Love, Joleen: The Ultimate Guide to Summer for Toddlers

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Ultimate Guide to Summer for Toddlers

* Please note that this post contains affiliate links. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I must admit that this is probably one of my favorite blog posts to date. I had the best time compiling ideas and photos to share with you, and am confident that this truly is the ULTIMATE guide to Summer for Toddlers. Have fun scrolling through this list and visiting all the links of my favorite Pinterest finds! If you think of something that needs to be added, let me know in the comments section below. 

In no particular order, the following ideas are sure to help you create fun memories for you and your littles this Summer:
Busy Bag/Binder/Box Activities 
These are great to have year around, but when the weather is especially hot [or if you live in the South like me, and it rains all the time] you will be more than glad to have them on hand. Some of the activities we do (like the bean search; bottom left) are from our adventures with Tot School. Others are ideas I've pinned to my Tot School board, part of a Busy Bag swap I hosted last year, or Dollar Spot finds I've collected. The idea behind these types of activities is that they're something your child could do [more or less] quietly, on their own. Beading [with wooden beads at this age], lacing, sorting, searching, stickers, matching -- these are all tasks that will not only keep your toddler occupied, but learning in a fun way. For my busy bag swap, 10 people signed up to participate. Each person selected an activity and put together 10 [of the same] kits. Ours were required to fit into school binder pouches so that all 10 completed activities could be kept in an activity binder. You could also designate a shoebox sized tote or something of that nature, like with these quiet time boxes. One person can do all the swapping or you could meet up as part of a "mom's day out" to swap. Don't want to go through the hassle of organizing a group? You can create your own binder. There are a plethora of Busy Bag Swap ideas on Pinterest.
Park, Splash Pad and Picnic
If your kid is anything like mine, he loves a good park and picnic playdate. Meet up with friends or spend a little family time together. I love these "dates" with just Benjamin and myself, from time to time. My tip is to "shop around" for parks with the most shade (Atlanta has tons of hidden treasures!). Also, we like to go to the park first thing in the morning and then enjoy an earlier picnic. Big ups if your park has a splash pad! If not, find one in your area and head straight there. Benjamin could live at the splash pad.
Water Play
And speaking of water -- when I was pregnant, my good friend, Heather, basically told me that water could solve all things. I took that to heart and as it turns out my son loves this element just as much as his Pisces mama. Water play is a year around sport over here (we just move it indoors in inclement weather). Benjamin has a wonderful water table that was gifted to us from friends. There are also streams at a couple of the parks we like to go to. As you can see in the top, right photo, sometimes I just give him all the kitchen things and let him have at it. He loves pouring water from one bowl or cup to another and experimenting with various utensils! You can even freeze the water and let your kids bang away in an excavation activity. Here is a list of 75+ water play activities. I also love this color tubs idea, but I am dying to make Benjamin a mini water blob this year!!
Bubbles!
Every baby toddler child body loves bubbles! The absolute best (no, really), little kid-friendly bubbles are Gymboree Bubble Ooodles. They're amazing for this age group, who typically have a harder time blowing traditional wands. This wand blows TONS of tiny bubbles at once. For Easter, Benjamin received two Fubbles™ Bubble Wands ($1.99 at Target) and these are now our go-to bubbles. The larger wand makes it easier to blow multiple bubbles at once or even let the wind do it for you. These are larger sized bubbles, that are slower moving and fun for kids to chase. I also want to get Benjamin a Gazillion Incredibubble Wand, which I've read/seen create huge bubbles! We love bubbles because they're fun and cheap. If you're feeling adventurous, you could try any of these bubble recipes to make your own.
Sidewalk Chalk Party
We just hosted our very first sidewalk chalk party/playdate and it was a blast! There are tons of great water playdate ideas for summer, but I really wanted to do something like this before it got too hot! We picked a park near our home that has a large, covered pavilion, to set up in. I bought two boxes of Crayola Washable Sidewalk Chalk (they're super pigmented and smooth to draw with!) that I separated into tubs. I filled our wagon with picnic blankets, bubbles, and "field day" type toys. Everyone brought their own packed lunch and some of our friends brought their own balls to share. It was a two hour playdate and we spent about an hour of that coloring. Benjamin was the oldest child at 2.5, so sidewalk chalk is fun for toddlers too! Here is a great DIY to make your own sidewalk chalk and another to make sidewalk squirt paint. You can even play this colors and shapes sidewalk chalk game.
Outside Exercise and Exploration
If you follow either one of my Instagram accounts, you know that we love to get outside to either explore or be active as a family. I've been taking Benjamin on hikes since he was a baby and used to wear him in a baby carrier while doing so. Now he's much too heavy for me to carry for too long so we pick places we can bring the jogging stroller or that he can walk himself. Some ideas of things to do outside this summer could be hiking a new trail. We recently hiked up Stone Mountain together for the first time. It was hard [with a toddler] but rewarding to check off this "first". Another idea is to do a "park tour". When Benjamin was a baby I had this idea that I was going to take him to all the parks in Atlanta (ha!) and from our experiences I'd create a website that ranked and reviewed each one for various age groups. (Now, watch someone steal this idea. Hahaha!) Anyway, you could create a map of parks and challenge your own family to exploring each location. Look for any [street] art and culture projects or festivals happening throughout your city. Our family loves going to see the Living Walls installations and I'd love for us to visit more Tiny Doors this summer. If you're looking for ways to make your nature walks more interesting, try a scavenger hunt with a nature sorting box or make these simple nature bracelets. Children love collections of this nature! (har har)
Summer Book Club
A lot of libraries offer some sort of weekly storytime program. They're always free and I've only been to one location that I didn't love. This is also a great way to meet other moms with kids around the same age for potential playdates. If you can't, don't have, or don't want to join in on storytime, you could still take advantage of your library's children's section. In addition to books our library has a children's computer station, iPads with games and educational apps available, and tables with activities to use or to sit at. 

I love the idea of a book club for toddlers! Toddler Approved even has a virtual book club you can join and participate in online. So great! Another idea is to come up with a theme, and get books around that. I use my library's online catalog to search for books and put them on hold. They do all the work for me and notify me when the books are available. This makes library visits with Benjamin infinitely more enjoyable because I can go straight to the shelf where all my "Pete" holds are, grab our books, and then enjoy the amenities, without having to tote him through the aisles. 

We love to read! If you're looking for suggestions on where to start and your child is a little younger than Benjamin, here is our list of the best baby board books. I also like this list of toddler and pre-k books that are actually fun to read. My favorite blog for children's book reviews is Avery and Augustine. (Her professional photographs are outstanding!) Here is one other themed children's book club I love.
Swimming
This goes without saying, but has to be included in the ULTIMATE guide to Summer for toddlers, ya know? Swimming is also fantastic exercise for mama and nearly always guarantees an epic nap. Bam. Winning.
Amusement, Art and Culture
If you're looking for something fun that promises air conditioning, take your toddler to the aquarium or museum. Many offer weekly or monthly programs geared specifically to this age. We have the art museum, train museum, and museum of natural history, in addition to the children's museum -- that all offer these types of programs and events. They often have summer deals as well.
Need more ideas?
If you live in the Atlanta area, here are more free and cheap things to do this with kids this Summer, and be sure to check out my Atlanta City Guide.
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