20 thrifty things to do with your toddler in the summer

Things to do in the summer with toddlers

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All year long, Laurence and I look forward to Summer, daydreaming about holidays and festivals – often ones we cannot afford. Over time since Talitha was born, it became evident than none of us would be happy with me working full time. We’re both convinced that she has a strong need to be with me at this time of her life and he has the greater earning potential at the moment anyway.

That sounds good in theory but it has means we’ve had to get creative to figure out how to live on one salary (and a bit). We don’t have it all sorted but, in hope of making the most of this summer without digging into debt, I’m making a list of thrifty things I plan to do with my two-year-old before the season’s up. We will probably take a weekend away – we can’t resist spending time on summer breaks UK bound and all. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

1. Go swimming
Just about everyone else I know takes their toddlers swimming it seems. I’ve taken her a fair bit when we go to Trinidad but as it’s rarely hot enough in the UK for me to feel like swimming, I haven’t been highly motivated. I also don’t drive, so getting to most decent pools presents a bit of a challenge for me, albeit not an insurmountable one. We recently tried taking Talitha in an indoor swimming pool and she wasn’t too happy about the idea so it’s made me realise that it’s been too long. So, the plan is for me to buy a swimsuit I actually feel comfortable in and start taking her swimming again.

2. Paint with water
So simple, so clean, so free. Why have we not done this yet?

3. Make mud pies
I loved doing this as a child. Looking forward to getting the trowels out and getting a good ol’ dig on in the garden.

4. Ride bikes as a family
This is another that it’s surprising we haven’t done. Laurence is something of a more serious cyclist. Talitha would adore going on a ride with him. I, on the other hand, am learning to cycle (yes, along with driving, I don’t do this either!) so, it would be the perfect way for us to spend our time out on weekend holidays.

5. Make gift paper with potato stamps and handprints
I always have it in my head that I’m going to be super thrifty and creative by making Christmas presents. The problem is that only occurs to me in November or December by which time, if we’re being completely real, it’s too late. I figured we’d get it right this year at least with the gift paper since it’s something we can do really well together.

6. Have a stuffed animal picnic
In the last months, it’s been amazing to watch Talitha’s imaginative play grow and grow. She loves giving tea to her stuffed rabbits and reading stories to all her animals. She also got a toy kitchen for her birthday which has been such a hit. I reckon a picnic in the garden with a few of her favourite stuffed animals and some bits from the toy kitchen would be just the thing.

7. Visit the ducks
There are a few ducks in a stream near the house we’ve just moved into and I’m keen to take Talitha down for a visit. I’d initially written “feed the ducks” there but I’m not sure that’s environmentally a great idea so I think we may just go and say hello instead.

8. Actually garden
Many a year I’ve tried to grow a few things and keep them alive. I’ve planted some bits and bobs this year and Talitha is making me keep them alive! Every day she asks, “Water plants?” Win, win.

9. Explore the parks in our area
I keep hearing about all the parks in our area and I can’t wait to take her out in them now that she’s walking more and more. It would be brilliant to find our own special haunts.

10. Go foraging
I’ve been reading a really interesting book called The Green Witch: A Modern Woman’s Herbal. It contains so much valuable herbal information set forth in a straightforward, common sense way. I want to start putting what I’ve learned from it into practice and take Talitha to gather wild things.

11. Collect and paint rocks

12. Join a forest school
There’s one that runs in our area that is either free or 50p a session. It sounds like it would be great for falling in love with the outdoors.

13. Fly a kite

14. Find free local events
We’re really lucky here in Bristol in that respect. There’s so much on that we could find something reasonably thrifty to go see every weekend of the summer months. One event we’re thinking of going to is the Bristol Balloon Fiesta. But just about anywhere, there are free or cheap local events on if you just give it a look.

15. Walk along a pier
There’s something about meeting the water on a pier. I can see Talitha running up one and loving the view of the waves and the feel of the wind on her skin. I may be wrong but we’ll give it a go anyway.

16. Visit local museums we’ve not been to yet
We’ve done the two obvious local museums so far but there are so many other quirky delights to be found. I remember thinking that museums weren’t something Talitha would appreciate until she was much older but she always surprises me by taking an interest in the exhibits whenever we visit one.

17. Get sensory with bath time
Talitha is going through a phase at the moment where she hates bathing. I don’t know what it is but suddenly, every night, she declares “NO BATH!” and it is impossible to safely give her one so we have to resort to splashing her or giving her a cloth wash instead. I’m hoping these sensory bath ideas re-entice her.

18. Go scooting – a lot
We got her a Mini Micro Scooter for her birthday and, amazing to me, she actually knows how to use it. I want to give her as much opportunity as possible to really master it.

19. Wash the car
It may be an odd one I know but we treat our car as if it’s self-cleaning most of the time and I know it’s the sort of thing a toddler would get a kick out of doing. Now that we have a drive to park in, it’s a safer activity too. I figure, two birds, one stone.

20. Go on a nature colour hunt
Talitha is now pretty consistent with her naming of colours (except that she still thinks red is called “colour”) so I figured we’d give this nature colour hunt a try so she could start matching colours in a beautifully sensory way.

Over to you, what plans do you have for your little ones this summer?

First image taken by my bro Liam Camps
Second image taken by Laurence