Curious Adventures for Kids in Your Own Backyard: Great Summer Ideas for Moms
By Cheri Fuller
What are your kids doing in the hazy, lazy days of summer? Here are some great ways to enjoy the summer with your kids and at the same time provide activities that are enriching and help keep them curious and engaged in learning.
Remember that when you stir up kids’ curiosity you are BOOSTING their motivation for learning. And you don’t have to send them to a science camp to accomplish that! There are lots of resources in your own backyard that are hands-on, free, and lots of fun. Here are some ideas to get you going. Let each child invite a friend (perhaps ask their moms to provide a snack or help you). And let the adventures begin!
- Cloud and bird-watching and Star Gazing. In the daytime, lie out in the grass and watch clouds and their patterns. Ask your kids: “What do you see? What do the shapes look like if you use your imagination?”
- Sprinkle bread crumbs in the yard or set up a bird feeder. Then wait quietly nearby and watch the birds. Get a book from the library that has pictures of different species of birds and help them identify the feathered friends in your backyard. At night, lie out and watch the stars. Ask: “Do you see the North Star, Big Dipper, Orion?”
- Sidewalk Chalk and Paint the Town. Get some bright colors of sidewalk chalk and encourage your kids to draw funny faces and write their names and then “Paint” the sidewalk—with a big paintbrush and a bucket of water.
- Have a Nature Scavenger Hunt in the backyard. Make a list of things to find: three rocks, a red and yellow flower, four different-shaped leaves, four different-sized sticks, etc. If your kids aren’t reading yet, draw or glue pictures of the objects you want them to find instead. If you go to the beach, have a Beach Scavenger Hunt with items like seaweed, a shell, a seagull feather, etc. to find, and if all else fails and it’s a rainy day, move your scavenger hunt indoors.
- Bubble-blowing fun. Experiment with the wind using kites, pinwheels, bright balloons, and bubble-blowing liquid.
- All the Crawly Creatures. Let your kids collect bugs (using a “critter-catcher” you either make or buy at a learning or toy store) and study them under a magnifying glass. Get a full-color book on bugs to help them identify their “finds” and stir up interest in science.
- Have a “Snick-Snacks Cooking Class” for your children. Teach them to make a snack chosen from a children’s cookbook. As you “cook,” talk about measurements as the child measures and stirs ingredients. Then the two of you take your snacks, a cool drink and a quilt out into the yard for an impromptu picnic.
- Make learning fun with board games and cards. Many games exercise language, memory, visual discrimination and problem-solving skills while the child is having fun, enjoying social interaction, and having conversation practice. A game as simple as checkers involves planning and problem-solving skills, important for school success. When your child has a friend over or just spends time with siblings, encourage them to stretch out on the floor and play a game.
Although there are many games to choose from, here are a few of the most popular, along with the skills they help improve:
Game - Skills Developed
Memory Game - Memory and visual discrimination
Chutes and Ladders - Counting, discrimination
Connect Four - Planning and problem-solving
Scrabble for Juniors - Language and vocabulary building
Card games like Crazy Eights, Spades, and Hearts - Categorizing, counting, adding, reasoning, calculating probabilities, using memory skills, and developing strategies
When the school year starts again—and it will be here before we know it—if your children do at least one activity a day that combines fun and learning. Research shows that kids who have some at-home learning activities during the summer months (even one a day) don’t lose skills but instead gain skills. Your kids can make progress rather than regressed during those long, hot summer days at home. They’ll be stronger students ready to tackle the challenges of the classroom.
Copyright 2006 Cheri Fuller, www.cherifuller.com, adapted from her book School Starts at Home, part of The School Saavy Kids Series by Navpress/Pinon. Use only by permission of author. If a website wants to carry this column, they must include the cover of this book and a link to purchase it.
(Use only with permission of author.)