How to keep a child busy for hours in the summer: DIY: Giant Ice Cube Awesomeness - filled with plastic animals, dinos, and such. And I'm sure you could put in food dye before its frozen to color it like the ice block in the photo.
cardboard tubes + box = hours of fun! We pieced together TP and paper towel tubes. Used marbles. The kiddo loved it and even still pulls it out to roll the marbles into a dump truck. He wont' let me toss any cardboard tubes now.