Publisher's note: This article was originally created by ECU News Services.
Summer is here and that means that schools are letting kids out for the year. But that poses an important question for many parents: How can I keep my kids busy? ECU professor Ashley Norris in the Department of Child Development and Family Relations has provided the following tips for inexpensive activities to keep children busy and learning this summer:
After sitting in school all year long, chances are children are looking forward to playing this summer, and they should...that's how children learn best! Here are a few ideas to beat summer boredom and engage children in some meaningful play activities that will help build family memories.
- Water play is so important in early childhood and children love it. It offers opportunities to enhance math and science skills, problem solving skills and language development. For a young toddler, you can let them paint with water. Fill buckets with water and let children "paint" the house, porch, driveway with clean paint brushes. For an older preschooler, you can build "rivers" with aluminum foil and float boats down the river. This activity would reinforce STEM concepts that also encourage high level thinking skills like problem solving. For an older child, draw a bulls eye in the driveway and let them toss sponges to get points. This activity can be a family game and reinforces addition skills and gross motor development.
- Most children want to be outside in the summer and this is an opportunity to engage children in a nature walk. For toddlers, just talking about the world around them builds their vocabulary and interest in nature. For older preschoolers, try a nature scavenger hunt. Start with card that has pictures paired with words to reinforce their emergent literacy. For older children, use natural items and their scientific names or focus on specific species of birds, animals, or trees. This can also be altered for family vacations and would be a great way to learn about your new destination.
- Pool noodles are also a great play material to let children explore and to keep them busy indoors as wells as outside. Combining a funnel at one end of the noodle and a bucket at the bottom offers an impromptu water wall that can be duct taped to the side of any structure. This lets children manipulate the wall and build different water wall configurations. This is another activity that will reinforce language development for children all ages, but also reinforces STEM concepts. Alternatively, cut the noodle into small sections and use them as "bats" to hit balloons. Add some letter recognition and write letters on the balloons. Identify lower/uppercase letters, letter sounds, or challenge children to "hit" out words. Or cut the noodles down to smaller sizes and let children build structures using the noodles and skewers.
Play is a great motivator for children and can be used intentionally to reinforce skills and concepts that young children have learned in school or to help prepare them for the upcoming school year. These inexpensive ideas may help combat summer boredom, keep children actively engaged and build fun family memories.