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7 Summer Pretend Play Ideas for the Backyard or Beach

Looking for some fun summer pretend play ideas for backyard play this summer? I did the research, and I’m here to share it with you. 

I just love imaginary dramatic play! So I found some adorable ways to “make-believe” in the backyard, at the beach, or at the park and made a list of toys to enhance the fun.

I’ll admit, some of these play ideas came from my own childhood. You just can’t beat the classics. But hopefully, my new spin on some of those classics like a mud pie bakery will keep your kiddos entertained this summer.

The themes here are imaginary sweet treats, entrepreneurship, and partying with friends. The toys we’ve rounded up will help your kiddos host a backyard tea party or start their own sandbox or mud bakery.

1. Best Sandbox Tea Set for Summer Pretend

Parents are loving this Green Toys tea set, which is made in the USA from recycled milk jug plastic. It meets FDA guidelines, so no worries if your kiddos put pieces in their mouths.

This summer pretend play set gives your kids service for four with a teapot, sugar bowl, creamer, and four saucers, tea cups, and stirring spoons, so they’ll definitely have enough to share with siblings, cousins, or friends. 

I love that this set is made from durable plastic that can withstand outdoor play. The teapot and cups work great with water, but the sugar bowl has a small hole in the bottom. 

So it might be best to use some sandy sugar since that will stay in a little better than water. And if your kids decide to move the tea party into the kiddy pool, they can use the sugar bowl to drizzle water into their cups or onto each other’s heads (The manners required at a kiddy pool tea party are slightly different).

I also love that this tea set is dishwasher-safe. So if it gets particularly messy one day, or if you want to host an indoor tea party after lots of outdoor play, throw it in on the top rack and it’ll be spick and span in no time. Dishwasher-safe toy = parenting win!

2. Kiddy Pool for Water Tea Parties

I adore this inflatable kiddy pool by Jambo! Reviewers say the material, though heavy, is easy to inflate without scrimping on durability. 

I love that this pool is inflatable, so when the summer fun is done you can pack it away for next year’s summer pretend play.

There’s plenty of room for your kiddo to play with you or their friends. And, as I mentioned earlier, this pool would make a great place to host a backyard tea party. 

Throw in a plastic tea set and some party guests and let the fun begin!

Sandbox, Mud, or Beach Toys for a Sweet Bakery

Melissa & Doug have us totally covered when it comes to making treats for the perfect tea party menu or setting up an outdoor bakery. Their adorable sand toys will give your kids all the tools they need to make so-good-you-can-almost-taste-it sandy treats this summer!

3. Seaside Sidekicks Sand Baking Set

This sea-creature-inspired set will provide your kids with all the basic tools they need to set up an outdoor bakery and get selling those zero-calorie sweet sand treats. The set includes three seashell measuring cups, a crab mixing spoon, an octopus whisk, a mixing bowl, and a turtle sifter that doubles as a lid to the mixing bowl.

We love how durable this set is and how our child can play with them in the bathtub, at the beach, or in the backyard for summer pretend play. They are great for all ages of kids as well!

One thing to be aware of is that the turtle lid pops off the mixing bowl pretty easily. This bugs some kiddos, but it doesn’t stop them from playing. 

If it becomes an issue for your family, you could always DIY a fix like drilling holes in the top of the bowl to tie two short lengths of rope through.

Then your kids could either use the rope to tie a carry handle to turn the bowl into another bucket for playtime, or to tie the lid securely on the bowl for transport. 

You could also toss the mixing bowl with all the pieces inside into a mesh bag or beach tote for easy transport.

Whatever hacks you come up with to improve the finicky turtle lid (We’d love to hear about your genius fixes in the comments!), I’m sure your kiddos will still have a blast using it to sift all of their sand flour for the perfect sand cake or pie! 

This set will give their imaginations so many avenues to explore!

We actually took this on our latest camping trip and our child went crazy making all sorts of cakes and cookies for us. If we needed to get a task done at camp, we just asked her, “do you want to play in the dirt?” and it worked like a charm. “I love playing with dirt!” is her three-year-old response.

4. Seaside Sidekicks Sand Cookie Set

This cute set comes with three cookie cutters, a crab-themed shaker to add sprinkles to those cookies, two shell dishes, a baking pan, and a spatula. Everything your kiddo needs to whip up some tasty sand cookies!

Parents and kids love this set for sand and mud, but they also love it for Play-Doh. We love toys that do double duty!

One parent said it was difficult to move sand cookies from the ground to the baking sheet with the spatula. So I suggest putting your sand “dough” directly on the cookie sheet or shell dishes, cutting the dough, and then removing the excess sand and the cookie cutter. 

Viola! Perfect sand cookies ready to bake, sell, serve, or eat!

The little crab sprinkle shaker provides lots of fun as well. Kids love to see sand pouring out of it, and they also love playing with it in the pool. Just make sure you keep track of the lid so the fun can continue!

5. Seaside Sidekick Sand Cupcake Set

With this cute 12-piece sand toy set, your little chefs will be whipping up gourmet sandy cupcakes all summer long! 

The set includes a hinged cupcake mold, a cupcake baking pan, an icing tool that some kiddos like to use as a makeshift shovel, enough cupcake bottoms and toppers to make four cupcakes, and a mesh storage bag to carry it all. 

This super sweet set is also sea creature themed, which I love for the beach!

This set is another versatile one—your kids can use it with Play-Doh, kinetic sand, or mud or sand in the backyard or at the beach. Just make sure you wet down the sand they’ll be baking with so it will hold its shape well in the molds. 

Or better yet, give them a bucket or bowl full of water and a measuring cup and let them experiment to find the perfect balance of sand and water for their delectable cupcakes!

Parents rave about the entertainment value of this set. Kids pretend and play and create for hours at a time and come back to play with this sand toy set again and again. 

I’m certain it must be the adorable cupcakes. There’s something especially adorable and enticing about cupcakes!

One parent had this to say about this awesome set: 

“This product stands the test of time. Our last set lasted us 4 years. We only replaced it because we had misplaced some of the pieces. Our daughters were ecstatic to have a complete set again. I love how the colors stay bright and don’t fade like many other sand toys.” 

Another parent said, 

“This set has been worth its weight in gold. It continues to offer my daughter hours of make-believe delight. If we were to lose these, I’d buy them again in a heartbeat.” So this sand cupcake set sounds like an overall great investment to us!

How’s that for some fun summer pretend play?

6. Melissa & Doug Sunny Patch Speck Seahorse Sand Ice Cream Set

I know, ice cream isn’t usually served at a bakery. But what if it was? I think that bakery/ice cream shop would become my happy place! 

I couldn’t resist adding this adorable ice cream sand toy to the list when I saw it!

It comes with two cones, two scoops—one swirly and one more round—a cute crab shaker for adding sprinkles, a classic bucket, and a lid that doubles as a sand mold. So your kiddos will have everything they need to set up an ice cream shop or to add ice cream to their bakery menu!

I also fell in love with this parent suggestion on Amazon:

“So much fun at the beach! Especially if you add food coloring. Put some sand in the bucket, add food coloring, put the lid on, shake it up, and you have pink, blue, yellow, etc. ice cream cones. Also makes a nice sand castle.”

In this same spirit, you could use these ice cream sand toys with some other Melissa & Doug sand toys like the cupcake or cookie sets to make a Candy Land-esque sand castle. 

With that food-colored sand, can you imagine the adorableness? It makes me want to pack my family’s bags and head for the beach!

7. Sweet Chalk for decorating Backyard tea parties or bakery

Melissa & Doug have us covered again with these darling chalk sets! Get ready for some awesome summer pretend play! While one of these cute chalk sets would make a great stand-alone toy or birthday gift, we think they all pair wonderfully with the backyard tea party or bakery theme! 

Your kiddos can use this chalk to draw sweet decorations for a tea party or to add a menu to their bakery or ice cream shop.

You can get the set in a chalk Sweet Shop or chalk Ice Cream Shop theme. These sets both include stencils and a double-sided sign with a holder to use with your chalk. They also include a stamper to use with chalk and a little water to make sprinkles on cupcakes, cookies, and ice cream cones. 

Here’s a hint: give your kiddos a small cup of water to use with the stamper so they won’t be so tempted to pull out the garden hose.

The Sweet Shop set includes fun and delicious-looking chalk shaped like cupcakes, cookies, macaroons, a slice of birthday cake, and a birthday candle. The Ice Cream Shop set comes with chalk shaped like frosty frozen treats and some fun jumbo chalk sticks with a double-color twist.

If you want the chalk without the stencils and sign, or if your kiddos need more sweets to add to their summer chalk fun, check out this Sweet Treats Chalk Playset.

It comes with twelve pieces of chalk: four cupcakes, four ice cream cones, two cookies, one macaroon, one cookie ice cream sandwich, and one birthday candle. 

The candles in these sets actually fit into the tops of the included cupcakes, a favorite feature for many kiddos. The sweet treats also work great for pretend play outside before your kids begin drawing!

Parents love that these sets work well for all ages of kids. Toddlers can scribble and dot with the bigger, easier-to-hold pieces like the cupcakes. 

Older kids can do more detailed work with pieces like ice cream cones or birthday candles. So this is a great toy for siblings of different ages to play with together. Bring on the summer family fun!

I hope you have tons of sweet summer fun with your kids and these adorable summer pretend play ideas! What else would you add to a sandbox or kiddy pool tea party and a backyard bakery?


Drop your awesome ideas in the comments below! I’m all about sharing here! 

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