Summer activities that are fun and exciting for toddlers

Despite Covid and the various government shutdowns, we actually had a great summer of 2020 with our toddler. She was at the age where she was having fun exploring and getting to know the big, outside world. These summer activities were new to her, so watching her take in everything was extra special.

This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

We are outdoorsy people. In fact, my husband and I met at our local climbing gym. In the first year of dating, we went camping thirteen times. We were both excited to have a great summer with our daughter despite the circumstances.

These summer activities were planned with Covid safety in mind. Whenever we went to public spots, we masked up and kept our distance from people. Hopefully this isn’t a huge issue in the summer of 2021.


We went camping in the Jemez Mountains, the Santa Fe National Forest, and Vallecito Lake, which is in Colorado. These were all weekend trips.

For us, camping is a wonderful way to get out of the city and enjoy nature. Since we have been camping before, it was easy to pick and go on the weekends.

Taking our toddler camping was such a fun adventure for the three of us. She got to try out new activities and had a lot of fun.

Toddler camping activities

  • Hiking
  • Picking pine cones
  • Playing with rocks and dirt
  • Marshmallow roasts
  • Gathering firewood for a campfire
  • Imaginative play
  • Nature walks
  • Singing
  • Taking pictures

Generally, our daughter did okay with the camping trips. She was still a little too young to understand the concept of camping but I have high hopes for the summer of 2021 and beyond.

As a younger toddler, she had a great time exploring the outdoors but didn’t do so well when it came to sleep. We bought the Morrison toddler sleeping bag (see image below). It’s a wonderful sleeping bag but my daughter had problems with not having access to her hands.

Here are some camping essentials for toddlers from Amazon (click images).

Day hikes

This was definitely my favorite summer activity. It doesn’t require the planning and commitment of a camping trip, but you still get to enjoy the outdoors.

We live at the southernmost tip of the Colorado Rockies, so there are lots of opportunities for day hikes in New Mexico. If you ever visit New Mexico, hiking in the Santa Fe area during the summer is absolutely gorgeous. There are many hiking trails with lots of shade and waterfalls.

When I was growing up, my family went hiking all the time and my younger brothers would go crazy for a hike. Toddlers and children get so excited for the outdoors, especially while exploring new places.

On day hikes, you can also plan for a picnic while on the trail. We normally don’t hike too far with our daughter. Our typical day is an out-and-back trail and we’ll usually cover 4-5 miles.

For hiking, we use the Deuter Kid Comfort for our toddler. It’s comfortable for her and easily adjusts between me and my husband. I’m approximately 5’2″ and he’s pushing 6 feet.

The only thing I didn’t like about the Deuter line is that we had to purchase a sunroof separately, which was another $30.00.

Here are some day hike essentials for toddlers from Amazon (click images).

Local zoo

We visited the Albuquerque BioPark when it opened. Entry was timed and I had to buy tickets in advance. Depending on the age of your toddler, there are varying levels of understanding, learning, and appreciation of zoo animals.

At 15 months, my daughter hardly noticed the animals but loved seeing all the children. At one point, near the chimpanzee exhibit, there were little kids running around and she just ran around with them laughing the whole time.

We eventually went to the zoo six months after this trip and my toddler’s understanding of the zoo was like night and day from this trip.

Botanical gardens

The Albuquerque Botanical Gardens is impressive. Since I last visited almost a decade ago, there were significant improvements, including new flower displays, fountains, a zen garden, and even a farm animal area.

The best part of this visit was the farm animals, as my daughter got to see a chicken, a rooster, and a goat for the first time.

Swim lessons

We had originally started swimming lessons at the local city pool when my daughter was nine months but stopped after she got two ear infections in a row. We re-enrolled in August at a private swim school and it’s been the best decision ever.

Although she was timid at first, the lessons are an opportunity for her to learn a lifelong skill and to gain trust with me in the water.

Taking weekly lessons for any activity is also a good way of breaking up a monotonous daily routine. We now enjoy our Wednesday afternoons because we get to swim.

Backyard water play

Since I was at home teleworking for the summer and my daughter was home a lot too, we spent a lot of time in the backyard.

Toddlers love water. They can’t get enough of splashing around, sitting in water, running under it, and playing in it. It’s also great to cool off, especially in our 100 degrees New Mexico summers.

My husband and I set up a few water play toys for our toddler, including a water table, an inflatable pool, and an inflatable sprinkler toy.

Every parent in America was scrambling to the stores in the summer of 2020 to find these items, so everything was sold out. As soon as a water table and inflatable baby pool became available, I purchased what I could get from Amazon and they turned out to be great.

I love the Fisher-Price water table. At a price point of $50, it was sturdy, didn’t break, and survived the summer. What else can you ask for from a kid’s toy? It was also easy to break down the legs and store them in the shed for next summer.

Check prices on Amazon (click images) for outdoor water play toys for toddlers.

Pop-up tent play area

Honestly, I would not have known that pop-up tents were a thing for kids until we received one as a gift. I really didn’t know what to do with our pop-up tent. Does it go indoors or outdoors? How do toddlers play with it?

We set up our pop-up tent indoors and it was an instant hit with my toddler. She dragged a bunch of her toys and pillows inside of it and started playing.

The pop-up tent was set up for a good chunk of the summer and it became one of her favorite play areas in the house. I really like the tent we have because it folds up in one swoop and comes with a carrying case.

See pop-up tent options at Amazon (click images).

Painting and crafts

The summer is the perfect time for toddler arts, crafts, and painting because you can do it all outside.

I purchased washable children’s paint and let my toddler paint on white paper plates. If she made a mess, it was no big deal.

We also attempted to decorate the paper plates with different craft materials.

Check prices at Amazon (click images) for toddler craft ideas.

Final thoughts on summer activities for toddlers

I hope you enjoyed this list of summer activities for toddlers. Summer was always my favorite season as a kid and there’s so much to do.

Writing this article actually gave me more inspiration for next summer and it’s looking to be a good one for my toddler.

What are some of your favorite toddler summer activities?

Leave a Comment