Screen-Free Summer Activities to Promote Early Childhood Learning

As the weather turns warm, many parents of young children break out of the house, anxious to take advantage of parks and backyards. However, as the weather turns from warm to hot, families retreat indoors again, fearing heat exhaustion, dehydration, and sunburns. The summer months can start to drag, with more and more parents relying on TV or tablets to pass the time.

The Montessori model of early childhood education celebrates curiosity, brain development, learning experiences, and diverse sensory activity. Screen time provides none of these benefits, and too much time with a screen can actually decrease a child’s ability to learn, visualize, create, and emote.

If you’re trying to stay away from screen time this summer, here are some sensory-stimulating activities that will benefit your child and further their learning in a Montessori-style education.

Build an Ocean

Sensory play is one of the most beneficial for preschoolers and toddlers. A great way to stay cool and enjoy the stimulation of the outdoors in summer is to build an ocean together. You can find things like plastic or wooden turtles, fish, and other items at your local dollar store.

Fill a large bin with water. Ask your child (if they are verbal) what other things might go in the ocean. Explore the backyard looking for things to go in the water, like sand, rocks, and grass for seaweed. Add animal figurines, seashells, or boats to the water. Then you can allow your child time to play and feel the different textures and see the colors of the items in the water.

Not only is this type of activity great for keeping cool, but it can get your preschooler thinking creatively about a new environment while exploring the places with which he or she is already familiar (the backyard). This type of activity can teach that there is always something new to learn, even in spaces that might be “tired.”

Plant a Garden

There’s no better to way to teach applied mathematics than with seeds, trowels, and a plot of dirt. Children will get to feel the dirt with their fingers, explore life (like beetles and worms) in the dirt, and prepare to learn how seeds grow into food for families and communities.

When planting, you can adapt the method to the readiness of your child. For example, you might plant one seed one inch apart. Give your child a ruler and let them measure and mark the places where the new seed should go. Allow younger children to use the shovels to dig holes in the garden.

You can even teach multiplication to an older child by planting 4 rows of 12 seeds, for a total of 48 plants in all.
Maintain the garden with your child over the course of the summer. Remember that pulling weeds and placing them in a disposal sack is a sensory activity. You could sort the weeds into groups to see how tall one plant is compared to another. Some children might be interested to learn why some weeds grow differently or smell differently than other weeds.

Finally, you get to enjoy the harvest. Washing the vegetables is another fun sensory activity, and your child can even make a salad with garden produce.

Encourage Outdoor Kitchen Play

Pick up some real pots, pan, measuring cups, wooden spoons, and similar kitchen tools from a local thrift store. Place a plastic or wooden kitchen (or even just a bench with some hooks and shelves) in the sandbox. The sand becomes food, and children can engage in imaginative play while spending time outdoors.

If it is very hot where you live, consider providing water to use in the kitchen as well. Water and easy-to-clean sensory materials like beans or rice can be better for those who live in apartments with balconies.

Dye Some Blocks

Easter egg dye or the dye used for tie-dye clothing can make a great activity for learning colors, improving motor skills, and providing fun interaction for young kids. Choose a non-toxic color, and mix it with water in large bowls. Stock up on plenty of wooden shapes, like spheres or square blocks from a local craft store, and make sure your kids are wearing clothing that can be ruined.

Provide your child with a number of utensils, including tongs, a ladle, a spaghetti spoon, and a fork. Encourage them to pick up the wooden blocks with the utensils and move them into the bowls. Let your child move the wooden blocks from one bowl to another to see how the colors change when mixed together.

After, you might use those same blocks to build towers or make sculptures with glue.

For more information about the Montessori method and how this education can help your child succeed, contact us at Miniapple International Montessori School. We have programs to help children stay active and learning throughout the summer.


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