Though the school year is ending, opportunities for children to learn and parents to facilitate development are plentiful, particularly in the summer months. Here are a few ideas to help you think about simple ways to promote your child’s growth in each of the key domains of development:
Self-Esteem and Independence
Self-Esteem is important. Your child’s development depends on whether he/she is confident in him/herself and capable of accomplishing the goals that are set before them even if their goals consist of coloring within the lines. Having high self-esteem can lead to independence for your child and more free time for you. Here are some summe-time activities to help boost your baby’s confidence:
- MI Can Do It!
Since the pace of summer is typically slower, allow time for children to do as much as possible for themselves (e.g., eating and cleaning up, washing, dressing, and packing a backpack). The resulting increase in independence will promote self-esteem AND help prepare the child for new responsibilities at school next year.
- MThat’s a Great Idea!
Sharing ideas provides an opportunity for children to discover the value of their contributions. Allow time for leisurely conversation while sipping lemonade or taking a walk. Invite the child to suggest activities for the day, ways to celebrate a special event, or items to pack for a picnic lunch.
Interaction and Cooperation
Summer often brings more time with extended family and friends, which encourages important social interactions. The longer days and special activities, on the other hand, often change sleep schedules and other important routines.
- MBe Flexible
Sometimes nap time isn’t at three. You might be entertaining more often now that the warm weather is here. If your child isn’t ready to nap, let them play out their energy. Nap time should be a regular event but if it starts at three-thirty rather than three, then so be it. While it is important to learn flexibility, you’ll find that children are best able to cope with the necessary changes when they get enough rest and enjoy the comfort of consistency.
- MFamily and Friends
Interacting with siblings, cousins, playground partners, etc. all provide opportunities to practice taking other perspectives and negotiating. These valuable skills can be learned best when adults help children to think in advance about situations that might arise. Anticipating another child’s interests, planning to choose one activity the child likes and one the peer likes, and considering ways to handle a sibling’s refusal all help the child respond more appropriately when the time comes.
Communication is Key
Spoken language is the foundation for the written word. We encourage our children to speak from the day they are born, so why not encourage them during their play time? Here are some fun ways o encourage communicating with your child:
- MPlay it Sam-Music for your babe
Extra car time during summer travel is wonderful for word games and songs. Looking for license plates with letters or singing some of your child’s favorite songs will encourage your child’s communication development.
- MRead Me a Bedtime Story
Read a book. Read it again. Reading is the best way to get your child’s communication skills to improve. While sitting with your child, try to get him or her to read along with you or better yet read to you. If you want to change up the same old story, consider alternate endings. Creating a new path for Goldilocks or Kermit the Frog to take can make the same boring children’s books a little more interesting and fun for you and your child.
- MThe Greatest Story Ever Told
Creating with your child will encourage the development of words and thought processes.
- MTired of the same old story? Drawings are boring and outdated? Write and illustrate your own version! Together with your child, you can create your own version of the story from beginning to end. Put together a few pages of drawing paper. Hole-punch the paper and hold the pages together with colorful pipe-cleaner. Together with your child, color and create a new story to read together for bedtime or relaxing time.
- MPrint photos from family outings and travel so that the children can make a summer photo journal with the child choosing the photos and dictating or writing the captions themselves.
- MPreparing postcards for family and friends is another great way to promote meaningful writing skills.
Not only is the written word helpful for your child’s communication development but so are images. Your child’s artistic talents can help in her cognitive and motor-skill development.
- MArt is All Around Us
Notice and draw attention to art EVERYWHERE! The shapes and patterns in nature offer intricate examples. Designs on posters, buildings, bridges, etc. can inspire children’s own creations. Have your child create a mural of different colored leaves from different tree species or draw animals at the zoo to get those little creative juices flowing.
- MThe World is a Theater
Your child is a character so let them act it out! Pretend is the most entertaining medium for your child so let them ham it up for you on an imaginary stage.
- MNotice sounds and movements as well, since they are part of music, dance, and drama.
- MProvide a variety of open-ended materials for art, dramatic play, creative movement, and exploration of sound.
- MCollage materials in an “invention box” with lots of glue can yield hours of fun. Simple scarves or pieces of interesting cloth can become a hundred costumes or parts of interesting forts.
Discovery and Exploration
Every day is new for your child. Your child is learning about his environment and discovering more about the world around him.
- MThe Truth is Out There
Ask questions that promote thinking about how and why things happen the way they do to engage your child’s thinking. Use “I wonder …” and respond to questions with “What do you think?” The local library is a wonderful source of children’s non-fiction books for help in discovering answers.
- MSet the Mood for Science
Your little Einstein is curious and wants to know about everything around him. Choose a sunny space at home for observations and collections. Grow a plant, collect pebbles, or keep a pet bug for a while. It’s helpful to have a magnifying glass, trays for sorting, and a clipboard with paper and markers for recording observations.
Let’s Get Physical
Exercise for your child is important for their everyday development. While many of the ideas listed above include fine and gross motor practice, your child can also participate in household chores and other exercise exhibiting activities.
- MDoing Chores
Helping with family chores both indoors and outdoors can also strengthen physical skills(as well as independence, which fosters self-esteem). Invite children to help with the gardening, laundry, table setting, dishes, etc.
- MRunning the Obstacle Course
Remember that children need to practice every skill repeatedly to develop effective coordination and build strength. Creating an obstacle course and developing “carnival” games are fun ways to encourage repetition.
Children are always learning and developing. Encourage their development with love and fun activities and you will be sure to see your child flourish. Have fun learning with your child and best wishes for a safe and relaxing summer!