• Tori Marshall

16 Low Waste Toddler Activities for Summer



Ah, summer. Warm air, flowers blooming, friendly chats with neighbors, farmer's markets, toddlers screaming. Oh, was that last part not integral to your summer fantasy? Not mine either! Let's keep our kids busy this summer with these 16 activities.


  • Make liberal use of sidewalk chalk. An oldie but goodie, with so many possibilities! Play hopscotch, draw a racetrack for toy cars, practice numbers or letters, or experiment with colors and shapes. Whatever your toddler ends up doing, they should be busy for a while. (And yes, you can find chalk sold in cardboard boxes, without any plastic packaging!)

  • Visit your local pool or creek. Not much else to say about this one! It's a great way to beat the heat.

  • Go on a nature scavenger hunt, or play "I spy." Toddlers have a lot of fun with this one. Take a walk around your neighborhood or on a trail and bring a list of objects to look for. It's a good idea to have pictures of the objects so your little one has an example of exactly what they want. For an older child, you could even have two separate lists: one list of things we want to find, another list of things we don't want to find. On the "don't" list include things like snack wrappers, water bottles, and cigarette butts. This is a great teaching moment to encourage caring for our local environment!

  • Make sun tea. With the hot sun beating down, there's nothing better than making some delicious tea! Fill a quart mason jar or other glass container with water and tea or herbs and place it in the sunshine. If your toddler is anything like mine, they'll want to check on the tea all day to see if it's done yet--and be amazed at the transformation! Drinking the tea is really a bonus at that point.

  • Clean the trucks/dolls/animal figurines (aka, tubs of mud and water). This is so simple, but so entertaining. In one bowl or tub, mix dirt and water to make a thick mud. Fill another container with water (and a little bit of liquid dish soap, if you like). Let your toddler put their trucks, dolls, animal figurines, or any other easy-to-clean toys in the mud to get all dirty--then clean them up with a brush or wash cloth in the water! I was surprised the first time I set this up for my toddler--he loved it.


  • Make some scented play dough or paint. We have directions for making homemade paints here, but you could also make play dough and add in some fun summer scents, like lemon or lavender essential oils.

  • Plant/tend a garden. You can start small. Plant a few flower seeds, get one basil plant, or even conduct an experiment growing beans indoors. Kids are fascinated with the details, and a plant that grows and changes over the season is a source of joy and curiosity like I've never seen from anything else. Bonus: kids will often be more interested in eating what they've grow, or at least giving it a taste!

  • Build a nature collection. This can be a lot of different things! My toddler is currently interested in sticks, so we have a small collection that we keep on the porch. Rocks, flowers, and leaves are all viable options, too. Or if you have a budding naturalist, try having a rotation: rock week, flower week, etc. Just make sure that what you're picking up is safe and that you have permission to do so.

  • Visit the park. Ok, so this one isn't new, but hear me out. In the past year and a half our kids have been pretty isolated. Seeing other kids and adults, learning to interact with them, and getting some exercise are all great reasons to visit the park. And if it requires no prep from you, all the better!

  • Water painting. Cups of water with paint brushes, rags, sponges, spray bottles, ice cubes--there are a lot of ways to add some variety to a very simple concept. Just let your toddler make a "mess" and (if the day is warm enough) watch them disappear! You could even add some food coloring and play around with color mixing.

  • Set up a tent. Whether a play tent or a real tent, kids love 'em. There's just something about having a tiny space all to themselves that makes them giggle in delight. They can make a nest of books and stuffed animals, or turn it into a base of operations for any number of activities.

  • Set up a mud kitchen. If you have a pot and a spoon to spare, you've got yourself the makings of a mud kitchen. You can expand the kitchen with measuring cups, ladles, whisks, muffin tins, and bowls but the basic idea is the same: let the kids play creatively. Some will be happy to stir mud soup all day, others will want to collect dandelions and clover to decorate a cake.

  • Have fun arranging flowers. This one may surprise you, but a lot of kids really love this! It's a pretty common activity in Montessori education, but any child can do it. Provide your toddler with a small vase and a variety of flowers to arrange in any way they choose, then let them choose where to display it. You can easily add a pitcher of water and some scissors to give them more responsibility, as described in this blog.

  • Make art with flower hammering. Ah yes, condoned hammering. My toddler's dream. If your toddler loves to hit and hammer things, this could be the perfect activity for you. Collect flowers with your little one, place them between two pieces of fabric or paper, and let them hammer to their heart's content. The result can be some stunningly beautiful artwork! This tutorial here is for making flower prints with fabric, but the same concept works with paper. Ear plugs recommended for this one!


  • Let your child lead you on a walk. Tired of saying "no" all the time? I'm sure you're toddler is tired of hearing it! Going on a "yes" walk led by your child can be a really empowering experience for them, and perhaps eye-opening for you! I like to go for walks or bike rides and let my toddler decide where to go at every intersection (within reason). It has made for some really fun discoveries and memories!

  • Make a cool, sweet treat. Exactly what is up to you! We're big fans of banana nice cream in our house, which is really just a fancy way of saying pureed frozen bananas. Oh, sure, we add peanut butter, chocolate, or vanilla for different flavors, but it's really just a banana. Your toddler can slice/break up the banana before freezing, pour in any additions, and press the button on the food processor (which is always a hit with my little one). Or try your hand at watermelon popsicles! Toddlers can cut the watermelon into cubes, press the button to puree the fruit, and pour the mix into popsicle molds. Frozen treats are great in the summer, but they're so much more fun if the kids help make them!

What have you been doing to keep the kids in your life busy? Let us know what's worked for you in the comments below or on our Facebook page!