Posted on 04/27/2018 at 07:50 AM by Blog Experts

Finally, spring has arrived!  The grass is turning green, flowers are blooming, and children want to be outside.  Knowing that, let’s use the warmer weather to our advantage!  Outside learning opportunities give children benefits that can’t be created within the confines of four walls.  

“Research shows us that many of the fundamental tasks that children must achieve, such as exploring, risk-taking, fine and gross motor development and the absorption of vast amounts of basic knowledge, can be most effectively learned through outdoor play. For example, when children move over, under, through, beside, and near objects and others, the child better grasps the meaning of these prepositions and geometry concepts. When children are given the opportunity to physically demonstrate action words as stomp, pounce, stalk, or slither, or descriptive words such as smooth, strong, gentle, or enormous, word comprehension is immediate and long lasting. The words are used and learned in context, as opposed to being a mere collection of letters. This is what promotes emergent literacy and a love of language. Similarly, if children take on high, low, wide, and narrow body shapes, they’ll have a much greater understanding of these quantitative concepts than children who are just presented with the words and definitions.  Learning by doing, creates more neural networks in the brain and throughout the body, making the entire body a tool for learning,” states an excerpt taken from The Importance of Outdoor Play and Its Impact On the Brain Development In Children by UMKC School of Education’s Edgar L. and Rheta A. Berkley Child and Family Development Center.1 

YOU are the creator of the learning that happens in your classroom, both the indoor and outdoor classrooms.  Challenge yourself to take your learning outdoors and give your children the gift of connecting with nature!  Think about your daily routine.  What could your morning meeting look like if you met outside?  How about snack?  Could you use plastic tablecloths instead of tables?  What if small groups were held outside?  Children would have to address gravity and physics concepts as they try to keep materials from rolling off their learning areas.  Think of the problem solving opportunities.  What would music and movement look like… sound like?  Natural items and imagination would come more into play as you set up outdoor learning centers that are ready for center time/work time.  Let your imaginations inspire you as you think outside the box (literally).  You have about a month.  Ready…. Set…. GO!

That gets us to summer break.  In less than one month you will be saying your goodbyes for the summer.  According to Barb Dunn Swanson, an Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Family Life Specialist, time away from the classroom can have a negative impact on children’s academic progress.  She says learning loss is most common in math, language, and spelling which some children taking weeks or even months to recover from summer learning loss when they return to school in the fall.   “Intelligence does not influence children’s loss of already learned information,” Dunn Swanson says. “Learning loss is natural. Parents, however, can limit summer learning loss.”2   To ensure that the gains children made this school year and all of your hard work has maximum impact, we want to give parents some ideas that are educational yet fun that they can do with their children during the summer.  Here are ten ideas and tips you can share.

  1. Turn any walk into a nature walk.3  Talk about what is seen, heard, smelled, felt, and even tasted.  Collect items.  Talk about the collections.  Note how what is seen, heard, smelled and felt changes over time.  
  2. Visit museums and libraries in your town.3  If you don’t have one near you, make one.  What could a home library look like?  What would you put in a museum if it were housed in your home?
  3. Teach kids to cook with the step-by-step lessons and recipes at Cooking With Kids. The site also includes measurement reminders, safety tips, and suggestions for involving kids in the cooking process. Or check out your local library or bookstore for one of the recommended Heritage Cooking for Kids: Taste History books and try out recipes from Colonial days, the Civil War, and the Lewis and Clark expedition.4
  4. Make homemade Bubble Solution and experiment with such unique Bubble-Blowing Tools as strings, milk containers, and garbage can lids. 4
  5. Create musical instruments from materials found around the house. Need help? Enchanted Learning provides instructions for such Musical Instruments as a rattle, box guitar, maraca, and rain stick. 4
  6. Catch a firefly, observe it, then let it go.  Then go online to learn more about fireflies or read a book, such as Fireflies by Sally M. Walker, to help your child learn more about them. Then assist your child in completing the Education World Firefly Facts worksheet. Firefly Facts Answers:
    1. Fireflies are really beetles because they have four wings; true flies only have two wings.
    2. Most fireflies like warm, humid areas.
    3. In the United States, glowing fireflies are found east of the middle of Kansas.
    4. Firefly larvae feed mostly on earthworms, snails, and slugs.
    5. Scientists believe fireflies use their ability to flash as a warning signal to predators and to attract mates. 4
  7. Soar into space (the space in your bedroom, kitchen, or dining room) by constructing Science Bob's Balloon Rocket. This simple science experiment using a balloon, string, straw, and tape, illustrates the use of air pressure to produce movement.4
  8. Build reading and writing into everyday activities.
    1. Watch TV with the sound off and closed captioning on.
    2. Read the directions out loud before playing a new game.  
    3. Have children help with meals by writing up a grocery list, find things in the grocery store, and read the recipe aloud for the adult during cooking time.  It’s ok for them to draw pictures and if they use random letters or letter approximation when creating their list.  More ideas at PBS Parents (in Spanish, too). 5
  9. Watch a garden grow and build research, reading, and writing skills with this summer project from ReadWriteThink. Children are encouraged to write questions and observations (adults will need to assist)  in a summer garden journal. Or check out the Kids Gardening website for lots of great ideas and resources for family (and school) gardening. You can also browse the hands-on activities on our summer site, Start with a Book, in the section Nature: Our Green World. 5
  10. Make cool things. "Dad, dad, dad, can we make a samurai sword?..." Dad Can Do is a wonderful site full of crafty ideas that bring fathers and kids together. Make a wizard's wand, paper planes, spaceships, ex libris, and quirky things like an origami cowboy shirt (think Woody from "Toy Story") — mostly from inexpensive or recycled materials. You'll also find loads of activities (art and culture, geography, history, science, math and more) at PBS Parents: Adventures in Learning.5

Families can use summer time activities to strengthen the relationships with their children as while keeping their minds engaged.  This is a “win-win” for everyone!  

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