Summer is an exciting time for preschoolers. With big sisters and brothers home from school during the day, and perhaps Mom and Dad taking more vacation time than in other seasons, summer sunshine and summer freedom are tangible for all ages. Here are some activities and resources to mix the summertime fun with continued learning for your preschool-age children.
Fun Teaching Is Effective Teaching
Research has shown that children in preschool can understand and remember concepts more quickly and permanently through hands-on play. This makes summer a great opportunity to use physical activities, reinforced by the stimulus-rich outdoor environment, to keep building on the school year curriculum.
The Beach School
If you bring a few extra items, you can use a trip to the beach as a means to enhance academic skills. Pack the following items along with the sunscreen and towels:
- Cardboard geometric shapes such as triangles, rectangles, circles, and squares, each about 6" in size.
- Clear plastic baggies (for bringing home special collections of shells, etc).
- Heavy-duty construction paper or card stock (at least one or two per child)
- Elmer's Glue or a glue stick
- Crayons or washable markers
- Printable materials
With these materials, the following activities are possible.
- Alphabet: Tracing letters in the sand using words like "anchor", "beach ball" from the printables. See if they can write them near the water, letting the waves erase them. This helps develop reading skills.
- Geometry: Give the child a cardboard shape and ask him to find a similar shape around him on the beach.
- Math: Ask the children to find a specific number of seashells and rocks to make a collection. Use baggies to keep your collection safe for bringing home.
- Art: Use the card stock and glue to make a collage out of treasures such as driftwood, leaves, and even sand poured over the glue on the paper. Use the markers to embellish and add the maker's name to the collages.
Many other summer themes are available on the First-School site.
Riding the Preschool Express
Another great online resource is the Preschool Express site, which includes many different kinds of games for each season including summer.
Listening games like "Simon Says" are classic, but you can change it to a science-fiction theme like I, Robot by:
- Finding a large area such as a park or basketball court
- Telling the children to pretend to be robots who can only walk stiffly when they hear a "beep"
- One beep means walk forward; two beeps means stop; three beeps mean "turn"
- If children make mistakes, they can be "turned off" one by one until only one "winner" remains. However, this game is also fun to just play and see where the children end up.
- You can make up other commands such as "jump" or "reboot" and use apps such as "After the Beep" on an iPhone to make the game even more interesting.
Giant Web: Have children stand in a circle, with one person in the middle running a ball of yarn from child to child, creating a giant web. After all the children are holding the yarn, ask them, one at a time, to move to a different part of the circle, making the web more or less tangled. You can also have them create the web using trees, bushes, and playground equipment.
Rock Painting: With a good batch of tempera paints and some brushes, you can find a large rock and decorate it with a summer theme, or let the kids each get their own rocks and paint them individually. You can also use sidewalk chalk.
Bubble Pictures: For something a bit different, try mixing the following:
- 4 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 cup dish detergent
- 1/2 cup corn syrup
Separate this liquid into several large flat platters and add a few drops of food coloring to each one, creating several different "color bubble" mixes. The children can then use normal bubble wands to blow "bubble pictures" by letting the spheres pop against plain white paper. You can either keep the images and make an abstract art display, or you can save them to dry and bring them inside for coloring and drawing later.
Outdoor Math: Use counting as a way to bring numbers into the world:
- How many trees are there in the park? How many swings? How many steps between the water fountain and the slide?
- Find Five: Find five different leaves. Find five different colors of green. Find five different animals (this works especially well if you include it with songs such as Five Pretty Flowers finger puppets).
Fun Before Learning
Summertime is a great chance to come up with unique and unusual projects. One Wisconsin teacher donated his white car to let the children paint on it with tempera paints, creating an "art car" that delighted the kids for weeks when they saw it in the parking lot. Eventually the paint washed off with no harm to the car, and the pictures from the summer project became a treasured memory. With a little imagination, you can create fun projects like this teacher did.
Choose summer activities that are fun, and you'll find that the preschool children take care of the learning themselves.