Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Summer Learning Fun: The Great Outdoors

Last weekend, I enjoyed some time with my family at the park, launching model rockets, watching my father-in-law fly his remote-control airplanes, and enjoying the sunshine. It was a good reminder of how great it can be to just get out of the house.

It can be tempting when summer starts to hit it's peak, and the weather gets hotter to want to stay in the house where the air is cool, and the entertainment comes easily from the TV or video and computer games. But this is another plug to leave the world of technology behind for awhile and enjoy the great outdoors! There is so much learning and fun to be had when kids can be active outside of the house.

Playing outside can be as simple as just that. Kids are great at creating their own meaningful play experiences. Especially in the summer, it can be as simple as adding a little water to the mix. Besides just being really fun, water play is great for sensory and scientific exploration.You can do it with sprinklers, a hose, or the swimming pool, but creating a water table is a fun, simple idea that can promote learning experiences as well.

You could get more creative if you wanted, but why not just keep it simple. All you'll need is a large plastic storage container (like the kind you would use for under the bed storage). You could set it on a low table, or  even just on the ground. Then all you need to do is fill it with water. Easy! Kids can use sticks, rocks, toys, cups, sponges, etc. to investigate and play.

The bin could also be used for other kinds of sensory play with sand, dirt, rocks, beans, rice...really anything you're willing to try. Using it outside will also keep the mess a little more manageable. :)

There are so many other great things you can do outside, or even just out of your house. Getting out of the house gives kids experiences that help build their vocabulary and knowledge about the world. It's absolutely worth the time and effort.

A few more ideas for getting out of the house in Utah...

1. Go on a mountain drive, then get out of the car and explore!
2. Different parks around the valley have some fun features, like the trail behind Granite Park in Sandy or the water streams that kids can play in at Liberty Park.
3. Go on a walk around the neighborhood and talk about what makes up a community.
4. Visit the library and pay attention to classes or groups offered that would interest your child.
5. Tour a candy factory like Taffy Town in downtown Salt Lake. (Often these kinds of tours are free!)
6. Have a picnic at the park.
7. Do an outdoor art project, such as drawing something outside using a clipboard or using outdoor materials to create a nature collage.
8. Go on a bug hunt...draw or take pictures of the bugs you find. Unless you are braver than I am, and willing to touch them. :)
9. Encourage dramatic play- go on imaginary adventures in your backyard.
10. Play active games using balls, hula hoops, or frisbees. Make up silly games or races.
11. Draw and practice writing using sidewalk chalk.

I'm all about activities that are easy, cheap or free. But you could also visit the zoo, aviary, aquarium or museums, if you've got some cash to spare.

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