It’s one of those jokes the universe loves to play on parents (and their wallets): The moment you present your young child with a shiny, expensive new toy is the exact moment she becomes enthralled with the packaging it came in—and doesn’t bat an eye at the actual present.
I’m constantly amazed at how the simplest of items can keep my toddler’s attention for way longer than the stuff I’ve shelled out significant dough to purchase for him.
So this summer, save yourself the money—not to mention the frustration!—by sticking with straightforward toys that your little one will find just as amusing as more expensive ones with all the bells and whistles.
1. All-Purpose Ball
It doesn’t get simpler than this! A rubber ball that’s easy for little limbs to throw, kick, and (attempt to) catch is sure to provide hours of entertainment. Great for developing gross motor skills too. This colorful one from Melissa and Doug ($9.26) features a cute starfish design.
2. Baby Pool
Maybe a membership to the community pool just isn’t in the budget this summer. Or maybe you just can’t make it there on every single scorcher of an afternoon. Baby pools, then, are a fast and cost-effective way to cool off. I like the Intex Sunset Glow Baby Pool ($8.19) because it’s deeper than other ones we’ve tried, plus my toddler likes the softer floor.
3. Paintbrush and Water
No mess. No fuss. And most likely no cost, since you probably already own a paintbrush and a tub or bucket.
4. Sidewalk Chalk
My little guy can entertain himself for quite some time decorating our driveway with a rainbow of blues, pinks, yellows, and oranges. He especially likes when I draw something like a heart or a star for him to color in. We’ve found that Crayola’s Sidewalk Chalk Bucket ($9.96) is a good value because the pieces don’t break too easily.
What toddler doesn’t love bubbles? Heck, what human doesn’t love bubbles? We buy a a big bottle of Gazillion Bubbles ($9.99) and then use all sizes and shapes of wands.
6. Hula Hoop
Sure, most toddlers don’t have the hip action required for actual hula hooping, but my guy loves just rolling the hoop around the yard or using it as a makeshift basketball hoop. If you don’t have one lying around from your own childhood, this one snaps together and apart for easier storage ($6.95).
7. Butterfly Net
Let your kiddo loose in the backyard to run around and try to catch all manner of bugs and butterflies. This net from Melissa and Doug ($8.99) is colorful and has great reviews, but note that it does have small parts.
8. Magnifying Glass
For closely inspecting all those bugs they catch, of course! This not only keeps toddlers entertained, but also encourages an appreciation for the natural world. Here’a another Melissa and Doug-brand option ($5.69).
9. Cardboard Box and Crayons
Perfect for the inevitable rainy summer day! My toddler practically starts cheering whenever a large package shows up on our doorstep because he knows he’ll get to play artist on the outside and inside of the box! And again no additional cost to me, since we already own more crayons than we know what to do with.
What’s your go-to toy in the summer? Have you ever felt like you wasted money on an expensive toy your kid wasn’t even interested in?
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26 responses to “9 Summer Toys for Toddlers Under $10 Each”
A shovel and pail are our best toddler toys now, beyond the furniture in our home (natural obstacle course for the climbing toddler).
Most days we are at the beach, so the bucket is a must.
We usually purchase toys at the thrift stores, so the cost is quite low. Goodwill has 50% off everything on July 4th and Black Friday.
We found a grocery cart (another favorite) for $2.49 versus $28+ this year. Susanna pushes her balls around in it happily.
I’m going to start looking around for a grocery cart, I can imagine my son would love it too!
It’s amazing how long a ball can entertain a toddler, isn’t it? I get most of C’s out of the dollar spot at target because he’s always losing them. We’ve used the baby pool a lot this summer to beat the heat. Unfortunately it has a hole so we haven’t used it lately… I’ll have to check out the one you recommended!
So far it’s held up really well for us, Caroline!
Great ideas! They really do get so much enjoyment from the simplest things. I hardly ever buy toys anymore…we have so many! Thanks for sharing.
We are huge fans of #5 and #9 this summer. We got a new barbecue grill and turned the box into a house for our three-year-old. It’s his favorite place to hang out in the backyard!!
Isn’t it great how kids enjoy the simplest toys? I actually had a “ball” themed second birthday party for my son because he was so obsessed with them. I never bought a baby pool because I’m too lazy to blow them up and I don’t want to store one of those hard plastic ones, but a few small bowls of water for the baby and a sprinkler for the older boy have been working great!
Your model is sure having a good time, isn’t he?
Wonderful and timeless toys. Chalk and nets and cardboard boxes never get old here.
The kittens love bags.
It’s so cheap to entertain around here!
Here’s the good news, Katie – those toys that please the toddler? They please the teenager, too. Especially the all-purpose ball and cardboard box with crayons!
Great toys. Many times, it’s the simpler toys that actually interest the child most. Parents should keep this in mind as they seek to keep their child occupied this summer.
These are some of our favorite go-to summer toys! Though I really want to combine #4 and #5 now… Love the photo of your boy in the box 🙂
Great list! Our kids love to water the plants – especially with the garden hose – it always end up in a water fight – but that’s fine here in the Florida sun!
I’ve used all of these to entertain my boys as toddlers. Simple really is best. One or our favorites was (and still is!) the sprinkler. They could run in the sprinkler for hours. And you can water the lawn at the same time too!
My kids love many of these! Balls are their favorite, with my one-year-olds already “dribbling” the ball with their feet a la soccer style lol! And I swear they love the cardboard boxes that the diapers come in haha. And bubbles! We just took them to the park yesterday and they had a blast blowing and popping bubbles. I’ve been meaning to get chalk too.
The simplest toys are the best ones, especially for toddlers. Our favourite is the cardboard box, there’s so much you can do with it!
Simple is the way to go when it comes to toys, great post!
The best toys are always the simplest ones!
I love paintbrushes and water… my kids could “paint the fence” for hours – LOL.
Thank you for sharing (and for linking up to the #SHINEbloghop).
Wishing you a lovely weekend.
My son is currently trying to master the hula hoop, LoL! He’s 3 and yeah. It’s a sight. Great post! Thanks for sharing at #SITSBlogging
I am going to have to try the paint brush and water idea! And the box and crayons. I have a 20 mo old and keeping him buy is hard work!
Hopefully these will keep him entertained just like they do my toddler! Thanks for stopping by, Kristie.
You hit this one right on the nail! Both my kids love every suggestion you have here! Especially the cardboard box!
My kids love these toys and they aren’t toddlers anymore!! They will run around the yard happily for hours with butterfly nets!!
I would have never thought to paint with water or color boxes. Thank you for the awesome ideas!
It’s so simple yet so enthralling for toddlers!
These are great ideas. We just moved to Japan and we were holding off on buying any new or used toys for our son until after the move since we were on a weight restriction. Now that we are here, it is a great time to buy some stuff that is more developmentally appropriate (i.e. challenging) for him. I love the idea of paintbrush and water…I think he would adore that!
It’s so wonderful and easy, Lauren! I hope your move went well!