Happy first Friday in June! If you’ve been a longtime reader, you might know what that means. It’s time to start our summertime series, “Summer Fun Fridays”! Every Friday from now until the last Friday of August, I’ll be sharing ideas of how to add more fun to your summer. From crafts and DIY ideas to fun recipes you can make with your kids to suggestions of how to keep the kids busy, you’ll find lots of great ways to keep the summer excitement flowing. Let’s kick things off with a Summer Bucket List for Toddlers.
As you probably already know, there is a VERY active 20 (almost 21) month old toddler in my home. My grandson Walter is a busy, happy little boy who loves nothing more than to play, read books, sing songs, snuggle, and most of all, hang out with his family. He’s walking (running most of the time!), talking (he only has a few words but he understands a LOT!), and absorbing new knowledge like a sponge. I wanted to make a list we could refer back to of fun things we could to take full advantage of summer.
Summer Bucket List for Toddlers
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Before I start sharing these fun summer activity ideas for toddlers, I just want to remind you how important it is to be prepared, especially when it comes to outdoor activities.
Along with your regular diaper bag type supplies, carry a small first aid kit with you. Be sure to bring sunscreen for everyone and reapply it regularly. Hats and sunglasses are a must as are bottles of water. We bring wet bags to deal with any wet or soiled clothing and I always tuck some large plastic trash bags and a few food storage bags in my bag too. The trash bags are great for sitting on when the ground is damp, collecting trash on your outings (it’s a great way to model stewardship of the earth to your children), using as impromptu rain ponchos, and more.
We have tons of splash pads here in London. Your city probably does too. Google “splash pads” with your location and they should pop up for you. Reminder to my fellow Londoners: it’s early June and none of the splash pads in town are open for the season yet. The first one to open is in Springbank Park and it opens June 10th. The rest don’t open until July 1.
We don’t have a zoo here but the Toronto and Detroit zoos are only a couple of hours away. If you’re looking for some place with animals that’s a bit closer, there’s always African Lion Safari in Cambridge (we’re heading there on Father’s Day!), Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens in Kingsville,
Play in the grass
We forget sometimes that toddlers are newbies. Even if they’ve experienced the feel of grass beneath their feet, they may not even remember it! Head to a park or your own backyard and just play in the grass. Toddlers don’t need much to have fun (just give them a cardboard box and you’ll see!).
Get yourself a kiddie pool for your backyard and you’ll be able to cool off and have fun anytime you want! Add some water, some waterproof toys, and your toddler. Or grab some plastic containers from your kitchen and let your child have fun pouring and splashing. We plan to use the summer to let Walter practice more with drinking from an open cup. It’s a great way to work on those skills without all the mess!
Remember that you don’t always have to fill kiddie pools with water. You can buy the appropriate plastic balls and create a ball pit. Or pile it with pillows for a fun reading spot. What else could you put in there for the kids to play with?
Play on swings/other playground equipment
Not all playgrounds are created equal. They aren’t all terribly toddler friendly so you might have to check around to find the best ones. Remember to start slowly if it’s the first visit to a playground for your little one. Some get easily overwhelmed or scared.
You might not think that an amusement park is a good choice for a toddler but it really depends on that particular park and that particular child. Some have nearly nothing for the little ones while others have special sections just for them. Do your research and ask around before going to make sure this is going to be a good choice for your toddler.
If you can find one though that does have activities for the little ones, this can be a great idea for a family outing that works for kids of varying ages. Here in London, obviously we have Storybook Gardens. It is perfectly set up for the little ones with puppet and musical shows as well as play areas specifically designed for their age group.
It doesn’t get much easier than this. Head to a local park or your backyard and simply toss and roll a ball around with your toddler. It’s a lot of fun and it helps develop hand-eye coordination skills too!
Storytime at the library
I always, always tell people – check out your local library! I realize that not all libraries are as great as ours (Londoners, you DO know how good we have it, don’t you?), but most have at least a few activities going on.
Here in London, there is a multitude of events going on at the libraries around the city. Just check out the London Public Library website. It’s easy to search for events sorted by age and location or you can browse through their calendar. They also put out a pamphlet several times a year that you can access there as well.
When it comes to activities for toddlers, our library has Books with Babies, daytime Storytimes (for ages 1+), and one of our favorites, Bedtime Stories where kids show up in the evening wearing their pajamas with their favorite stuffies. They are even having a family blanket fort day (bring pillows and blankets and create a fort for you and your family to read in). The library also has play tents available and as of June 22nd (while supplies last), your kids can get their own flashlight so they can experience the fun of reading in a tent!
Play in sand
Head to the beach or set up a sandbox in the backyard (be sure to get a cover for it!). Neither one a possibility? A shallow bin of sand may not be big enough for kids to get in and dig their toes around in the sand, but they can at least do some digging!
For other sensory play, think about bowls or small bins of things like cornmeal, flour, rice, or dried beans. Prefer not to use food? Try pompoms, stones, or sea shells. Just remember to choose objects that won’t present a choking hazard for your toddler.
I haven’t met a child yet who doesn’t love blowing bubbles! There are plenty of ideas on the internet for homemade bubble solutions and different types of bubble wands but dollar stores are a good source of inexpensive premade solutions if you’d rather purchase them.
Visit a farmer’s market
Visiting a local farmer’s market can be a really fun outing for your toddler. All the bright colors are very appealing and most kids get a kick out of being able to pick out some of their own food to take home and eat. We also like to keep an eye out for roadside stands as we travel. Covent Garden Market, Gibraltar Weekend Market, and Weekend Market at Western Fair District are all good possibilities in London.
Turn on the sprinkler and have fun playing in the spraying water! Simple, classic, and fun, especially on a hot day. You could also get out a small pail or bowl of water and some sponges and paint brushes (those mini paint rollers are fun too). Let the kids wash or paint various items in the backyard with water.
Or you could go all out and make one of these awesome backyard “car wash” water play systems!
Visit a farm
If you know someone with a farm, ask them if you can come for a visit. Lots of city kids have never been to one before. If not, you can sometimes find local farms that allow visitors from time to time. Or look for the ones that are set up with play areas, corn mazes, tractor rides, and so on. A couple of fun ones in the London area: Leaping Deer Adventure Farm in Oxford County and Clovermead Adventure Farm in Aylmer
A neighborhood walk might just be standard fare for you and your family but how about switching things up a bit this summer? Try out different routes – you never know what you might discover right in your own neighborhood. Or drive to another area of town and take a walk there.
Instead of walking, take your toddler for a bike ride. Get one of those tricycles that kind of grow with your child (starting out looking sort of like a stroller and gradually turning into an independent tricycle they ride alone), use a child carrier seat on your bike, or get a bike trailer.
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Make some art
I think that sidewalk chalk is fun at any age! Give your toddler a couple of pieces and show them how to make marks on the pavement with them. You can even make your own sidewalk chalk.
This is a great time (since you can head outside!) for all kinds of art activities. Make your own finger paints or play dough, or pick some up at the store. Let your toddlers create their own art without worrying about the mess. You can even just hose the kids done when they’re done!
Have an ice pop.
You can make your own healthy popsicles with yogurt and fruit purees.
Go to a movie
We all know it’s not easy to take a toddler to see a movie. They’re wiggly and noisy. You could try a movie at home (go for a short one or break it up into two parts to spread over a couple of days). This is a great activity for an inclement weather day.
Or look for outdoor movies in your area. Many cities have family friendly movie nights in parks. London has quite a few of them going on in various parts of the city. The city runs a program where neighborhood organizations can apply to hold a free movie night and the city will provide all of the equipment needed. Find out when the outdoor movie nights in London are here.
Do you have a children’s museum near you? These are perfect for toddlers with all kinds of interactive, hands on activities made for little ones.
Here at the London Children’s Museum, not only are there fun brightly colored exhibits but they often have toddler-friendly play days too. Our favorite display is the Street Where You Live where kids can pretend to serve food at a McDonalds, go grocery shopping, play house, deliver mail, and more.
Summer music festival
This may sound like a strange idea but live music can be so much fun for the little ones! When music comes on in our house, Walter just can’t help himself. He just has to start dancing! So, combine beautiful weather with live music in the park and you’ve got a winning combination for toddler fun.
Some summer music festivals are not really geared for the toddler crowd, but if you check your local tourism board event listings, you can often find some that are more family friendly. Looking for folk and multi-cultural festivals is often a good place to start.
Londoners, Home County Folk Festival and Sunfest are good options for family fun. And although it’s not a music festival, the Children’s Festival in Victoria Park does have toddler-appropriate activities available.
Grab some kids’ musical instruments (or just some pots and pans with wooden spoons) and march through the house or backyard making music. For a quieter band, try maracas (or toilet paper rolls filled with rice or uncooked popcorn or beans and sealed up with duct tape) or jingle bells.
Not only do kids love making their own music (and noise!) but marching is often a new large motor skill for toddlers that they may not have seen demonstrated before.
Put on your own puppet show at home (you can buy puppets or make simple ones from paper bags or socks) or look for one to attend. Our library regularly has puppet shows available several times throughout the year.
Check your local library, churches, and parenting resource centers for play groups. These can be a lot of fun for your toddler and a great way to meet other parents.
Here in London, Childreach Centre has both indoor and outdoor drop-in playgroups, stroller walking groups, and literacy/numeracy based activities. They even have a toy lending library. The Ontario Early Years Centres also have a variety of playgroups, story times, arts and crafts activities, and more.
What kinds of fun activities will you be having with your kids this summer? Share your ideas in the comments below.