How to Savor Summer with the Explorers You Love Most
The Summer Solstice is here, and with it comes generous hours of sunlight and a certain wildness that defines the summer season. Summer is a time to toss off our shoes, relax our bedtimes and slow down long enough to notice things that we may miss altogether in the other seasons.
In celebration of Summer 2019, we are committing to remaining open to finding joyful ways to inspire wonder for our kids. And, we’re thrilled to share 10 bits of inspiration that we hope can help us to do this—simple ideas we hope can also help you welcome playful learning this summer with the explorers you love most.
Keep Cool and Savor Summer: If we do anything, we want to push pause on the rush of life and savor the special moments summer serves up. In the process, we can create a family culture around loving summer—heat and all. Read more about ways to stay cool and fall in love with summer as a family.
Give Play Projects a Try: Setting up a real-world theme or “project” around which play in your home or backyard can revolve can be a super way to guide your child’s play. The game of catch you can enjoy back and forth as you work together to develop the project helps keep kids engaged and in the lead, takes the pressure off of you, and helps make your relationship even more responsive. Find out how to set up a project that kids will love.
Keep it simple: Summer is a time of simplicity—minimal clothes, optional footwear and little rush with so much daylight to work with. We also know that keeping play time simple really benefits kids. So, let’s head outdoors and set up just the right kind of situation to let kids make magic with what is available to them this summer. The longer we’re at this, the more we know less isn’t more, it’s everything.
Monkeys can be Teachers: There’s no better time than the summer to play with water, and no better “summer school” teacher than a curious little monkey. Find out how to let Curious George inspire your family to explore the concept of floating and sinking in an easy investigation that requires nothing more than a newspaper, some string and a little inquiry.
Make Plenty of Potion! With so much blooming and ripening in summer, it is a perfect time for kids to make potions. All you need is a jar, some water and whatever kids can find. Gathering “ingredients” in the natural world, watching what happens when they’re mixed together in a jar of water, and then using the potion to spark imaginative play is not only wildly fun, but helps kids develop creativity. Keep your “potion pot” handy, and kids will iterate on this over and over, going deeper in learning each time.
Crown Kings and Queens of Wild Things: Never underestimate the power of sticking things to things—it is one of a universal set of engaging play behaviors kids exhibit worldwide. And what better way to harness “stickiness” than to decorate paper crowns with the colorful range of leaves, flowers and fruits that summer drops for us. We love that this activity naturally lends itself to story time as well. Couple crown making with a rousing reading of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are and follow the urge to join your little ones in your own wild rumpus.
String your own Nature Curtain: We rarely leave the house in the summer without a spool of twine, and a nature curtain is one gorgeous reason why. Just string up and hang strands of twine, then start to attach nature treasures. The process alone stimulates senses, activates beneficial schema, and can even teach patterns. In no time at all, you also create something beautiful using the nature treasures of summer. This is a perfect activity for a group and, like a summer cottage puzzle, you can add a bit here and a bit there and grow it over time.
Build an Outdoor Kitchen: There is no better time to open up an outdoor kitchen than summer—when you can hose your nature chefs down when they’re ready to come back inside. Invite sensory play and pretend play in a way that can easily engage kids of all ages. With a few pots, pans and kitchen utensils and plenty of water, you can kick off hours of enriching play around the most universal pretending context of all—food!
Make Friends with Stones: If you should find yourself by the river, lake or the sea this summer, be sure not to walk too quickly past the smooth stones lying about. Rocks are fast friends to most kids, and they rank right up there with sticks and dirt on our list of “Top Learning Toys of All Time.” Stones satisfy so many sensory needs with their heft, irregular shapes, marvelous patterns, and textured surfaces. Be playful with stones alongside your kids, and enjoy all of the marvelous play they support. Here are but a few of our favorite ways to play with stones: Bang them together to make music; Use them to grind petals, leaves or other treasures; plop them into the water with great ceremony; skip them along the water’s surface; Stack a Stone Tower.
No matter how you pass this summer’s long days, we wish you a season filled with warmth, wonder and memory-making!