The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the day is full of promise and possibility... and your kids are whining at your legs. Sound familiar? Although summer is one of the easiest seasons to keep busy, there are days that my creativity is stunted and I am at a complete loss. So, for all you "stunted" parents out there, this is for you!
If you have a simple blow-up pool or water table, fill them up in the morning so that they are nice and warm for the day and let the kids play. We also have a little slide set and I often place the slide in the pool so the kids can slide down. Water tables can also be mixed with sand (if you don't mind the mess) so the kids can build and mix and play. Or, of course, there is the age-old activity of running through the sprinkler (and this has the added bonus of watering your lawn too).
Want your child to tap into their creativity? Try mixing a little bit of washeable paint with water and add a bit of dish soap (this makes it easier to clean up) and put it in a spray bottle. Give it to your child and let them paint the fence or grass. When you are done, just spray it with the hose. Chalk can be a great outlet for your children, but I find that they get bored of it quickly at the toddler stage. Little boys love to build and get dirty, so make or purchase a sandpit and a couple of inexpensive toy dump trucks. Let them build and play. If you don't have access to sand, you can do the same with rocks. I find with a little nudge in the right direction, my son's imagination will take off. So teach them how to fill the dump truck with rocks and transport them over to their "building site" to build something. It might take you 5 minutes to get him started, but this activity can last for easily half an hour. If your daughter is a little cleaner like her mama, give her a spray bottle of water and let her go at it cleaning the playground or the fence, or even the deck. Out side is the one place you won't have to clean up the mess afterwards!
Play scientist and get your child a small yogurt container or see-through tupperware. Poke a few holes in the top and show them how to make a home for some bugs. Then take them around your house or for a walk and show them different bugs along the way. Help them pick them up and make a bug collection to show daddy when he gets home. The kids love this and are so proud afterwards to show it off! (just be sure to set the bugs free at night, otherwise, the child will find them most likely dead in the morning and can be quite upset). Get your kids a bowl of water and find a stick. Go around the yard and find things to put into your pot of "pinecone" or "grass" soup. They LOVE this! They'll pick up all the pinecones or leaves and stir them into their soup. Dump it in the bushes, and voila! Cleanup complete!
In the middle of the afternoon when the sun is at its hottest, I often keep my children indoors for a few hours so they don't get overheated. But this means finding things for them to do. There are the obvious solutions such as coloring or play dough, but if you're like me you are always looking for something new that will hold your child's attention. If you have a young toddler, I have an old coffee tin that I cut a hole in and a bucket of petty change, I let her clink the money in and she'll play for hours! Or try collecting things from outside during the morning (such as sticks and leafs) and put together a craft letting them glue it onto paper to make a picture. As with outside, I've discovered the key to a toddler's heart is to give their imagination a little push. Get them started on something, give them an idea and then leave them to develop it on their own. For example, my 2 year old daughter was grouchy about going on the potty this morning. So I took a tupperware container and one of her stuffed animals and put it inside telling it to "go potty". She was absolutely smitten with that idea and walked all around the house with her little "peeing" friend.
The possibilities are endless, it just takes a little creativity on your behalf, which can be hard to come by when you are sleep deprived and exasperated with a whiny toddler. But take heart! If all else fails and they spend the day watching TV instead, there is always another sunny day to try again! Happy Summer!