Keeping Little Ones Busy This Summer….Give Them Purpose!

Keeping Little Ones Busy This Summer….Give Them Purpose!

I don’t know about you, but the Dawson family really only needs about 1 month in summer before we are ready to get back to “normal.” Sure, we love sleeping in, relaxing in the sun, catching a movie, walking to the ice cream shop after dinner, and sometimes we throw in a trip to the beach or theme park— those things make summer the perfect end to a busy school year! Cue “Fun, Fun, Fun” by Pharrell Williams…

If you are a stay-at-home mom or day, summer can actually be challenging with little ones. You know, the toddlers and preschoolers who DON’T sleep in until mid-morning, who aren’t quite big enough for a feature-length film in the movie theater, who will run you back and forth from the “big” pool to the kiddie pool and destroy any illusions of catching a little catnap under the umbrellas.

They still need some structure to their day and many still nap right smack dab in the middle of it… usually once whatever you are doing has started to actually get “good.”

Another challenge with our little ones is more conflict and frustration. Personally, I find myself saying “no” more than ‘yes.’

Due to the heat, we tend to stay indoors more, watch tv more, eat more, and complain more.

My own dilemma is wanting my little one to entertain herself and play without relying solely on tv / electronics. Hey, WE had to, so why can’t our kids, right?  I imagine you probably want that as well, but it isn’t easy if you don’t have the resources for back-to-back day camps or summer programs.

As I find myself saying “No, we aren’t going to watch another movie, No, it’s too hot to go outside, No, you’ve already eaten enough junk food, No, we are not going to do a sparkly craft (I abhor glue and glitter) no, no, no…” it gets really old to the preschooler who doesn’t know what I DO want her to do.

Photo by Andy Fitzsimon on Unsplash

I need to give her purpose…redirect her in the boredom and tantrums…give her tasks and introduce skills that she can work at and practice when the tv and electronics need to be silenced.

Here are a few things that I have discovered little ones CAN and often WANT to do because they love to be big kids and feel helpful. This gives them a sense of purpose and contribution to the household. It also teaches them useful skills, building self-esteem, and the confidence needed to continue growing and developing new skills!

Afterwards, I find myself much less conflicted in giving them a little down time watching a favorite show, inviting a friend over to play, or enjoying a special treat. I am all about balance- and I am desperate to find a healthy balance for our summer days.


A few examples: 

  • Helping empty dishwasher (most 2-yr-olds and above can do silverware, and hand out plates, cups, and other things), and help re-load it with dirty dishes-with exception to sharp knives, blades, etc…
  • Lunch: grabbing plates, choosing foods, putting it on the plate, even creating cute designs, etc..
  • Laundry: sorting colors, helping transfer clothes from washer to dryer, etc…folding small towels, socks (play the matching game), deliver stacks to siblings.
  • Cleaning up /cleaning out: invite them to help purge toys that they no longer like / use to give to another little child or friend. This might not work well if you have a little one that wants to keep everything, but some children are eager to pass along toys they have outgrown to younger friends!
  • Watering plants / gardening: Charley LOVES to water the plants and flowers in the early morning!!  (Green tip: I collect all of our unfinished/ unclaimed water bottles sitting around the house / garage and use those to feed my indoor/ outdoor plants…I try to NOT to pour good bottled water down the drain!)
  • Emptying trash -Again, I re-used grocery bags for our small trash cans and these are small enough for little ones to handle as we go throughout the house.
  • Dusting – Swiffer-type dust wands are fun and easy for little ones to use!
  • And this is the BEST:
    Sweeping – I was given an awesome battery powered sweeper which my big kids literally fight each other to use! And Charley was able to use it by 18 months!  Sure, it is not a deep cleaning tool, but it isn’t meant to be- it simply sucks up crumbs, dirt, dust, and teeny tiny bits of play dough, keeping floors neat until I find time to do a full-scale vacuum / mopping treatment- which, let’s be honest, isn’t my greatest priority these days!




Sure, any activity where a little one assists is prone to a slower pace, a few mishaps, and less-than-ideal quality, but who cares? Life with little ones will be messy- and sticky…(something is always sticky!) But it’s just a season, and a very short one at that!

Summer too, is just a season…here today, gone tomorrow. I don’t want to spend this season arguing, frustrated, and irritated because my preschooler doesn’t know what I want her to do with herself. I believe that she, like each of us, needs direction and purpose for her day. And your little one(s) may too!

In addition to the much-needed freeplay this summer, if we give them small jobs, we also give them purpose!

What do YOU think? If you have a little one, what have you discovered they are capable of (and enjoy) doing that actually helps you out and keeps them busy?


I would love for you to share this post with friends who have little ones or (grand-littles)! I write on a variety of topics which include parenting and family life, relationships, finances, and spiritual / emotional health, and more! At Crowning Wisdom, I talk about how we can apply God’s unchanging wisdom to a rapidly changing world.  And it’s only through a relationship with Jesus Christ that we can truly live wise and live well!

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