By "Coffee Queen" from Hub Pages
Parents and often struggle with how best to have preschoolers spend their free time. Research has long found that home environment can make a huge difference in kids' cognitive and other abilities. And summer, particularly for toddlers and preschoolers, is the time that parents (and grandparents) have with children that can really help kids grow emotionally, behaviorally and academically while also having a ton of fun!
Below is a research-based list of recommendations for creating an educational environment for a toddler and preschool age child during the summer months.
Every day, parents/grandparents should:
1. Create opportunities for imaginative play. Some form of daily "pretend play" improves emotional/behavioral skills. And emotional/behavioral skills predict academic performance later in life. A couple of suggestions of how to create an environment that support imaginative play might include:
Rock Family - Collect enough rocks to represent each member of your family. Paint the rocks either to look like each person. Place your new Rock Family in your garden or near the front door
Life-Size Paper Doll - Take a long piece of butcher paper and have your child lie down on top of it (his or her entire body needs to fit within the edges with a good margin around the sides). Trace around your child's body with a Sharpie. When your child stands up, you will have an outline that you and your child can dress and decorate however you wish.
2. Include physical play. Some sort of physical play helping children develop gross (ball throwing, bike riding) and fine (handwriting) motor skills matters too. There is a direct correlation between the gross motor skill development of a preschooler and long term health. Summer is wonderful since it just charms all of us outdoors. In addition to splashing in a pool, running on a beach, tumbling on a lawn and all the other great joys of summer there are some activities you can do with your preschooler that help them develop both those gross motor skills and fine motor skills on rainy days.
3. Integrate the ABCs and 123s into daily activity. We know focus on cognitive areas such as ABCs and 123s matters enormously. For example, how well a child reads at the end of first grade predicts how well they read in later grades, graduation rates and even their income level as an adult. There are so many very simple ways that parents can reinforce those basic literacy and numeric concepts at home.
Make an obstacle course. For gross motor skills, creating an obstacle course within your own living room with arrows using masking tape - of chairs to climb over, tables to climb under, pillows, couch cushions, boxes, step stools, hula hoops (if you have them) - and using different movements - crawling, walking, climbing, walking backwards, tiptoeing - on a rainy day is an excellent way for children to learn how their bodies move though space and a sense of balance. Bead necklaces. Beading necklaces is wonderful for eye hand coordination (for younger toddlers be sure to put a piece of tape around the end of the string to make it easier to bead!) Play Operation. Playing the game Operation is terrific for helping kids master the precision and strength needed someday to write letters. And when this fun game prompts you to clarify for your little one that he doesn't in fact have a wishbone down near his belly button, then you've just found yourself an early biology tool too!
- Create your own ABC book. Start by cutting even size paper that will make up the pages of the book. Over the course of a week or so, create the pages in the book. Start with 'A', write a capital 'A' and a lowercase 'a'. Talk about an item (that you can draw - like apple) that starts with an 'A'. Draw the item next to the letters. Talk about the item and the letter, if you can find it in your house, find the object. Make it something special that your child can look forward to doing every day. Get stickers (with letters and objects if you can) and have your child decorate the pages with stickers and crayons. Do a letter or two a day. At the end of the alphabet, punch holes on the side of the paper and put ribbon through the holes to make a book that your child can keep.
- Set up a room in your house like a grocery store. Put some of your kids' favorite foods on tables and other low pieces of furniture -- these will make the aisles of the grocery store. Then give your kids something to use as a basket. Then give the kids some money -- real or pretend -- to use to 'buy' their food. Not only is this activity fun, but you can use it to teach young children colors, shapes, counting, and food names. Older children can learn about making a recipe, finding food from all the food groups, and addition and subtraction. And, who knows, the next trip to the grocery store might be a little more fun for them!