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Figuring out what activities to do with your toddler in the summer is rough. Nothing can be quite as exhausting as trying to keep up with a toddler in the summertime. My grandmother always said that we would be billionaires if we could figure out how to bottle a two-year-old’s energy.
The heat and the long days make for what can seem like a never-ending cycle of cooking, cleaning, traveling, and corralling your little one. If you don’t have new and exciting things to do with your munchkins, even play can become a chore.
There is legitimate science behind the idea that we get the most emotional and intellectual benefit from doing something new. Dopamine receptors fire when you experience something different, building and strengthening your capacity for love and joy.
Whether you struggle feeling close to your littles because of the drain of the daily routine, or just can’t stand to watch them zip down that same slide one more time, take advantage of these 20 unique ways to find something ACTIVE to do with your toddler.
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Chalk Hop & Sing-along
Role Playing Soup
Visit a Farm
Water Soaker Painting
Invent a Sport
Meet People Challenge
Backyard Scavenger Hunt
Giant Outdoor Painting
DIY Sprinkler Splash Pad
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A walk around the neighborhood or a nearby trail is always a welcome getaway when you don’t have a whole lot of time before naptime, dinner, or bed. This can be a great way to give your little a quick experience and to spend some of those extra wiggles. It can get old pretty quick, though.
Reinvent the walk by telling a story about it as you go. Pose your toddler as a hero seeking to accomplish a goal, or by narrating an imaginary scene. Find small tasks along the way that keep your toddler engaged and sing their praises when they achieve their goal.
If you aren’t comfortable with your storytelling, check out the Hero’s Journey, a quick and easy philosophy on effective storytelling. You don’t have to be a master storyteller to find a few small threads that make your narrative fun and memorable.
You will also enhance your love’s imaginative play, which is one of the best mechanisms for creativity and inquisitive thinking.
Remember to loosen up–if you can’t unhinge enough to have fun, your toddler won’t have as much fun!
Research some bugs that are common in your area and venture out! Look closer in weeds, dirt, and sidewalks and see what you can find.
If you want, take a small jar with you so you can take a new little friend home. We found a caterpillar and decided to try and raise it to a butterfly. Unfortunately, the cat had other plans and let’s just say it did not work out.
Make sure that if you decide to take a little friend home that you do plenty of research so you can be sure you are giving the bug an optimal living environment. If you find that you have an irrational fear of a particular insect, try to avoid passing this along to your little one. Let them come to their own conclusions about what makes their skin crawl.
If you haven’t heard of flow painting, pop over to my post about it! This can be an extremely fun and messy project to do with your littles, and you will end up with a gorgeous and abstract piece from your littles.
CHALK HOP & SINGALONG
First off, if you don’t have chalk in your at-home arsenal, you NEED to pick some up!! The possibilities are endless and it’s a relatively cheap and timeless activity.
With their lack of attention to detail in art, sidewalk chalk likely doesn’t keep your little one’s attention for very long. Make chalk drawing a full feature by singing songs about the shapes you draw, and turn the ground into a hopping pad.
This can also be an excellent way to integrate color AND shape training into your routine. Draw thes hapes specific colors and sing your child from one shape to another, instructing them to jump or dance at each stop.
Show excitement and enthusiasm as you direct your little rabbit from shape to shape. Make sure you don’t forget the pink heart. If you lack for lyrics on the spot, here’s a printable song download to go along with this activity.
Toddlers tend to have a strange fascination with rocks. Take your toddler outside and let them pick a couple of smooth rocks that they would like to make into “rock pets.” Acrylic paint works best for painting rocks, so you can bring the paint outside, and let them decorate it however they wish.
ROLE PLAYING SOUP
Our little Moppet started this one when she was just old enough to comprehend that ingredients went into food. She started piling wood chips and gravel up on the small countertop stand at the bottom of the playground and insisted that I eat dinner. It took a little time to understand, but she was making imaginary soup for me.
The game is very simple. You let your cherub decide what food you’re making and start piling all the inedible flotsam from the playground into a concoction, rationed out into portions.
Be sure to ask your little if they want the “carrots” (E.G., branch twigs) or the “potatoes” (E.G., rocks), or if they should put some “sausage” (E.G., pebbles) into the mix, and hand them the respective “ingredients” as they see fit.
Moppet revels in the power this little game gives her, and it helps to teach her choices as well as sharing. Should daddy have some soup? Is this one for Moppet or mommy? Giving her the chance to imagine the meal she’s crafting and to decide who eats it is an excellent imaginative opportunity conjured out of literally nothing.
You might not think of “I Spy” as a game for toddlers, as it usually involves questions and a lot of ambiguity to make for a challenge. Done correctly, this is a phenomenal way to engage your toddler in critical thinking and its capacity to pass the time is boundless.
Remember to consider your audience. You might pick something your child literally doesn’t have the words for, so make sure you choose something that your little one can understand.
- Think of it the way your toddler sees the world. Here are nice easy clues to get you started:
- I spy a big fluffy green thing that is made out of wood and gives lots of shade when we sit on the porch (a tree)
- I spy a shiny red thing that carries your car seat when we go to the store (a car)
- I spy a pretty little toy that you love to put to bed before nap time (a baby doll)
- I spy a big black bag that has all your snacks in it (a diaper bag)
Depending on your area, it is likely you have myriad options in exposing your child to diversity and socialization. Check your city or county website to find out what local events or festivals are happening this week.
Every town has a founder’s celebration of some sort, and they are often less than a half hour in most directions if you live in a fairly populated area.
The very best opportunities are cultural festivals. Find the nearest Buddhist or Hindu temple, or check out the local online listings for the arts. In Salt Lake City we are fortunate enough to have a strong cultural arts presence, so we have a lot of options.
Take the time to learn your area and find out what opportunities exist. Nothing establishes a sense of equity and tolerance in your child so well as seeing other cultures gather to celebrate.
Most cities have a regularly scheduled farmer’s market. It can make for an early morning, but an actual farmer’s market has almost the same air as a real festival. Farmer’s markets tend to steep themselves in local tradition, and this is an excellent opportunity to support local businesses that tend to keep to a natural and holistic approach to agriculture.
MAKE MUD PIES
Okay, I know this sounds like a mess, but kids LOVE mud! If you have ever seen Peppa Pig, you are familiar with her family’s fascination with jumping in muddy puddles. Get your kiddo in their swimsuit, find some dirt, and get it wet. Help them make food with the mud, or encourage them to make a hole. Jump around and have a good time getting dirty.
VISIT A FARM
Unless you live downtown, and even if you do, the chances are that you have at least a handful of real farms within easy driving distance. Given most of these are family run but operate as businesses, it is very likely you can find a listing online. Contact them and see if they are willing to allow you to tour their grounds with your littles.
Seeing and understanding where food comes from early on will cultivate a lot of respect for what usually comes out of a grocery store at perceivably minimal effort and cost.
This is also an excellent opportunity to showcase social skills, as farmers likely don’t get a lot of these types of visitors unless they publicly advertise for tours. Farms tend to have a lot of historical value and showing interest in the stories of the land will allow you to learn something new, and open the door to new friendships.
WATER SOAKING PAINTING
You need to go out and get a water soaker for this activity. There are plenty of fun activities you can do with one of these where NO ONE has to get sprayed.
Get some food coloring and add it into some water. Put a large piece of easel paper on the ground. Keep in mind the food coloring could potentially dye your sidewalk, so you may want to consider doing this activity on the grass. It may be more difficult if the paper is not laying flat, but I can promise your toddler won’t care.
INVENT A SPORT
Pick a few random toys from the basket (or floor, if our house is any gauge). Take your littles to a nice open spot, and start making rules. Let your little one take the lead if possible, but be prepared to lend some direction.
Does the stuffed lamb want to hop over the ball? Do you want mommy to run to that tree and back before she’s allowed touch the ball? Are we allowed to use our hands to play catch, or should I throw the ball with my mouth?
This can be tough if your scrub isn’t quite prepared to assert control, or isn’t a great communicator. Be ready to take a run at the rules yourself the first couple of times. Once littles understands that the game is to make the game, you will find yourself doing some of the strangest things imaginable.
MEET PEOPLE CHALLENGE
This one works best in pairs, so hopefully, you have two little ones and a significant other. It also requires quite a bit of courage, particularly if you are a bit of an introvert. Pick a place, any place that has people.
The challenge is to meet and ingratiate yourself with as many random strangers as possible. Hear their story, introduce them to your little and see where openness takes you.
Remember to be safe, here. Pick a place where you have a lot of visibility and can stay within sight of your whole party.
You can set a goal or establish a quota, or even fill a bingo card with the random things you hope to encounter. A story about a dog, mention of a lost loved one, be compared to someone the stranger knows.
Load up a cooler full of refreshments; snacks, popsicles, drinks, anything that might be worth wishing for on a hot summer day. Find the nearest park or outdoor mall or congregation of people, and send your little out with one mission–give away every last bit.
This can be incredibly rewarding and even break a few hearts. Whether it is a drink to cool down a pack of ravenous children at the playground or a block full of homeless people, your efforts will be appreciated and your little will not only get energy out but learn a little about the value of kindness along the way.
Several book shops and cafes can be found almost anywhere that host a schedule of book readings. It might be a little early for literature, but it’s incredibly important to start getting your toddler used to sitting for a story.
Being able to sit for a story is a marker of kindergarten readiness, and so you want to make sure you start getting your littles ready now.
This isn’t just an enriching activity for the literature, but also an opportunity to get out of the hot sun and a chance for you to maybe take a much needed few minutes off your feet. You might even get a refreshing drink or a coffee along the way.
SERVICE OPPORTUNITIES FOR TODDLERS
This one can be a little harder to negotiate, as a lot of service opportunities require adult faculties. That’s not to say that it’s hopeless. As long as a child is attended by an adult at all times, there are plenty of opportunities if you know where to look.
Call around to retirement homes, pet shelters, and other low-risk service centers, and inquire about age requirements for service opportunities. You’ll find that some of the people and creatures who will benefit the most from a visit are most thrilled about the children.
This is a fantastic opportunity to widen your little’s horizons and teach them the personal benefits of service. The deeper you plant the well of compassion in your child now, the longer it will last.
Other Mothers Share Their Favorites
BACKYARD/PARK SCAVENGER HUNT
Nothing is quite so exciting as a mystery in your backyard. A toddler (or their parents) can only put up with swinging in the baby swing for so long. Finding new and inventive ways to make the backyard or neighborhood park new again is worth solid gold.
Pick fun and interesting targets to set your littles upon. You can zero their attention on something that happens naturally or bring your own bag of exciting finds to place strategically.
Lindsey with So Easy Being Green enjoyed this principle so much that she has created scavenger hunt lists that can be easily downloaded to your phone in her article, Free to Be Outside – Back Yard Scavenger Hunt, where she also shares her experience in passing the joy of this activity on to her little ones.
GIANT OUTDOOR PAINTING FOR TODDLERS
Self-expression and motor dexterity are vital to a toddler’s development, and sometimes it can be hard to combine the two or find a separate time for both.
With this Giant Outdoor Painting Activity brought to us by Carol at My Bored Toddler, you can get your little one out in the sunshine, burn up some calories, and maybe get some dexterity and expression out with the mix.
This activity gives your child the chance to practice riding a bicycle or tricycle while painting on a large roll of paper. The broad sweeps your little one makes on this epic canvas will surely leave them satisfied and enthused!
Be careful about where you position your paints on the paper, as you’ll quickly get a lot of browns if you put any secondary colors too close together. Take Carol’s advice and get your little one back on their feet for a time. Boots are optional, in my opinion, as bare feet make the very best prints.
BUBBLE ACTIVITIES FOR TODDLERS
Maggie with Red Ted Art brings a handful of wonderful Bubble Activities for Toddlers that not only keep your child engrossed in play, but also allow for motor skills development and educational tasks.
Maggie provides a unique recipe for bubble solution to help you be wise with your budget and economical with the inevitable spillage. Add a little food coloring or a bubble machine for extra fun and diversity, and start chasing those bubbles alongside your little ones!
DIY KIDS SPRINKLER SPLASH PAD
A great splash pad can be a repeat escape for your kids during the hot summer hours. If you’re lucky enough to have one nearby, I’m sure you’ve seen the value in the cold water and the endless fun that can be channeled by a little creative use of water pressure.
Brenda from Paper Heart Family provides a great at-home alternative with a DIY Kids Sprinkler Splash Pad for parents who don’t have the time or capacity to get away from home.
In a few simple steps, you can transform your backyard into a fountain of fun. Take some time to dip in for yourself, and enhance the enjoyment with your own backyard playset to put a new spin on toys that might have lost their appeal.
What have you done this summer with your toddler? What was your favorite activity? I would love to hear about it in the comments below!
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