Summer Outdoor Activities That Are Fun and Educational

Since it's summer, pair some learning with outdoor fun, so that kids don't even realize they're learning.
By Michael Rhattigan

Ages

3-10

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For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, we're now well into summer, hopefully taking advantage of the outdoors after the brutal winter many of us experienced. This is the time of sun-kissed cheeks, picnics and outdoor grilling, ice cream trucks, and barefoot kids. As we enjoy all the wonderful aspects of summer, learning is probably the last thing on our (or our kids') minds. However, we can still enjoy our fun in the sun, while promoting learning!

Educational activities can be an important part of summer, especially to combat the "Summer Slide." Research shows that many children backtrack in their math, reading, and physical activity levels during the summer months. So help your kids out, and refresh some school concepts with an innovative twist.

There are endless kinds of activities that you can do with your kids to instill a love of learning -- from visiting children's museums, zoos, and planetariums to signing them up for an educational summer camp. But since it's summer, pair some learning with outdoor fun, so that they don't even realize they're learning! Here are some kid-approved ideas to get you started.

?    Plant a vegetable garden at home or at the local community-garden. Not only does it allow your family to get active together (gardening is considered moderate physical activity!), but it also offers a great educational opportunity.
?    To pick what to plant, you and your child can research which veggies are best for your area and the particular season. Tomatoes, green beans, and basil are usually reliable, kid-friendly options.
?    Once you start planting, discuss the importance of sunlight, water, and nutrients for plants and even discuss photosynthesis if your kids are old enough to understand the concepts. Here's a photosynthesis video for the older kids.
?    When you pick which seeds to plant, you can talk about the health benefits associated with each particular veggie.

?    Water-painting (Handwriting Practice)
?    Using outdoor chalk, write large letters or words on the sidewalk and then have your little ones trace over them with a paintbrush and water.
?    It's a great way to practice handwriting, hand-eye coordination, and letter-recognition. And since the sun quickly dries up the water, any mistakes will disappear and they can practice over and over again!

?    July is strawberry and blueberry season, so go berry picking!
?    Again, you can talk about planting and the benefits associated with eating fresh fruits.
?    Explain that both blueberries and strawberries are high in Vitamin C, a vitamin that helps our bodies fight off "bad" germs, and these fruits include many other minerals that help our bodies function and grow properly.
?    Let your child pick a few healthy berry recipes she would like to try and then make them together. You can practice measuring skills while cooking!

?    Nature Color Hunt
?    Start by using colorful outdoor chalk and draw medium squares with each color.
?    Encourage the kids to run around in your backyard or park to find 5-10 things in nature of each color and place them inside the squares. For an extra challenge, you can time them!
?    Once they're done collecting rocks, leaves, flowers, sticks, bugs, etc., you can discuss what they've found. You can talk about: which color they found the most items of, if certain colors were harder to find, which color is their favorite, if all the leaves they found were green and the same size, and more. Take the opportunity to introduce color shades such as light, dark, bold, vibrant, warm, pale, etc.
?    For an extra activity, they can then make a colorful collage with everything they've found.

?    Number Line Run (Math Game)
?    Draw a number line with chalk on your driveway/sidewalk (make sure you leave a gap of about 1 foot between numbers).
?    For the younger kids, have them walk across the number line as they count off the numbers. Once they get bored, practice number-recognition by yelling out numbers and having them run to the number on the line (great way to practice the tricky teens!).
?    Depending on ages, you can practice addition/subtraction or multiplication/division using the number line. The idea is obviously to make it a game, with kids seeing the challenge as fun versus a math review.

?    Backyard Astronomy
?    This is the perfect activity for a warm summer night and I guarantee that the whole family will enjoy it.
?    First, make a "telescope" with an old paper towel roll and let your child decorate the outside of it with markers and stickers. Although it won't allow herto see the stars better, it will help them pin-point and focus on the stars they're observing. (If you have a real telescope, use it!)
?    Research which constellations are easiest to see in your area and tell your child about them. Spot them in the sky together and explain the story behind the constellation. Work together to spot as many as possible.

?    Adventure to Fitness
?    When the unpredictable summer weather doesn't allow you to enjoy the outdoors, don't worry! Log on to Adventure to Fitness and let the kids blow off some steam with a 30-minute Adventure Video! There are several tropical and water-themed adventures to stay in the summer mentality, and the videos and supplemental activities are filled with educational facts, so the kids will have a blast + learn!

I hope these ideas can keep you on track for an educational and fun-filled summer. Together we can tackle the Summer Slide!
 

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