Are you looking for some ways to keep the kids busy over the next few weeks until school goes back? Christmas is nearly here and there is still lots of school holiday time left. We are enjoying some lovely weather for being outside with the kids. Today's blog has some great fun, learning activities to do outdoors while the weather is warm. Remember to be sun safe though, slip, slop, slap,give your child plenty of water to drink and avoid the hottest part of the day.
Kids, speech pathologists and occupational therapists all love bubbles and this is a great outside activity. You can buy bubble mixture cheaply from supermarkets or make your own.
One recipe to try is:
- 1/2 cup dish washing detergent
- 1 cup water
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- Mix together and store in a container
For young children you can use bubbles to develop:
- Eye contact: (hold the bubble wand ready, call their name, wait until they look at you then blow).
- Requesting: (wait for a sound, gesture or word that shows they want more).
- Simple words: model, repeat and encourage imitation of simple words such as more, up, pop, bubble which all use lip sounds /m/, /p/, /b/ which are easy to see and copy.
For older children:
- Try different things from the kitchen to make different types of bubbles. Use a baking tray and try a wire coat hanger bent to make a giant bubble wand for giant bubbles. You will need to swing it through the air rather than blowing.
- Practice counting, time and size concepts. Count your bubbles and see who can make the most from a single "dip". See who can make the biggest bubble. Use a timer to record how long bubbles to take to pop and see who can blow a record bubble to develop concepts of time.
- Try bubble prints to develop concepts of shape and colour. Put some bubble mixture in a cup with some food colouring. Blow with a straw until bubbles come over the top of the cup then lay a piece of paper over the bubbles to make a print.
2. Sand and water play
Sand and Water play is another great cheap and fun activity for kids in the warmer weather. As well as a great learning opportunity, it is also a soothing and calming activity. If you don’t have a sandpit you can simply use a large plastic tub or an old baby bath. Clean playing sand is available cheaply from garden and landscape shops. If you have an outdoor sandpit make sure you keep it covered when not in use to keep cats away and the sand clean.
- Bucket and spade sets are inexpensive and can be used to practice verbs such as: dig, fill, spill, empty, tip, pour and well as concepts such as: full, empty, tall, deep, light, heavy, high, low and comparatives such as: big, bigger, biggest, high, higher. highest. There are more ideas for developing concepts on our website.
- Old kitchen items also work well and encourage pretend play which is great for language development. You can make sand cakes and have a sand tea party, or even open a sand cafe’. Add a few cars and trucks or some plastic farm animals for more pretending games. Build a castle and use figurines to act out a story. For more play ideas click here.
- You can also use a large tub or baby bath or just play in the bath. Remember with water to watch children carefully at all times and empty out the water at the end. You can add some food colouring or detergent for bubbles. Use old containers to fill and pour for more concept practice and perhaps have a doll to bath for more pretending.
- Dip a paintbrush in a cup of water and paint on a path or wall. Practice making letters, writing names or even spelling. Watch the paintings fade in the sun.
3. Treasure hunt.
This fun and free activity can develop your child’s vocabulary and can be done anywhere; indoors, outdoors or on outings. On a warm sunny day try outdoors in the backyard, at the beach or at the local park. Just make a list of things that you want your children to find and have a small prize to reward them at the end. Younger children might only have 3 things on their list, while older kids might have 10 or more. Younger children can have pictures on their list. Older kids can write down their lists themselves to practice writing and spelling skills. You can make your list and then hide things or you can use things that you know they will be able to find in a certain spot. You can either collect your things as you go or just tick them off as you find them.
A "going for a walk treasure hunt" list might be to find: a feather, smooth stone, green leaf, brown leaf, piece of bark, gum nut and a seed pod.
A "driving in the car treasure hunt" list might be a red car, a bus, a semi trailer, a bakery, a bird, a stop sign and a traffic light.
You can use treasure hunts to practice:
- developing concepts, such as find 3 red things, 3 big things and 3 smooth things. Include colours, size, shapes and textures.
- literacy skills; find three things that start with “b”, three things that end with “t” and something that rhymes with “cat”. Think about beginning sounds, ending sounds, rhyming and numbers of syllables or letters depending on your child’s skills.
- categories; find 3 fruits, 3 vegetables and 3 pieces of clothing, or functions; find something for eating, something for cleaning and something for wearing.
4. Obstacle course.
Why not get outside and make an obstacle course. If it is very hot you can also do this inside. If you have a lawn or paved area you can set out some things such as tables or chairs covered with a blanket to go under or through, things to balance on such as a plank, sleeper or row of bricks, things to jump over such as a rope or hose laid out on the ground. You could have a washing basket to throw a ball into, or some plastic bottles with a little water in the bottom to make skittles to knock down.Using all these items plan out a path.
- For younger children walk around the path with them at first and talk about position concepts “in, on, under, through, around”.
- Older children could make a series of signs, either with numbers or for older kidsinstructions about where to go next and stick them on the obstacles to practice numbers, sequencing and literacy skills.
- You could also call out a series of instructions for your child to follow to practice listening and memory skills. Start simple and gradually make the instructions more complex. Include position concepts and descriptive words such as ”go quickly through the tunnnel and slowly under the chair”.
If you do not have the space or are going out for the day, a playground is a ready made obstacle course. Just bring a paper and pen for planning out your instructions. If you have a digital camera you could take a photo of your child at each obstacle and make a set of cards, power point display or a picture book to practice verbs, position words and describing words later on. Kids love learning materials they have helped to make and where they can see themselves.
Why not get outside in your back yard and do some gardening with your kids. As a child I hated gardening because all I was allowed to do was pull out weeds, but kids love to grow things. They love to have their own “patch”. Even just a large pot will do. Seeds are cheap to buy and easy for kids to plant but choose things that grow quickly so that they do not have to wait long to see something happening.
- Nasturtiums are very quick and easy to grow, have big bright flowers and you can eat both the leaves and flowers in salad which looks spectacular.
- You can plant sunflower seeds which grow quite quickly into giant plants around 2 metres tall with enormous flowers.
- Hollyhocks are also colourful giant plants that are quick and easy to grow from seed. Plant a row of these if you have the space and measure them as they grow to develop your child’s understanding of number concepts.
- Growing things to eat is fun for kids and helps them try healthy foods they may not have tried or enjoyed before. Lettuce, cherry tomatoes, herbs and carrots are quick and easy to grow from seeds at this time of the year. You could also get some seedlings from your nursery for a few dollars.
This website has lots and lots of great kids garden ideas, set out in step by step kid friendly procedures.
You could work though a procedure developing reading, listening, vocabulary and comprehension skills. If you take some photos as you work through the steps and as your plants grow, you can make your own procedure which will develop over then next few weeks or months to develop literacy skills as well. Don’t forget, if you grow food, include the cooking and eating steps too.
Our pintrest page has lots of great fun and learning activities for kids. Find some more ideas and information on our website about developing early language skills, developing language skills in preschool children and in school aged children.
If you are concerned about your child's communication, literacy or learning check Our website to find out how speech pathology may help. For information about what to expect at your child's age click here.
If you are concerned about your child's motor skills or sensory processing an occupational therapist may be the help you need.
Have fun learning and playing these holidays!
Talking Matters Speech Pathologist
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