With summer in full swing, this time of year is often one of the favorite times of year. Of course, this year looks a little different with the pandemic going on. However, that just makes it that much more important to get your toddler outside and engaged in some fun summer activities.
After all, fresh air and sunshine both help to naturally boost immunity and keep your family healthy. Even if you live in a more restricted area, simply having some fun in your backyard is a great way to reap those benefits.
Naturally, the next question many of us are wondering is, “what activities can we even do?”
As daunting as entertaining your toddler at home all summer long may sound, there’s still plenty that you can do.
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Why do summer activities for toddlers matter?
Before we get into the long list of toddler summer activities you can do, let’s pause here a minute. Maybe you’re wondering why this even matters. Wouldn’t it just be easier to stay inside and let them watch TV? Isn’t being outside safer than being outside in your backyard?
First, I think it matters because it supports your little one’s health.
And I think that’s something that we can all get behind right now.
Getting outside into the fresh air allows your toddler to soak up the sun, getting the best source of Vitamin D. If you didn’t know already, it’s very important to know now that Vitamin D is a big factor in your immune system.
This crucial vitamin helps build up your immune system, and is key is fighting off both bacteria and viruses. Can you see why that’s important right now?
If you’re in a restricted area, or are worried about catching something outside, just stay in your backyard. Unless you’re inviting a ton of people over, it’s unlikely that you or your child will catch anything just from playing in your own backyard. Don’t let people or the media make you fearful of simply being on your own property.
Second, it’s a natural way to relieve the stress your child is inevitably feeling.
I’m willing to bet that at some point since March you’ve felt stressed and anxious about current events. Regardless what you think about it, I think we can all say it’s been a stressful time.
And our children can feel that.
They may not know or understand what’s going on, but make no mistake. Our kids can sense the tension in the air. They can feel the stress in your body. And it’s affecting them.
Your toddler probably doesn’t really understand why they can’t play with their friends whenever they want anymore. They don’t understand why you have to be careful about where you go or what activities you can do. They don’t get why all the fun activities and vacations that were planned for the summer are suddenly canceled.
This isn’t just stressful for you. It’s stressful for them, too.
Getting outside, even if it’s just in your backyard, is a great way to relieve some of that stress. Let them run barefoot in the grass. And take some time to do some activities with them.
I know it’s tempting to just throw the kids outside for a bit and take some time for yourself. And if that’s what truly needs to be done, than go for it. I would just encourage you to take the time to engage them in some activities as well, even if it’s just for a half hour.
Remember, they need you too. They need to know you still love them and care about them. Toddlers especially need to know you remember that they’re there, and that they matter. Giving your toddler some focused attention will go a long way in relieving some of that stress—in both of you—and connecting with your child.
Balancing activities and independent play
Now, while I do encourage you to spend some focused time with your toddler each day, I also believe in the value of independent play.
Don’t feel like you have to spend every waking moment entertaining your child and filling their day. In fact, trying to do so is a great way to get burned out as a mom.
I like to try to allocate some one-on-one time each day, but also give plenty of time for independent play. That way, we’re still connecting every day, but there’s still time to get things done around the house.
If your toddler is not used to having independent play time, it may be a bit rough the first few days you try. It’s okay. Remember, there is value in allowing your toddler the freedom to be bored. Start small, with just 10-15 minutes at a time, and build up to longer periods of time.
When you do spend focused time together, it’s a great time to do some fun activities together. Doing more organized activities together is a great way to spend time together, especially if you don’t really like playing.
34 Summer Toddler Activities
1. Go swimming
Believe it or not, you don’t even have to leave your house to have some fun swimming with your toddler. If your local pool is currently closed, there’s several ways you can swim with your toddler in your own backyard.
Just grab a toddler sized pool, fill it up with water, and let your little one play in that. Toddlers have a lot of fun in even small pool spaces. Even a simple bucket of water will do in a pinch.
If you really want to get in on the fun, you can always invest in a backyard pool big enough for adults to enjoy as well. Be sure to also pick up some toddler life jackets for your child if you go this route.
2. Splash Pad
If a pool sounds like too much, you might try a splash pad instead. Toddler’s usually love splash pads, and they make for easy water fun. And since there’s less standing water, they’re a bit safer than pools.
And if you don’t want to get completely soaked, they’re a good way to cool off and play without getting totally wet.
3. Have a picnic
Toddlers love to do things out of the ordinary. And one relatively easy way to shake up your daily summer routine is to have a spontaneous picnic.
If you have a park or open area nearby that you can go to, it’s a great place to go for a picnic lunch or dinner. Or, just take lunch out to your backyard and picnic there. Your toddler will be just as excited to eat somewhere out of the ordinary, even if it’s still on your property.
A year or so ago we invested in a foldup picnic blanket for our outside adventures. It’s waterproof on the backside, and washable. And it easily folds up to make carrying it super easy. It’s a great investment if you picnic a lot!
4. Visit a lake/beach
If the lakes or beaches near you are open, a visit there can be a great activity for your little one. We discovered this summer that there’s a lake just a mile from our house. In three years of living in our town, we never knew it was so close to us—and that it had walking trails!
This summer, it’s become a frequent thing for us to go over to the lake in the evenings and walk around. Elijah absolutely loves it!
It gives him plenty of room and freedom to run around. And more than enough to explore! With ducks, turtles, frogs, and bunnies, it’s been a great learning experience for him.
5. Do a sensory bin
If you’re looking for great toddler activities for summer, consider doing a summer themed sensory bin. Sensory bins are great for both outside and inside play.
Here are some ideas for summer themed sensory bins:
- Ocean bin
- Bug bin
- Sand bin
- Butterfly bin
- Flower bin
6. Make a sensory bottle
Another fun twist to a sensory bin is a sensory bottle. Think of it as basically a smaller version of a sensory bin, but in a bottle instead. The downside to this is that your toddler won’t be able to touch the things inside, but it certainly has upsides as well.
Sensory bottles tend to be less messy, and give you the opportunity to experiment with liquids. For a great sensory bottle idea, check out this ocean sensory bottle.
7. Go on a hike
Whether it’s at a local park or just around your neighborhood, a hike is a great way to get toddlers outside and moving. Summer is a great time for hiking. And this is a great time to break out a scavenger hunt for your toddler!
8. Look for bugs
I’ll be honest—this is not my favorite toddler activity! But, Elijah does love to look at bugs. If your toddler is into bugs, now might be a great time to invest in a bug kit. It makes for great toddler summer activities!
9. Visit a park
If your area hasn’t closed down the parks, visiting your local park is a classic activity to do with your toddler in the summer. I think this is definitely one of Elijah’s favorite things to do.
If the parks are closed in your area, get creative. Many churches and private schools have small playgrounds that you may be able to use if you ask. If they aren’t being regularly used at the moment, chances are they are a safe place to go with your little one.
Of course, if that’s not an option and you have the backyard space, you could also get a playset to put right on your own property. Whether it’s a simple slide or a more elaborate playset, your toddler will be sure to love it. I’m definitely looking forward to the day we can get our own house and are able to do this for Elijah!
10. Play ball
Summer is the perfect time to start teaching your toddler to play ball. Tossing or kicking a ball around is a great way to practice gross motor skills. You can even start some early batting practice, which is always a hit with little ones.
11. Make a tent/fort
One of the things I remember most from my childhood was spending our summers building endless forts. All you really need is a large sheet or blanket, and something to hang it to. Try making use of any trees you may have, or hang a clothesline to make a tent.
If you don’t have a good fort making setup, getting an inexpensive toddler teepee to construct in the space you have is another great alternative. For Elijah’s last birthday, he got a tent similar to this tent, and still loves playing in it! I think it’s still one of his favorite things to play with.
12. Collect sticks
Because toddlers can never have too many sticks, right? I don’t know what it is about toddler boys, but they just love to collect sticks. Maybe toddler girls do too? (I don’t have a girl, so not sure on that one!)
If you have a backyard fire pit, enlisting your toddler to pick up sticks for kindling can be great activities for summer. After all, toddlers love to be involved in helping out. (That’s why I recommend starting toddler chores early!)
13. Watch fireworks/sparklers
This past Fourth of July, we got to visit family and watch fireworks together. Elijah even got to hold his first sparkler! It was a lot of fun, and he loved it. Just be sure to always monitor little ones around sparklers or backyard fireworks!
14. Play in a sandbox
I’m pretty sure sandboxes are a classic part of fun toddler summer activities. Sandboxes are almost like huge sensory bins. And there’s countless ways for a toddler to enjoy them!
If you missed out on your beach vacation this year, a backyard sandbox can be a great way to enjoy some fun in the sand and sun. I know, it’s not quite the same. Sometimes we have to do the best we can with what we have.
15. Feed fish/ducks/turtles
Lately Elijah has been obsessed with feeding the turtles at our local lake. At one end of the lake, there’s a small, quiet inlet where all the turtles like to hang out. And there’s a bridge going right over it!
It’s become well known that the turtles love to be fed. As soon as they see you on the bridge, they start swimming over hoping for food. It’s pretty cool, I’ll admit. Anyway, going to feed the turtles is now one of Elijah’s favorite summer activities—and it’s really pretty perfect for toddlers.
16. Popsicle bath
Popsicle baths are very popular, although I’ll admit that Elijah has never actually done one. That’s kinda my fault though, because I always forget to get Popsicles. #momfail
Anyway, the idea behind Popsicle baths is to let your little one eat a Popsicle while in the bath. Basically eliminates any mess, since they’re getting a bath anyway, and the newness of it makes it super fun for little ones. Who doesn’t want a cold treat in a bath on a hot summer day?
17. Summer crafts
I’ll admit I’m not super crafty, but if you’re looking for some fun summer activities for toddlers, crafts can be a great way to go. Crafts can be done outside on a porch, or inside as a way to cool down after playing outside. And Pinterest has some very cute ideas!
18. Color outside
Sometimes the best activities are normal ones done in a new or different setting. Simply taking your toddler’s coloring book and crayons outside to color can make it a fun activity. You might even find yourself enjoying a little light coloring in the summer sun.
19. Draw with sidewalk chalk
Another great summer activity is to let your toddler draw with sidewalk chalk. Whether it’s on the sidewalk, porch, or fence, chalk is an easy cleanup activity that can entertain for a while.
20. Blow bubbles
Great for days with little to no breeze, bubbles are another toddler favorite. You can start by blowing them yourself and having your toddler chase and pop them, or work on some find motor skills by allowing your toddler to learn.
Last year I grabbed a few bubble guns that were on sale, and Elijah adored them! He loved that he could simple pull the trigger and have bubbles all by himself. It was a lot of fun!
21. Learn to ride a tricycle/bike
Earlier this summer, we were fortunate enough to find an inexpensive tricycle for Elijah. It took him a while to get the idea, but I think the one we had was still a little too big for him. After a month or two, his cousin gave him a slightly smaller one, and he loves to ride it around!
Summer is the perfect time to learn motor skills like riding a bike, even if it has training wheels on it. Honestly, your summer probably is not complete if you haven’t tried this as one of your toddler activities.
22. Start a toddler garden
A toddler garden was a suggestion made for another activities post I put together, and I absolutely love the idea! Whether it’s helping out in the family garden, or starting their own, gardening is a great skill for little ones to begin learning.
I haven’t personally done this with Elijah, primarily because we’re currently in an apartment. Although, I think you probably could still do a small one in pots, or on a balcony or patio if you have one.
23. Go for a wagon ride
A couple years ago, we were given a Radio Flyer wagon for Elijah. Let me tell you, he loves to ride in that thing! Pulling your toddler around the yard in a wagon makes for a great summer activity that is totally toddler approved.
24. Play in a sprinkler
If you’re not up for a pool but still need something small to cool your toddler off, a sprinkler is a great compromise. Sprinklers are similar to splash pads, but are sometimes more compact depending on the design you choose. This is a great way to get wet and cooled off without worrying about standing water.
25. Water table
Water tables are a lot of fun, and are a great way to sneak in toddler sensory activities in the summer. There’s really no end to the possibilities of water tables. And since water tables are raised, they are a good way for little toddlers to have fun without worrying about them falling in.
To change things up, you can even put sand in your table instead for a variety of sensory play.
26. Play with squirt guns
If you’re looking for some more water related activities, squirt guns are a great way for little ones to cool off. I do recommend getting the smallest, less elaborate ones. We found that those ones were much easier for Elijah to use. It seemed all the larger ones were a lot harder for him to use on his own.
27. Go for a walk
Honestly, even simple activities like going for a walk are great for toddlers. Just getting out of their normal environment is exciting to them. Engage them as you go—ask questions about the things you see, the things they hear. Actively look for natural ways to teach them through every day conversation.
28. Build a sand castle
Have a sandbox? Why not get a few buckets and shovels and teach your toddler to build a sand castle? This fun activity is a great way for your toddler to work on motor skills and finesse. Just don’t let yourself get frustrated if they knock it over—intentionally or not.
29. Play with trucks
If you’ve got a little boy like I do, I’d bet he likes trucks. One of my toddler’s favorite trucks is his classic Tonka Truck—and it’s great for playing outside!
I’ll be honest, we got the steel one for its durability. But it can be a little hazardous at first if your child is pushing it while running in the house. Go ahead, ask me how I know.
But let me tell you, it’s a great truck to invest in. My family had one growing up, and we literally had it forever and played with it frequently in the summer. What toddler doesn’t need a sturdy truck to haul their treasures?
30. Toddler car wash
Here’s another one for summer activities that will help your toddler cool off. If your toddler has toy cars, or a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe (or something similar), why not let him have a car wash?
Just grab a bucket of water, some rags or sponges, and let your toddler go to town cleaning his car. I don’t know why toddlers love this activity, but most do.
31. Wash toys
Right along the same idea as a car wash, simply washing any old plastic toy can make a great activity for toddlers. Plain water is fine, or add a little bit of dish soap to add in bubble fun. Washing toys is a great way to engage your toddler, and get their toys clean at the same time.
32. Wash rocks
Washing rocks may sound a little bit weird to you, and it probably is. But sometimes the best summer activities are simply the ones that have a new twist on it. Your toddler will likely love the silliness of washing rocks, and it’ll add in new sensory experiences to the activity.
33. Paint rocks
Once your toddler has his rocks thoroughly washed and dried, it’s a great time to use them for painting. Painting rocks is an easy summer activity that your toddler can do right outside. Cheap, easy, and probably less mess than painting indoors.
34. Catch butterflies
Does your toddler love butterflies? Try getting a butterfly net and let your toddler try to catch them. Your toddler will probably love chasing after them. And if they manage to catch one, you can use it as a learning opportunity to teach about butterflies.
What are some of your toddler’s favorite summer time activities?
Now it’s your turn. Have you tried any of these summer activities with your toddler? Which ones are your child’s favorites?