The lazy days of summer are typically anything but for busy preschoolers. Natural young scientists, poets, artists, inventors, collectors, and avid story listeners, young children are developing skills and interests all the time. Whenever a child is playing, reading, or interacting with others, whether at school, home, the beach, or most anywhere, they are actively learning. So, when you read to a child and explore activities together this summer, do it for the sheer fun of it, but know that as you read and play together you are fostering many developing skills. In addition, your relationship will grow and strengthen as you share a riddle, make a prediction, wonder about the world, and appreciate the richness of language – together. Here are some great books and activities that provide learning and fun for you and a young child.
Don’t Take Your Snake for a Stroll
by Karin Ireland, Illustrated by David Catrow
Harcourt; 2003; ISBN 0152023615
Can you imagine what would happen if you took a skunk on an airplane or frogs to a fancy restaurant? The easy, rhyming poems tell only part of the story. David Catrow’s brilliant, action-filled, energetic watercolors are a feast of the imagination. The havoc caused by an innocent child taking unusual pets to a variety of places demonstrates the utter delight in exploring “what if?”
Don’t Take Book
Create your own “Don’t Take” book. First, grab your imagination and get ready for some laughs. Ask a child to think of an animal, insect, or creature of any kind, and to imagine bringing that creature to a specific place. There are no right or wrong answers, so let the imagination go wild. Help out with suggestions if she gets stuck. For example, if a child came up with “Don’t take a turtle to baseball game...,” you could add, “...because it would take an hour for him just to get to first base!” After you have come up with at least three scenarios, gather one blank file folder for each “Don’t take.” Punch holes in the folded side of the folder. On the front of the folder, you write “Don’t take your [animal] to the [location]... and on the inside, ...because it will [action].” Ask the child to draw, paint, or cut and glue a picture of the animal on the cover and a picture of the action on the inside. Loop a ribbon through the holes and tie, to bind all the pages together.
Summersaults Poems & Paintings by Douglas Florian
Greenwillow Books; 2002; ISBN 0060292679
Many of the best things about summer like “short sleeves, green leaves, ... sweet memories” and some of the worst parts of summer, “skinned knees, ninety degrees, ...four fillion fleas” are beautifully detailed in 28 fanciful poems and even more glorious watercolor pencil illustrations. Summersaults is children’s poetry at its best. The rich language describing dandelions, cows grazing, clouds, the swing, and even what to do with a sidewalk will help foster developing language skills and expand a child’s understanding of their world. Most of all, it’s a pleasure to listen to and read aloud.
What I Love About Summer Poetry
To further enjoy Summersaults, create your own “What I Love About Summer” poem. Show a child how to rhyme by giving an example: “Sun rhymes with fun.” Then, add some description: “Warm sun=Summer fun.” Start your poem together by giving a word, or a few words, describing something you like about summer. Ask the child to think of a rhyme. Next, have the child name something about summer, and you make the rhyme. Continue taking turns creating rhymes. Then put together the rhymes to create a new “What I Love About Summer” poem. Write the new poem on a large piece of paper, and suggest that the child illustrate it with paints, crayons, colored pencils, or collage.
How Will We Get to the Beach? A Guessing Game Story
by Brigitte Luciani; Illustrated by Eve Tharlet; Translated by Rosemary Lanning
North South Books; paperback reprint 2003; ISBN 0735817839
On a beautiful summer day, Roxanne decides to take her baby to the beach with just a few important things. A seemingly simple proposition at first, but when the car won’t start, the puzzle begins. Several modes of transportation are explored with large, colorful, expressive illustrations. The question-and-answer format invites a child to make a prediction, offer a guess, sharpen those developing cognitive skills, and have fun. Does Roxanne ever make it to the beach? You’ll have to read and find out.
Sink or Float?
For more fun making predictions, play “Sink or Float?” Gather two large, clear containers. Next, collect four to six small objects of differing weights and densities including raisins, ice, small rocks, a ping-pong ball, coins, soap, a cork, and toy people, animals, or cars. Fill one container with water. Ask a child to pick something like raisins, and predict whether they will float or sink. After she drops them in the water ask, “Did it float or sink?” Repeat this process with every object.
To experiment further, fill the second container with clear, carbonated soda and follow the same procedure. Ask the child, “Did the raisins float or sink the same as in plain water? Why do you think some floated this time?”
Shelley Butler is co-author of the Parents’ Choice Award-winning book, The Field Guide to Parenting with Deb Kratz. For more information on her work, to contact the author, or for more suggestions of great children’s books, please visit their website at www.fieldguidetoparenting.com.