Toys & Books / 5 July, 2022 / Christina Walter
Summer is a wonderful time to create unforgettable childhood memories for your children, whether picnicking in the park, enjoying outdoor play in the garden, or frolicking on the beach in the glorious sunshine. Summer is about making precious moments that can last a lifetime.
Outdoor play offers so many opportunities for fun. Water, sand and messy play can wreak havoc indoors, but not so in the garden! Outdoors provides a fabulous space for active play too, as you’re not constrained by space or fear of breaking precious household items. There’s nothing like a good dose of vitamin D and playing chase in the garden to boost immunity and increase fitness too.
Playtime is great fun, but it is also a wonderful learning opportunity. It encourages cognitive growth, hones gross and fine motor skills, is a great stress reliever and teaches our children how to monitor their emotional and behavioural responses. Outdoor play encourages creative and imaginative thinking, improves literacy and maths skills, and is the perfect way to introduce early science and engineering concepts.
Here are a few outdoor play ideas to keep the children entertained (whilst learning too!) all summer long…
A great outdoor activity for the garden, sand and water play can teach children about physics, maths and science while providing hours of entertainment. You can use washing-up bowls on the lawn, or you can invest in a dedicated Sand and Water Play Table, which sits on a child-height frame. Clear plastic models are best as children can see what’s happening below the water level as they experiment with their play. And many come with a lid, so play can continue the next day.
When playing with water, incorporate various sized jugs, funnels and hoses into play, such as the Sand & Water Activity Set. These can be used to measure water (comparing water levels in different vessels, for example), or compare water flow rates as water is poured into different-sized funnels and hoses.
Another great idea is to experiment with different objects to see which will float or sink, and discuss why that may be. A sponge is great for experiments too. As it absorbs more water, the sponge becomes heavier and starts to sink, so children can then measure how much water has been absorbed by squeezing the sponge into the measuring jugs.
When playing with sand, you can use different objects to create various sizes and shapes of sandcastle structures. Or why not get artistic by imprinting items such as coloured Translucent Shells to create patterns and pictures, or even create a mini world for imaginative play!
Active play not only keeps children fit, but it’s a great way to hone gross motor skills, hand/eye coordination and balance. It’s fantastic for relieving stress and regulating emotions, and will help children sleep soundly at the end of the day too (win, win!). Playing active games with family and friends, whether playing chase, bulldog, relay races or even having a water fight, is a fantastic way to develop important social skills such as teamwork, negotiation and compromise.
Balance Toys make a fabulous garden assault course and are great for improving gross motor skills. Team them with things to jump, leap and roll over and you are good to go! Grab a stopwatch and time each contestant to see who can complete the course in the fastest time, or set individual goals by improving on your best personal time on each round.
Egg and spoon relay races are always a hit with all the family. No one wants to waste real eggs, so a Balancing Ball Set is an ideal solution. Great for improving hand/eye coordination, balance and strategy, this is also a great option as a summer party game. You could include this in the assault course too!
For gymnasts and dance enthusiasts, Holding Streamers encourage children to move and get creative as they spin, dance and leap across the garden to music. Why not film their performances to reminisce as the winter months roll in?
At the end of an active day, creative play can help children relax and unwind. Drawing or painting at the garden table can occupy children for hours as they focus on their masterpieces. Playdough is always fun too. Children can mould, roll and imprint shapes to make a myriad of 2D and 3D creations, letting their imaginations run wild!
Construction toys such as the Geostix Letter Construction Set, Theme Park Construction Set and FunPlay Construction Cubes, are excellent options that help with fine motor skills, problem-solving, creativity, imagination, focus, and lateral thinking. They are also great for developing early engineering and maths skills as children explore geometry, and follow the easy-to-follow instructions on the activity cards.
The benefits of family play can never be underestimated. Sibling play helps with emotional and social development, including empathy, understanding, negotiation and compromise, and is a lovely opportunity for sibling bonding that will last into adulthood.
Parents should jump in and play too! Not only will this create great childhood memories and help with parent/child relations, but is wonderful quality time that can be quite sparse in between the constraints of modern life, such as work and running a household.
Childhood is fleeting and we will never regret the time we spend with our kids, so let’s treasure every moment and have a summer filled with play!