Read our special guide with 15 top tips for fun summer activities with your little ones that won’t break the bank.
1. We do like to be beside the seaside
Head to the beach if you live nearby. Toddlers love running around on the sand, even on rainy days, so pack the wellies and waterproofs. And babies will enjoy the new sights and sounds, like seagulls and waves. If you’re not close to the coast, why not make your own beach? All you need is a few pebbles and shells, some sand in a washing up basin and you can fill empty plastic bottles with water. Little ones will love the shapes and textures – and enjoy getting messy. Also look out for urban beaches as these often pop up over the summer in some areas and they’re great fun.
2. Animal magic
Let your little one make some furry friends – take a trip to a city farm or visit your local pet re-homing centre. Some pet shops have rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters, while garden centres sometimes have aquariums. Babies will love watching the bubbles in the water and toddlers will enjoy spotting the fish as they hide underwater.
3. Love your library
Your local library is a great source of fun and education for your child. You’ll be able to browse and borrow lots of fantastic kid’s books, plus they often run free weekly activities like ‘storytime’ or ‘bounce and rhyme’ where you all get together to sing nursery rhymes. These are perfect for those rainy days. And many also offer a toy library so you and your baby get a chance to explore new things without breaking the bank and those big and bulky toys won’t become a permanent fixture in your living room!
4. Camp out
If you have a tent or a teepee, bring it out into the garden for some outdoor fun. Or make your own using an old sheet hung over some chairs. It’s so simple but children love the sense of adventure and it can be a lovely bonding experience.
5. Building up to it
As strange as it may sound, a local building site can be such a feast for the senses for children. Obviously don’t get too close, but let them watch the diggers, dumpers and grab lorries and talk to them about what’s happening. If you happen to see a crane, your baby or toddler is in for a real treat!
6. Fun with NCT
Check out activities with your local NCT branch including Bumps & Babies. These are usually free or you pay a small amount to cover the cost of tea and biscuits! They’re a great way to meet other parents, share experiences, help each other through the ups and downs and, of course, let the babies explore and bond with each other. These activities are also a great way to access the information and resources you may need as you get used to life as a parent, including support from antenatal teachers or breastfeeding counsellors.
7. Water babies
If you don’t have a pool, improvise with some basins and buckets, or turn the hose or watering can on the kids.
Summer wouldn’t be summer without getting wet! Explore outdoor pools, lidos or streams in your local area, or find some fountains so little ones can splash around. It’s the perfect time of year to get the paddling pool out and watch the splashing and giggling. Add some plastic cups and balls to keep them entertained.
8. Planes, trains and automobiles
For a fantastic free activity, head to your local train station, bus station or airport. Even young babies love the sights and sounds and older toddlers enjoy counting buses or talking about the colours and noises.
9. Pop to the park
There’s so much to see and do at the park even for tiny babies – lay them down on a blanket and stare at the clouds together, tickle them with grass, and watch everything from squirrels and dogs to cyclists and other children running around. All of this helps them understand the world around them. And for toddlers bring a ball to roll or a frisbee to throw and check out the children’s play area. Some have sandpits to explore or ponds where you can watch wildlife together.
10. Treasure trove
Try making your own basket of treasures for your baby or toddler to explore with objects from around the house, like empty egg boxes, toilet roll tubes, coloured tissue paper, scrunched up tin foil or an empty bottle with grains of rice for them to shake.
11. Trail blazer
Keep the treasures in a basket or tupperware box so you can look at them, touch them and rattle them.
Head to the woods for a nature trail where you can gather leaves, bark, stones, conkers, pine cones, acorns, grass, sticks and any other objects you discover in a bucket to touch and talk about. This will really stimulate their senses. Even everyday objects can be fascinating for little ones.
12. Dress to impress
Little ones love trying on shoes, accessories, scarves and anything they can get their hands on. For more dressing up fun you could make hats out of ice cream tubs, crowns out of coloured card, a cape from old fabric, or animal tails out of felt or a duster. Also think about decorating old t-shirts with paints or pens or pick up some unusual outfits from a charity shop. Let them sit in front of a mirror and see what they make of their reflection.
13. Toy story
Why not try making some new things for your child to play with? A big box can become a car, or you can use old socks to make puppets. You could also swap toys with friends in your area, or pick up cheap books and toys at NCT Nearly New Sales. They’re a brilliant place to discover much-loved and barely-used children’s items.
14. Growing up
Why not grow some seeds, bulbs, herbs or vegetables together? Quick sprouting seeds are a good idea so you can see the results fast, so try sunflowers or cress. You don’t need a garden – planting a few seeds in a pot or window box will be just as exciting for little ones. Tending to plants and watering them daily gives children an important responsibility, as well as teaching them about nature and where food comes from. It may also encourage them to try the vegetables and herbs they’ve grown and gives them a real sense of satisfaction when they start to see shoots and leaves.
15. Perfect picnics
There’s something special about packing up your lunch and heading outside to eat – and it means there’s less mess inside as well. Make it a teddy bear’s picnic by asking your toddler to bring their favourite soft toy. And you could bring some activities for afterwards too, like bubbles for the little ones to chase and books to read outside.
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.
Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby. To find out when an NCT nearly new sale is happening near you, search here.