8 Ideas for Warm-Weather Fun that Help Build Important Skills
By Amanda Rock
A beautiful summer day is motivation enough to get outside and play with your preschooler, but whether you realize it or not, games and activities that are staples of summer — playing catch, jumping rope and pumping on a swing — can help your child develop important physical abilities like hand-eye coordination and gross and fine motor skills. So grab a few bottles of water, slather on some sunscreen and get ready to try some of these summer activities for preschoolers.
This list is aimed at kids ages 3-5, but remember every child develops differently so choose and modify activities based on your child’s abilities.
1. Ride a Bike (or Trike)
Riding a bike, whether it’s a tricycle or a “big kid” bicycle with or without training wheels is a great way to help your little one develop his gross motor skills and eye hand coordination. Plus, it’s a fun family activity that gets you all moving.
When it is mastered, bike riding is an easy task, but when your child is first learning, it can be a challenge so make sure she’s on a bike that is age- and size-appropriate and she’s wearing the proper safety gear. Be sure to discuss bike safety and the rules of the road (even if you’ll be on a sidewalk or at the park).
2. Play Catch
Playing with a ball offers all sorts of opportunities for kids to utilize different skill sets, whether she throws, catches or kicks.
Catching and throwing: For the most part, kids don’t master catching and throwing until they hit about five. Eye-hand coordination is important here and it takes a little while to develop that skill. In any case, it’s fun to practice. Use balls of different sizes (or even beanbags) and take turns throwing and catching. Don’t use a ball that is too hard. Start off close together and gradually move further apart.
Kicking: Again, play around with balls of different sizes and degrees of hardness. Encourage your child to switch feet when he kicks. Try running and dribbling the ball up and down the yard.
3. Blow Bubbles
Seems simple enough, but blowing bubbles is actually a tricky skill for preschoolers to master. Their lips have to be in just the right position and they have to blow the correct way in order to form bubbles. Most kids aren’t able to do this proficiently until about age 3 or so. Handling the wand and the bottle can also get frustrating for kids — both can get slippery and can spill easily.
So start off easy. Offer a variety of homemade wands (fly swatters, berry baskets and pipe cleaners all work well) and show your child how to dip the wand and wave it to make bubbles.
Also a fun family activity — making your own homemade bubble solution!
4. Hula Hoop
Admittedly, using a hula hoop the way it was designed to be played with can be frustrating for a preschooler (and many adults!). But there are a lot of ways to play with a hula hoop that offer your little one a chance to develop physical skills (and his creativity). Here are just a couple of fun games you can play with hula hoops:
• Toss beanbags into hula hoops that are staggered around your yard.
• Encourage him to use the hula hoop as steering wheel — see what types of adventures he takes you on!
• Lay a bunch of hula hoops side-by-side in a path. Have your preschooler jump, skip, hop on one foot or even crawl between them.
• Using hoop holders, grownups or other children, hold hoops up so kids can crawl through the hoops like a tunnel.
5. Make the Outdoors Your Canvas
Art projects take on a greater magnitude outside. With sidewalk chalk and paint, help your child to create — hopscotch boards, race tracks, a storefront and more. Practice tracing one another and then draw faces and clothing on the empty forms. Got an old easel in the garage? Bring it outside for an al fresco art show.
Without the worry of a mess to clean up, let them paint, color and create to their heart’s content.
6. Go for a Walk
Whether you take a stroll around the neighborhood, the local park or even through your sprinkler, walking and running develops leg muscles and gets your little one moving. When it’s appropriate, take off her shoes and socks for a sensory experience — let her feel the cool grass, the grainy sand or even the rough sidewalk (make sure nothing is too hot before tender feet touch).
Plan a hike with a picnic or just a quick jaunt around your block. While walking, change your style — pretend to be airplanes that fly or cars that drive fast or even a fish swimming through the sea.
7. Jump Rope
Chances are your little one won’t be able to jump rope until she’s about five or six, but that doesn’t mean she can’t try. Start off with the basics — just jumping. Kids will love jumping over cracks in the sidewalk, rocks on the driveway, into puddles or off of curbs, even on one foot.
When you are ready to introduce the rope, lie it flat on the ground at first and have her jump over it, eventually raising it slightly off the ground — careful not to make it too high, you don’t want her to trip and fall. When she’s ready, add the jump rope to the mix, having her step over it at first and eventually jumping.
8. Take a Swing
An obvious choice, playgrounds offer a host of activities. A favorite of many children are the swings, but learning to pump can be difficult as the motion requires balance, strength and good timing. To teach your child to pump, you may want to hop on the swings yourself at first to demonstrate the technique. Then when it is his turn, describe what it is that you want him to do. Say something like, “Push your legs out and pull them in.” Move your position, sometimes standing behind your child, sometimes in front while you push him, encouraging the correct motion.
Before your child gets on the swing, be sure to remind him that it can be dangerous to walk in front of or behind a swing and show him the correct way to approach them.