By Dr. Lauren Starnes, Chief Academic Officer at Goddard Systems, LLC.
With summer in full swing, encouraging outdoor playtime not only keeps children active by burning off that built-up energy, but it also aids in their overall growth and development. According to research from NAEYC, time spent outside can lead to better mental and physical health, improved sleep, and cognitive and social-emotional gains for young children. Additionally, prioritizing outdoor play helps limit screen time.
With longer, warmer days, the whole family can have fun outside together. There are many outdoor activities that support sensory integration, language development, and fine and gross motor skills. Simple things such as taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of nature, using their imagination, and running around can be just enough to keep their little minds busy. If you’re looking for a bit more structure, here are seven activities to enjoy in the summer sun:
Cool off with water. Water is great for sensory play. Break out the water balloons, water table, or sprinkler to have fun while cooling off. Young children love to help, so while the hose is out, ask them to give you a hand with watering the garden. Fill a child-size watering can and show your children how to water plants.
Draw with watercolor sidewalk chalk. Sidewalk chalk is always fun, but you can take it to the next level with water. Have your children draw with chalk, then give them a bucket of water and a paintbrush to paint over their drawings. They can also dip the chalk directly into the water and draw with the wet chalk. Ask them about the differences between drawing with wet and dry chalk.
Make mud pies. Children love getting dirty. Have fun by mixing water and dirt to make mud pies. Take it a step further by creating a pretend outdoor kitchen where children can “bake” muddy delights.
Create a messy masterpiece. Using finger paints and paper, encourage your children to use their feet and hands to make art. Let their creativity shine through. Clean-up is a breeze—and a blast—with a hose: gently spray your children and let them spray you, too.
Go for a walk. As you walk, engage with your children by talking about what they see. Children learn by observing and experiencing new things, so encourage them to pick up and smell flowers, leaves, stones, and sticks. By describing the items, you will help them build language skills as well.
Play with bubbles. Bubbles are fun for children and adults alike. Instead of buying bubbles, have your children help make their own with some warm water, sugar, and dish soap. Get your children’s hands wet and blow bubbles onto their palms. They’ll love it when the bubbles don’t pop.
Conduct a science experiment. Put ice cubes on the ground and watch them melt. Ask your children what happened to them. Or place ice cream in a sealed plastic bag and have your children play with it until it melts. Remember to talk about what’s happening and repeat the activities a few times. Repetition supports learning and the recognition of new objects.
No matter where you are this summer, make spending time outside part of your family’s daily routine. Fortunately, the above activities require minimal planning and supplies, making it easy to reap the numerous benefits the outdoors have to offer.
Summer at The Goddard School is filled with outdoor adventures and child-led exploration. To learn more about our summer programming, visit www.goddardschool.com/summer-with-goddard. To learn more about The Goddard School, visit www.goddardschool.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Lauren Starnes is chief academic officer at Goddard Systems, LLC. She is responsible for leading the development of The Goddard School’s proprietary education program, driving research-based innovation, and implementing new accreditation standards across the franchise system. Lauren has more than 20 years of experience in education, including curriculum development, evaluation, and implementation, as well as teaching and consulting in the fields of preschool, special needs, and elementary education. A widely published author and lecturer, Lauren holds a doctorate in educational leadership, as well as a master’s degree and doctorate in child development.