This summer when I was home on maternity leave, I quickly discovered that I needed to have at least one semi-structured activity planned for Lily every day. We struggled with some behavior issues, in the form of her simply not listening. I really couldn’t blame her for this: A week before her Halloween birthday, we officially potty trained her. In December, we said goodbye to her Wubbanub. We spent most of January and February sick, and she ultimately ended up hospitalized with RSV in March. A week after we were released, we moved to a new house in a new town. Then she got her first stomach bug, and Maggie was born 2 weeks later. It was a huge amount of change and upheaval, and I am so proud of how well she dealt with and adapted to it all. So when she started running away when we were in the yard or at the playground, I knew she needed more of my attention.

We stopped going to the playground with Maggie in tow after an incident where Lily ended up with a bloody lip. When Maggie was really little, she refused to go in the stroller so I had to bring her everywhere in the carrier. One day while at the playground, I had Maggie in the Ergo when Lily started running away to a sidewalk that leads directly to a busy road. She is fast. She wouldn’t come back and get in the stroller, and because Maggie was in the carrier and Lily was kicking, I couldn’t pick her up. She had fallen (sort of) off a swing earlier so her bottom lip was puffed up (she was swinging on her stomach and fell off face-first. Me: “Sweetie, do  you want to go home?” Lily: “No, I want to do it again!”). I grabbed her while she was in mid-run, and she fell…right on her puffed up lip. It started bleeding and it was this whole horrendous experience of (thankfully few) other playground-goers watching as I dragged a bleeding toddler to the stroller. I learned a few things from this: 1) Always follow Lily with the stroller. Getting her into it is much easier when it’s not on the other side of the playground. 2) Don’t go anywhere alone with both kids. Ever.

We spent a lot of time at home after this, so I knew I had to look for some activity ideas. I headed for Pinterest because, duh. I found some great ideas, and a lot of blog posts that had links to websites or blogs full of ideas for kids activities. These kept us entertained all summer. Let me say that the activities we did didn’t end up looking as nice as they did on these sites, or going exactly as they were planned. We did a lot of adapting, and a lot of rinsing off in our blow-up whale pool (which I already miss Lily’s mispronunciation of: “My humpback whale cool.”). One of my favorites was Paint Splat Art.


Is it only me, or does the sight/thought of a mallet make everyone else shudder thanks to The Shining?

This is a great outdoor activity to do on a hot summer day. You’ll definitely need to hose off or head into a pool or other body of water right after because it is messy.



  • Dollop globs of paint a few inches apart all over the paper, and cover each with a cotton round.
  • Wallop each cotton round with the mallet, and watch the paint splatters fly!


This activity is definitely intended for kids who are a little older than Lily was (almost 3). They need to be big enough to actually be able to control the mallet if you want to get anything worth sending to Grandma. However, Lily had a blast doing this. She smooshed the cotton rounds all over the place, and for some reason was really interested in putting them in the flower pots. As you can see, she also covered her entire body in paint. I showed her how to walk through the paint, and then make footprints all over the driveway. We had a really dry summer, so I was reminded of this activity every time I went by her colorful footprints.

I tried to make our summer activities about what I would have wanted to do. It can be really tempting to guide little ones through an activity with an end goal of something pretty. But even if you don’t follow the rules, these activities are great sensory experiences and help them to explore their creativity. Lily loved layering on the squishy paint, and watching each different color footprint appear. The cotton rounds are a texture kids aren’t often exposed to, and she experimented with covering them with paint, sliding them around, and sticking dirt to them. I didn’t push her too much to try to perfect her aim with the mallet, because it was so heavy and she was more interested in touching everything with her hands. This would be a great way to work on targeting aim with older kids though.

I really look forward to doing this activity again when the weather gets warmer, and to seeing how Lily decides to experiment with another year under her belt!


Leave a Reply