Summer Activities to Promote Development

Summer Activities to Promote Development

by Tricia Smith

 The summer months provide a different schedule for families with young children. Preschools are often closed from June through September; however, that does not mean that the youngest people in our community have stopped learning. For more information on simple ways you can continue to promote development during the summer months, please read the following suggestions:

Social Emotional:

  • Talk about feelings when the opportunity arises. For instance, if you forget something for a trip you could say, “I’m feeling frustrated that I forgot to bring the sunscreen.” Labeling emotions and then moving on to problem solving provides a helpful template for children when the going gets tough!
  • Consider setting up a Safe Place in your home. The Safe Place is the structure where people can take a break to breathe, name their emotions, and gain composure.
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, doing “The Pretzel” (crossing the midline of your body), or visiting a special made Safe Place in your home.
  • Take opportunities to connect with your family. High fives, eye contact, and laughter create neural connections in the brain. Cooperation is fostered with connection!
  • Focus on the activities that you want your child to do. Rather than saying, “no running”, use “walking feet look like this.” The behaviors you focus on will be those that you see more often.
  • Freeze dancing and stop and go games are fun ways of helping children develop impulse control. It’s hard to stop moving when you are having a good time!

Gross Motor:

  • Take walks with your child. Visit venues where you can walk on sidewalks, grass, or mulched trails. Walking up hills is a great way to develop large motor control. Young children do tire easily after walking/hiking; however, each child differs in their physical stamina.
  • Play catch! Throwing and catching a soft ball is a great way to develop upper body strength, and hone hand/eye coordination. Rolling a ball back and forth is another great way to strengthen larger muscles and hand/eye coordination.
  • Plan on climbing. Climbing safe structures strengthens whole-body gross and fine motor muscles!
  • For an age-appropriate version of “Simon Says,” try moving around like bunnies, birds, elephants, and snakes. For a cognitive twist, ask your child to guess what type of animal you are!

Fine Motor:

  • Playdough and clay provide resistance that small hands need to write, use scissors, and zip jackets.
  • Weaving is another method to strengthen fine motor muscles. Looms can be created from cookie cooling racks and ribbon. This type of activity is also great for strengthening hand/eye coordination, and creativity!
  • Provide opportunities for your child to write in sand, dirt, mud, or tempera paint. Tracing fingers through different materials is an opportunity to strengthen index fingers.
  • Clothes pin pick up: Provide a bin full of materials and a clothespin. Ask your child to pick up the materials with the clothespin. Doing so helps greatly strengthen the pincer grasp needed to hold writing implements!
  • Blowing bubbles is a great activity for strengthening the small muscles around the mouth. Another fun activity involves blowing cotton balls across a table!


  • Provide a variety of open-ended toys and materials. When children have the opportunity to decide how they will use an item, they are becoming active learners and problem solvers.
  • Provide a variety of loose pieces for children’s play. Keep in mind that young children under the age of 3 are still in the sensorimotor learning stage, which means that items often end up going in their mouth.
  • Utilizing loose parts during play strengthens children’s creativity, is open-ended, and can strengthen one-to-one correspondence (pointing and counting) concepts.
  • For older children, loose parts play can promote cardinality of numbers (the last item counted tells how many), and conservation of numbers (5 pinecones are the same whether they are in a basket, or spread out on a table).

Creative (closely related to cognitive!):

  • Provide items other than paintbrushes for painting activities. This supports divergent thinking!
  • Consider saving recyclable materials for process art activities. Young children enjoy creating 4-dimensional art and creations. These creations may be ongoing works in progress!
  • Music and movement is a wonderful way to tap into creativity. Young children, and adults, need to move!
  • Gather flat rocks for your child to decorate. Mod Podge can be used to seal in the child’s work!

Self Help Skills:

  • Each child has a job when they come to preschool. Consider continuing this ritual at home. Young children are capable of many tasks which contribute to the family. Toddlers can pick items up to keep the floor safe, and are capable of throwing their own trash away.
  • Two’s can utilize spray bottles filled with plain soapy water to help clean tables.
  • Three’s and four’s can utilize brooms, but will need some assistance with a dustpan.
  • Children can ensure that doors are securely closed to keep pesky mosquitos out. Consider having a “Door Helper” as part of your household contributions!
  • Consider keeping a similar schedule during the summer months in regards to dressing, eating, and bedtime. This makes the transition back to school that much easier!


  • Make story time a part of your day. Reading to your child for twenty minutes a day promotes early literacy, and listening skills.
  • Point out environmental print: from labels on food products, store signs, street signs, etc…
  • Provide time for singing or chanting nursery rhymes and songs. Songs that provide rhyming, repetitive verses allow children the chance to practice newly-found words. Older children can clap along to differentiate syllables, which strengthens phonological awareness.
  • Provide writing and drawing materials. Young children enjoy drawing and writing about their experiences and ideas. Say to your child, “Tell me about your drawing.” Write their dictation, and show them the words. These activities strengthen concepts of print: the fact that what we say can be written down, that printed words tell the story, and that print in our culture follows a left-to-right directionality.
  • Write in mud, sand, and dirt. This provides a small motor and literacy in one activity!
  • Tell stories, and invite your children to craft their own Practicing story telling helps children understand that most stories have a sequence; a beginning, middle, and an end. This is an essential skill for reading comprehension.
  • Take pictures of your activities. Ask your child to dictate what they did, and create a book. Children love reading stories about themselves and the important people in their lives.

We wish you a summer filled with fun, laughter, and learning!


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