toddlers summer art activities

10 Art Activities to Beat the Summer Heat

Is it hot where you are? It’s set to reach record highs in Austin this summer and it feels stifling! Sometimes you’ll find us at the pool, but that isn’t always possible so here are 10 simple activities to try with the children when the heat gets too much. Read on for more…

The activities shared here are generally aimed at children aged 3+ but some are also suitable for younger children too. As with all of the activities I share on this blog, please ensure that young children are supervised at all times. I don’t advise that you do any of these activities in the heat of the midday sun – check the weather forecast and go out early or use a shady spot for play.

1. Ice Domes

Ice domes have been our ‘go to’ summer activity for years. We’ve frozen everything from Schleich animals to flowers – it’s a great STEAM experiment that can be modified according to the ages of your children.

You will need:

  • A small mixing bowl (that will fit inside a freezer drawer)
  • A selection of small items e.g. magnetic letters, miniature animals, flowers, nature treasures…


This activity does require a little prep time. I tend to just check the weather forecast ahead of time and then freeze a selection of items into a mixing bowl.

Usually, the ice takes approximately 10 minutes to slide out of the dome, so you may want to wait for this process to happen before introducing the activity to your little ones.

You can use salt, a hammer or even warm water to help ‘rescue’ whatever is trapped inside the ice dome, With older children, get them to make a prediction first – they can even write up their findings!

2. Ice Painting

Have you guessed that a lot of these activities will include ice or water yet?! It just makes sense on really warm days!

You will need:

  • Ice cubes
  • Paint palette
  • Washable paints
  • Paint brushes
  • Large tray (we used our tuff spot tray)


This is such an easy activity to set up! Just simply pop the items on a large tray as an invitation – the children should do the rest! We actually did the above as a ‘paint the ocean’ themed activity and had also frozen miniature sea creatures into the ice.

My eldest ( 8 at the time this photo was taken) was really fascinated with the patterns the paint made and also requested salt to help the melting process.

3. Citrus Soup

The real beauty of this activity is that it is appealing to a wide variety of ages – my 14 month old loves playing with water and so does Mr 10!

You will need:

  • Citrus fruits (we used oranges and lemons)
  • Herbs (we used basil and mint)
  • Water
  • Watering can
  • A large tray (we used the Flisat table)
  • Cooking utensils such as pots, funnels and a wooden spoon
  • A towel – place underneath the table to help prevent slips
  • Splash mat – also underneath the table to protect wooden floors.


Because this is set up as an invitation, all you really need do is present the items (similar to above) and let your children do the playing.

In these instances, I act as an observer and only interrupt play if it starts to get silly. It’s always a good idea to remind children of any rules you have before an activity – we use the saying, ‘It stays in the tray or it goes away.’

4. Large-Scale Painting Session

Summertime goes hand in hand with the long school holiday period. This can be tricky at times, so why not try a large-scale art project?

You will need:

  • Old bed sheet
  • Washable paints
  • Ice paints (simply freeze a mixture of food colouring with flour, a little salt and water)
  • Baby wipes / damp cloth
  • Plastic sheet under the ‘canvas’ to protect the decking


Due to the scale of this project, I advise that you do it outside, preferably on the grass – underneath a shady spot – so that you don’t risk ruining the decking (I actually did this project with acrylic paints on the decking and it got ruined – so learn from my mistake!)

Present the paints on the bed sheet as an invitation and let the children explore. There is no real intended outcome to this project, it is simply a piece of process art. You could simply keep adding to the sheet throughout the summer or cut it up to use as bunting or a framed reminder of the holidays!

5. Wash the Babies

This is a cute activity that even really little ones can enjoy – it’s one that we repeat often because the children just love taking care of their babies!

You will need:

  • Baby bath or deep tray (alternatively, use the sink!)
  • Baby wash
  • Watering can or jug
  • Sponge
  • Bath time accessories such as a bath book or rubber duck
  • 2 towels (one underneath the bath or tray and one for the ‘babies’


For this activity, I tend to let the children do everything – my only contribution is to put all the items they want together so that they can run the bath for their babies.

Just make sure that you have everything you will need in the room before introducing the activity to little learners as any water play must be done under strict supervision.

6. Chalk Painting

The giant crayola chalks are always out at ours as they are just perfect for a bit of creative expression outside. In summertime, we add water to the mix to create gorgeous temporary paintings.

You will need:

  • Sidewalk chalks
  • Water
  • Watering can / bottle


There’s a few different ways to approach this activity – either wet the decking / sidewalk first and then use the chalks, dip the chalks into water or add water after the chalk has been applied. We often do a mix of all three – again this is a great way to explore materials!

7. Nature Potion

The beauty of a nature potion is that the children can just use whatever is to hand from around the garden! Encourage them to go on a scavenger hunt around the garden or local park, then put all of the ingredients into a pan or bowl to mix a potion.

You will need:

  • Tub or deep tray (in the photos we’ve used our mud kitchen, although this is not essential)
  • A selection of nature treasures
  • Watering can / jug/ bottles
  • Pots and pans
  • Egg carton for collecting treasures
  • Option: Food coloring
  • Spoons / whisk


Again, the beauty of this activity is that you can set it up as an invitation for the children to explore – let them go their own way with the process itself.

One of the items I sometimes provide the children with is frozen petals. I REALLY love to make use of flowers when I receive a bouquet. When they start to go over, we use them in a variety of ways and quite often that involves freezing them for a later date. Sometimes, I freeze them in a bowl of water or ice cube tray (as shown in the first activity suggestion) other times I just freeze the petals in a freezer bag.

8. Garden Play dough

Making garden play dough can make for a great follow up activity to the above nature potion. Collect herbs and flowers from the garden before it gets too hot, then make the play dough with the children helping as a way to cool off indoors.

To help preserve the play dough in the summer months, we keep it in the fridge.

You can read more on how to make play dough here.

9. Water Painting

If you need a way to cool off without the stress of mess, then all you need is a cup of water and some paintbrushes! No more explanation needed…

10. Frozen Yogurt Painting

This taste-safe activity means you don’t have to worry about children eating the mix of painting it on their bodies. Afterwards, let them clean up with a hose or watering can. Yoghurt painting is one of our staple activities when the children are small. It can be really tricky to find non-toxic paints or ones that are suitable for the under threes, so we’ve found yoghurt mixed with a little food coloring to be a good alternative.

You will need:

  • Natural Yogurt
  • Food coloring (we used gel but liquid is better)
  • Ice cube tray
  • Craft sticks
  • Paper and washi tape (optional)
  • Bowls
  • spoons


  1. Pre-mix each color into a bowl first. If you are at all worried about stains just use a little – the aim here is to have fun and explore rather than worry about colors!
  2. Spoon the mixture into the ice cube tray.
  3. Stick a paddle pop stick into the center of each compartment
  4. Freeze overnight


As you can see from the photos above, my youngest two had a lot of fun with this! E (13 months) did of course try to put the paints in his mouth, but because they are all natural, it wasn’t an issue.

Just like all of the activities I share here, supervision is required. I had to stop E from trying to run around with the paint sticks and he would occasionally try to put the whole lot in his mouth. Whenever these situations occurred, I diverted his attention by showing him how to paint.

Z (3.5 years) was obviously more engaged with the actual painting process and happily experimented with the colors.

Final Word

Creative activities with little ones can be tiring – mainly because the set-up tidy-up takes a while and the time spent on the actually activity itself is relatively short, but when I see how well they interacts with art projects now, I’m reminded that it’s all worth it!