Summertime and the Playing is Easy
by Dr. Maureen O’Brien
Posted on Thursday, July 16, 2020
Are you worried that this summer is going to be different from any other? With lots of restrictions in place and many child care centers closed, you may be concerned about how to fill up all that ‘free time’ with your little one. The good news is that children are naturally curious and love to discover new things that we adults often miss. Despite what society tries to tell us, often the simpler moments playing (independently OR together with you), reading, listening to music, and warm weather exploring are more than enough to occupy our children’s attention. Here are a few activities to consider:
Outdoors: Young children love to empty and fill containers with sand, mud and grass. Think of objects your little one can collect and carry, like pebbles, leaves or seashells. Provide her with a bucket or bag and set her free to explore. Extend the play by having your child sort by color, shape or size.
Indoors: Choose an area of the house or apartment where play is king. Build a tent out of sheets draped across two chairs or create a zoo for stuffed animals. Give the animals names and personalities to bring them to life and spark your child’s imaginative play. Have your child ‘read’ stories to them.
Alone: ‘Send’ your child on a scavenger hunt, using a list of common items in your home or yard. You can theme the play around a certain color: “How many red things do you see in this room?” If your child likes to compete, set a timer and see if he can find 10 items that start with the letter S and report back to you in 5 minutes.
Together: Cooking together can also be playful! With your child as sous-chef, you can make pancakes and decorate them with faces made of fruit slices or chocolate chips. Kids love to get their hands messy, so let them mix the ingredients and think about what kinds of shapes to make.
Pro Tip: Mix up your play activities according to what your child enjoys and ask your child to come up with ideas. Is your child artistic? Let her ‘paint’ or draw letters with chalk on the ground or with shaving cream in the tub. Is your child full of energy? Ask her to create an obstacle course in the yard and challenge her to complete it 5 times. Want your child to sit still for more than 3 minutes? Print out some photos and have her make a memory book or write a story using the pictures and some tape and paper.
What all of these activities have in common is that they cost very little. If you’re not particularly creative yourself, don’t worry. You can check online for more ideas. (PBSKids.org has an activity finder, and most children’s museums have age-graded suggestions.) Know that the potential for fun is all around you, and - when you’re all played out - there’s nothing like a midsummer nap!