Summertime Fun Activities
- Grades: PreK–K
Ultimately, the greatest benefit summertime brings to your class is the happiness that comes from sharing fun activities. Perhaps this is because there is less pressure to "teach" something. This lets everyone truly play together—children and teachers alike.
As we all know, children learn through play, and these activities are chock-full of learning. It's just that in summer the fun quotient is foremost in the goals and expectations department!
- Riding vehicles
- Large sheet or parachute
- Washable markers
- Big chalk sticks
- Assorted size paintbrushes
- Old crayons (without the paper coating)
- Heavy paper or oak tag
- Assorted collage materials
- Glue sticks
- Trays to use as a mobile work surface
- Portable, unbreakable microscope
- Unbreakable mirror
- Paper, clipboard, and markers for field drawings
- Plastic zipper bags and containers with lids for collections
- Measuring tape
- Disposable camera
Since the goal is fun and the expectation is that we will all work together to create it, why not introduce this section of activities with a cooperative game? Time to bring out the parachute for some fun cooperative activities. A parachute is particularly good for summertime games because the wind created by moving the parachute can cool off the entire group! (No parachute? Use a large sheet instead!)
Before you begin, talk about the importance of cooperating with one another. What does that mean? It means that with everyone's help, the activity will work! Ask children, "Can you fill the parachute with air by yourself?" "Why not?" "What do we have to do to get it to go up?" "We have to cooperate!"
Ask children to take a space around the edge of the parachute or sheet and experiment with moving together to make it go up and down. Once children have mastered this, they can play with taking turns running underneath it.
Using the Activities
When children share these summer fun activities together, they apply social skills they've used during the year to a different setting-your summer program. Just the fact that many of the activities are presented outdoors changes the nature of the play. It encourages children to share, cooperate, and regulate their behavior in a more open and less-structured setting.
Not surprisingly, studies have shown that it is these social interaction skills that are the most important factor in school readiness. The ability to cooperate in a group, take turns, listen, and share is the foundation from which the cognitive skills of learning letters and numbers arise.
At the same time, these activities require a great deal of thinking! Children use criticaland creative-thinking skills as they become involved with open-ended activities or materials. How many ways can I use this? What will happen if I do this a different way? Of course, problem-solving skills kick in when an activity doesn't quite work. So off we go for some fun, happy, and educational ways to spend the summer together.
Expanding the Experience
Your children will love these activities so much that they will want to do them again and again. Happily, the summer schedule allows them to do just that. Of course, adding a slight variation or extension each time just adds to the learning and fun.
Here are a few ideas to try throughout the summer:
• You can expand the field-day feeling of the Fun in the Sun activity by creating an area for children to make their own field-day T-shirts. Ask children to bring in a white shirt, or ask a local store to donate some. Put out cloth markers and newspaper to put inside the shirts so the colors won't come through. You can also add some independent activities, such as a fishpond magnet game, plastic bottle bowling, a beanbag, and ring toss. Don't forget face painting!
• After enjoying Let's Make Pressed Flowers, take a nature hike to collect small natural objects children can bring back to preserve with self-adhesive vinyl. This will serve as a wonderful visual memory of the walk. You can also give children who are going on a family trip a small zipper bag to collect objects at the beach, in the mountains, at the lake. They can preserve their "finds" in the same way when they return to school.
• The Arctic in the Sun activity is the perfect time to explore evaporation. Collect a variety of materials to dampen in the water table (such as fabric, sponges, paper, and cardboard of different weights). Let children place the damp pieces in the sun. Ask them to predict what will happen. Which will dry fast or slowly?
• Painting with Colored Ice naturally leads to reversing the project-painting on frozen paper! To make the frozen paper, dip newsprint or white drawing paper in water and place on a sheet of aluminum foil. Top the wet paper with foil and dip another sheet of paper in water. Keep alternating foil and wet paper until you have enough wet paper sheets for your class. Place in the freezer for one hour. Take out the paper. Peel off one layer of frozen paper and foil for each child. Invite children to paint with watercolors on the frozen paper. What happens?
• The sunny art experiences in Art for a Sunny Day are bound to lead to more. The process of making solar prints is another way for children to experience the power of the sun. Children place interestingly shaped objects or nature materials on dark colored (black, blue, or purple) construction paper and leave them in the direct sun for a day or two. Eventually, the paper fades around the objects, so when the objects are removed they will leave a pretty shadow design!
• All the talk about Dream Vacations naturally leads to talk about camping. Use the rhythm and pattern of the choral reading "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" to create a fun cooperative language activity. Change the words to "We're Going on a Camping Trip" and ask children to name something they're taking with them (flashlight, sleeping bag) or something they'll do on the trip (walk through a forest, hike up a mountain).
• Did you know that you could make invisible ink with lemon juice? Use some of the extra lemons from the Makin' Lemonade activity to squeeze out a small amount of lemon juice. Children can use small paintbrushes to create designs and "secret messages" with the juice. When the lemon juice dries, children can hold up their designs to bright sunlight or a lightbulb and watch the lemon images turn a golden brown!
• The Let's Have an Outdoor Car Wash activity naturally leads to experimenting with sponges! Ask children, "Can you use a sponge to carry water?" "How?" "Which holds more, a natural sponge or a kitchen sponge?" "Can you use a sponge to make 'rain'?" After experimenting, use the sponges to make sponge-print pictures. Try cutting sponges into various shapes to make fun prints, or try dipping sponges in white paint and pressing on blue paper to make puffy clouds in the sky!
• Have a Picnic. After the picnic, choose a shady part of the playground to create a drive-in movie theater. Run an extension cord outside to show a filmstrip (or video) on the wall or on a hanging sheet. Suggest that children drive their trikes and wagons to the show. Don't forget to "sell" tickets and popcorn.
Additional Resources: Teacher Books
- The Cooperative Sports and Cames Book by Terry Orlick (Random House)
- Science and Math Explorations for Young Children by Barren, Binderman, Boffen, Echols, House, Hosoume, Kopp (Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California at Berkeley)
- Sidewalk Chalk: Outdoor Fun and Cames by Jamie KyIe McCillian (Sterling Publications)
- Terrific Transitions by Ellen Booth Church (Scholastic)
- 25 Literacy Building Art Activities by Ellen Booth Church (Scholastic)