Summer is awesome!
But let’s face it, the days can be really looooonggg. With 3+ months with no school, the bag of tricks can start depleting pretty quickly.
The summer that I had a newborn and a toddler was the longest summer of my life. Packing up to go anywhere was just too exhausting but I still had to keep the toddler entertained while simultaneously spending 45 minutes to get my newborn to take a 10 minute nap.
It’s been two years and I still haven’t quite recovered from that summer! For the days that you can’t or don’t want to leave the house but want to keep the kids entertained (for at least five minutes) and not break the bank, here are our family’s 10 favorite summer backyard activities for the littles.
Painting with Water
This is an activity that surprisingly gets a lot of mileage with my kids. I give them each a bucket of water and cheap paint brushes from the hardware store and let them go. They’ll “paint” the fences, the patio, the trees, everything. My son starts Kindergarten in the fall, so we’ll paint letters and words too. And my favorite part? It’s mess-free!
I LOVE water beads. There is something so mesmerizing about them. I usually have more fun with them than the kids. I’ll put a bunch in our water table or even a bowl with some scoops and plastic animals and they have a blast. Someday I would like to fill a whole kiddie pool with them but I haven’t decided if it’s worth the mess yet!
**Water beads are much more fun if they have a chance to absorb water overnight, so a little pre-planning is best if patience is hard in your house (it is in mine!)
Easter Egg Hunts
Because we accumulate more and more plastic Easter eggs every year, I try to give them some more longevity than just the one day by having Easter egg hunts all year long. My kids think it’s so much fun and because they haven’t honed their seeking skills yet, a hunt can last a long time (and I can easily hide them in plain sight). If you like to keep Easter as Easter (or don’t do Easter), there are plenty of things you could hide around the yard: plastic animals, toy cars, applesauce twist-off caps, or another activity on this list, painted rocks.
Whenever I pack a picnic at a park, I inevitably forget something or don’t pack enough of something. But when we picnic in the backyard, we not only get novelty but convenience. My kids get so tickled when we pull out a blanket and put it under our shady tree for “outside lunch.”
We haven’t actually painted rocks with real paint yet but now that my youngest is 2, we’ll be trying it this summer. We were lucky that our previous homeowners LOVED rocks and we have thousands but if you don’t have any rocks, you can also take a walk around a park or your neighborhood and collect rocks for your painting project. Once they are dry, they’ll be a fun thing to hunt. There are all sorts of rock paints and markers on Amazon but I think just about any art supplies from around the house would work.
Shaving Cream Shenanigans
Messes make me cringe but messes outside are much more tolerable! Playing with shaving cream is just fun and playing with it on a plastic tarp and being able to hose it off is my kind of activity. Plus, who doesn’t love a toddler with a shaving cream beard?
Bring An Inside Toy Outside
This feels simple but there is something about seeing a toy in a new light that makes it SO much more entertaining to kids. My son recently helped me dig up an old tree stump and in its place was a giant mud hole. His collection of plastic zoo animals really enjoyed the “watering hole.” My only advice is make sure it’s a toy that can be cleaned. Some toys are never the same once they have been outside!
Stuffie Spa Day
I like this activity because it simultaneously keeps the kids entertained but also let’s me check off something on my to-do list. If you caught my previous post, you know that we have VERY loved stuffed animals in our house that constantly need cleaned. In the winter, the animals get thrown in the washing machine or in the case of Lion, the laundry room sink. But in the summer, we fill up a bucket or the baby pool with water and dish soap, get old wash clothes, and start scrubbing. We lay them out on their own beach towels, give them some sunglasses, and let them soak up some vitamin D.
We use all sorts of things to create our backyard obstacle courses: cones, hula hoops, boxes, balls, pool noodles, etc. There is always an element of jumping (my son loves jumping off of things, Parkour is probably in his future), which usually means starting on the jungle gym and jumping off. A quick search on Pinterest will give you some great ideas!
Plant a Garden
This is also an activity that we haven’t tried yet but thanks to the Daniel Tiger episode about vegetables, my son is obsessed with having a garden this summer. Although we could probably plant things in the yard, we’ll probably end up growing things in pots…less likely things will get trampled during the obstacle courses!