Top 10 Garden Activities for Summer
Children playing outside and exploring their environment is beneficial for numerous reasons; they can develop important physical skills as well as learning to appreciate the natural world. Summer is the best time to engage in external activities, ensuring children keep cool and enjoy their garden time while learning about the world.
Here are That Nursery Life’s Top 10 Garden Activities for summer:
1. Ice Cube Exploration
Filling a bowl or tuff tray with ice cubes is a brilliant way for children to have a sensory experience while keeping cool. To make it more engaging, items can be placed inside the ice cubes and children can attempt to get them out, thinking of ways to melt the ice or what tools may be appropriate to use. Some examples of items to place inside the ice are natural items (such as leaves and flowers), food colouring or paint (for colourful ice), scents, (like vanilla essence or peppermint), pom-poms and glitter, or small toys which can be place inside water balloons for larger ice cubes.
2. Water painting
This activity is super easy and can be adapted in a number of ways. Using only a cup of water and a paintbrush, children can paint on the pavement, walls, or garden furniture (such as climbing apparatus) with the water and watch it disappear in the sunlight. Chalk letters, numbers, shapes or pictures can be drawn on the ground or fences and children can use their water to simultaneously trace over the letters while washing the chalk away. Older children may attempt to write their name and comparisons can be made between materials, such as which one is easiest to paint on, and which one makes the water evaporate fastest?
Children of all ages can enjoy a spot of gardening. This can be quite easy, like helping to water existing plants, or a little more complex, such as planting and potting new flowers or pulling up weeds. Gardening supports many areas of development, such as physical (both fine and gross motor skills), understanding the world, listening and attention, working together and showing care for their environment. Monitoring how their plants are growing and tending to them regularly also helps children develop an awareness of time.
4. Alfresco Snack time
Depending on the garden in the setting, it can be a great experience for children to enjoy their snack outside. Provided there is a shaded area so children can remain cool, eating outside not only helps children to socialise but gives an opportunity for them to appreciate their surroundings. During their ‘picnic’ they might see some ants, a butterfly or listen to the birds and traffic nearby. This allows them to be mindful, using their senses to take in their environment while enjoying their food.
5. Obstacle courses
Making obstacle courses is an effective way to develop children’s physical development. Best done outside to provide more space and fewer hazards, they can be created using almost anything and can be changed easily to cater for all abilities and ages. Chairs can be used to crawl under/over, any toys can be placed to slalom around, string can be tied to navigate through and small boxes can be put down for jumping over. The possibilities are as endless as a practitioner’s creativity.
6. Cloud Watching
Children can be encouraged to lie on the ground and simply watch the clouds, verbalising what they can see. This activity allows them to build on a number of essential skills: their communication and language, by expressing themselves coherently; being creative and letting their imaginations run wild; being mindful and taking in their surroundings; as well as providing a chance to be still and rest their growing bodies.
7. Nature Hunt
Going on a nature hunt in an external environment keeps children engaged and helps them notice and appreciate items they may have otherwise missed. Practitioners can create visual lists for what items children can look for and tick off, including certain insects, specific plants, or a variety of natural items such as twigs and stones. The items might be collected for use in a later activity or can just be observed at that moment in time.
Introducing children to science at an early age supports their levels of understanding. Experiments are a great way to do this, but they can get a little messy! Moving experiments to an outdoor space can not only give children a better view of what is happening but also reduces clean up time; hosing mess away is far less time consuming than cleaning floors and surfaces indoors! The ‘Coke and Mentos’ experiment and other simple reactions like vinegar and baking soda are recommended in an external space.
9. Sand and Water Play
Sand and water can be explored in a variety of ways outdoors; in purpose-built sand and water trays, or buckets, tuff trays and bowls. Children can either be encouraged to play alongside others, using larger spaces for exploration, or can enjoy some independent play in smaller containers. Exploring these materials outside allows more freedom, without the worry of making a huge mess; children can pour and fill to their hearts content and spills here and there won’t result in a slippery, hazardous floor.
10. Shadow Exploration
Children can explore shadows in a number of ways: they can trace around their shadows and observe how they change throughout the day; they can create shadows using toys and draw around them; or they can try and manipulate the shadow of their hands to represent different things. Any way children choose to experiment with shadows deepens their understanding, inspires creativity and helps with focus.