When I was a kid, my grandma would keep my sisters, my cousins, and I entertained for hours. They had a big deck on the back of their house covered by a canopy of grapevines. She'd give us some paintbrushes and buckets of water, and we'd "paint" the deck.
Last summer I told Rykert that I was going to do some "painting" with Scout. He thought it sounded decidedly un-fun, but changed his tune when he realized that it would keep her entertained for quite awhile. So, I offer to you a very cheap and easy, and fairly clean, way to keep a toddler entertained for longer than you would think. Bucket + water + paintbrushes
This summer Scout enjoys the activity even more and asks to go outside and "paint" most nights after dinner.
As you can see, it is super serious business.
She usually ends up pretty wet, and frankly so do I. But by that time it's usually bathtime anyway.