As the school year comes to an end, parents scramble to enroll their children in activities to beat the summer slide. But did you know that pretty much anything you can teach indoors can be taught outdoors, too?
Check out these 5 ways you can bring learning outdoors for your kids this summer:
Plan Scavenger Hunts
Don’t worry if you don’t have a yard, take the scavenger hunt to the park instead. Scavenger hunts can be modified for every age, ability, and skill. Some ideas for scavenger hunts include:
- Reading and Writing – Hide sight words (check out Education.com’s sight words) around the yard and encourage your child to read them aloud to you as they find them. Challenge older children to create a sentence using two or more of the sight words, or have them use a dictionary to figure out the synonym or antonym of each word.
- Math – Collect addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division flashcards. Provide your child with a clipboard, paper, and pencil to solve the math problems as they find the cards hidden around the yard.
Explore the Endless Possibilities of Chalk
Chalk is one of the best inventions ever. Why, you ask? The possibilities for learning with chalk are endless:
- Reading and Writing – Ask your child’s teacher to provide you with sight words that should be practiced over the summer. Draw shapes on the ground, and write one sight word in the middle of each shape. Challenge your child to jump from sight word to sight word as you call out the words. To make this activity extra engaging, have your child jump like a kangaroo or waddle like a duck. Modify this activity for older children by using more complex vocabulary words, or quizzing them on the capitals of each state (write down a state in each shape and see if your child can name the capital).
- Math – For little learners, write down numbers 1-10 and see if your child can find small items such as leaves and pebbles to correspond with each number. Help older children learn their multiplication facts in a visual way by writing down a multiplication fact (e.g. 6 x 3) and challenging them to find natural objects outdoors to represent the math problem as an array.
- STEM – Outdoor classification activities are a great way to hit upon subjects like science, engineering, or math! Education.com’s Chalk it Up! An Outdoor Classification Activity is a great place to start.
Plant a Kid’s Pizza Garden
A garden is the gift that keeps giving. The best part is that you get to use herbs from your garden to make a pizza when your herbs thrive! Here’s how to start a pizza garden with your family:
- Prepare – Bring your kids outside to the section of Earth ready for gardening. If you don’t have space or a yard, consider getting a plot at a local community garden. Choose your seeds/small plants (pizza herb ideas include: sweet basil, basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary) and let your child plant them in the ground. Incorporate reading/writing by having your child create plant labels with craft-sticks, stones, wine corks, or clothespins.
- Visit the garden daily – Encourage your child to visit the garden daily with their nature journal. Document the growth of the herbs by drawing pictures, recording observations, using measuring tape, and taking photographs.
Storytelling with Small World Play
Even with minimal outdoor space, it’s possible to create small worlds in old planters and tin cans. Young children will work on their language skills by creating names and adventures for their new friends. Mathematics comes into play as children group and count items (e.g. I need 3 flowers, one for each fairy). Older children can create a blog or book about their small world.
Create Space to Deepen Knowledge
If you have a tree-house, fort, or cabinet outside, gather props to support your child’s inquiries. For example, if your child is interested in trees, use an old basket and gather an assortment of nonfiction and fiction books all about trees. Field guides, charts, and other classification resources are also great props to include in this space. Don’t forget to add coloring materials, sketchbooks, binoculars, and other materials to support your child’s exploration. Remember that all STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) learning begins with asking questions. Children are constantly wondering about everything; be there to support and guide them along the way.
By April Brown (M.Ed), writer and education consultant based in Austin, TX.