Contributed by local Mom, and Milford Kids Thrive Collaborative member, Kayla Calabro. Check out her podcast! Mothering Together

I’m going to lay it out there really quickly. I am not a crafty woman. 

Crafts make me want to puke. 

However, I am blessed with the company I keep. I’ve always believed that you’re choosing the right friends if you’re the dumbest person in the room. This is true for me and my friend Marisa, who is an absolute genius for creating fun learning opportunities for kids. 

Marisa is literally Miss Frizzle in real life. She is positive and effervescent and bubbly in ways that my overtired, coffee-addicted personality is very not.

So, when I was thinking about what to write about this month for Milford families, I asked Marisa to help me think of three activities that families can use and re-use all summer long to keep their kids busy (without increasing the mental load too much – you’re welcome).

Why did I ask Marisa? Because that’s literally what she does for a living. She’s the Teach at Home Mom. She creates thematic totes of kid activities (as an example, she has a summer tote, a camping tote, and the list goes on… check it out here). 

In fact, if you were to take a tour of my house right now, you would find a tote (or “Miss Mawissa tub” as my toddler calls them) wide open with tons of activities for my kids.

But, you can’t always have a Teaching Tote, so Marisa and I have compiled a list of three super simple, easy activities that even the laziest parent could pull together (is there such a thing as a lazy parent? I SEE you exhausted, overworked, ready for a “vacation from vacation” friends).

So here they are! They’re not complicated, but at least ONE of these activities is bound to keep your little, crazy-pants toddler occupied long enough for you to grab an iced coffee and sit down (or maybe marinate some chicken for the grill later).

Water Play

Set yourself up for success here, friends. If you freak out at the first sign of water on your floors, take this baby outside! On a warm day, water play is absolutely the BEST. Marisa has these three ideas for you:

  1. Toy Rescue: Freeze some toys in a block of ice and give the kids tools and warm water to rescue 
  2. Nature Soup: Grab any container, add a little water, and have your little one add “ingredients” that they find outside!
  3.  Make reusable water balloons: Use sponges, string, and a bucket of water to make water balloons that you can use over and over again! (Marisa shared a little video about this here). You cut the sponges into strips and then tie three of the strips together with string. I guess there are also reusable ones you can buy if your kids end up loving this activity. 

Sensory Bins

I feel like sensory bins are almost a buzzword. Have you heard of them? They’re basically just a bucket or bin that you put different textures and “sensations” into. To spice it up, make sure you’re engaging as many senses as possible: sight, sound, taste, feel, and smell. 

Some fun sensory bin ingredients (sources: Napa Center)

Please make the best choice for your family. Some of these items may be choking hazards. If you have a little one who would love to explore a sensory bin with their mouth, check out these taste-safe options from Taming Little Monsters.

Grab a plastic tub (like this) or a foldable dog swimming pool (of all things) and throw some of these ingredients into it! Your kiddo will LOVE it.

Sidenote: if they DON’T love it, always provide a way for your child to play that gives them a little space from more intense sensations (if they don’t like wet texture, encourage them to use a spoon to engage in a way that makes them feel safe)

Dry Ingredients:

  • Glass beads
  • Dry rice, beans, or pasta
  • Sand
  • Cotton balls
  • Shredded paper
  • Paper Grass
  • Corn Meal
  • Feathers
  • Packing Peanuts
  • Beads
  • Soil
  • Leaves
  • Birdseed

Sticky/Wet Ingredients

  • Kinetic sand
  • Water
  • Soap foam
  • Water beads
  • Shaving cream
  • Oobleck
  • Cloud dough

Tools Around the House

  • Small plastic toys
  • Tongs, tweezers, spoons
  • Measuring cups and bowls
  • Ice cube tray
  • Magnifying glass
  • Whisk, colander
  • Funnel
  • Cookie cutters
  • Fake gems

Fizzy Play

You remember how amped you were when your teachers had you make volcanoes in elementary school, right? No? Just me? Either way, kids love a simple science experiment. Combining baking soda and vinegar is an easy-peasy way to entertain curious little scientists without having to run out and buy a bunch of supplies.

Here are some of Marisa’s ideas for how to use fizzy play at home:

  1. Color Magic: Create magic in a muffin tin by adding a drop of food coloring in each muffin spot and covering it with a teaspoon of baking soda. Have your child add vinegar and, in the words of Fancy Nancy, Voila! The color will appear! We’ve done this in our house and added some excitement by changing up the way you add the vinegar (spray bottle, squeeze bottle, etc.).
  2. Freeze It: Make a paste with the baking soda and a tiny bit of water. Mix things in and freeze it. It’s like a twist on the rescue mission above, but this time it FIZZES (I can hear the toddler squeals now).

So there you have it! Three basic activities that you can shift and adjust for any theme. You’ll love rescuing some favorite toys from blocks of ice, creating creative sensory bins, or creating chemistry experiments with baking soda and vinegar. Treat these activities like a jumping-off point. Where can you go from here?