If you’re visiting Parenting from the Heart for the first time, click here to see my Readers’ Favourite Posts.The beginning of Summer unlocks limitless possibilities. Daylight is seemingly endless and the outdoors become more welcoming. Skinned knees, dirt under finger nails, sun-kissed hair, and tan lines are badges from the day’s adventures. Despite the boundless potential of the season through the eyes of children, there are times when we parents need a reminder or two of how to seize the day. Here are 15 of my favourite activities inspired by Summer for Toddlers & Preschoolers. Please for my sake, leave any of your favourites in the comments below so I can pin and try them myself!
15 Summer-Inspired Activities For Toddlers & Preschoolers
- Make Edible Paints. I’ve seen this done many ways, but because we always have jello on hand to make My Favourite Play-Dough Recipe, I use Greek or Plain Yogurt and enough jello mix to give the paints good colour. The result is very much water-colour-looking paints. We use them on a big bristol board to paint with fingers or very clean paint brushes. The kids taste as they go. Food colouring works great instead of jello too!
- Create and go on a scavenger hunt. We’ve done it without a list or with. For my kids, I simply draw what we are collecting before heading out, give them a little bag, and we are off! For older kids, of course both drawing and writing or omitting the drawing works well too!
- Pack a picnic and head to a local spray park or outdoor pool. Or, forget the water park entirely, and have a backyard picnic. It’s amazing how sitting on a blanket outside will make something like kale salad taste that much better to a kid!
- Have a pretend lemonade party with scented rice. This idea comes from Two-daloo. To make the rice, for every one cup of white rice you must mix 1/2 tsp of white vinegar (Thanks Happy Hooligans for this hack – it helps the colour stick). In a ziplock bag, add the rice, vinegar, yellow food colouring, and/ or a bit of lemon jello/ lemon drink crystals. Empty onto an aluminum foil baking pan, put in the over at 300 degrees for about ten minutes. Let cool. And then play! We also used bottles we labelled with lemons we made, clear rocks from the dollar store as ice, and then some glasses. It was so fun! It’s also fun to use a variety of colours and scents!
- Make berry scented play dough. All you need is hot water, a box of jello/ packet of Koolaid, cream of tartar, flour, oil, salt, and maybe some sparkles. See entire directions for my favourite play dough recipe here.
- Go to the library or the bookstore, grab picture books, silly books, imagintaive books, and books that make you think, then READ, READ, READ, READ, READ! What better way to daydream up your next summer endeavour, get snuggled up in the shade, or take a break from running outside to dive into some good children’s lit. I love talking to librarians or book store clerks for their latest picks.
- Play tourist in your own city. Think of a list of places or a general area in your home town that you would recommend a visitor see. Equipping the kids with an old camera that may not even work anymore can make things extra fun as they pretend snap all sorts of photos.
- Make coloured cloud dough with chalk (option to make it summer scented with essential oils). Take 4 cups of the cheapest flour you can find, combine one cup of olive oil or baby oil. Then, finely grate two large pieces of sidewalk chalk. Grab sandbox toys, mix, and play! I like to use a disposable roasting pan on top of a disposable table cloth. Even if the kids are outside, it’s nice to contain the mess in the table cloth. The pan holds the dough.
- Make your own outdoor bowling set. We have made bowling pins so many times. I use plastic Perrier bottles, but any plastic empty bottle can work. Fill the bottom 1/8 – 1/4 with water or rice. Seal the cap tightly (using a hot glue gun helps). Then bowl away! We made these airplane ones for my son’s birthday and made penguin ones for my daughter’s. Take any ball and have at ‘er!
- Excavate dinosaur or lizard eggs with ice and science. This is a really fun way to experiment and understand cause and effect! We bought rubbery lizards at the dollar store for just over a dollar, stuffed them into left-over birthday party balloons, and then filled them up with water. Then we put them in the freezer over night. The next morning, I peeled off the balloons and put the ice ‘eggs’ in a container. Then, we took salt, warm water, metal spoons, baking soda, and vinegar and tried all sorts of combinations to free the lizards from their encolsures. Option to use food colouring in the water balloons to colour the eggs.
- Make smoothies or Breakfast Popsicle with yogurt. Summer is a time kids want something sweet to lick, but have burnt so many calories that getting something nutrient-dense is essential. I love throwing in all sorts of fresh and frozen fruit, a bit of milk, a splash of vanilla or a bit of honey, some yogurt, and blending it up for me and the kids to slurp back. Working Mom Magic also has an awesome Breakfast Popsicle recipe found here that we have to try
- Find a duck pond, tide pool, or other body of water and have fun! We just love exploring outside. Feeding ducks, studying and examining all of the life in a tide pool, or simply throwing rocks into water is a great way to unplug from the digital age and just be present. There is something so wonderful about being by the water with kids as they explore nature with all sorts of wonderment.
- Make your own cardboard house or castle. There are all sorts of reasons why this is one of the best summer activities. There is all sorts of play value that comes with a new toy. If you’re heading on a road trip vacation, you can bring the box toy along and then recycle it before heading home. Though we’ve made both a castle and a doll house, the latter has been one that we’ve worked on for over a month and got continuous enjoyment from. For info on the castle we made, click here. For our box house, we followed the general look and idea from Little Red Window here. What I like about the house contained in the link is it shows you how to make all your own cardboard furniture. The adaptions we did on the original include a slide going from the third floor to the second, used folded paper for the stairs, toys for furniture, and did a lot of painting. Honestly, this project has been a gift that keeps on giving. When my son goes down for a nap, my daughter and I take to painting, stamping (we used a wine cork and Melissa and Doug stamp for the outside of the house), using our finger prints for the floor and on and on. Next up for the house (we just finished a slide reno) is art the kids are going to make. I’m going to cardboard-frame them and then glue them to the walls 🙂 Seriously, this house has been so much fun.
- Create chalk art, make an outdoor tic-tac-toe, or try many other ideas Happy Hooligans has for outdoor activities and crafts.
- Have a water fight or just set up a target so someone doesn’t get wet who doesn’t want to. I picked up these water guns for my son’s birthday, I like them because both my two- and three-year-olds can use them easily, they’re cheap, and they don’t look like guns. I hung up some balloons and told the kids they’re job was to spray the target. With adult supervision, no one ended up wet who didn’t want to be 🙂