Those precious summer months are coming up quick and for those of us with littles, the summer can feel like an amazing change of pace from the “stuck inside” of winter. IT can also leave us looking for easy summer activities for little kids. (Because at this stage, things like canoeing and long hikes are still basically off the table!)
There are tons of activities you can partake in with your little one to give a bit of variety to your days, and change up your pace! I personally CAN NOT WAIT to do these summer activities for families with toddlers. I’ve been making a list (affectionately referred to as my toddler summer bucket list) and we are going to be ticking off these toddler-friendly activities this summer.
I thought it would be great to share this fun summer bucket list for families with little kids with you all as well! 🙂
Remember, little people can burn easily in the sun, so hats + sunscreen are important… and bug spray is a good idea too!
Fun Summer Activities for Families with Little Kids
Ready to find check off your toddler summer bucket list? These activities are guaranteed to be lots of fun for mom and toddler alike! Try one or try them all—you have an entire summer to fill, after all.
What’s Fun to do in the Summer with Little Kids?
These are on the top of my toddler summer bucket list ideas! I know my kids love (or will love) ALL of these things. There is nothing the like better than BEING OUTSIDE!
- Play with a slip-n-slide. Or, if you can’t be bothered, instead just turn on the sprinklers and have a dance party. (We used to make slip and slides from cut open garbage bags and a squirt of dish soap!)
- Buy a kiddie pool. Let your little one splash and play and when he or she is down for a nap you can lay out and enjoy the pool all to yourself. (Be sure to supervise your kids AT ALL TIMES in a pool. 30 seconds alone is too long.)
- Even better than a kiddie pool (possibly safer) is a splash table. This thing entertains my kids for hours.
- DIY a “pouring station”. Honestly, as much as my kids love the splash table, I’ve seen them just as entertained with buckets of water and cups and ladles. They just LOVE to get into the water and move it from place to place. (And you just use containers from home or buy dollar store things, it’s free- ultra cheap.)
- Basically anything with water.
- Write up your summer bucket list (and make sure you check off every item).
- Introduce your kids to mad libs. (Kid’s love goofy – and that’s what mad libs are haha.) Here’s some great kindergarten-aged-mad libs!
- Play a game of would you rather. (Here’s a summer break edition of would you rather – with questions to ask your kiddos!)
- Start working on their numbers and letters. Summer is a great chance to get your little kids a head start on school! (Here’s some summer-time learning worksheets for preschoolers.)
- Blow bubbles. Chase them down.
- Race cars (or balls) down a gutter. Kids’ll love this – check out the details here.
- Pine-cone pickup. We made this up last year, and it’s a favorite. I let my kiddo collect pine cones with kitchen tongs and fill a small wagon or bucket. He thinks it’s the best thing ever, it cleans up my yard, AND it’s a great motor skills activity.
- Build a fort. A fort can be as simple as a blanket over the picnic table, or a big box with a window cut out. Toddlers aren’t as picky as we are!
- Go on a nature walk. Make a list of things to look for like flying birds, a green leaf, a purple flower, etc. Then, help them check off the list.
- Go to the playground. Where we live, the playground is under a foot of snow half the year. We take good advantage of it in the summer.
- Build a sand castle. You don’t have to be near the beach to partake in this fun activity. Grab a bag of sand (or better yet, a sandbox!) and let them get to work.
- Create a fun haven from the sun by making a sand TENT. Fill a dirt cheap tent with sand, and it will keep the sun off your kids (and the pets out of the sand, too.)
- Let them “help” you build a fairy garden. If I’m being realistic, your toddler won’t do a ton of the building. But I can guarantee, most toddlers will LOVE helping and watching a magical fairyland take place. It’s so great to capture their imaginations! (If you’re not too crafty, you can get a fairy garden kit.)
- Try a scavenger hunt. There are so many toddler-friendly scavenger hunts out there! You can create your own or simply grab a guide off Amazon instead.
- Go to the zoo. Time to see all those animals you have been reading about in real life! If it’s too hot out, try an indoor aquarium instead.
- Go to story time at a local library. Your local library can be a gem of (free) entertainment for your child. They don’t check (or care) if you are a resident to that library, so hit them all up!
- Have playdates. Lots of them. The only thing more fun than toddler activities is toddler activities with a friend.
- Do some messy paint projects. Best place for a paint mess is outside in the summertime! (See below for paint ideas).
- Do some learning activities. Summer is such a great way to change up the pace – you can put this time to great use for new activities that teach new skills! (See below for ideas.)
- Make crafts with leaves – or rocks, or flowers – or anything else you can collect outside!
- Build a fairy garden together – check out all these sweet fairy garden containers! (This list even has one built in an old kid’s water table.) Here’s a list of fun fairy garden ideas for kids if you need some inspiration.
Learning Activities for Families with Toddlers to Try This Summer
Toddlers are in that fun stage where they are soaking up absolutely everything. I often feel guilty in the winter when I put the TV on for “just a half hour” because I am FLAT OUT of ideas to entertain my kiddo. You can just DO so much more outside, so I am not letting this season of learning pass us by.
You may have heard it said before, but it bears repeating—to toddlers, learning is play. Summer is the perfect time for your little one to try out and perfect those fine motor skills.
Practice putting on clothes by playing dress-up. Can you think of anything more practical than teaching your three-year-old to dress herself? Make it fun by letting her choose her own outfits, singing a fun song or trying on some princess play dresses. Don’t let yourself get stressed out by an outfit that’s different than what you would have dressed your child in—I promise, no one at the grocery store will judge!
Learn to hold (and drink out of) water cups. Look, at some point, your kiddo is going to have to learn to drink out of cups without lids. Why not let them practice a bit now – OUTSIDE? (Amen and hallelujah!) Grab some plastic cups, fill each with water a few inches of water and let your little one practice carrying and sipping. Just make sure to wear a swimsuit or something you don’t mind getting wet.
(Something similar- ish that we are doing this summer, OUTSIDE, is potty training. Yes, we are going to spend an entire week NAKED outside. I’ll let you know how this goes, but I really believe it will be a great way to potty train!)
Teach your child to wash their toys. Got a tricycle that’s full of mud or a playhouse that could use a scrubbing? Grab a hose and let your toddler help you rinse, soap and dry it. Remember, they don’t know that this is a chore—to him or her, this is fun!
Plant seeds together. This project has it all—it’s educational, fun, and a great way to get some child labor for your summer garden (KIDDING!). But in all seriousness, this is a great way to teach your toddler about growing plants. You can do flowers, herbs or vegetables. Let them help you “dig” and show them how to drop seeds into the plant hole. Then, make it part of your daily routine to water and weed.
Make ice cream in a bag. Did you know you could make homemade ice cream in a Ziploc bag? It takes about ten minutes or so, and your little one will love the process AND the reward. Grab the full recipe and lots of tips from Simple Play Ideas.
Art and Crafts Projects for Families with small kids
Want to get crafty? So does your toddler! And outside is the best place to do it, because the mess doesn’t matter.
They love color and will definitely have a great time creating some of these fun projects. Since painting with toddlers is one of the messiest activities for families with toddlers to try, take advantage of the summer weather, let your toddler strip down and get to work!
Fingerpaint outside. One of the most quintessential toddler activities is fingerpainting. To make this a little bit less messy, grab a roll of butcher paper and head outdoors. Roll the paper out as long as your child can reach and arm him or her with some nontoxic fingerpaints. When they are done, use a wet cloth (or even a hose!) to rinse them off before heading back in.
Fly-Swatter Painting is another fun one to try. Much easier for tiny hands than paintbrushes, but a little more involved than just fingers.
WATER paint on concrete. My brilliant friend Tracy taught me this one – give them a paintbrush and water, and let them go to town painting the concrete (or whatever else they want outside). Smaller kids like this just as much as messy real paint. Best of all? It’s FREE!
Create “stained glass”. This is another wonderful way to help your child fine-tune his or her fine motor skills. Grab a plastic clear lid and some ripped pieces of tissue paper. Brush a non-toxic glue over the plastic and let your toddler get to work adding tissue paper. Once they are done, hang it by the window and admire.
Decorate paper plates. Paper plates may be the ultimate crafting material. They are affordable, paintable and they will keep a toddler entertained for hours. Tap into the power of the paper plate by handing out some non-toxic paint and googly eyes. Paint the plate yellow for a happy sun, black for a smiling spider or model it after your child’s favorite animal. (Be sure to supervise, googly eyes could be a choking hazard for younger kids.)
Just in case you didn’t catch these things hidden in here, I want to point out these couple activities that you can do for 100% FREE, just use things you already have at home, don’t buy ANYTHING!
Totally Free summer activities for small children:
DIY a “pouring station”. Just use containers from the kitchen!
WATER paint on concrete. Literally, buy nothing. Give them water and an old paintbrush.
Learn a new skill. (Like drinking out of cups, or how to use the potty, or how to wash toys!)
Go for a nature walk. Pay attention to all the things – flowers, insects, leaves, dirt. It might be old news to you, but it is new and exciting to your kiddo!
Go to the playground or the beach.
Have playdates with friends.
Which one of these fun summer activities for toddlers are you ready to try? I’d suggest doing them all—you’ve got a few months, after all.