Summer break doesn’t have to mean a break in learning – or fun! Here are some quick, easy, and cheap summer activities for toddlers to keep your little ones occupied and learning during the summer months, without increasing TV or tech time. The following ideas are sure to be so exciting and intriguing that they will likely not even realize that you’re sneaking a little education into their activity time, and many of these can be geared for learners of all ages (though this may require a few adaptations!).
The best part about these summer activities for toddlers? They’re just a starting point! Let your children’s imaginations run wild with the following activities, giving them space to learn while preventing the dreaded statement “I’m BORED“.
1. Sponge Stars
Still cool enough that you can play outside for a while? Then create these faux-water balloons! They are exactly as fun as they sound – and offer endless opportunities for learning, fun, and perhaps most importantly – cooling down!
With each year seemingly bringing hotter and hotter summer temperatures, this is easily one of my favorite summer activities for toddlers. Bonus? These are more eco-conscious & safer than real water balloons! Not only are they reusable, which reduces this activity’s environmental impact, but they aren’t a choking hazard for children and pets like plastic balloons are. That’s why this fun activity has placed #1 on this list!
All you need is a few sponges and elastics for this simple craft! Simply cut your sponges into strips (we used 9-10 for the ones above), arrange the pieces evenly in rows of 3, and place an elastic band around the middle! “Fluff” out your pieces, and voila – you’ve created hours of nonstop water-fun! As for what to do with them? Try these simple ideas:
- Sponge Relay: Have your children start at one bucket, soak up water with their sponges, and race to their second bucket. Whoever either fills their second bucket up first or ends with the most water after a timer goes off wins! Playing with a group? Awesome! Simply have the children pass the soaked sponge down the line to their partners, who squeeze it out in the second bucket and frantically pass it back for another round of soaking
- Target Practice: This is great for practicing their throwing and aiming skills. Either draw out a traditional bullseye, or for more creative freedom, let them draw their own target, and get to tossing their water-soaked sponges at the targets! Even better, toss some targets in your pool and see if the kids can hit floating targets!
- Sponge-Tag: It is probably best that the game of Tag isn’t tried with children too young to understand the rules(let’s avoid unnecessary tears, please!)… But with older children this is an awesome take on a game they likely already know.
- Pass-the-Sponge: So simple, yet so fun! Have your preschoolers practice throwing and catching (or maybe even dodging!) while letting them cool each other off each throw. Depending on how many are playing, this game can be easily tailored to fit individual needs. 3 kids? Try monkey in the middle. More? Have them break off into groups of 2 and ask each teammate to take one big step back each throw. Which ever pair can still catch from the farthest distance wins!
- Honestly, this list could go on forever. From playing volleyball to tennis, or traditional games like hot potato and Over, Under… Almost any game can incorporate these cute little toys! Try seeing which wild games your kids can come up with, too!
2. Indoor Summer Picnic
Let’s face it. Not much beats packing up a lunch, taking your family to a beautiful spot, and enjoying a delicious home-made meal together… Unless it’s just way too hot to leave your home! In our sweltering 40-47 degree Celsius heat this week, even just cooking is out of the question… Never-mind going anywhere outdoors with children!
Sometimes, it’s safer (and more fun) just to stay inside and get creative. Letting them guide this adventure will encourage imaginative play – maybe they want to take a “trek” to a “far away land” down the stairs (and into the cool basement). Or, maybe, they are a budding 5-star chef with their own menu in mind! Harvesting and enjoying the bounty of the veggie garden can also make for a lovely summer activity for toddlers and adults alike.
Involving your children in the cooking is great for instilling a love of healthy foods. For toddlers, any opportunity at manipulating utensils is great for dexterity as well as independence, too! Below are a few simple, but nutritious and delicious meal ideas for you and your kids next summer picnic.
- Rainbow Lunches: Okay, so this idea isn’t just a way to have fun during a heat wave. It’s actually a simple way to trick fussy eaters into being excited about fruits and veggies. Challenge them to find one food in the fridge for every colour in the rainbow! This creates a well-rounded plate packed with nutritional variety while still being fun.
- Roll-Up Wraps: Even as an adult, I still love these! My Mom used to make the most incredible roll-ups out of wraps, cream cheese, and whichever veggies we had on hand. Tossing in some cheeses and meats will make them even more scrumptious, too. Pair with some chopped up fruits and you’re good-to-go!
- Fruit-Kabobs: Turn boring old fruit into an exciting new snack by letting your kids cut things like melons, pineapples, or apples with cookie cutters (see photo above for my Mickey-Mouse themed fruits)! Let them put their adorable fruit onto skewers and add things like berries, grapes, and other fruit squares. *Make sure that your children aren’t using pointy skewers if they are too young, though! Ouch!
- Chocolate-Yogurt Fruit Dip: This isn’t even an age-based treat… I still look forward to pairing this decadent treat with some fresh strawberries or pineapple! Since it’s so simple, it’s also a great way to include your children in creating their lunch. All you need is some greek yogurt, some cocoa powder (about 2 tbsp per 1/2 cup of yogurt), sweetener of your choice, and a dash of vanilla and cinnamon! My favourite way to sweeten this up is a few tbsp of honey – but feel free to substitute this for any sweetener of your choice. Just make sure to start small and taste-test as you increase sweetness! For an extra treat, pack some marshmallows for dipping too
- Don’t forget to hydrate! Make sure to ask your children to pack water (or a juicebox), just like they would on any outing! Bringing water bottles along is a great habit to get into for all toddler summer activities.
3. Freeplay Toddler Craft Time
Sometimes the best creations are entirely child-driven. While I love coming up with fun and exciting crafts for kids, there’s also something so beautiful in bringing out the craft supplies and asking “So, what do you want to make today?!”
From wacky-monsters to hilarious sock-puppets, some of my favorite crafts to date have been produced as result of this question. Bonus? You usually use up some of the lingering odds and ends in your craft bin. Please, though, be mindful of your child’s specific needs regarding structure, and remember: their freeplay time can still be guided!
For example, if your child struggles to maintain focus when too many options are presented, try giving them a base (like a toilet paper roll or empty tissue box) and subsequently presenting a handful of odds-and-ends to glue, paint, or draw on. If you notice them becoming bored or restless, remove the remaining supplies and either introduce more materials or ask if they’d like to move on to the next activity!
Younger children also respond well to questions like “would you like to glue this piece here, or here?”, giving them autonomy while preventing them feeling overwhelmed when they aren’t yet inspired to craft 100% independently.
Some kids prefer structure – and this is great, too! Ask them what they would like to create, and show them samples or work alongside them. For example, they want to make a caterpillar? Search for caterpillar crafts online with them and see what excites them (and what you can create with your supplies on hand).
4. Make Your Own Play-Dough
The creations that children can make with playdough are endless! So why not try making your own this summer?
This way, your children will have something to play with that they proudly created themselves. Since this summer activity for toddlers is much cheaper than buying playdough sets as well, this creation is great for kids that enjoy sculpting and drying their creations, too. Baking their own dough is also an amazing opportunity to practice essential cooking skills like measuring and kneading! Click here for a great homemade playdoh recipe from Living Well Mom!
For more learning potential – allow your young ones to choose the colors, meanwhile engaging in conversation about how colors mix and the difference between light and darker shades. It’s an art, cooking, and science experiment all in one!
5. Scavenger Hunts/Obstacle Courses
It is so fun – and easy – to create simple scavenger hunts or obstacle course activities for toddlers, both indoors and outside! Below is a list of great ideas to get you started. Honestly, these aren’t just limited to summertime, either… With a few tweaks, you can use these ideas all year long.
- Sound Safari: This is easily one of my favorite activities! Sound safaris are best done during a trip to the waterpark or while sitting outside in the shade, making them an excellent choice for warm summertime days. Better yet, all that’s needed is a paper and some stickers – making it a low-mess activity. Check out the sound safari worksheet I created (shown above) for some inspo!
- Indoor Scavenger Hunts: There are tons of free printables online that list common things found in a home. Try printing some of these or asking the children what they think they might find and creating your own!
- Seasonal Scavenger Hunts: If the weather allows, outdoor scavenger hunts can be a wonderful seasonal for toddlers. You could also take a pail outside, fill it with found objects like leaves and flowers, then have a blast glueing them onto paper and drying them! Label the bottom with the date for reflection later – They will be so excited to see how their environment changes from season to season!
- Indoor Obstacle Course: Anything is fair game in this great activity! Have everyone gather up obstacles from around the house and set them up in individual lines to race, or in one long line. The kids can practice balancing, jumping, and stepping at different lengths depending on how you set up your course. The opportunities are endless!