Summertime! Sunshine, beach days, ice cream and water. There’s no shortage of fond memories that is associated with this time of year. My personal favourite has always been re connecting with nature on a campsite in Ontario. There’s something magical about dusk, sitting by the fire taking in the rustic smell and quietly enjoying the crackling as you watch the stars come out.
There’s so much we can do to engage with our senses throughout the year and summer is no exception. What I love is all the fun you can have indoors, especially if you’re not a fan of the mess being in your house. Someday I’ll tell you the story of the water beads in my bathtub, the paint in my living room and the science experiment on my kitchen table…For now, I’ll just stick to giving you five fun activities to try out before summer is over.
1. The Magic of a Mud Kitchen
This may not be to everyone’s liking but it can be a fantastic way to incorporate imaginative play, sensory exploration and science into your child’s day. What’s great is that you can go as big or as simple as you’d like and it’ll still be tons of fun.
If you’re looking to go all out there are some pretty amazing outdoor kitchen option out there. Giant Games by Dom is a Canadian company specializing in games, activities and pretend play stations. If you’re interested in going the route of purchasing a sweet little mud kitchen as an addition to your child’s outdoor play area take a look at what they offer.
This is our affiliate link, where if you purchase through this link we are supported in continuing our educational blog, so here it is; https://mygiantgames.goaffpro.com/.
Alternately, you can also take a standard sand table and add pots, pans, cups, bowls, spoons and measuring cups and let the magic happen. Don’t forget to add water; that’s when the magic happens! Children will often add leaves, sticks and stones to their “cakes” and love serving up their yummy creations. This is the perfect opportunity to incorporate measurement; How many cups of flour does you’re cake need? Is it a tablespoon or a teaspoon of sugar? How many carrots does your soup have in it? They’ll be more that happy to tell you all about their culinary creations. As a heads up, your kids will have sand in places you never thought sand could get to after this. Since it is summer one thing you might want to consider is having the kids play in their bathing suits and then incorporating some water play afterwards to wash off the muddy sand.
P.S. MUD KITCHES ARE FUN ALL YEAR ROUND! Watch out for our post on activities for your mud kitchen by season.
2. Goop! Or Oobleck – A Non-Newtonian Fluid
This fun, non-Newtonian fluid is a fantastic sensory science activity that teaches kids about solids and liquids. The best part of doing this in the summer is that you can do it outside. It’s also extremely easy to set up since it’s made with only two ingredients, one of which you’ll be able to get straight from your tap.
A bowl or container, cornstarch and water are all you really need. Oh, and a willingness to get messy! Make sure hands are washed before playing, then pour the box of cornstarch into the bowl and add one cup of water. Mix it up with your hands! You can add some colour to the water, just remember that it may stain hands and other surfaces. We’re a big fan of Steve Spangler Science so we’ve included a link to their site where they talk about the science behind goop and some additional play options while exploring it; https://www.stevespanglerscience/lab/experiments/non-newtonian-fluid/.
We’ve used all kinds of objects in our Goop over the years, everything from measuring cups to plastic cockroaches. Some descriptive language you can use while playing includes; wet, cold, squishy, white, (or the colour used in the goop), solid, liquid, fluid, sink, stuck, drip, and squeeze. We’d love to see all your creativity so be sure to share your experiences below!
3. Water Play – The Mainstay of Summer
So simple, yet so fun. If you don’t have a kiddie pool or a dedicated sensory bin any bowl or storage tote will work. Water play is especially fun in the summer and can help keep the kids cool. Here are some things you can add to your water play to promote a variety of learning and exploration: Measuring cups, basters, spoons, bowls, cups, sponges, coloured ice cubes, baby dolls and soap bubbles, items that will float and sink and two bins to sort them into, plastic tubes and funnels, spray bottles, and aluminum pans. Kids can pretend to wash their baby dolls, be master chefs in a kitchen, or just enjoy all the pouring, splashing, squirting and more that water has to offer. Talk about what they are seeing, hearing and feeling to create dialogue and engage with them to create learning opportunities. You can also bring out some paintbrushes and if there is a surface such as patio stones or a deck let them paint it with water. The sun will dry it up and they can do it again and again. This is a great talking point and a chance to explain evaporation. Evaporation is when a liquid becomes a vapour and the heat of the sun moves this process along quicker making this a fun visual experiment. Be sure to always supervise water play to ensure safety.
4. Swing Painting
This activity is one that engages movement and a sense of their body’s position as they swing or rock back and forth. If you don’t have a swing in your backyard you can also try this with a rocking chair. Set up a big piece of mural paper, construction paper or poster board under the swing or in front of the rocking chair. Place child safe paint in bowls where they won’t be easily knocked over. Then let them dip their brush and paint as they rock or swing, using the motion to create lines and brush strokes. Art doesn’t always have to have an end product in mind. It can be rewarding to just play with creating and experience making something that is free from expectations.
5. Backyard Picnic
A backyard picnic sounds pretty simple and may not seem like a sensory learning opportunity at first glance, but if we take a moment to extract all the beauty and opportunities embedded in this experience we’ll find a lot magic in the moment. If your child is old enough to help prepare the food definitely have them help! Experiences in the kitchen are full of learning and touch so many sensory areas. Smell the food, taste it, feel it, describe it. It can be a very rich experience. Once you’re outside and set up let your child lead the conversation. What are they thinking about? What are they excited about in that moment? What are they hearing? What are they smelling? What are they seeing? My girls have been fascinated by butterflies since caring for our little group of Painted Lady Butterflies so whenever we’re outside that is something that always catches their attention. It’s an observation that they can connect to an experience.
This is a part of the magic and beauty in sensory exploration and self directed play. They are building connections and creating a map of their experiences that they continue to build and extract from as they gain more world experience. Your child can find magic in just about anything if allowed to. In fact, so can you! Enjoy these little moments outdoors and feel free to be a kid again with them. There’s no age limit to wonder.