Sometimes the park can keep children busy for hours, and other days it’s just doesn’t cut it. Be prepared! These activities are sure to keep your children engaged and may even teach them a little about science along the way!
1-Use Water– Go to the dollar store and keep spray bottles, paint rollers and paint brushes in the house. Bring them, along with buckets, to the park, sidewalk, or backyard this summer and watch the kids go wild. Certainly, getting wet in hot summer heat is always a good thing, but try wondering aloud as to where the water goes when the wet brush marks disappear…..evaporation! Using spray bottles is a great activity for working on hand strength and there are no limitations to where children can paint with water, as it simply dries!
2-Make ice-On that same trip to the dollar store, buy a few ice trays. Make ice and let the children play with it. You can add it to a baby pool or bathtub. Freeze it with a q-tip or popsicle stick inside and continue with the “painting” idea. Add a little paint to the water before it freezes and it can be used to paint on large sheets of paper outside. Have the children help you make the ice and talk about freezing and melting. Don’t forget, freezing fruit juice in ice trays with popsicle sticks for handles is a great activity and a delicious, healthy snack!
3-Planting-Whether you live in the city or the suburbs, planting is a great activity. Flowers or seeds, herbs or vegetables, the possibilities are endless. Go to a local hardware store for some dirt, pots (you can also use plastic cups!), and whatever item you choose to plant. Bring the children with you to make the choices! Even young children can help you count out single dollars! Take the items home and talk about what plants need to grow. To extend the activity, have your children decorate the pots. Plant your items and keep track of watering and growth. This is a great way to teach responsibility!
4-Picnics-Children love to take their meals outside. Try having picnics at different times of the day. Have children help prepare a breakfast meal the night before. Think about healthy choices and pack your meal. Go outside early in the morning, spread out a blanket and enjoy your breakfast. For families where children are up early and parents leave for work, this is a great way to squeeze in some quality time together. Point out the position of the sun. Think aloud about the temperature and what the air “feels” like. Have your next picnic at lunch or dinner time. Notice the differences. If you eat under a tree, talk to your children about the shadows that are created.
5-Use Nature-There is a million and one ways to use the environment around us. Two of my favorites are a nature scavenger hunt and a nature collage. For the scavenger hunt, make a list of the items each child needs to find. Talk about which items they can take and which items are still growing. For young children, draw pictures next to the words. List items like green leaves, brown leaves, stones, dandelions, seashells, etc. You can even add a “freebie,” so the children can include an extra item they think is special. Modify the game by giving the children the number of items they need to find and add math skills to the activity. Give each child a bucket or bag, their list, and a marker or crayon to cross the items off. Young children will need some help. Come back together and let the children talk about what they have found. Point out some details of each of their items. Afterwards, pull out glue and paper to make a collage. I prefer using cardboard and tacky glue for nature collages that include heavier items. Many local dry cleaners will happily give you a few shirt boards. You can also use shoe box tops, cut cereal boxes, and poster board.
Have other science ideas to add to the list? Please post a comment. The most important part is to have fun with your children. Enjoy!