Last week marked the first day of summer and since school’s out for summer, there’s no better time than to capitalize on all that extra time you’re sure to have in between beach trips, cannonballs at the pool, and all that comes with the carefree laissez-faire days of summer.
Nowadays, it seems like the most natural thing to have the kiddos in front of is some kind of “screen” – a TV, a computer, an iPad, an iPhone (which can be great tools as well) – but there are lots of other fun activities that can help your kiddos stay entertained, while garnering some great skills (without them even knowing it’s work). Here are 5 Non-Screen Summer Activities:
1. Go to the zoo. In my work with kids, especially those that are speech delayed, I have seen many begin to talk a lot more around animals, including sounds and names. Giving your child the chance to experience this firsthand is a great way to get them talking some more. Narrate your visit at the zoo by naming the animals, making the sounds they make, and throwing some action words in there, ie. Go lion; Lion sleep; Elephant eat. Or you can also use a carrier phrase, such as “I see lion!” Check out the National Zoo or the Reston Zoo, for starters.
2. Hang out at the park. Your neighborhood jungle gym might be just the ticket, especially when you’re not up for a more crowded location like the zoo. The park is a great place to visit because it is helpful to have kids interact with each other in a social manner. Here, they can learn the skills of turn-taking, requesting, compromise, and general communication with peers. And don’t forget about those gross motor skills! Kids will learn a lot about their bodies as they move about the playground.
3. Create a summer soundtrack. Summertime may be just the right moment to break out the drums (yep, I said it) and jam out with your kids to harness their creative side. Musical toys tend to be a real hit with kiddos. Additionally, introducing a new playlist for your next road trip might be just the ticket to increasing expressive communication. Research has shown that music helps awaken the opposite side of the brain and can often open up a world of possibilities for attention and development.
4. Get moving with yoga. Rainy days are no fun, but we all know when a summer storm is brewing. When you need to bring the kids in from the pool (or maybe just for a deep morning stretch), try playing some silly movement games to get the energy out and get them moving. Yoga is great for this and lots of our occupational therapists use some of these moves in therapy. This is a great strategy to help decrease stress and anxiety, improve self-regulation abilities, and improve overall motor skills. Get those frog, warrior, and tree poses ready!
5. Play ‘I Spy…” This game is great for improving expressive language. I often work with kids who use “thing” and “stuff” to refer to objects. I’m constantly trying to break them of this habit and get them to use more appropriate specific language. When you play “I Spy” or any other clue-giving game (hey there, Jeepers Peepers and HedBanz), your kids will need to picture your words to guess (receptive language) or will need to give you a specific description to have you guess (expressive language). I always try to get at least 3 clues before the other person can guess. “I spy with my little eye, something that is a red food that is juicy and comes from a tree…”
This is just a taste of some screen-free summer activities. Your therapist can always give you additional suggestions. Happy Summer!