Although many children will not attend your child care program this summer, others will attend on a half-time basis, and there will be other children who continue to attend on their regular schedule. How can teachers plan a fun-filled summer that will keep children learning in a safe and healthy environment surrounded by their friends? Begin by making the following suggestions a part of your summer program.
Learning Through Play
Recently, I overheard one mother say, “I’m not going to enroll my daughter in a summer child care program. All they do is play!” What appears as “play” to adults is actually a child’s work. Through play, children learn social skills such as sharing, learning responsibility, and taking turns; math skills such as comparing, patterning, and counting; reading skills such as participating in conversations, recognizing letters in print, and inventing songs, stories, and poems; and so much more.
This summer, before you hear children complain of “nothing to do,” determine to make this summer one they will remember by involving them in fun and creative activities that take advantage of inexpensive materials and resources within your community – plant and tend a garden, create colorful sidewalk drawings, take nature walks, fly a kite, visit the library, etc.
Extend Learning through Play by:
- Asking “what if” questions concerning measuring, predicting, and analyzing situations or objects.
- Providing a box of costumes for pretend play and changing the contents often.
- Bringing members of the community into your program and taking field trips.
Maintaining a Safe and Healthy Environment
Unfortunately, many of America’s children live in homes and communities that lack safe play areas and playgrounds, and as a result, an increasing number of young children lack adequate daily physical activity. This summer, you can promote physical activity by providing children with safe outdoor play environments and encouraging large muscle activities such as playing ball and hopscotch, running, climbing, dancing, etc.
In addition, it is important for child care providers to realize the importance of providing nutritious meals and snacks. More than 1/3 of young children are overweight and are at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. “I can’t control what my students eat at home,” remarked one of my colleagues, “but at our center every bite we serve is wholesome and healthy for their growing bodies and minds.”
Maintain a Safe and Healthy Environment by:
- Checking the outside playground daily for broken equipment or glass containers that might have been thrown into the fenced area.
- Providing foods for children to make healthy snacks. By participating in the preparation of meals, children learn to make good food choices.
- Sending home parent newsletters with suggestions for healthful snacks and meals and offering parent workshops on child nutrition and safety.
Develop New Friendships
Socialization begins early in life. During the summer months, build children’s self-confidence by helping them develop relationships with other children and fostering cooperative play. Encourage children to paint together at the easel, build together in the block corner, assist in putting away toys, role play in the dramatic play corner, and much more.
Develop Friendships by:
- Assigning children a “buddy” for a game or activity.
- Encouraging shy children to play with more outgoing children and vice versa.
- Focusing on the positive and avoiding the negative.
As you plan your summer program, think of ways to make a difference in each child’s life. Hopefully, they will grow mentally, thrive in a safe and healthy environment, and end the summer with several new friends.
Carolyn R. Tomlin, Jackson, TN, has taught early childhood education at Union University. She contributes to several education publications.