Smart summer fun

From painted feet to fort-side lunches, these summer skill-builders make for fun in the sun.

Learning Stages

By Shelby Moore


Shelby Moore is a kindergarten teacher at an inner-city school in Houston and was recently awarded as one of the East Region's Campus Teachers of the Year.

Summer provides a great time for kids to be kids.

Right from the time a baby is born, and all through childhood, children want to play—it’s nature’s way of helping kids learn about the world. Play is how children begin to build the skills they need to be successful in school and in life.

Here are some of the things that happen when your child plays:

The brain develops—Healthy play builds the base for imagination, reading, writing and mathematical reasoning.

Muscles grow strong—Play helps kids learn to walk, run, jump, climb, kick a ball and much more.

Good social skills and life skills get started—What better way to learn how to share, take turns and make choices?

Encourage your child to play outdoors and explore. Take the fun outdoors. Think of your backyard or patio as a great big rec room—a place where indoor activities take on added adventure. You may want to suggest some games or let them use their own imagination and come up with their own things to discover.

Here are some fun ideas to get you going: 

  • Kids hot & sweaty? Just add water! This recipe for insta-fun is as close to your backyard wading pool. For an extra treat bring along different items that may sink or float (coins, spoons, dive rings, plastic letters, foam letters) and toss them into the pool. Which items float? Which sink? (This exercises their science skills.)
  • Put goggles on your little ones and challenge them to retrieve as many items as they can. Make it a contest to see how many items the kids can find in a few minutes time. This is a great way to get little kids comfortable putting their faces into the water and to get bigger kids confident diving under water. If your child is still hesitant about putting their face under the water encourage them to try and pick up the items with their toes—tricky! Once the items are collected they can practice basic math skills such as counting, sorting and comparing as well as using key math vocabulary words like, “Who has more items?” “Who has the fewest items?” etc.
  • Put kids in swimsuits and turn finger painting into feet painting (I suggest using washable tempera paint), followed by some fun in the sprinkler of course! Hang the finished art work from a clothesline to dry. Hint: If you add a couple drops of liquid soap to the bowl of tempera paint it will come off their hands and feet even easier.
  • Everyday lunch tastes better when it’s eaten in a fort made of blankets and some lawn chairs.
  • If you are forced indoors due to inclement weather, dress-up provides hours of fun and it’s not just for girls! Nothing sparks the imagination quite like playing dress-up. Kids love to try new roles on for size, whether it’s as grown-up like mom or dad, or a superhero from their favorite storybook. Dress up ideas for girls: beads, crowns, wigs, feathered boas, purses, high-heels, gloves, costume jewelry, hats, tutus, fairy wings, aprons, animal costumes, old Halloween costumes. Dress up ideas for boys: cowboy hats, vests, capes, construction helmets, police badges, wizard costumes, clown shoes, top hats, old ties, wigs.

From board games to basketball, from gardening to golf, let their imagination out to play. . . just don’t forget the sunscreen!