If you ever wanted to see pure imagination at work, look no further than kids and summer. It’s this time when the entire world becomes an empty canvas for children to shape in their own manner and play in. We absolutely love seeing our little ones engaged in fun activities that spark their imagination and creativity.
Recently, there’s been a noticeable increase of giggling and laughter drifting through our windows from the neighbourhood and most definitely from our own backyard. You can see interesting art pieces on driveways, makeshift homes in yards, and groups of kids in the middle of discussing their latest – and greatest – play ideas.
With so much outdoor excitement and joy, we can forget that our children are constantly taking part in impromptu learning. Whether running around or figuring out their newest toys and games, it is important for us to build an environment that best fosters our children’s development, while watching their fun unfold.
Below, you will find play ideas and activities for both parents and kids to enjoy, alongside their associated benefits in the five major areas of development.
Cognitive Play Ideas
Keep it simple. Puzzles and games with rules will assist your child with problem-solving and abstract thinking. Focus on creating experiences that advance learning skills rather than simply following orders.
1. Simon Says.
Simon Says may seem like a simple game, but it is associated with a wide range of cognitive skills from self-control to memory. One play idea is adding twists to Simon Says to increase variation depending on the age of your child. Twists such as doing the opposite of what Simon says or only following when Simon performs an action such as raising their hand will add a layer of complexity to the game.
2. Puzzles + Outdoors
Old toys can become new toys in a different environment. Getting your child to complete a puzzle such as the “Nature Sort Box” by Goki with distractions all around can really boost their attention spans. As parents, concentrate on making slight changes to previous modes of play by introducing rules that associate with colors, letters, numbers, and vocabulary. For example, with the “Fishing Pool Magnetic” by Vilac, have your child catch pieces with a certain point number or colour!
Physical Play Ideas
Safety first – avoid high traffic and congested areas. Play that involves gross and fine motor movements will develop your child’s strength, balance, and coordination. It will also help with their concentration and stress relief.
1. Chalk or “Things” Obstacle Course.
With a little chalk and foresight, work together to build out an obstacle. Have children follow a sequence of numbers that takes them around the neighbourhood or have them follow collection of gross and fine motor skill activities. Namely: throw a ball and catch it, jump like a bunny five times, stand on one leg for ten seconds, do three jumping jacks, and kick a ball at a target. We can also use spare things around the house such as pylons, nets, hula hoops, and boxes to organize an obstacle course that encourages your child to take on physical tests.
2. Mini Golf.
The “Mini Golf Set” by PlanToys is perfect for active physical play. Setting up a goal – having the golf ball drop in the hole – really helps with concentration, while benefiting coordination and gross motor skill growth. Additionally, it is a great toy to add on to other outdoor activities, such as an obstacle course or working as a team on playdates, to round out a day of entertainment!
Social – Emotional Play Ideas
Teamwork makes dreamwork! Get together and make teams. The purpose is to create interaction and foster cooperation. During play, kids negotiate group dynamics, collaborate, compromise, share and deal with each other’s feelings. This also leads to empathy and understanding, which helps kids learn to handle their emotions in a situation they can control.
1. Facilitate Participation.
Play ideas in this category are not based on any specific games or toys. It is based on quality opportunities to foster interaction, encourage cooperation, promote self-confidence, and develop a sense of community. Be a willful participant and watch children come together and play with one another. Many activities and play ideas can also be modified for multiple players, so don’t worry about adding one more!
Communicative Play Ideas
Communicative play lets kids exchange thoughts, information, or messages by speech, signals, writing, or actions.
1. I Spy.
I Spy is an excellent way to get your children communicating. This is more than just speech, your child will need to perceive, understand, and comprehend the things around them to play effectively.
2. Take Them With You.
When you’re doing chores or running some errands around the house, bring your child along! You can show them the ropes and have a helping hand while doing repairs around the home. Give your child their own little “My First Tool Box” by Hape and talk them through each little step you take on the home repairs. Alternatively, the “Gardening Set” by PlanToys will get your child energetic in the yard and gardens with you. As a team, discuss about all the flowers, plants, and different activities that occur outdoors!
Sensory Play Ideas
Sensory-rich play that address sight, touch, smell, hearing, taste, vestibular, and proprioception as an integrated system gives children the chance to seek sensory relief or input. We want children to form unique ideas and solutions to challenges using their natural tools.
1. Marco Polo & Hide-and-Seek.
Marco Polo and Hide-and-Seek are classics. These are great games to have children develop specific senses as well as bring together multiple sensory skills to play.
2. Scavenger Hunt.
Using some tape and pieces of paper – perhaps with eye-catching colours – and attach them to items you’ve collected outside (flowers, pebbles, leaves, branches, etc.) or items from home (markers, stationary, cards, etc.). Then have your children look for those items 😄. More thematically, you could place certain Wooden Figures animals in their natural habitats, or a close approximation, and see if your child can figure out what animals should be where.
Let us know what your favourite outdoor play ideas and activities are this summer. If you have any questions about some of our play ideas, don’t hesitate to leave us comment or contact us on the platform of your choosing. We’ll be continuously publishing awesome blog content and detailing play idea setups and instructions for you guys, so stick around!