SCHOOL’S OUT FOR SUMMER!

10 AWESOME SUMMER ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS!

If you’re looking for awesome summer activities for kids that are both fun AND beneficial, you’ve come to the right place! Here are a bunch of ideas to keep your kids moving, exploring, developing, and having fun all summer long!

1. Play with water. 

Your kids can run through crazy sprinklers, scoop and splash with a water table (THIS water table is my favorite), make an awesome water wall, play with water balloons (lots of water balloon ideas HERE), squirt water pistols (the Max Liquidator is great for bilateral coordination), or jump and play on a giant outdoor waterbed!

Oh, and swimming obviously counts as water play too, right? Swimming is usually my TOP recommendation when therapy parents ask me what kinds of activities their kids should do during the summer. Swimming is an AMAZING activity that promotes sensory integration, motor planning, spatial awareness, bilateral coordination, improved core and overall strength, and more. Did you know that water provides 600-700 times the resistance of air and, when you’re swimming, you have to use 12x the force in order to move your body? Talk about intense proprioceptive input

2. Play with ice. 

Sometimes water just isn’t cool enough. Experiment with painting with frozen paint cubes, excavating frozen fruit, building with ice bricks, doing some glowing ice painting, exploring with exploding frozen treasure chests, excavating creatures from a giant ice cube, or playing with ice chalk, frozen popsicle chalk, or icy trains. The creative possibilities are endless!

3. Play at the park.
Outdoor parks are the perfect place to build gross motor skills, fine motor skills, visual skillssensory processing skills, and even social skills! Kids who crave proprioceptive input and need lots of “heavy work” can work their bilateral coordination, hand strength, and core muscles as they climb ladders and cargo nets and play on the monkey bars. Or they can get lots of good vestibular input as they slide, swing, and spin. (Watch for signs of overstimulation, though.) Certain parks contain splash gardens (water features that splash and spray from all around) that provide a much needed escape from the heat. And if it’s just too hot outside to play at the park, then consider taking a trip to a local indoor park for some climbing, sliding, or trampoline jumping!

4. Play gross motor games.
Some fun games to get the large muscle groups of the body working include building an obstacle course (indoors or outdoors), playing with bean bags and playing games like TwisterBalloon TennisToilet Paper Knock Down, Glow in the Dark Bowling“Ice Skating” in the Living Room, “Move Like a…”, and Minute to Win It games! 

5. Try new fine motor games and activities.
You didn’t think an OT would leave out fine motor play from a list of awesome summer activities, did you? Where do I even begin?! Some fun fine motor activities and games for school-age kids might include painting with a squirt bottle, squirting down a tower of cups, building marshmallow sculptures, or playing with LEGOs (TONS of LEGO ideas here!). Or they could create pictures with a Lite Brite, or play Connect 4Uno, Kerplunk, Jenga, Operation, Angry Birds building and launching game, or Mancala. OR they can put together puzzles (including 3D puzzles!) or model kits. So many ideas! For preschoolers, check out Chutes and Ladders (super hero version!), Hi Ho! Cherry-O, Hungry Dog fine motor gameWok and Roll fine motor game, or The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel

6. Try new sensory play recipes.
Summer is a great time to try out new sensory play recipes, especially ones that can be easily rinsed off with a hose if they get messy! Your child can help put together the recipes, giving them a sense of ownership as well as helping them practice reading, following directions, and using their fine motor skills to pour, mix, and squish. Are you ready for some fun suggestions? Cook up some home made play dough, find some cool play dough mats, and spend some time playing play dough with your toddler, preschooler, or older child. Try some no-cook play dough recipes. Experiment with making different types of slime, including sand slime and my jelly slime. Make some rainbow spaghetti. Create soft cloud dough using only two ingredients. Learn how to make your own bubble solution and make GIANT bubbles. Try making different types of homemade paints. Experiment with glowing sensory play. Or check out this HUGE list of summer sensory play ideas from Learn ~ Play ~ Imagine. Contain your messy play in a sensory table, large bin, or on a large towel or dollar store shower curtain. So much fun!

7. Try different summer recipes with your kids and involve them in the process.
Being involved in the food preparation process is not only fun for kids, it can actually be therapeutic for those who are picky eaters. You can try out recipes for different smoothies, homemade popsicles, fruit salads or veggie salads, sandwiches, and even homemade ice cream in-a-bag! Kids not open to the idea of trying new summer fruits or veggies? Encourage them to at least interact with the food by creating faces, letters, numbers, or other scenes on their plate/table.

8. Encourage independence with self-help skills.
Are you no longer rushing out the door to get your kid(s) to school? Great! Then now is the perfect time to take a little longer in the mornings and encourage your child to do more of their self-help tasks on their own. You know — putting on shoes or sandals, tying shoes, putting on shirt, putting on shorts, dress or skirt, brushing hair, brushing teeth, putting together their own bowl of cereal, using utensils — all that jazz. Maybe your kid won’t think this is awesome but, trust me, it is!

Learn about how independent kids are expected to be with different self-dressing skills at different ages. You might be surprised at how much kids can actually do for themselves at a relatively young age.

If your child needs more than just a friendly reminder to do these types of tasks on their own (i.e., they truly do need help), try taking a “backward chaining” approach. This means you, the grown up, would do the entire task for them (let’s say, putting on their sock), except for the last part; they would finish the last step themselves. Hurray! A sense of accomplishment! As they master that last step, then you can back off one more step and complete all but the last two steps for them; they would then finish the last two steps themselves. Double hurray! Slowly over time, with daily practice, you may see progress in your child’s ability to complete these sorts of self-help tasks more independently!

9. Read books…or create your own!
Your child’s teacher will love you for this! Take advantage of the air conditioned libraries and go check out some books. Or foster your child’s creativity and show them how they can create their own book. Even Kindergarteners can create their own basic illustrations. If your child is old enough to write, encourage them to hand write their story; if not, then write it for them as they tell you what is happening in the story. Or if your child is old enough to type — you guessed it — have them type out their story! The school-based OT in me LOVES this idea! Your child can type out a sentence or two on each page in large-ish font, print it out, and then illustrate in the blank space above or below. There are so many ways to get creative with this idea of book-making and, best of all, it gives your child a chance to create something and be proud of it while practicing their written expression skills at the same time!

10. Make projects for yourself or to share with others.
You don’t have to be artsy or crafty in order to help your kids make fun masks or hats for themselves, or cute and thoughtful cards for others. All you really need is some paper, tape, scissors, and markers or crayons. You can add a splash of personality with googly eyes, puffy paint, stickers, and tissue paper. Don’t have any craft or project supplies? A quick trip to the dollar store or the craft aisle of your local store can quickly solve that. But, seriously, it doesn’t take much to have fun with making projects. And, again, your child’s teacher and the OT will be SO HAPPY that they practiced using their fine motor skills over the summer in order to have fun!

ONE MORE OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY TIP FOR THE SUMMER

More than anything, let your kids be kids! As a school-based OT I have found that, more often than not, being out of school during the summer can actually be more beneficial developmentally than being in school. After a long year of being over-scheduled and over-worked, kids tend to BLOSSOM over the summer! They have two to three months to explore, create, and just be a kid. And that’s awesome. Have fun with that. I hope you and your family have a great summer!