Summer Literacy Activities
Tips for Educators
Many preschool programs shift into what they often call a summer camp program over the summer, which usually means they spend more of the day outdoors and develop a wide variety of curriculum activities that can be engaged in outside.
Because children are so interested in the natural world, there is an abundance of subjects one can explore with preschoolers during the summertime! Catching insects, watching insects in their natural habitat, drawing and painting insects, making sand or play dough sculptures of insects, bird watching and identification (aren’t we grateful for Wikipedia?!), Teddy bear, baby doll, toy horsey, and other themed picnics in which one brings one’s favorite toy or stuffed animal to the blanket and has “tea,” with a plastic play tea set. In the warm weather, one can use real water in the cups, because if it spills and children get wet, it will only feel good!
All of these kinds of activities can be expanded easily into literacy activities by making predictions, having discussions, guessing and estimating (which tea cup is bigger? Will the water from the pitcher fit into the teacup?), graphing types of birds observed or other animals (squirrels, people walking their pet dogs, and so on).
Making up stories about the experiences one engages in with the children is always a wonderful way to reinforce the activities themselves...“and what did we eat for snack time at our Teddy Bear picnic? What color were those carrots?” Write it down on a large piece of easel paper, or use construction paper and markers, then laminate the stories and bind them together into classroom books.
Planting and growing garden projects are always a wonderful way to teach science and support children’s investment in our natural environment, while also perhaps introducing them to some new kinds of foods (grow lettuce or kale, green beans, etc). Keeping written records to document your growing projects and the steps needed to care for the plants, whether flowers or veggies, help children learn so many skills, in math and science as well as literacy.
Story dictation at a picnic table in the yard is a wonderful activity...have a child tell you what is his/her favorite piece of outdoor play equipment, what he/she likes to do on that equipment (climb to the top of the slide?), and so on. Encourage the children to illustrate their stories, then share them as a group or send them home.
Planning for playing in the baby pools that preschools often set up for children is a great opportunity for writing and literacy...what do we need to do to get ready to go into the baby pool? Put on bathing suits? Sunscreen? Bring a towel to put on the table nearby for when the child is finished? Write down the steps and illustrate them and post them on an easel or attach them to a wall near the pool. Have the children “read” the steps that you have illustrated.
Tips for Parents
Many of the above activities that children do at preschool can also be done at home...and here are many more ideas for fun literacy activities for summer:
Walk to the park and then have the child dictate a story about the experience afterwards...”What did we see on the way to the park?” “What play equipment did you play on?” “What was the weather like? Sunny, cloudy, hot, cool?” These can be conversation starters, but often children can just tell you whatever they want to about the experience! Writing down children’s words is a very powerful literacy experience as well as a self esteem booster. Children feel that what they have to say is important, and at the same time they learn that their words can be represented by the letters you write on the page, and they see that writing goes from left to right across the page. Lots of skills are being built during this process! When a child dictates a story, don’t correct his/her grammar. If he says, “Me went on the slide!” You write, “Me went on the slide!” It’s important that the child not be corrected...one wants to encourage verbal expression and make that connection between the spoken and written word. Children’s faces light up when you read their story back to them, and they hear their words coming out of your mouth.
Walk around the block and play “I see a color...” then return and write down what colors you saw together...”What did we see that was the color red?” And invite the child to illustrate.
Go to the Post Office, buy a few stamps, and help the child dictate a letter to a grandparent or friend and walk to the mailbox and mail it together.
Take a bus or a train ride to a park that’s a little farther away from your home...write about the bus ride later and the new park. It’s easy to staple the pages together and make simple books. Children love these books that they authored themselves!
If your child is old enough (probably at least four), try reading him/her a chapter book! Early chapter books great for preschoolers are the Frog and Toad stories, for example. Tell your child favorite family stories from when you were growing up...children love to hear these stories!