1. Creative sand toys for the beach or sandbox. Shaker top containers, large yogurt containers, squirt top bottles. The novelty of these items at the beach will make them a hit with all the kids. Also, there have been times we’ve been sharing these “toys” with other kids at the beach and then when we were ready to leave and those other kids weren’t (and they hadn’t any toys of their own), I told them they could continue playing with them as long they promised to recycle them when they left the beach.
2. Water play: because really, all they want to do is dump water. Other water play includes having a spray bottle to take outside and spray on plants, themselves, each other. Another fun thing to do is to give them a cup of water and some paintbrushes and sponges. They can “paint” a picture on the driveway/sidewalk/deck and see how fast it disappears depending on how hot of a day it is.
3. Take a stack of different colored pieces of paper and cut it into various shapes and sizes. Then give them a piece of paper and some glue and have them glue the shapes down in different ways either to create pictures (like square plus triangle to make a house) or just pretty designs. When they start to get bored, jazz it up by offering up some glitter or googly eyes. (My kid makes so many projects with googly eyes on them at his preschool that after they’ve been on display for awhile I peel the eyes off and save them before recycling the rest of it).
4. Car paint! Take a large piece of paper and make piles of different colors of paint spread out on the paper. Then give them a few toy cars and let them go to town running the cars through the paint and making tracks all over the place. The follow-up game is called Car Bath! Fill bathroom sink with soapy water. Put painted cars in and hand child small scrub brush and let them go to town. Bonus: when the painting is dry, save it to use as wrapping paper.
5. Biggest winner? Make play-dough cakes or cupcakes. Have child place them in cold oven (with lots of discussion about how this game can only be played with supervision/permission). Set timer for ten seconds. Have them put oven mitts on and take the cakes out. Then put candles in, light them, sing “Happy Birthday” and take turns blowing out the candles. My kids could play this about twenty times in a row, taking turns with whose birthday it is. Bonus: All those dried little crumbs of play dough at the bottom of your box of play dough toys make great sprinkles for your cakes.