Toddler and Preschooler washing trucks for an outside summer activity

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Summer is a fantastic time of year. Still, it can be painful if you’re hearing the words, “I’m bored” spoken (whined) constantly during summer vacation. You can avoid that with these easy and fun summer activities for preschoolers and toddlers. (Early elementary-schoolers will enjoy them too!)

I have three boys, ages two, four, and seven, and they have been enjoying these summer activities at home for years. I don’t expect that to end anytime soon, so there is a lot of flexibility on the age ranges.

Why I love these particular summer activities with my preschooler and toddler

My favorite part about all of these fun summer activities is that they are really easy to put together. None require intense parental setup or supervision, which let’s face it, is half the battle when trying to entertain kids at home for an entire summer. It’s hard enough to keep a toddler, preschooler, and first-grader alive without setting up a 2350735-step activity.

My second favorite part? These activities are either completely free or very cheap.

Without further ado, here are five of my favorite summer activities for preschoolers and toddlers to do at home:

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These summer activities for toddlers and preschoolers to do at home are a perfect way to make summer easy and fun (and cheap!). For indoor and outdoor DIY family fun, check out the post.
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Outdoor (or indoor) truck wash

As a family with three boys, this is a favorite activity in our house. We have *so* many cars and trucks, so this one is a no-brainer.

If your kids aren’t that into cars, or you don’t have very many, you can always use something else. An animal wash, Barbie wash, My Little Pony wash, etc. –really, any toy that’s bath-safe works for this activity.  

Toddler and Preschooler washing trucks for an outside summer activity

This isn’t much different than playing in a tub, but for some reason, kids find it really fun and novel.

*Bonus*: you don’t have to supervise it as carefully as bath time because no one is going to drown.

What you’ll need for this water activity:

Set the kids up with a bin. A shallow storage bin like this one works great, but after my preschooler broke it, we’ve been using an infant tub our boys have outgrown. Then add water, washcloths, old toothbrushes or soft-bristle baby hairbrushes, and bubble bath  (the kids love the suds). Hand them their vehicles and that’s it!

This summer activity is best done outside because toddlers and preschoolers are walking disasters. We have occasionally done it inside out of desperation and boredom when summer thunderstorms have set in (put down a few blankets or towels to protect your floor).

Truck wash summer activity for preschooler and toddler

You can give the kids toys that are actually dirty, but then the water gets muddy and the kids get filthy pretty quickly. That doesn’t fit really fit my definition of an easy summer activity, so I prefer to have my kids wash clean toys. They don’t seem to notice or care.

Pouring station – the absolute easiest summer activity for preschoolers and toddlers

Kids love water and pouring water is an awesome outdoor summer activity that requires way less effort than dressing and packing everyone for a pool outing (plus, you don’t have to worry about anyone drowning).

It’s also great practice for pouring milk so the kids can one day get their own cereal (a mom can dream, right?), but without the expense or mess of them spilling milk into the crevices of your floor to stink days later.

What you’ll need for this water activity:

This activity is so simple, it really doesn’t even need a description. If you have a water table, use that. If you don’t (we don’t), just give the kids a bucket or a bin (see photo below). Toss in a variety of cups, pitchers, and containers and let them pour. It almost sounds too simple, but preschoolers and toddlers love it and it will occupy them for a lot longer than you would imagine.

summer activities for preschoolers and toddlers inside with bin for pouring station
Turns out, last time we did this activity at home, I didn’t take any pictures. Instead, I leave you with my preschooler and toddler wearing the bin we used.

If you have a preschooler or early elementary-schooler, you could also use this opportunity to talk about measurements and let them experiment with the idea of conservation (one cup of water is still one cup, no matter how big or small the container).

*OR* you could use this opportunity to clean up, play on your phone, or do anything else you’d like while they’re occupied. Summer is as much about your sanity and survival as it is about their entertainment or learning. 🙂

When the novelty of basic pouring wears off for your preschooler or toddler, you can give them some bath toys to drag out the fun a little longer.

Ice excavation: dinosaurs frozen in ice (or animals, or craft supplies, or…)

This activity is super simple, but does require a little (easy) prep work. Find a freezer-friendly container, put some items in it you think your kids would like to dig out, fill with water, freeze, done.

I like to use metal baking pans (cake rounds, bread/loaf pans, etc.) because they are sturdy and heat easily. Once your ice block is frozen, pull the pan out of the refrigerator. Flip it upside down and run the metal bottom (and sides) under hot water. The pan heats up quickly and the ice block releases easily into the sink (five seconds or less).

Summer Activities for Preschoolers and toddlers - dinosaurs frozen in ice
If you’re feeling ambitious, you can freeze the dinosaurs in two batches. Put in half the dinosaurs, fill the pan halfway, then when it’s frozen, repeat the process. This keeps them from all settling at the bottom.

For the same reasons, don’t use glass pans (they don’t handle temperature fluctuations and could shatter, obviously).

What should you freeze?

The possibilities here are really limitless. What preschooler doesn’t love dinosaurs? I haven’t met one yet, so dinosaurs frozen in ice are a fan-favorite in this house. Pom pom, googly eyes, or other craft supplies also make fun, silly icebergs. My toddler loves Sesame Street (it’s been five months and he still talks about his Elmo cake we made at least weekly), so I usually freeze a lot of our Sesame Street figures in his ice block. 

If you like a theme, you can do Little People Animals and group them by habitat (arctic or antarctic animals, jungle animals, etc.). Then you can turn it into a whole lesson/theme for the day. With my first, I loved doing stuff like that. With my third–well, my job as mom is now mostly crowd control.Dinosaurs frozen in ice

As for tools, if it were just my elementary-schooler alone, I’d give him a hammer or meat tenderizer. However, with the toddler and preschooler, the chances are too high of the activity turning into a fight and someone getting smacked in the head. For the whole group, I prefer to use metal spatulas, spoons, cake/pie spatulas, etc.

If you want to encourage sharing and cooperation, just provide one of each “tool.” If you don’t want to referee fifteen arguments over whose turn it is, give each kid the exact same tools. (If you haven’t already guessed, that’s what I do. My toddler’s favorite thing to do is steal whatever the preschooler has and then the preschooler cries. No thank you).

Dinosaurs frozen in ice side view
Preschoolers and toddlers aren’t picky — if a dinosaur ends up sticking out of the ice (like this one here), carry on.

I like to freeze several ice blocks at once and leave them in our chest freezer. Whenever we need a new activity to break up the day, they’re ready.

Kinetic Sand – A summer activity for preschoolers and toddlers with a little bit of clean-up

I hate sandboxes. We don’t have one because I hate how bugs flock to them and they get gross so easily. Still, sand is so fun for kids and a great sensory indoor activity for preschoolers and toddlers in particular. Short of an actual beach trip, what’s a good alternative to a sand box?

Kinetic sand!

If you haven’t heard of this before, it’s like play-doh, but it’s sand (or sand-ish). I love love love this activity because it’s really easy to clean. It’s not like regular sand because it sticks to itself. Unlike play-doh, which sticks to clothes–especially once it dries–kinetic sand brushes right off of clothing.

My favorite thing about kinetic sand is that it never dries out. Leave the lid off play-doh and it turns into a rock overnight, but not kinetic sand. You can store it in a bag, loose in the box, or right on the counter (which would be weird), and it literally never dries out. It’s basically witchcraft!

summer activities for preschoolers and toddlers at home- kinetic sand

Kinetic sand is hard to explain if you’ve never actually tried or seen it. Although it has an authentic sand-like texture, it doesn’t really sprinkle. The sand sticks to itself similar to the way you can pack real sand once it’s slightly damp (but the kinetic sand itself is not damp, which is great). It kind of feels like packed brown sugar.

Because the kinetic sand sticks to itself, it’s so much easier to clean. You can take a ball of it in your hands and rub it over the stray sand bits (on the table or floor) and the bits will stick/attach to the larger sand ball. 

Kids can use kinetic sand the same way they would real sand — build castles, shapes, towers, etc. Many of the kinetic sand playsets come with toys/utensils to use with them. I supplement that with our regular play-doh tools.

Kinetic sand comes in a variety of colors (we have blue, green, purple, and tan at our house). I really prefer the tan one because it looks just like actual sand. The rest of bright/neon and looks like play-doh-colored sand. I recommend just buying one color. Then you don’t have to worry about it getting mixed together or the kids fighting over the different colors.

summer activities for preschoolers and toddlers -toddler foot in kinetic sand
There’s no way I’d let my toddler do this with playdoh.

One word of caution: this is the messiest of the summer activities I suggested. As I said, it’s not too bad, but there will be some clean-up involved. I recommend having your kids take off their shoes beforehand because if they step in it, the kinetic sand will stick in the grooves of their shoe. If it gets on their feet, it brushes off easily.

Squirt Guns: A bunch of summer activities for preschoolers and toddlers all rolled into one

All kids love squirt guns. The catch is finding the right kind of squirt gun for your kids’ ages. Giant super-soakers are great for an elementary-aged kid, and some preschoolers, but they’re no good for a toddler who can’t work the pump.

You need to find the right balance of an easy trigger and a decent tank capacity, so you’re not stuck refilling it every five seconds. My favorite for the toddlers (or preschoolers who don’t have a lot of hand strength) is the Nerf Zip Fire (Amazon image pictured below).

Kids can have a great time shooting water guns with each other, but I find that the fun often fizzles out quickly. To get the most out of squirt gun time, I try to have some fun back-up activities planned as well, such as

Target Practice Activity

Set up an action figure, balloon, doll–whatever!– and have your kids take turns shooting at it from different distances or locations. Another great target is one of those pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey party games. This is a fun activity for preschoolers or older (toddlers generally don’t get it and don’t care).

Squirt gun summer activity for preschoolers and toddlers

Squirt Gun Hide-and-Seek

Have the kids hide and try to squirt, secretly, the person who’s “it” and searching for them. Everyone gets found pretty quickly, but the kids will usually play several rounds of this. Again, this is a better activity for preschoolers and older.

Adding in these “extra” activities with your kids once the squirt gun fight has ended keeps you from having soaking wet kids whining to come back inside a mere ten minutes after you’ve let them out.

Fun summer activities with preschoolers and toddlers don’t have to be complicated or expensive.

Summer camps and programs are great, but there’s plenty of indoor and outdoor summer excitement to be had right at home. I hope these five summer activities for preschoolers and toddlers help you make summer at home fun AND manageable.

What are your favorite at-home summer activities to do with your kids? Leave your favorites in the comments.

(PS: If you’re looking for even more easy and fun summer activities for preschoolers and toddlers, Hands On As We Grow is a great website to check out.)


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