Wondering what are some good outdoor activities for a toddler to stay entertained at home? Or worried your summer outdoor fun will get rained out and you'll need some last minute summer indoor ideas? Don't fret! I've rounded up the best summer toys + activities for both indoor and outside use with a toddler!
While there are specific outdoor toys on this list, the affordable toys are open ended. Meaning you can use them inside or outside and for a wide variety of activities and ages (not just for 2 and 3 year olds!). Some of these you may already own, but will hopefully get some new activity ideas for them!
- Water Table
- Spinning Top
- Mud Kitchen
- Inflatable Pools
- Dried Up Markers
- Water beads
- Ride-In Toy Car
- Climbing/crawling toys
- Painting seashells and rocks
- Toy Lawn Mower
- Splash Pads
- Flower posting and lacing
- Bikes + Boards
- Balls + Bins
Best Summer Toys + Activities For Toddlers
Sometimes the simplest toys are the best toys and these are one of the greatest toys to keep in the house in my opinion! Aside from them being a super fun toy to simply open and close, you can do a ton of activities with them.
The ends can snap together, so you can make a crown, necklace, or bracelets for pretend play.
You can also connect them together for a ball run that you tape to a wall inside on a rainy summer afternoon.
My daughter pretends it's a baby bottle for her babies. We use them in the water to “snorkel” or blow water through like a you would with a pool noodle. Honestly you'll be shocked at how your toddler ends up using these in open-ended play. I love how affordable they are and they make great “random” little gifts for kids of all ages.
Water activity tables are one of the best summer toys for outdoor play with little kids. I have a full review of the best water tables here.
My personal favorite is Cascading Cove Water + Sand Table™ since it can be used for wet and dry activities, has a wide spread for multiple kids, and an umbrella for shade. But again, check out the full review of water activity tables to find the best fit for your family because they come in a massive variety of super simple picks that can double as a picnic table to really fun imaginative play sets to consider!
While I'm sure we all think summer and bubbles are obviously a no brainer. Tons of fun and work hand-eye coordination! However I wanted to give you a few extra ideas for using bubbles in various activities + share this this is literally the best bubble solution!
First, if you have the bubble wands, you can zip tie these to a post, so younger toddlers can't spill them out, but get the opportunity to explore them independently.
Second, for older toddlers, you can set out a few cups of bubble solution, add some food coloring, a straw, and some paper and let them make bubble art by dipping the straw and blowing the solution on the page.
Third, bubble snakes! Just grab an empty plastic water bottle, cut the bottom off, add a sock over the bottom. Pour bubble solution in and let your toddler blow!
Next, I'd suggest considering getting this no spill bubble holder or this one, which reduces spills and also adding a bubble machine to your toy box. Bubble machines are great for toddlers to chase after and can give winded caregivers a needed break. Click here for the top bubble machines reviewed!
Little trampolines are great for burning off toddler energy. I love that these can be used indoors or outdoors as well as part of an obstacle course or with the bubble machine.
We have this one where the bar is adjustable, which is great for toddlers as they grow.
Ok this toy is AWESOME! You can use it indoors or outdoors and it's fantastic for getting toddlers some vestibular input and calming them down.
My almost 1 year old like to use it as a push walker (with supervision of course) and my 3 year old LOVES spinning on it.
I've said this in my Lovevery Investigator Play Kit Review (shop it here!), but my toddler has been obsessed with cones since she was 2 years old so we got these cones and these rings that have been a saving grace for a baby and toddler in the house. You can use them indoors or outdoors and do a ton of things with them like:
- Color sorting
- Ring toss
- Obstacle course
We often set up a little obstacle course on rainy days inside where we have our toddler jump on the trampoline, run through an obstacle course with the cones, toss 3 rings, then go through a crawling tunnel to the spinning top toy and repeat. On days we've been stuck inside, we do it a few times before bedtime to get the wiggles out and it works great!
Mud kitchens are AMAZING for babies, toddlers, and elementrary aged children. They work a wide variety of skills and have loads of developmental benefits.
They make a perfect outdoor summer toy if you're struggling to get more outside time with your toddler. I have an entire buying guide on the best mud kitchens for kids here, including how to choose ones, my favorites, and more FAQs about the benefits, activities, and accessories.
I recently got this inflatable pool and honestly don't know why I waited so long! We got this electric pump too which made it super easy to set up and deflate for easy storage when not in use.
I personally recommend getting one with a water feature, especially if you have babies or young toddlers around. This way you don't add much water to the pool to start, and then just let it fill up slowly with the water feature throughout the day. It's super fun and refreshing.
The kids love sliding down and playing with the ring toss game and little balls that came with it. I think having multiple kids who can sometimes need a break from each other, having the two zones can be really helpful too versus just one pool with not a whole lot going on.
If you don't want to get a full kiddie pool for the backyard, you can still have a ton of fun and cool off with a basic sprinkler attachment. We have this little elephant one that spins as well as this oscillating lawn sprinkler. Both are a blast for the kids and create a different water effect if you want to switch things up.
Of course, swing sets are a tried and true outdoor toy that are perfect for summer as well. Be sure to check out my entire buying guide on the best toddler swings here!
I cover the best swings for infants through adulthood, but primarily geared towards toddlers, for both indoor and outdoor use.
Dried Up Markers
Yep, you read that right! Save your dried up old markers for some serious fun! Simply remove the caps, add them to a cup of water for a few hours. This pulls the remaining color out of the marker, into the water.
From there you can do a few activities:
- Watercolor painting on reusable paper towels
- Add a few drops of soap to do the bubble art activity I mentioned earlier
- Get some shaving cream and make fluffy paint
- Make play foam using the colored water
- Get a cotton balls and make a rainbow art picture
- Take a veryyyyy long paper towel, roll it lengthwise (so it's as thin and long as possible) then snake it between the cups, watch as the paper towel absorbs the water color, then let it dry out for some fun art.
Water beads are great for older kids (they are a choking hazard for babies, but you can use tapioca beads for some similar activities).
They're basically these little beads that you add water too and they grow.
Then you can use them for sensory play on their own, use them to create a sensory bin.
If you have the extra large ones, you can try playing a game of catch or set up an obstacle course for the kids to roll the ball through. The obstacle course can be as simple as giving them a spoon and doing an “egg race” with one. You can also use painters tape on the patio deck and have them race the ball across the straight line by blowing it with a straw.
Ride-In Toy Car
We've all probably seen the Little Tikes Cozy Coupe ride-on toys – and maybe even reminds you of your own childhood? This classic outdoor toy has stood the test of time because they really are just that fun!
Little hands love grabbing the steering wheel and playing driver while learning how to move it forward with their feet when the removable floorboard is taken out. They love opening and closing the doors and seeing how it all works.
On a hot summer day, bust out the hose and have your active toddler wash the car for some added fun.
For older children or bigger kids, you can also get motorized cars:
But for the littles we prefer starting with more of a gross motor challenge to burn that toddler energy and for the added developmental opportunities.
Chalk is another tried and true outdoor toy for toddlers – but what you probably didn't think about is saving the chalk nubs for even more fun!
That's right, instead of tossing the little bits of chalk that aren't really fun anymore, you can turn them into sidewalk chalk paint:
I have an entire post on the Best Indoor + Outdoor Toddler Climbing Toys to find something that meets your space/budget.
Personally, I'm a huge fan of the pikler triangle. Check out my picks for the 5 Best Pikler Triangles [+ How To Choose & Use A Safe Montessori Climber]. They are a fantastic indoor playground for infants, toddlers, and young kids. While they are a bit of a splurge, they are super helpful when stuck indoors during the summer.
However they take up a bit of space, so you can also use budget + space friendly collapsible crawling tunnels for so much fun too. Both the crawling tunnels and a pikler can be used as a play tent too for added fun. For the pikler, just add a blanket over the top!
NOTE: If you have a baby and toddler around, I found the crawling tunnel is fantastic for guiding baby away from toddlers play when the toddler needs a break. Just drop it over their head, wiggle it around and drop the opening away from the big sibling who needs a few minutes!
Painting seashells and rocks
We've recently challenged ourselves to do 30 days at the beach, rain or shine. To mix things up a bit, I got these individual paint strips to bring with us.
It's great because our toddler has to find sea shells, then paints them. It's also a great icebreaker as all the nearby kids want to come over and join in.
If you aren't by a beach you can do the same thing with rocks or pine cones at a park. This is a great tool to pull out when kids are over outside time because it's so unexpected.
Toy Lawn Mower
Toddlers LOVE mimicking real life, and we all know the grass needs extra cutting during the summer months! Discover the best toy lawn mowers for toddlers here.
There's loads of picks and tips for how to choose the best toy lawn mower. Includings ones for indoor or outdoor use, ones that make bubbles, light up and make noise, waldorf and montessori aligned ones, and one's more suitable for big kids.
Splash pads are the perfect summer toy to cool off on hot days that the entire family can enjoy. These come in a massive selection of sizes, themes, and functionality to consider. Check out my full review of the best splash pads here.
In short though, if you want something the entire family can enjoy, the VISTOP Non-Slip Splash Pad For Kids is the perfect choice. Additionally, if you want an inflatable pool situation in bright colors, we love the Intex Inflatable Rainbow + Ocean Pools with a built in water slide. Lastly, for the ultimate in backyard fun you can't go wrong with H2OGO! Super Speedway Kids Water Park which has areas for babies, toddlers, and adults. It's the perfect backyard set up for families with multiple kids or who love spending time outdoors.
Flower posting and lacing
I recently saw this “dandelion lacing” activity all over Instagram to work fine motor skills. To me, it's more of a flower posting activity where you basically take a piece of cardboard, draw a picture, then poke some holes for toddlers to add the flower stems too.
We collected flowers on a morning walk then came home to do this and had a blast for a few days!
On the flip side, you could do an actual flower lacing activity too with a needle and thread. Depending on the durability of the flower, you may want to save this for older toddlers.
Bikes + Boards
While scooters don't technically have the word board in the name, you do stand on a board so we are including them here as they work gross motor skills like the others. Scooters are one of my favorite toys to introduce to kids as early as 18 months old.
Around that age I also love wooden balance boards like this and this balance bike.
Recently my toddler has been begging for a skateboard – which from my research you shouldn't introduce until after 5 years old. But I found this one on sale for $10 in her favorite colors so I decided to go for it. I was shocked at how quickly she's picked it up and it's provided hours and hours of outside entertainment so far.
Additionally, we're huge fans of this kickboard for the pool which has handles for added stability compared to a lot of the others marketed at kids and is a great precursor to an actual boogie board.
We also love this helmet brand for tiny heads.
For land sports, I'd suggest starting with a balance board, then a scooter and/or balance bike, then the skateboard.
For water sports, I'd suggest also starting with a balance board, then a kickboard, then boogie board, then surfboard.
All of which are a great way to build their concentration, core strength, and just have some summer fun.
Balls + Bins
Balls and bins are some of the most overlooked summer toys but can be used for endless summer activities.
Bins are an affordable alternative to water tables for summer backyard fun. Just a few ideas off the top of my head…
- Fill one bin with water and give the child a sponge, have them soak the sponge and ring it out in an empty bin for a fun montessori inspired water transfer activity
- Fill the bins with soapy water and have toddlers wash the balls or their toys.
- Depending on the size of the balls you have, you can fill the bins with water and have them ladle the balls between bins
- Make moon sand with almond flour and oil as a faux sandbox or sensory bin, add balls and any other small toys
- Create an obstacle course
- Add balls to cones for “ice cream cones” for pretend play
- Set up a bin of water, and a bin of balls, see which sink or float for an outdoor STEM lesson
For older toddlers, I suggest just having a variety of balls in a pile somewhere as an invitation for play. If they are bored or keep asking you to entertain them, I'd give them the basket and ask, “what can you do with these?” You'll likely be surprised by what your preschooler comes up with!
The best summer toys for toddlers are generally opened ended and versatile for indoor, outdoor, or water play.
Other than some bigger gross motor toys, like a balance bike or scooter, the beauty of summer toys is that they are affordable and can oftentimes be brought inside during cooler months too, like these tubes or this trampoline.
No matter what you choose, know getting outside with your toddler is one of the best things you can do, even if you're just playing with sticks and leaves!
- Indoor + Outdoor Toddler Climbing Toys
- Mud Kitchens For Kids
- Baby Beach Essentials For Families With A Toddler Too
- Bubble Machines For Toddlers + Kids
- Baby To Toddler Swings For Indoor + Outdoor Use
- Toy Excavators and Diggers
- Toy Cranes
- Montessori Friendly Gift Guide For 1 Year Old to 2 Year Olds
- Pikler Triangles
- Splash Pads
Indoor or Outdoor Activities:
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- How To Make Foam | EASY SENSORY PLAY BUBBLE FOAM RECIPE
- How To Make Playdough
- 7 At Home Toddler Activities With Household Items You Already Own
- 5 Ways To Use Grapes For Sensory Play With Toddlers: Taste Safe, Edible, Food Activities I Do With My 15 Month Old
- $1 Indoor Holiday Activities For Toddlers
- Easy Halloween Activities For Toddlers: Sensory Learning
- 21 Free Printable Halloween Color Pages + Activities For Kids
- Fall Activities For Kids + Busy Toddlers
- No Mess Fall Toddler Activities You NEED To Try At Home
- The BEST Easter Activities for Toddlers: Simple, Indoor, At Home [+FREE PRINTABLE!]
Originally published 7/7/22; Updated 3/26/2023