Summer brings the wonderful advantage of some unstructured time for children. As the days permit, make sure to use the nature in your backyard for children to learn. Following are some tips that were featured in a newsletter I receive (The Well-Centered Child) and I thought you might be motivated to ponder the possibilities they encourage. For those of us without young children, just remember that being outside is a stress release and a great way to be more active.
*Grow a garden, even a container garden for your child to grow vegetables or flowers that are theirs to care for and pick. Flowers that work well are zinnias, daisies or marigolds. Vegetables that work well are lettuce, radishes and some tomatoes, they can “grow a salad”
*As reminders for care, make sticks with yarn or ribbon on them to help them to remember. Red ribbon could me “weed me” or blue ribbon could mean “water me”, etc. Move the sticks as needed. As you are showing them what’s a weed, make it a learning experience by asking questions like: Is there more of the weed above or below the ground? Can you find weeds with shallow branching roots? How about one with a long taproot? Who can find the biggest weed?
*When the wading pool needs to be emptied, scoop the water and water the trees instead of just dumping it on the lawn.
*Secure a place outside where children can just dig in the dirt. Occasionally you might hide small objects (as age appropriate) for them to find while digging.
*Old cups bowls and containers like margarine or cottage cheese are great for molding and playing in the sand or dirt. Let their imagination go!
*Use a bucket of water and a paintbrush as a great activity for them to “paint the house” or “the fence” and watch how the water evaporates (it also is a help in keeping things clean!)
*If your looking for ways to use those outgrown shoes, plant a flower in them. Add a little dirt and try something like dwarf sunflowers in them for a pleasant addition to your garden.
*Who says learning numbers and letters need to be done on paper alone? Use something like a cereal box and cut out large numbers and letters. Take them outside and lay them on the lawn (in a place with permission) and put a couple of rocks on top of the cardboard. After a week, let the child remove the cardboard and observe the yellow grass underneath. Plants need light to produce chlorophyll, which makes them green. They can trace the letters with their fingers and replicate the tracing on the sidewalk with chalk or in the sand or dirt. By the way, the yellow will turn to green again.
*Hollow out part of a potato and fill it with cotton balls and grass seed. Slide the potato with the filled “hat” into an old hose or knee-hi and keep it watered. Soon it will begin to grow “hair”. You can also decorate the potato to be a real “potato head”
Remember children need to have at least 60 minutes of physical activity to increase their heart rate and develop their large motor skills. Set a good example by joining your children in some of their play. It’s good for them to have time to fill on their on by entertaining themselves, but it’s also great for you to spend time with them a get a little exercise too.