Summer Play - 10 Toddler Activities

Summer play – keeping your toddler busy

With the warmer weather and the longer balmy days, your toddler will be more adventurous and full of energy than ever before. Between the ages of one and three, your toddler will learn a huge amount through play. Your toddler may have been an early walker or perhaps he or she is just starting to learn to toddle about. Whatever the scenario, your child’s development relies largely on his or her play and interaction with his primary carer.

So what play is best? There is no right answer here. There are so many forms of play from active and quiet play to messy, creative and soft play. With these descriptions in mind, you can start by making your own list. The traditional meanings will be the popular forms such as play grounds, indoor play centres, painting, quietly playing with little figurines, doing crafts and playing at a water table or in a sand pit for example.

Toddlers thrive on new and creative types of play, balanced out with their old familiar favourites. Why not put together a toddler activity planner that incorporates some of your child’s favourite play with some new, creative play that you’ve come up with based on what your child likes, perhaps even pushing the boundaries to include some games that tackle issues such as fears or anxieties that your toddler may have developed, but in a fun and creative way.

This guide aims to provide you not only with ten fun and inspirational activities to do with your toddler this summer, but it also helps to get you thinking differently, using your everyday environment to inspire new and creative ways of playing and incorporating every day activities into your toddlers play time.

During these early years, toddlers will enjoy playing fun, simple games with their parents or care giver and as time goes on, they will also begin to enjoy more group based play. This includes attending toddler sessions or going to nursery or play groups where they will be expected to learn about sharing and interacting in a group environment with adult input and supervision, all of which provide excellent opportunities for building social skills. At this stage, your toddler will be more comfortable playing alongside a parent and their group of playmates, rather than with them. This is a normal developmental stage which will eventually progress to interactive play with other children.

In time, your toddler will start to take more of an interest in what other children are playing with. They may need to learn more about sharing and will be encouraged to ask before simply taking another child’s toy. They will also start to learn about imaginative play, including their peers in their fun and games.

Ready, set, play!

Your toddler was not born knowing how to play. Playing is a skill that is constantly evolving, they are honing their craft and learning new ways of playing every day. Don’t expect too much from your toddler, their play will often be chaotic or erratic, reflecting their ability to concentrate. Toddlers are easily distracted because of their short attention span so try to keep games short and interactive. Your toddler is full of energy too, they love exploring, running off and playing with whatever takes their interest. If a game gets too involved, boring or requires longer periods of concentration, they will lose interest quickly. This is fine, just make sure you have a few other games or distractions lined up to keep the momentum going for both of you.

With this in mind, daily life still goes on for you and although the idea of spending each and every day in hours of endless play may appeal, in reality, it won’t work as the cooking, cleaning, other chores, errands and meal prep won’t be done by magic so it’s up to you to find the right balance. Incorporating games into daily activities and also setting aside some dedicated time to play one-to-one games with your child and take regular outings to prevent ‘cabin fever’ from setting in.

Activities and games can be hours of endless fun but Games can be lots of fun for toddlers but be sure to keep an eye out for boredom and tiredness. Your toddler can become over-stimulated quite easily leading to negative behaviour and unwanted tantrums. Activities and games should be kept to a minimum of a few minutes long each. After each game, assess your toddler’s mood and watch for signs of weariness. You may need to have a rest or a bit of quiet time, offer a snack or perhaps wind down ahead of nap time. If your child is showing no signs of slowing down, this too can lead to over-stimulation so be sure to take a rest every now and then, despite your child’s willingness to continue.

You may wish to include a range of games throughout the day, some for general fun and play, others aimed at working on fine or gross motor skills, others helping to promote sharing, turn taking and so on. The following list of activities and games are aimed at toddlers but you can tweak them as you see fit depending on their level of development, keeping in mind that some toddlers may be walking while others are just starting out on their wobbly pins!

For messy play, you don’t need to go out an purchase large wipe clean coverings for painting etc… you can just as easily tape a few bin liners together into a sheet that you can wipe clean and use again or throw out at the end of your play session. Look around the home and take note of items that can be used for play in addition to their main purpose. You’ll be surprised at just how many activities and games can be created without spending pots of money!

10 toddler activities

Here are twenty five toddler activities covering a range of skills, all aimed at making the most of the summer fun and outdoor living.

1. Water bin – get a large plastic storage container, fill it with a five or six different water proof house hold objects and then add water to fill about a quarter of the container. You can then sit your toddler inside the container creating a mini splash pool – the added bonus is that if you have an older child, they can sit alongside the bin and play with the items inside too. You can then empty the contents when you’re finished, refill with new objects, pop the lid back on and you’re ready for next time. Ideal for play in small gardens, on decking or even indoors if you have a sunny living room and no garden to use. Just remember to put a liner underneath if using indoors, to prevent water splashing everywhere.

2. Pool noodle hoopla – You will need at least two pool noodles. Cut up your pool noodles into three sections. Bend round and tape the ends together so that you have three rings. Now, cut the second noodle into three pieces, push three dowel sticks or garden sticks into the group, slip the three pool noodle pieces over the sticks and you have a hoop and stick game! Great for developing gross motor skills in toddlers and older children.

3. Under the sea activity - Don’t have your own private beach? No problem! Grab a large plastic container, make up enough Jelly (lime flavour and then add blue food colouring) to fill up half of the container. Then once set, you can add some oats to create a ‘beach’. You will then need a handful of shell pasta (uncooked) to add as your beach shells. Collect up little crabs, fish and other beach figurines to create your ultimate seaside activity box.

4. Sensory sun – Use a large piece of fine sandpaper. On the back, trace out a large circle for the sun face, then trace out some equally sized triangles to cut out and stick/glue/tape to the back so that you see the sun’s ‘rays’ coming out from behind the its face. Then let your child use yellow and orange finger paints to colour the front. The sensory feel of the sandpaper as they paint is always a big hit with the little ones.

5. Tic-tac-toe in the garden – Get a large spare tile or garden paving slab. Grab a stick of white or coloured chalk and draw out three horizontal lines crossed by three parallel lines. Next, go looking in the garden for 10 playing tokens. You will need five of one sort and five of something different. If you have pebbles, you can decorate one set of five differently from the other five. Use your imagination, you can collect anything safe and interesting in the home or garden. Then set up your little set outside and set about teaching your tot how to play. This helps their fine motor skills and sorting skills.

6. Stick boats - go out to your local woodlands or forest and collect a pile of sticks all of a similar thickness. Break or cut them into equal lengths and tie together with string so that you get a raft base. Keep one stick aside to stick through the centre and up as a mast. Cut out triangle to fit the length of the mast from a piece of fabric, paper napkin, foil or anything else that you can find lying around to create your sail. Attach your sale and off you go down to the local river, in the bath, a make shift tub of water in the garden or the splash pool. You can also make a few and have boat races!

7. Foliage pressing – this is a fantastic activity for toddlers as you can break the activity down into smaller tasks, taking as much time as you like to complete it. Firstly, find a container suitable for your leaves and flowers. One for you and one for your toddler. Then go out on a warm, sunny day looking for flowers, leaves, grass, foliage of the softer variety and then return back home. Next you will need a heavy book or similar, some brown paper or whatever paper you have to hand. Work with your toddler to create their own image on their sheet of paper. Cover with another sheet and put inside the book. You don’t need to wait for them to dry out in the traditional sense but as long as they’re flattened out, you can then go on to sticking them down on paper to create the final work of art.

8. Bejewelled bubble wands – this is a great thing to make, ideal to use at home, give as gifts and older siblings also enjoy making and using these so they’re fun for the whole family. Get some good quality craft or copper wire. Make a loop at the top and then leave enough to have two pieced coming down to form a length for the handle. Thread beads and buttons onto the wire, securing at the bottom to hold them in place. There you have it, bejewelled bubble wands!

9. Family matching game – This is a great idea that not only works on fine motor skills during the creation of the tiles but it also works on memory and helps children to learn the association between names and faces. You can add to this collection as time goes on and your toddler has a wider vocabulary and better name recognition skills. Collect similar sized photographs of the faces of close family members, carers, and friends. Create at least six to eight tiles by cutting out equal sized squares of each face. Stick to card and then laminate or cover with contact paper if you wish. On the back of the picture, write the name of the person so that the word also becomes as familiar as the picture over time. Then play by turning all cards face down, picking one up and asking your toddler ‘who is this’ turn over and repeat. In time your toddler will recognise the word and you can ask ‘where is Mummy’ and you’ll be pleasantly surprised when they pick the correct card!

10. Outdoor story sack – this is a big hit with toddlers and preschool aged children. Outdoor activities are endless when you get creative. Story sacks are no exception. You can get as creative as you like, best of all, you can make a few of these packs up in advance so that you can grab one on the go, whether you’re heading out to the park, for a bit of time in the garden or whatever other outdoor space you enjoying spending time in. You can create a story sack from cheap pillow cases or old one you have and no longer need. Create a drawstring top (or use a piece of ribbon to tie it closed at the top) and then gather one story book, a piece of paper and some crayons or colouring pencils (you can often print off colouring in pages in black and white that are linked to popular children’s books) then add in some objects from around the house that make the story come to life. Take your story sack along with you on your trip and act out, colour in and discuss your story in 3d!

Your toddler is learning constantly, they are developing their language and motor skills every day and you can help to enhance their skills through all types of play each day. You can hand your toddler items from around the house, revisiting them every few days to see if he or she remembers what an object is called. Toddlers love to imitate so talk to your toddler about whatever you’re doing. Involve them in your chores, loading the washing machine, sorting the colours of clothing as you go, dusting and looking at picture frames and who is in them. The possibilities for play are endless.

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