Summer Activities for Kids

Keeping a Routine during Summer Break

Summer is here and many kids are excited for a break from the school schedule. Without the regular routine of school, summer days can get long and it can be a tough task to keep kids busy. Summer break also often means more relaxed routines. For some children, this is okay, but others need and thrive on keeping a regular schedule.  Not having a regular schedule can actually lead to dysregulation of sensory systems for many children.  This may create meltdowns, and difficulty transitioning from one activity to another. 

Here are some tips for surviving summer break:

  • Keep regular bed and wake up times – even if they may be later than the school year
  • Create a schedule of the day’s events (written or visual, depending on reading level), review it as a family, and keep it somewhere visible through the day. Make sure to include fun activities as well as chores or non-preferred activities on the list.
  • Limit screen time.
  • Encourage outdoor play.
  • Be consistent.
  • Be predictable.
  • Follow-through.

Your therapists at Children’s Rehab Center can help families establish structure and routine to improve transitions and decrease meltdowns.

A list of fun summer occupational therapy activities are provided below to keep kids engaged, happy, and ready for the school year next year - or in the short term, ready for a good night’s sleep!

Outdoor Activity
sensory bin_pediatric occupational therapy

Icy Sensory Bin:
Water play is a summertime staple for many families, but this activity takes fun with water to a whole new (and cooler) level! In order to beat the heat and develop both fine motor and sensory processing skills, try making an icy sensory bin for your kiddo.
What you will need:

  • A large tub, bowl,  or bucket
  • Enough ice to fill the bucket – purchased or right from your freezer
  • Household tools for scooping and dumping – measuring cups, large wooden spoons or drinking cup are perfect!

Fill a bucket or large tub with ice and encourage your child to touch and feel the ice for a tactile sensory experience.  Encourage him or her to scoop and dump the ice into and out of containers for development fine motor coordination. For an added fine motor activity, small plastic toys could be hidden among the ice cubes for your child to find.

Indoor Activity

Pool Noodle Fine Motor Fun:
Summer will be here before we know it and along with summer comes sunshine, popsicles, swimming, and…..pool noodles! These simple (and inexpensive!) seasonal pool toys can be easily transformed into a number of fun fine motor activities for your little one. For the best results purchase a hollow pool noodle, which can usually be found for $3-4.
pediatric occupational therapy summer activity

Activity #1: Pom-poms and Pool Noodles
What you will need:

  • A bag of fuzzy of assorted sizes pom-pom balls found at craft stores or large retail stores.
  • A pool noodle cut width wise into several pieces about 1 to 2 inches in height, using a serrated knife or a hefty pair of scissors.

Encourage your child to place the small pom-pom balls into the holes of the pool noodle pieces and then poke them through the hole. This will help develop his or her pincer grasp, finger isolation, visual motor coordination, and dexterity. Additionally, the larger pom-pom balls can be placed on top of the holes, further developing grasp and also working on fine motor control.

Fine Motor Activities

Playing and learning with our hands is how we develop the dexterity needed for dressing and manipulating toys, precise movements with scissors and pencils, feeding independence, and more. Here are some fun ways to work on fine motor skills this summer:

  • Working on a summery craft is a fun way to engage in fine motor activities. Make flowers by cutting out a large circle, rectangle for a stem, and glue together with a glue bottle for hand strength and bilateral coordination. Have your child finish by placing painted clothespins on the outside for pinch strength needed in utilizing utensils, strengthening fingers for a tripod pencil grasp, and more.
  • Fine motor activities can be fun to do outside on the sidewalk. Try some chalk and work on drawing shapes, starting letters from the top, and tracing each other’s outline for fine motor precision! Another fun activity is painting on the sidewalk with sidewalk paint or just with paintbrushes and water.
  • When it’s too warm to go out in the hot, summer sun, try some dress up with your child! Small and large buttons, zippers, snaps, and hooks involved in the clothing can help strengthen our muscles in our fingers as well as our dexterity skills.

Visual Motor Activities

Vision is used in almost everything a child does throughout their day. Strong visual skills are needed for a child to read, write, solve a math problem and keep track of information placed on the board in the classroom. Visual motor skills help a child keep up with peers when completing inside play, including boardgames and puzzles, and outside when participating in sports, riding a bike, and more.

  • Water balloons are a fun way to work on eye-hand coordination. Play catch with both hands and see if your child can progress to playing with one hand. Make a target and see if your child can hit from short distances and work up to longer distances.
  • A backyard or park scavenger hunt is a fun way for a child to work on visual matching, visual memory and scanning skills. Better yet, have your child work on visual spatial skills by giving directional challenges such as, “It is hidden behind the tree” or “It is located on the left side of the slide.” Add in some fine motor work with working together to write and draw the list of items.

Sensory Activities

If your child is in occupational therapy, you have probably heard of sensory integration. But if they’re not, you may be wondering what sensory means and why a therapist would include this in summer learning and engaging activities! Sensory processing is how our body takes in and responds to sensory information in our environment. This includes the five typical senses we think of: sight, touch, smell, hearing, and smell. Sensory also includes three more senses and one is vestibular input. Vestibular input is located in our inner ear and it tells us how our body is moving. Proprioceptive input is located in receptors in our muscles and joints and tells us where our body is in space, even if our eyes are closed. Last but not least, interoception is our internal sense of our body, it can tell us when we’re hungry or thirsty, in pain, and much more. These senses are the basis for us to respond to our environment and others successfully. Here are some fun ways to engage your child’s senses this summer!

  • Summer is a beautiful time to work on our sense of touch, also called tactile input. Parents are often nervous about messy play in the house and in the summer, we can take these activities outside. Take out several bowls and fill them with water outside. Explore with food dye for fun visual input and allow your child to mix and pour the containers for proprioceptive play.
  • Make bubble foam in a large container. Ingredients needed are bubble bath or body wash (tear free), food coloring, and water. Use twice as much bubble bath as water and put in a couple drops of food coloring. Add water toys, measuring cups, toy cars, or whatever your child desires that is washable!
  • A big obstacle course is such a fun way to get the needed vestibular and proprioceptive input to stay regulated throughout the day! In summer, you can use scooters and bikes, jump ropes, hula hoops, hop scotch, and more. Let your child’s creativity shine and have them invent the course!

Self-regulation and Play Activities

 Without the school routine and with many hours spent with siblings, children can become unregulated. To help your child get along with siblings and stay calm and happy, play and coping skills activities are listed below.

  • Outdoors is a fun place to practice taking deep breaths. Take a deep breath in and blow out bubbles or find some colorful feathers in your craft area. Have your child take a deep breath in as they trace one side of the feather and blow out on the other side.
  • Play pass or hot potato with your child with a large ball. Write with a dry erase marker on the ball a list of coping skills your child is working on developing or that has worked previously. Some ideas can include taking a break, going for a short walk, doing wall push-ups, yoga, listening to music, and much more! Have your child list the coping skill that is closest to their thumb!

The therapists and staff at Children's Rehab Centers of Grand Island, Hastings, and Kearney wish you a wonderful summer vacation!


Bubble Trucks Sensory Activity. (n.d.). Retrieved June 30, 2019, from