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10 Summer Sensory Activities for Toddlers

Posted on by Erin | in Nannies

By Erin McNeill

Summer is a great time to get out all of the messy art projects because you can bring them outdoors to keep the mess outside and clean up simple. You can also incorporate water, ice and other techniques to many of the projects, making it a great way to stay cool as well! Your toddler will appreciate these activities on those days where it seems like you’ve done everything you can to keep them cool and entertained!

  • Nature art – Go for a walk or hike together and collect nature items, such as leaves, sticks, rocks or shells. Bring a bag or bucket with you to hold the items and remind your child not to pick living things to use in their project. Once home, create a frame out of cardboard or cardstock and have your child glue the items to the frame. Once the frame is dry, print out a picture of your adventure together and place it in the frame.
  • Treasure hunts – Gather treasures to hide in your sandbox; you can use anything you’d like, though small toys that won’t be harmed by sand or moisture will work best. You can also create a theme for the hunt, such as transportation vehicles or a beach theme. Hide the objects in the sand and then have your child use his hands or a small shovel to dig through the sand to find the items. It might be helpful to also have a sifter for your child to use to find smaller objects. Make a checklist with photographs, so your child will be able to match up the objects to the list to ensure that they’ve found all of the objects on the treasure hunt list.
  • Frozen paints – Combine shaving cream, a drop or two of food coloring and a few drops of scent if you’d like, then freeze the mixture in ice cube trays. Once frozen, take the cubes out of the tray and let your child paint with the cubes on a large sheet of paper outside. Once you are done with the project, clean-up will be easy – just rinse off with a hose! If you are concerned about your child ingesting the shaving cream, substitute in cool whip.
  • Water table – Any shallow plastic bin can be used as a water table if you don’t have something specifically made for this activity. You can add some sand or some food coloring to make it a bit more interesting for your child. Then, just place some cups, spoons, bath toys, funnels and anything else you can find that would work and let your child play in the water. They will enjoy scooping, dumping, transferring and splashing the water as they play! Add ice cubes on a really hot day for even more fun (and it’s a great way to keep cool on those really hot summer days!).
  • Bubbles – You can make your own or use store bought bubbles. Set up experiments using pipe cleaner wands or even create your own out of string and straws. Make the biggest bubbles that you can, or find a way to create a lot of bubbles all at once. A plastic kiddie pool can be used to hold tons of bubble solution and a hula-hoop can be used as a supersize bubble wand.
  • Make mud – Place some dirt in a bin or kiddie pool and add enough water to create mud. Give your child toys to play in the mud with; construction vehicles work particularly well for this activity! Let them get in the pool and experience the mud on their body if they’d like!
  • Ice painting – Freeze water with added food coloring into ice cubes. You can set up a variety of painting experiences; one of the most fun is to set up paper on your slide and allow kids to release the ice cubes down the slide (put a bin at the bottom to catch them so you can use them again!). You could also place paper in an empty pool or just on the ground.
  • Big art projects – Summer is the perfect time to hang a big piece of canvas or paper on your fence and give kids tools to paint the canvas however they would like, including spraying it with paint, splatter painting or just a big finger painting experiment.
  • Beach dough – Combine 1 cup of play sand, 1 cup of flour, 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and t tablespoon of cream of tartar. Add small amounts of boiling water (total will be ½ to ¾ cup of water) until it all combines and then knead the dough to make it useable. Give your child shells, sticks or jewels to add to the dough to create beach sand art! Allow them to play with the dough however they’d like, you don’t have to end up with beach sculptures if your children would rather just manipulate the dough!
  • Water blob – Visit the Clumsy Crafter to read the tutorial on creating a water blob for your kids – it’s the ultimate water sensory experience for children of all ages!

Most of these projects are easy to set-up and obtain the materials for, as well as to clean-up when you are all done. You may find that your toddler wants to do some of the activities over and over again this summer, so be sure to set aside special materials so that you will have them at the ready!

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