5 Ways to Pack Your Summer with Fun and Learning

May 21, 2018
5 Ways to Pack Your Summer with Fun and Learning

Summer programming differs from the regular school year in most early childhood settings. For one thing, you’ve got those schoolers all day long! Also, programs often take a break from the regular curriculum to focus on different things. Here are some ideas that will lead to great interactions and learning. And they’re guaranteed to prevent the summer doldrums from setting in!

1. Get wet!

Summer is hot, that’s all there is to it. And the best way to combat heat is with water. So before we begin, repeat after me, “It will dry” (especially when you play outdoors!) 

Bring your water table (or some tubs) outside and:

  • Fill them with ice cubes and water
  • Give the baby dolls a bath
  • Wash the pretend play props
  • Do a float sink activity
  • Make boats out of different materials, add blue food coloring and create an “ocean scene”
  • Fill the table with ice water, use a thermometer to take the temperature of the water. Come back later in the afternoon and take the temperature again. Chart the difference.
  • Collect rainwater on a rainy day

Some other ideas…

Make big blocks of ice with large plastic containers. Bring the big ice chunks outside and let children sit on them. Freeze small toys inside the ice and let them chip away at the ice with a plastic tool. Use ice cubes and dry tempera to paint with. Buy lots of spray bottles at the dollar store and fill them with cool water, let children spray themselves (and you!), fill spray bottles with colored water (use food coloring) and hang a white sheet on the fence – create a mural, freeze water bottles and let kids drink them as they thaw, set up sprinklers and play big in the water. I know you have LOTS more ideas to add here, the thing to remember is… “It will dry”. Don’t avoid water play 

2. Get going!

There are so many options for field trips in addition to the typical outings of children’s dramas, museums, the zoo and parks for your kids. Think outside the box to come up with places to visit that would be fun as well as educational – based on what’s available in your area.

Airports, construction sites, home improvement stores, animal shelters, and local nurseries or farms would provide lots of learning and maybe something completely new for the kids. Check with local businesses to arrange a visit, they’re usually more than happy to accommodate!

A teacher I know took her class to a laundry mat, where they washed all the items from their classroom like doll clothes, dress up clothes, blankets and towels. They learned about coin operated washing machines, taking turns putting quarters in the machine, they watched clothes churn in the front load washer, used the rolling basket to move things to the dryer and folded the warm dry clothes. And during the wait times she read a book related to laundry, sang some songs and had a snack. This was the first time many children had been to a laundry mat so it was a great learning experience, and the other customers were happy to have the children there!

Related: 5 Field Trip Disasters and How to Avoid Them

3. Get them to come to you!

You’ve heard of “staycations” where people stay home and do fun things rather than traveling to a destination?  How about a “stayfieldtrip”??

Field trips require some extra work – like getting extra staff and volunteers, working out transportation, and all the many other details required for safety and security, rather than taking your children to different places, invite visitors to your class to share their stuff!

A home improvement person might bring some hand powered tools like a vice, hand drill, screwdrivers, and pliers to show children and let them try. Musicians could visit, bringing their instruments to play for the kids and possibly let them try (think high school kids who play in the band or orchestra!). An opera singer could perform a short song and then teach children a new song. A chef from a local restaurant could bring a simple recipe to demonstrate and let the children taste. Your imagination is the limit – and you’ve likely got a rich pool of resources in the parents of your children! They’d probably love to visit and think how happy it would make their child.  Each of these ideas lends itself to plenty of center activities and read-aloud you can plan to support learning.

4. Get smart!

Make early literacy real and meaningful! We know that summer learning loss, especially with your school-agers, is a real problem. Combat that by planning activities that support reading, writing, science exploration, and real-life math.

Here are some ideas:

  • Write letters to companies asking for free samples of their products and have them sent to the school. See what you get back! For younger children, this could be a shared writing activity that you do in a whole group, for school-agers it could be a project where 2-3 children work together to determine what they’d like to ask for, how to contact the company, and then write the letter together. Some companies that you could ask? Betty Crocker, General Mills, Proctor and Gamble, Kraft.
  • Give children real life math problems to solve. For example, if you have a bunch of boxes and want to create a gigantic sculpture, then take it outside to paint it, will it fit through the classroom door? Or if someone brings cookies to share and there are 28 cookies in the container, you’ve got 15 children and 2 teachers in your class… how can you divide the cookies evenly? Create these kinds of thinking problems with the age and abilities of your children in mind. Make it challenging but not impossible to solve on their own!
  • Create a making and tinkering station in your classroom with lots of open-ended materials for boy aged three playing with toys that are helping his brain to growcreating and experimentation. For example, you could have a diagram of how to fold a paper airplane, have a few airplanes already made to experiment with, provide different types and weights of paper to make airplanes, then take them outside and see which ones fly and how far they go! Here’s a great book that is FULL of activities to include in your “maker’s station”, Making and Tinkering With STEM: Solving Design Challenges with Young Children, by Cate Heroman.

5. Get cooking!

Everybody loves to eat and making your own food is always a hit with kids, regardless of their age. You can scan google for tons of ideas for the age children you work with, but here are a few ways to incorporate cooking in your classroom…

  • Instead of having “Snack time” where everyone sits and is served together, given a set amount of time to eat and then clean up, try creating a Snack Center. A small table with 2-3 chairs, simple foods that children can serve, eat and then clean up themselves with a couple of friends encourages autonomy and social interaction. Children who like to linger can do so, those who want to eat fast and get back to the block center can do that too! It also gives children who are not hungry or interested in what’s being served a chance to say “no, thanks!”, and continue playing elsewhere.
  • Use stories as a springboard for cooking. You might taste some of the foods that the very hungry caterpillar eats, or make muffins after reading “If You Give a Moose a Muffin”. Making simple biscuits with baking mix and milk in individual portions will allow children to mix and shape their own biscuits after reading the book, “Bread”. Or you could bring in a bread machine and put the ingredients in together, turn it on and enjoy the wonderful aroma of baking bread that’s done just in time for lunch!
  • Create a restaurant kitchen in your pretend play center and provide lots of props to encourage rich play – aprons, chef’s hats, menus, placemats, order pads and pencils, spray bottles and towels, cookbooks, a little mood music, and of course, pretend food.
  • Check out the playdough recipe here and make it together!

Make sure you are prepared this summer. Take our course: How to Care for Children with Food Allergies

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