Summer is for…PLAY!
Support your child's literacy and learning without sacrificing outdoor play.
In the winter, it’s easy to convince young children to cuddle up under a snuggly blanket with you and read a book together. However, as spring sets in and summer comes calling, your children (and perhaps you as well) start itching to shove those books under the bed and rush headlong into the great outdoors.
Well, rush away! Books aren’t the only way children acquire essential literacy skills. Simple activities such as talking, singing, reading, writing, and playing with your child are all foundational to helping children read as they get older. Here are some fun ways to incorporate early literacy education into your outdoor activities.
Use nonfiction to tame the wilds of nature. There are so many things to see outside, and children are fascinated by all of it! Why not check out a library book about something in nature, such as gardening books, birdwatching guides, or books about weather? You don’t need to read these books! Even if you only spend a few minutes looking at the pictures together with your child and talking about them, it’s enough to spark a child’s imagination and curiosity.
Play “Ring Around the Rosy.” Have you ever noticed how many traditional childhood games that involve running around the yard are also songs? “Ring Around the Rosy,” “London Bridge,” and “Pop Goes the Weasel” not only get children up and moving but have the added benefit of building phonological awareness, or an understanding that words are made up of smaller sounds.
Practice letters outside. Who needs pencil and paper? For toddlers and preschoolers, any activity that builds letter knowledge counts as writing practice. Break out the sidewalk chalk and help your children write their names in your driveway in letters as tall as they are! Take a walk through your neighborhood and point out the letters on street signs. Talk about the letters all around you and the sounds that they make (“Look at the squirrels! ‘Squirrel’ starts with S.”).
“Literacy on the Lawn” is the new “Shakespeare in the Park.” As your children play in the yard, you can build literacy skills by encouraging imaginative play. Ask your children to act out the plot of their favorite cartoon or bedtime story. This not only stimulates their memory as they try to remember the order of events, but also gets them thinking about why the characters in the story acted as they did, an important step toward understanding more complicated stories as they grow older.
Keep reading together as much as you can. Okay, so maybe your child is more interested in catching frogs and splashing in pools right now. That’s fine! You never want reading to be an obligation or to feel forced. But in those rare moments when your child is amenable to sitting still, it shouldn’t be too hard to convince them to cuddle up on top of a snuggly old blanket with you and read a book together – on the grass, in the sun, on a picnic. Sometimes, a little change of venue is all you need after a long winter spent indoors.