Don’t sit inside bored this summer. Just because you have kids doesn’t mean you have to enroll them in organized activities all summer. Keep your summer simple yet exciting with these cheap summer outdoor activities for toddlers that the whole family can join in on.
Some of these activities may require adult supervision. But there are a lot that can be overseen by an older sibling or monitored through the kitchen window.
Cheap Summer Outdoor Activities for Toddlers
1. Dish pan with water
Fill a dish pan with water and give your toddler outdoor toys. My little guy loves running his trucks in there, stirring it with a little shovel, dumping gravel in and just plain splashing.
This is an easy way to help a toddler stay cool without having to buy a kiddie pool or waste water in a sprinkler.
2. Bowl of water and rocks
3. Straws and a cookie sheet of soap water
Set a cookie sheet or other flat container on the ground or deck. Pour some water in it and then drizzle in some dish soap. Show your toddler how to blow through the straw into the water.
Read More: Why I Still Use Plastic Straws
4. Homemade bubbles
Check out this great recipe for homemade bubbles so you don’t go broke buying bubbles!
5. Mow a fox and geese course
My brothers and I used to play this on our roller skates in the middle of the barn when we were growing up. Typically it’s a winter game, but if you need an excuse to let the lawn grow tall, try mowing a fox and geese course for your kids! Make a course and learn how to play here!
Even if your children are too young to play the official fox and geese game, they will still have a ball running on the mowed trails. Or you could mow a picture for them!
7. Hop scotch
8. Sand box/pile/bucket
How much yard space you have will determine how big of a sand box you can have. Or if you have random cats around (read: litter box) you may not want a permanent sand box. Even a bucket or wheeled storage tote with some sand in will keep your toddler entertained this summer.
10. Make your own puddles
Buy a 1″ coupler to attach to your garden hose. Screw into it a two-liter pop bottle with holes poked in the bottom. Turn on the water and adjust the pressure to not blow off the bottle. Hang it over the deck railing or a tree branch and let your little ones run under it.
12. Watch an ant hill.
Mark a specific ant hill in your driveway or yard. Let your children watch it daily and see what is happening. Let them take food scraps out to the ant hill to feed the ants!
13. Catch caterpillars
As kids, we would always get a monarch caterpillar and put it in a jar with some milkweed and sticks. We’d poke holes in the lid and watch it form a chrysalis and then hatch into a butterfly. We’d keep the jars in the window or on the porch.
14. Make a cardboard box fort
So you may not have the place or tools to build a permanent fort. Just grab a large box, cut some holes in for windows and a door and set it outside. Let your child play house or garage or whatever with a few toys in it.
15. Nature scavenger hunt
Grab my freebie here! Do it all in one day or stretch it out over a couple weeks. Make several copies and have your neighbors and family join in the fun!
16. Pebble toss
Draw a circle with sidewalk chalk or mark a circle with your toe in the gravel. Have your toddler toss pebbles to try and get them to land inside the circle. Add another circle or two inside the large circle and create a points system based on how close they get to the bullseye.
17. Go to the park
18. Find hiking trails
19. Go to the lake, river, splash pad or pool
20. Plant a garden
Grab a few flowers and/or seeds from the greenhouse and have your child help you plant his or her garden. Let your child water, weed and care for their own little garden. Have them find pretty rocks to decorate it.
Read More: How to Plan Your Garden
21. Press wild flowers and leaves
Gather a few wild flowers, tree leaves or ferns and press them. In a large book, place the flowers between two pieces of scrap paper to protect the book’s pages. Clothes the book and stack a few more on top of it.
Let the flowers and leaves press for a couple days then take them out. Mail them in a letter to someone. Make a card out of them by using clear packing tape and attaching them to the front. Frame them.
22. Archeological dig
Freeze a big pan or bowl of water in layers. Fill it part way and add a couple small animal toys or rocks. Freeze it. Put a little more water with objects in. Freeze it. Keep adding layers of ice until your bowl or container is full of ice. [If you fill it all at once the toys will just sink to the bottom.]
Set the chunk of ice on the deck or ground and let the kids chip away at it with rocks, spoons or butterknives until they find a toy!