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Summer Learning Fun!

by: Diane Flynn Keith

There are many natural learning opportunities available for young children all summer long. Here are a few ideas to try with your little ones...

It's Not Too Late for a Summer Garden!

Gardening is a great experience for young children. There is something very reassuring about knowing how to grow your own food. It also teaches about responsibility and the satisfaction of doing meaningful work - especially when you can reap the rewards and eat them! It's a perfect introduction to the wonders of nature.

Just think of all you can learn not only from the plants, fruits, and vegetables - but from the residents and visitors in the garden such as worms, snails, ladybugs, butterflies, hummingbirds, spiders, and more! Everyday in the garden provides new learning opportunities from planting the first seed to savoring the fruits of the last harvest.

When my kids were as young as two-years-old we invited them to help us work in the garden. They loved to dig in the dirt and plant a few seeds. They liked to explore the soil, touch all of the seeds, leaves, flowers and fruit, ask lots of questions about bugs and slugs, and help us pull the weeds.

I have wonderful photographs of them covered in dirt from head to toe as proof of their early gardening experience - along with pictures of them peaking out from inside a green-bean teepee that their dad fashioned for them every year. It was great fun for them - and I'm certain their enjoyment of eating fresh vegetables came from that early opportunity to plant, tend and harvest the family garden. It's not too late to grow some edibles with your children this summer. Here are two easy ones to try that don't require a lot of space:

  1. Lettuce seeds will sprout within about 12 days. Select a type that grows easily in your geographical area. Your local nursery can be helpful in selecting varieties that you can grow all-year-round.
  2. Radish plants are easy to grow too -- and just like lettuce, they grow fast! The red radish roots can be ready for munching within a month of planting the seeds!

If you want lots of fantastic information on gardening with kids, then visit Kids Gardening. There, you will find a Parent's Primer - a FREE online book about every aspect of gardening with kids of all ages. This website also contains a "Teacher's Room" with activities and lessons for learning in the garden with grades Pre-K through high school. You'll find lots of great resources for kid gardeners at this site as well - including kid-sized gardening gloves and tools!

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Have A Berry Nice Day!

One of the greatest summertime pleasures is picking and eating blackberries and blueberries. If you are lucky enough to have some that grow wild near your home - then show them to your little ones and teach them how to pick the berries (avoiding thorns and stickers). If you don't have any wild berries nearby - take a family outing to a u-pick berry farm. Spend an hour or more picking fresh blackberries - then, pay by the pound for the amount you picked. For a directory of pick-it-yourself farms throughout the U.S. Be sure to bring a camera - there's nothing quite like the photographs that capture children's berry-smeared faces proudly showing off their harvest.

Universal Preschool

How about some fun summer water games?

Water Balloon Toss -- Hot summer days provide a great excuse to fill up some water balloons and have fun pitching them at targets in the yard. If you have waterproof outdoor furniture, tell your kids to aim for a chair and see how many times they can hit it with a balloon. Or draw a target or picture on the fence with chalk, and try to hit the target. This game improves eye-hand coordination.

Duck, Duck, Squirt -- My kids were introduced to this game at a summer birthday party. This is a variation of the children's circle game - Duck, Duck, Goose...

Water Hose Limbo

Get a garden hose with a nozzle and turn on the water. Adjust the nozzle to produce a straight stream of water about waist-high. Invite everyone to limbo under the water stream. Each time the players pass under the water stream, you lower it slightly. The players continue to try to limbo under the water stream without getting soaked. The winner is the person who manages to pass under the lowest water stream without getting soaked.

If you don't really feel like getting wet, here's a fun summer activity that will enhance language arts skills and spark your child's imagination and creativity...

Sidewalk Art

Invite your kids to beautify the pavement outside your home! All they need is some sidewalk chalk (available at most toy and art supply stores and at Crayola). Before you get started make sure you apply sunscreen to the kids. Hats, sunglasses, knee pads or gardener's pads, and plenty of bottled drinking water will keep everyone comfortable while they create their masterpieces. What could be better?

Try making your own sidewalk chalk! You will need:

Directions: Mix the Plaster of Paris and the water together to make plain white chalk. For colored chalk, add powdered tempera paint until you achieve the color you want. Let the chalk mixture stand for a few minutes and then pour it into a mold. Set side and let dry completely. This can take anywhere from several hours to a few days depending on the size of the mold you use. Once the chalk has dried, remove the chalk from the mold, and get ready to create some fun. Write numbers, letters, and words or just make pictures! Have fun!

Enjoy these summertime activities with your little ones and be sure to give them a hug for me!

Find More Summer Fun!

Article updated: May 24, 2011