Summer is the perfect time to encourage your children to get outside and explore the great outdoors. Learning can and will occur – trust me on this one. As a former homeschooling mom, I could ALWAYS find learning in just about any activity or experience.
Amy Vickrey, of SPED-Homeschool, suggests: star gazing, kite flying, camping, fishing, and bicycle riding. Other summer outdoor activities include planting a garden, taking a nature walk, or visiting a farmer’s market. My personal favorite is having a picnic and eating popsicles!
But how do these activities possibly equate to learning?
Some might be self-explanatory, such as the basic concepts of astronomy involved in star gazing, the study of wind velocity when flying kites, or the science of plant life when planning a garden. Other activities might not be as obvious, however.
For example, having a picnic involves a lot of preparation and some critical thinking. How many people will be coming? What will we make? Will there be enough? How do we know? Will the food need to be kept cool and if so, how? Where will we picnic? Why would we select this spot? What time of day will we go and for how long? How will we handle insects or bees? You get the point. 😊
Think about how simple and inexpensive these activities are to do!
Of course, simply encouraging your child to go outside to read a favorite book or write in his/her diary is incredibly valuable, too. Better yet, make a Nature Journal with your child! Let him/her draw pictures of animals, insects, plants, or flowers and label them. Research specific wildlife and ask your child to record his observations.
What a perfect time of year to study birds, their sounds, habitats, and habits! (Many of my students LOVE birds.) Research a particular bird from your area and go bird watching. Not enough birds in your yard? Make a bird feeder and watch them come! Use the Nature Journal to record observations. Take pictures and include them in the journal or the artistic student might want to draw the birds.
Studying measurement? Get a measuring tape and measure away! How high is the slide? How tiny is that ant? How many feet from the Elm tree to the Oak?
Take the sidewalk chalk outside to review math facts or spelling words. Or better yet, get a squirt bottle filled with colored water and write away! (My students LOVED this activity.)
Science anyone? Get out a bucket of water and add objects. What sinks? What floats? Speaking of water… Children love playing with water while using a variety of measuring cups and spoons and funnels. Children can learn about teaspoons, tablespoons, quarter cups, half cups and full cups all while playing with water.
Want to encourage wise spending? My children always loved going to tag sales. Give your children a specific amount of money to spend. They need to figure out what they can buy within that amount. How much change will they get back? If they find something that exceeds their given amount, they need to find a creative way to negotiate that increase with you.
Perhaps, if they would like to earn money, they can have a Lemonade Stand. Talk about innovative ways to understand money! How much will they charge? How many cups of lemonade must they sell to break even? There is also marketing involved. Who is their target market? How will they advertise? Promoting young entrepreneurship is priceless.
The ideas are endless and yes, learning is and can be integral in each and every outdoor activity or experience.
The research is clear. Children (and adults) are spending less time outdoors, even though the benefits of doing so are awe-inspiring. According to McCarthy from Harvard Health (2022), improved health, sharper minds, and better socialization skills are significant advantages.
So, when your child says, “School’s Out for Summer,” simply redirect their thinking to “School’s Outside for Summer!”