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 adapted for any age.
The best part about these summer activities for toddlers? They’re just a starting point! Let your children’s imaginations run wild, giving them space to learn while preventing the dreaded statement “I’m BORED.” Nobody wants a bored toddler!
1. Sponge stars
Is it a hot summer afternoon? Try creating these faux-water balloons (or “Sponge water bombs”)!
This fun summer activity offers endless opportunities for learning, fun, and perhaps most importantly – cooling down.
This is easily one of my favorite summer activities, and kids love them too. Sponge balloons are great for sensory play and are fun summer crafts to make together.
Bonus? These are more eco-conscious & safer than real water balloons! They are reusable, which reduces environmental impact (and means you can play with them all summer long). Plus, they are not a choking hazard for small children like plastic balloons are.
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 play!
As for what to do with them? Try these fun activities:
- Sponge Relay: Have your children start at one bucket, soak up the 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 cooling off. 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. Whichever 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 summer game can incorporate these toddler-approved 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 homemade meal together… Unless it’s just way too hot to leave your home!
In our sweltering 40-47 degrees Celsius heat this week, even just cooking is out of the question… Never mind going anywhere outdoors with children!
Sometimes, it’s safer to take your summer fun inside. Letting them guide this adventure will also 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 preschoolers, too.
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 developing dexterity and fine motor skills while encouraging independence.
Below are a few simple, but nutritious and delicious meal ideas for your next picnic:
- Rainbow Lunches: Okay, so this idea isn’t just a way to have fun during a heat wave. It’s also a simple way to coax fussy eaters into being excited about fruits and veggies. Challenge them to find one food in the fridge for every color 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. 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: Since it’s so simple, this dip is 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), a sweetener of your choice, and a dash of vanilla and cinnamon! My favorite way to sweeten this up is a few tbsp of honey. Just make sure to start small and taste-test as you increase sweetness! For an extra treat, pack some marshmallows for dipping too.
- Hydrate! A hot day means more water! Make sure to ask your children to pack water (or a juice box). Bringing extra water bottles along is also a great habit to get into for all 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 toddlers and preschoolers, 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 created this way. Kids of all ages usually love making their own crafts, especially older toddlers.
Bonus? You usually use up some of the lingering odds and ends in your craft bin!
Tips for open-ended crafting
- If your child struggles when too many options are presented, try giving them a craft base (like a toilet paper roll or empty tissue box) and then presenting a handful of odds-and-ends to glue, paint, or draw on.
- Some littles prefer structure. So, ask them what they would like to create, and show them online samples or work alongside them. Pinterest is a gold mine if you need more inspiration, too!
- 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 something else.
- Younger ones also respond well to questions like “would you like to glue this piece here, or here?” This gives them autonomy while preventing them from feeling overwhelmed by too many choices.
- Adult supervision is important! Always make sure you’re providing age-appropriate materials.
4. Make your own Play-Dough
The creations that little hands can make with playdough are endless! So why not try making your own this summer?
Did you know that making Play-Dough is super easy?! It’s also a lot cheaper than buying a new set!
Baking their own dough is also an amazing opportunity to practice essential cooking skills like measuring and kneading (and again, practicing those fine motor skills!
Click here for a great homemade playdoh recipe from Living Well Mom if you want a recipe.
For more fun learning – Allow your young ones to choose the colors and have a conversation about how colors mix to make different shades or colors. 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 play ideas all year long.
This is easily one of my favorite activities! All that’s needed is a paper and some stickers – making it a low-prep 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 are easy summer activities for your busy toddler. You could also take a pail outside, fill it with found objects like leaves and flowers, then glue them onto paper and dry 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!
We hope that you found some fun play-based activities for your little ones this summer. These great summer activities are easy peasy, making them perfect for younger kids and busy Mamas!
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