Summer Activities and Crafts to Keep Little Ones Busy

Summer time is here! With more things open in Kansas City, you are probably trying to make the most of summer 2021. However, if you are anything like me, you might want to pace yourself with the outdoor activities or play places, so outings still feel fresh and fun by August. But what on earth are you going to do at home with your toddler or preschooler since we have been hanging out there for the last year and a half?! I got you covered!

Here are some of my favorite summer activities and crafts for little ones:

Sensory Bins and Tables

This is my absolute favorite open play activity. The possibilities are endless and I can always expect that it will keep my daughter busy for at least 30 minutes! This activity can be messy so it is perfect for outdoor play. It is also educational — great motor skill development, social skills if you invite friends, hand/eye coordination, etc. It’s one of my favorites because you can do the same basic idea over and over, but change what you use or how and it doesn’t get boring.

You will need…

  • a container — You don’t have to have anything fancy, a simple plastic container will do. There are also lots of options online for DIY sensory tables.
  • a filler — water, water beads, rice, pasta, quinoa, chickpeas, etc. Your filler can be as simple as possible with just basic water or you can change it up by coloring your water with food color. I also like to color my rice/pasta by putting the filler into a plastic bag with a few drops of acrylic paint, smushing around, and laying it out on parchment paper to dry.
  • pourers — plastic scoops from recycled goods, measuring cups, dollar store scoops, serving spoons tongs, plastic funnels, etc.

For extra fun add animals, dinosaurs, shells, rocks, and small seasonal items. I like to create situations with my sensory bins, like a car wash (add small cars/trucks, dish soap bubbles, and bottle brush scrubbers) or under the sea (add small plastic sea animals, blue food coloring to the water, and scoops).

Check out some other easy sensory bin and indoor activity ideas here.


This one takes a little planning up front, but the supplies are still minimal.

You will need…

  • a small swimming pool
  • several pool noodles — about three pool noodles in different colors and cut them with a large knife into small dics
  • a bug catcher or net of some sort with a good-sized handle

The kiddos will use their nets to scoop up their “fish”. This would also work great with bath toys, rubber ducks, or plastic sea animals!

Fairy/Gnome Garden

My daughter, Olivia, loves this activity! Creating a fairy garden has endless possibilities and your kids will love picking out what you decide to put in them. Pinterest is a great place for ideas depending how involved you would like it to be! You can find supplies at most craft stores and dollar stores.

You will need…

  • A pot/planter and filler (rocks and soil)
  • An assortment of real or fake flowers
  • A bird house or fairy themed house
  • Fairies/Gnomes

Ice Painting

Another simple and fun activity with supplies you most likely have at home already or are pretty easily (and cheaply) accessible!

You will need…

  • White paper or cardstock
  • AnIce cube tray
  • Acrylic paint
  • Popsicle sticks

Fill your ice cube tray with water and swirl in a little acrylic paint. Place a popsicle stick in each tray and set in the freezer. Set out your paper of choice and Voila! You have a new way for the kiddos to color and create. Great for outside weather but you can also do it indoors when you need an A/C break.

For other screen-free indoor activities for toddlers, check out this post!

Hi, I'm Shadai. I was raised in Shawnee/Overland Park but have pretty much lived all over the KC metro area. I now live in Lees Summit with my high school sweetheart Nick, our very sassy and energetic 2.5 year old Olivia, and little old grumpy yorkie Milo. I'm a Clinical Trial Specialist turned SAHM who drinks way too much coffee and is obsessed with crafting/DIY projects. I am also a pop culture aficionado who got sucked into the world of TIK TOK during quarantine and may or may not need a self help group to stop watching/cracking up at them before bedtime. My other interests include but not limited to: true crime series/podcasts (shout out to my fellow murderinos!), reading, binging Netflix/Hulu, good local KC restaurants/coffee shops, pretending like I know what is going on with KC sports since my husband is a HUGE FAN (yay sports - do the thing, win the points), IG scrolling for craft ideas/outfit inspos and shopping for good deals. Although my days are filled with trips to the park and crafts with Olivia, I can't wait to meet all of you KC Mamas!