy to transport and it is so lovely and relaxing to find a warm, sunny spot to set down a blanket and some comfy cushions to create a special place to sit and read together.

Childhood 101 | Turning Inside Out Outdor Play Ideas

What a relaxing way to enjoy the winter sunshine.

Creating a fun outdoor space for a picnic with dolls or softie friends and pretend food can be as simple as a picnic blanket or as elaborate as a tea party in a teepee. Either way, lots of pretend play fun.

Childhood 101 | Turning Inside Out Play Ideas

Tea anyone?

Add a purse and a shopping cart and explore what is available to ‘buy’ in your outdoor supermarket.Childhood 101 | Turning Inside Out Simple Outdoor Play Ideas

And some of the natural elements which naturally find their way into our indoor/outdoor play…

  • Seedpods and nuts
  • Shells
  • Sticks
  • Leaves
  • Flowers
  • Stones…

Childhood 101 | Turning Inside Out Play Ideas


  • Picnic food
  • Shopping currency
  • Art materials
  • Bridges to cross
  • Havens for little ‘friends’
  • Anything really!

Which indoor toys do you enjoy outdoors? What imaginative or creative play adventures do your children bring to life?


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaThis post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared their stories and tips for playing outside with kids.

  • Garden Treats — Asha at Mom Costume has once again been bitten by the gardening bug — and this time her baby’s tagging along for some fresh air and dirt exploration. (@titbagsandsnoot)
  • Outdoor Free Roam — Mamapoekie at Authentic Parenting follows her daughter’s lead whenever they go outside. (@mamapoekie)
  • Summer fun in Austin with a toddler — Jessica at This Is Worthwhile is brainstorming ways to beat the heat in Texas. (@tisworthwhile)
  • summer fun… — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children is looking forward to spending the summer outside with her children the way she used to spend summers with her mother.
  • Outdoor Fun for Pre-Walkers — Maman A Droit has figured out ways to let her pre-walker enjoy the outdoors. (@MamanADroit)
  • Summer Homeschool Fun at Camp Review — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now discusses how Camp Review motivated and captivated her homeschooling family. (@DebChitwood)
  • Digging, Tree Climbing and Puddle Jumping — Laura at Laura’s Blog bemoans the loss of her girls’ climbing tree but knows they’ll find something else just as naturally tempting.
  • The Sweet Smells of Summer — Erin at A Beatnik’s Beat on Life is looking forward to the many smells of summer she and her daughters enjoy and identify. (@babybeatnik)
  • June Carnival of Natural Parenting: Outdoor Fun — Sybil at Musings of a Milk Maker is a confirmed couch potato who can’t help but be inspired by the outdoor opportunities Seattle offers her family. (@sybilryan)
  • Take a Hike — Michelle at The Parent Vortex connects with her family and the Earth on frequent hikes in their Pacific wilderness. (@TheParentVortex)
  • Following Paul — Julie at Simple Life gives her kids unstructured time to dig in the dirt and pick mulberries. (@homemakerjulie)
  • Instilling a Love of the Outdoors in Your Baby/Toddler — Tessasdad at Stay At Home Dad in Lansing offers a photo book of tips for helping your little ones enjoy the outdoors. (@tessasdad)
  • Camping, baby! — Jen at Grow With Graces has easy tips for tent camping with a little one. (@growwithgraces)
  • Think Outside the Easel for Summertime Fun — Acacia at Be Present Mama finds several ways to bring art fun to the outdoors.
  • Outdoor Learning in our Urban Environment — Andrea at Ella-Bean & Co. has found ways to get grass between her daughter’s toes, even in the city.
  • Outdoor Education — Alison at BluebirdMama offers parents tips and resources for making each outdoor excursion a learning experience. (@childbearing)
  • Turning Inside Out — Christie of Childhood 101 finds kids get a kick out of taking indoor toys outside. (@Childhood101)
  • Watching Peas Sprout — Deb at Science@home combines fun with purpose in this educational outdoor activity. (@ScienceMum)
  • How To Create a Pirate Treasure Hunt & Other Easy Outdoor Pirate Activities (June Carnival of Natural Parenting) — Dionna at Code Name: Mama has pirate-themed play ideas for ye scurvy landlubbers. (@CodeNameMama)
  • What We Do — Luschka at Diary of a First Child has managed to expose her 8-month-old to a wide variety of outdoor fun, even with the notoriously dreary UK weather. (@diaryfirstchild)
  • Summer Fun — Darcel at The Mahogany Way finds her family’s visits to the beach refreshing in so many ways. (@MahoganyWayMama)
  • Playing outside without a backyard — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes doesn’t let the lack of a backyard stop her family from enjoying the outdoors. There are plenty of things to do outside of your yard! (@sheryljesin)
  • Having Fun Outdoors, Playset Free — Guavalicious at They Are So Cute When They Are Sleeping has resisted a backyard playset in favor of the regular backyard. (@guavalicious)
  • Moon Gazing with your Toddler — Paige at Baby Dust Diaries is keeping her toddler up at night, but it’s for a good reason: to share the wonders of the night sky! (@babydust)
  • the great outdoors — The grumbles at grumbles and grunts wonders whether her urban child can experience the same free-range childhood she enjoyed. (@thegrumbles)
  • Let’s Take It Outside! — NavelgazingBajan at Navelgazing is looking for ideas: how can she spend time with her pre-walker outside this summer? (@BlkWmnDoBF)
  • A home by the sea: June Carnival of Natural Parenting: Outdoor fun — Lauren at Hobo Mama is living her dream of a home near the beach, and taking full advantage of it. (@Hobo_Mama)
  • An Outside Girl — Zoey at Good Goog moved her family to (almost) the middle of nowhere so that her outdoor-loving girl could have more grass and less concrete. (@zoeyspeak)
  • Neighborhood Nature — Kelly at Kelly Naturally has learned to connect with the nature she has instead of mourning the nature she misses. (@kellynaturally)
  • Building Lovely Memories of Swimming, Spiders and Gravestones — Joni Rae at Tales of a Kitchen Witch and her family are simply outdoorsy people. (@kitchenwitch)
  • “Buh-Bye” Season — Danielle at born.in.japan must leave laundry behind and follow her son’s call to the outdoors. (@borninjp)
  • Backyard Camping — Becoming Mamas took her family camping very close to home! (@becomingmamas)
  • The Color of Dreams — Seeking Mother at Woman Seeking Mother makes gardening magical by teaching her son that each flower is a faery. (@seekingmother)


  1. Lauren @ Hobo Mama says:

    I absolutely love your post! It's given me such good ideas. I was thinking just the other day how picnics are somehow extra special, just because it's so much fun to eat outdoors. Why is it fun? It just is. I think feeling the sun and the breeze makes it all very decadent and relaxed and special.

    I already love bringing my own "toys" outside (books and laptop), so this is giving me great ideas for bringing my son's toys out. I remember hearing a nanny yell at a neighbor kid of ours that, no, he couldn't bring his plastic toy soldiers to the beach and I was thinking how silly that was — weren't they toys, and weren't they his? It must be so freeing as a child to have your indoor friends join you in your outdoor adventures!

  2. Love it. I will confess to being a little uptight when inside toys get taken outside. Part of me frets that they toys will get damaged or lost outside. But after many years of parenting I'm learning to relax and trust my children. After all I rather like taking my books and laptop outside to enjoy a sunny day, why should I deny them the same pleasure with their toys.

  3. Dionna @ Code Name: Mama says:

    I love this Carnival – I have gotten so many ideas to do with Kieran. Taking inside toys out is something we very rarely do. I just never think about it! Maybe that stems from the fact that so many of our outdoor toys are not allowed in the house (leave the bat outside!!). But I think Kieran would get a kick out of taking his inside toys out – thank you so much for the suggestion!

  4. navelgazingbajan says:

    One of my childhood memories is of taking my sister's tea set outside and trying to make "tea" with plants and water.

    Oh and that teepee is awesome. I would have loved something like that when I was little.

  5. Kate, aka Guavalicious says:

    What wonderful ideas! I can be bad about not letting the girls take the toys outside and this is a reminder that they are just things and their purpose is to be played with.

    Thank you!

  6. Andrea!!! says:

    I especially like the idea of painting outside! Since Ella is still small it would be easy to strip her down for some fingerpainting fun with a bit of grass thrown in for good measure (since pulling up grass is a current favorite activity). We actually routinely take indoor toys outside since at this point everything goes in the mouth and there is a limit to the amount of dirt/sand/grass one should eat!

  7. Great ideas, nothing better than getting the kids outdoors, I think it's so much healthier for them. Picnics were always my favourite, even just taking lunch outside and having it in the backyard. When my son was little he used to do his homework outside because he functioned better when he was doing it while sitting under a tree rather than at a table inside (and as a result he produced better work!). I'm all for doing as much as possible outdoors, can't beat all that fresh air and the natural environment.

  8. Tammy James says:

    Great post Christie, I'm admiring the sunshine shots its dreary and freezing here. I have given you an award on my blog : )

  9. jenny @ let the children play says:

    I'm a big fan of getting kids outdoors so I loved reading your post Christie. The learning that happens outside is just as valuable as the learning and play that happens inside.

    Here's a preschool tip: we often have a set of toys for inside, and one for outside. An outside box for imaginative play like tea parties and cooking has props that we don't mind getting caked in sand and dirt.

  10. Chris (@tessasdad) says:

    Christie, I love your blog! These are great ideas and I've been doing some of this already w/ Tessa. Thanks for all the ideas!

  11. Maman A Droit says:

    Fun ideas! I have a 10 month old son, so all his cars and balls are "indoor" toys right now too (plus all the other types of indoor toys you mentioned) but I bet he'd have a blast with them outside! And it's not a toy, but I love the idea of having a snack or meal-I'm a big fan of picnics.

  12. jeannine: waddlee-ah-chaa says:

    Enjoyed reading all of these ideas. My children spend so much time outside! I watch them from the kitchen window and marvel at their creativity. I try to just stay out of the way and let them go. They love digging in the recycle bin. I'm not sure the neighbors like the trash all over the yard but the children have a specific purpose for this trash!

  13. I love this post! I love how much your LO does outside! I'm hoping next summer we'll be able to follow suit. Great post!

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