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It’s easier than you think to fill your preschooler’s summer days with playful learning experiences. In fact, with some basic activities, you’ll be providing opportunities for your child to develop, grow, and learn. And the best part is these activities don’t cost a fortune or require too much preparation.
1. Pretend Play
Encourage your child to play dress-up and make-believe. Provide puppets, props, and ideas so that she can pretend play.
How They Learn: Pretending improves children’s vocabulary as they take on the pretend character role, as well as helps develop their self-control.
Provide a space and supplies so that your child can draw and write anytime he desires. Colorful pencils, crayons and markers in baskets, plus blank papers of any size and color will surely entice most children to scribble, draw, or write.
How They Learn: Drawing is the best precursor to writing; it helps children’s fine motor skills and prepares their understanding of written communication.
Sing, dance, and play! Music helps children develop math skills. Plus, it’s just fun. Provide musical instruments like bells and drums and make your own marching band. If you don’t have any bells or drums, raid the kitchen for kitchen instruments and see what “music” you can make there.
How They Learn: Music benefits all learning areas such as language development and helps increase IQ.
4. Active Play
Different from pretend play, active play is all about big movement – running, skipping, hopping, zigzagging, swinging, and so forth. Did you know that your preschooler needs 60 minutes of active play a day? So go to a park or play tag in the backyard. Find lots of ways to move, indoors and out.
How They Learn: Research tells us that movement improves our brain functions.
5. Go Outside
Speaking of moving outside, don’t forget the importance of vitamin D. Kids (and adults) need sunshine and fresh air. Letting them outside is one of the best things we can do for our children’s well-being.
How They Learn: Outdoor play develops stronger immune systems, improves one’s mood and improves concentration.
6. Busy Bags
Busy bags are my favorite for car rides, waiting rooms, and quiet time. These are bags that contain thematic, age-appropriate activities for your child to do quietly. For example, a matching-and-building busy bag might include pattern cards and Duplo blocks. You’ll find many busy bag ideas on Pinterest and on the blog Second Story Window.
How They Learn: Preschool busy bags focus on building, sorting, matching, sequencing, fine motor skills, art, and imagination.
Let your child’s hands build dexterity and strength with items that can be manipulated, such as play dough, pipe cleaners, Wikki Stix, and even LEGOs. Set aside an area in your house for manipulative play. Encourage sorting, building, threading, nesting, and identifying. You can rotate the manipulatives so your child stays engaged.
How They Learn: By using manipulatives, children are coordinating their brains, eyes, and hands to work together – practicing and improving muscle control.
8. Sand and Water
Sand and water play is one of best, least expensive ways for children to learn. Yes, learn. Hide letters in the sand to add alphabet practice. Hide dinosaurs and pretend play paleontologist. Add water to the sand for more exploring and messy mud fun.
How They Learn: It may surprise you to know that while children are playing, they’re developing their imagination, engaging their senses, learning physics, and much more.
There is no such thing as too many books. As a teacher, I know that books are essential in the lives of children who are literate and curious. It’s well documented that children whose parents read aloud to them are more skilled readers and writers. (Among other things.) Visit the library. Read to your kids. Love your books. It will benefit your kids long-term.
How They Learn: Reading to children and allowing them to explore books builds vocabulary, develops listening skills, builds background knowledge about the world, and enhances creativity.
Games, card games or board games, are wonderful opportunities for learning and developing social skills. Do you have a deck of cards? Then you can play Go Fish and War, two fun learning games for preschoolers.
How They Learn: Board games like Chutes and Ladders, Zingo, Hi Ho Cherry-O, and Memory all build problem-solving and other important thinking skills.
Aren’t you excited about summer now? Look at all you can do to have fun and keep your kids learning. I wonder what your kids learning. I wonder what you’ll do first?