Every child looks forward to the summertime, right? School is out and the outdoors is calling. Not to mention all the time spent with friends! However, summer can be a time of stress and anxiety for parents wondering what the heck we're going to do for the next ten weeks without overscheduling our kids! That is why I went in search of fun summer activities for toddlers & preschoolers! In other words, in order to alleviate some of that stress, put these activities in your back pocket.
In addition, many kids, especially young kids, lose their feel for the school environment, miss routine, and often have what is commonly called “the summer slide”. With older kids, there seem to be ample opportunities for learning with summer camps. The same can't be said for summer activities for toddlers. This post includes loads of fun summer ideas for toddlers and preschoolers to do at home and lots to do outside!
Fun Summer Activities for Toddlers
Engage with the Language Learning Outdoors
These summer activities for kids work those language skills. Consider bringing letters outside and inviting your toddler to label objects or seek out an object beginning with that letter's sound. For instance, your child can engage with objects outdoors by placing an “f” next to flowers, “g” on the grass, or “r” next to some rocks. This activity allows for a lot of variation and further language learning such as conversation using that vocabulary word or storytelling about the object.
Along the same line, go on a letter hunt with your child. Find objects that begin with a certain letter and place the letter next to the object. Once that letter to object matching is complete, have the child fetch the letters from the objects for additional movement and solidification of the language exercise. Similarly, we also love doing this Sound Bag activity. This activity gets kids bodies moving and their brains learning.
Outdoor Summer Activity for Toddlers & Preschoolers
Go on a Color Hunt
By far one of my sons' favorite activities when they were toddlers. This activity is a simple outdoor variation of the color tablets work in a Montessori setting. Pretty simple. Go outside and find colors. I recommend carrying paint cards (like the ones you find at Home Depot or in hardware stores) to truly match the colors.
Strengthen Fine Motor Skills with Nature Weaving
These summer activities for toddlers involve weaving with materials found in nature. Weaving is a fantastic practical life and art exercise. Furthermore, this activity strengthens your child’s hand-eye coordination and his manual dexterity. To engage in this activity, have your child gather leaves, flowers, and even rocks and then help your child weave their findings onto a string or ribbon. You can even use branches as the frame.
By doing this, you’re giving your child the opportunity to think creatively about what objects they can put into their woven creation. Not only will they have fun going on adventures finding different objects to put in their woven masterpiece, but they will also be intrigued because they can wear their creation after they’re done making it.
Build Clay Creations
These summer activities for preschoolers are recommended for you because they allow your child to use nature as a tool to think creatively. Kids can use their imagination to come up with objects to make using clay. For instance, they can create animals that they see outside from clay, like bugs, dogs, and birds. Or they can even make other objects that they see, like trees, flowers, or leaves out of clay.
Not only can your child use nature as an inspiration about what objects to create out of clay, but your child can also have the opportunity to actually make their clay masterpiece outdoors. They can bring a tray outside to mold the clay onto. After they make their clay masterpiece, let the object dry. After it’s done the drying, let them paint their creation, since this gives them the ability to think creatively with different colors.
Play Animal Call Hide and Seek
I discovered this game at a Forest School on Vashon Island. It is so simple and kids love it. Simply go outside and play hide and seek. However, there is a twist. Use various animal calls to locate the other players. This version of “hide and seek” is particularly amazing when you're in a forested area or if you're playing with younger kids who are still developing executive functioning and the ability to “find” things.
What better time to explore water than during warmer summer months? Create a water sensory station with a variety of floating and non-floating objects. Add sand and twigs for a bit of texture. You could also go explore the beach if there is one nearby.
Nature Scavenger Hunt
This activity is THE best. I love Teaching Mama's Scavenger Hunts. Super creative and doable. Plus the visuals are exactly what toddlers need!
I will never forget the summer I first introduce this activity to my sons. I froze fruit into an ice cube tray added a bit of extra watercolor and handed the frozen concoctions to my sons.
‘Oh look mama! Strawberries! Blueberries! Oh, it's cold. It's melting!'
They “picked” the ice with forks and watched the ice melt combining beautiful colors. This sensory activity gave fine motor skills a good workout and introduced science concepts such as melting, evaporation, and absorption. Yes, you can teach science to toddlers!
Open & Close Tray or Basket
This activity is a huge hit with young kids. Gather items, such as small boxes, tic tac containers, spice containers, small jars from the kitchen, tiny pouches for jewelry covering snaps, zippers, clips, and velcro, from around your house.
You can add all sorts of “random” things around your home into this basket. Kids love to explore different textures. I've created many texture baskets over the years. The one in this picture included texture cards with various substances and materials adhered to the cards. The boys had a blast.
Nuts & Bolts Tray
This tray was so fun to put together. I went to the hardware store and gathered my materials. It kept my sons' fingers busy for hours.
Water Beads & Shaving Cream
Take the sensory play outside for this super fun and inexpensive activity. Water beads might just be the best invention ever. As the shaving cream changed texture it made for a new sensory experience and activity for the boys.
Cap & Bottle Matching
A variation of an Open & Close Tray, this work requires the child to match the top to its bottom mate. Then, placing the top onto the jar or container requires fine motor work.
Beach Activities for Toddlers
Curious about what you can do with a toddler at the beach? The opportunities are endless! Kids, especially toddlers, for the most part anyway, truly enjoy all aspects of the beach. Talk about sensory awesomeness. You have the sand on your feet, the rocky shore, and the water to explore. If you're on a beach on Cape Cod, for example, you have the chance to discover all the wonders found in tide pools at low tide.
A few ideas to add a little structure around the hands-on learning and exploring:
- Let's find the craziest, coolest looking critter: we'd find a cool shell then toss it for cool rock or fish skeleton, etc
- Crack the crab shell: from big to medium to small to tiny, many crab shells (that have long since left their owners) are delicate, fun to crack and smash
- Hermit crab hunt: who can find the hermit crab carrying the most sea ‘stuff' on his shell?
- Starfish, where are you? Go looking for starfish, sea anemones and more in tide pools and under rocks
- Bucket List: collect all sorts of sea ‘stuff' to analyze later or to recreate a beach in a tub at home
- Stick and Sand: the wet, hard sandy surface beach is great for drawing. So go find the perfect stick and let your imagination go wild. Draw shapes and designs to make a game (one of my favorites is a giant twirl maze) and/or write the ABCs or your child's name
More Summer Activities
- 3 Awesome STEM Products to Rock Your Kids’ Summer Learning
- My Top Pick for Rockin’ Summer Language Learning
- 12+ Creative & Inexpensive Outdoor Activities for Toddlers
- Summer Solstice Learning Activities, Songs, and Books for Kids
- Montessori Summer Activity with Ice
- Montessori Summer Learning Activities for Preschoolers