Play Matters: 6 Ways to Play this Summer
Outdoor play is critically important for children’s healthy growth and development. Research tells us unstructured outdoor play helps children expand everything from physical literacy skills to critical thinking and self-esteem.
Since summer is just around the corner, I wanted to share some of my favourite #waystoplay outdoors in the warmer weather.
1. Try Loose Parts
Loose parts aren’t just for indoor play! Nature provides its own collection of objects ideal for exploration. Rocks, sticks and leaves - these natural materials are great for sorting, categorizing and combining. Before you head outside, grab any number of household containers. Muffin trays, cups and Tupperware allow loose parts to be sorted, organized and reorganized, again and again.
Loose parts inspire creativity by allowing children to take control and experiment on their own terms.
2. Beat the Heat with Water Play
You don’t need a sprinkler, pool or water table to engage in water play. Fill a variety of bowls, pots and pans with water. Then, gather sponges, colanders, slotted spoons and measuring cups. Combining these items allows water to be moved, transferred and manipulated in new and interesting ways.
Water play encourages children to experiment with cause and effect, physics and problem-solving.
3. Think Outside the Sandbox
Have you ever tried to fill your sandbox with something other than sand? What about soil, rice or even spaghetti noodles?! These items can create new and curious sensory experiences for children. If you don’t have a sandbox, a shallow sensory bin can be made by creating a border with pool noodles or a garden hose.
When children use multiple senses to explore their environment, they are actively strengthening and developing neural pathways.
4. Play with Your Food
Create a work of art by using fruits and vegetables as stamps! Grab some paper, paint and summery foods, and head outside. Cut and slice your food into pieces, dip them in paint and dab them onto your paper. What happens when you cut the food at different angles? What if you roll your food instead of dab it? Can you use the juices as a natural dye?
This activity allows children to explore elements of science, biology, art and math in an engaging, hands-on way.
5. Become an Eco-Explorer
Take a deeper look at nature in your local park or even in your own backyard. You’ll need a magnifying glass, a notebook and a hula-hoop. Toss your hula-hoop as far as you can throw it. Using your magnifying glass, examine all the items inside the hula-hoop. You’ll probably find things you never noticed before. How do these things work together? What do they have in common? How are they different? Use your notebook to record your findings or draw pictures of what you see.
This exploration helps children understand nature, the environment and the interdependence of living things.
6. Go Outside - In Any Weather!
Regardless of the weather, nature provides a great place to practice fine and gross motor skills, learn new vocabulary, conduct experiments and spend quality time learning as a family. Go puddle jumping, play in the mud or roll in the sunshine. You can even put on a helmet and run through a hailstorm!
Outdoor play is not only great exercise, but it teaches us so much about ourselves and the world around us.
We love to hear stories about our friends’ play adventures. If you try out any of these Ways to Play, or if you’d like to share some of your own, get in touch! You can find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
- Hannah Platt, Early Years Specialist at the London Children’s Museum