10 Fun Summer Activities You Can Do Right at Home
It’s 90 degrees, and you know the slides at the playground would literally burn the skin off your kids’ legs. So you think maybe it’s a pool day. But by the time you get the kids in their suits and swimmies, lather them in sunscreen, pack snacks, water and pool toys and actually get to the pool, it’s time for a nap! (For them and for you). So what’s a mama to do?
In the summer of 2011, I had a five-year-old and twin two-year-olds, all exhaustingly energetic little humans. I call that period of my life “the Summer of Survival.” The twins were still napping, which can be both a blessing and a curse when you have another child who is not napping. So I had to get creative with summertime activities we could do at home or close to home.
If you too are stranded in the parenting trenches, try these 10 simple, fun activities to get you through your own Summer of Survival.
- Water Play
There are few things more entertaining for a toddler than splashing around in water. Toddlers love to fill things up and dump them out, so a water table or a huge bucket filled with water and a bunch of plastic cups used to occupy my twins and my kindergartner for up to an hour on a hot day. And I didn’t even have to leave my own yard!
- Indoor Pool
On days I didn’t have the time or energy to cover everybody with sunscreen, I used my cheap inflatable pool for much more than letting the kids splash around in water. I would put the pool, which we kept inflated in our garage, in our living room. Then I’d fill it with stuffed animals, plastic balls and any other soft, squishy toy we owned. Once the pool was “full,” I’d sit back and let the kids dive in for an hour of fun!
- Noodle Racetrack
Have a kiddo who’s crazy for all things that go? Take a pool noodle and slice it in half. Use some toothpicks to anchor the half-noodles side by side; then, prop them up on a high surface like a dresser or a tree, and let the kids race their Matchbox cars down the tubes over and over (and over) again. Get the full instructions here!
Or, lay the noodle halves flat on the ground, fill them up with water and let your kids float little toy boats down their makeshift rivers.
- Bubble Machine
It’s a bit of an investment and does take some maintenance, but a bubble machine for me meant the difference between a sane activity and an insane one—in which Mom hyperventilates from trying to blow enough bubbles to keep everyone happy. Just be sure to wash all the parts after each use, or it’ll refuse to work the next time.
- Sidewalk Paint
Sidewalk chalk is great for keeping the kids entertained, but washable sidewalk paint really wows them and keeps them engaged for longer periods. Chalk just isn’t messy enough, you know? The beauty of this paint is that it does rinse off really easily with a hose, and you can tack on time to this activity by letting your kids wash away the paint themselves.
- Balloon Fun
Balloons are incredibly versatile when it comes to entertaining little kids. Most kids love the timeless “don’t let the balloon hit the floor” game. Make it even more interesting by making paddles out of popsicle sticks and paper plates.
Or, if you have the lung capacity, blow up balloons without tying them off and hand them over carefully to your kids for a “3-2-1… Blast-off!”
For even more balloon fun, blow some up and let the kids draw faces on them with washable markers or decorate them with poms-poms or tiny colored pieces of construction paper. Tie streamers to the end and let your kids take their balloons for a walk—super fun on a windy day!
Sand can either be your best friend or your worst enemy when you have small kids, but they DO love it. We had a small cut-out at the bottom of our play set for a sandbox, and we filled it up begrudgingly every summer. The reward of entertaining the kids for an hour outweighed the risk of them eating it or having to power-wash it out of their eyeballs. Parenthood is all about weighing the options.
If you don’t have a sandbox set up, you can buy a cheap plastic one or make one yourself with these DIY ideas from Playtivities.
- Paper Towel Roll Chute
This idea is genius for toddlers, and you can even use it to entertain bigger kids by placing several paper towel rolls higher on the wall. For little guys, just use one paper towel roll taped to the wall with painter’s tape. Let your kiddo drop pom-poms or little rubber balls through the chute into a bucket over and over again (while you refill your coffee).
- Car Wash
Have your kids help gather all their trikes, big wheels, scooters and bikes in the driveway. Get out the tearless baby shampoo and let them make their own buckets of bubbles and water. Throw in some old rags, and put them to work washing their miniature vehicles.
- Pipe Cleaners
Bending, twisting and making shapes out of pipe cleaners is great for strengthening your little ones’ fine motor skills. Get the colorful ones and work on color identification. Once the kids run out of things to do with their pipe cleaners on their own, get out some colanders and have the kids weave the pipe cleaners through the holes.
So there you have it—10 activities you can do with the kids close to home during these long summer days. Soon enough you’ll be out of the parenting trenches, but until that day, it’s all about survival!