Will Ben biking helmetsLast week I drove down the street and watched kids make up games of catch through hula hoops, ride their mini cars to fill up with gas, and take off to the pond with nets and buckets in hand.  Creative kids walk outside and see bushes, creeks, trees, sticks and dirt as perfect props for language play.  I interviewed a few of my favorite Moms and Dads to see what their kids created or discovered when they play outside. Katie told of 6 year-old Will racing into the house, gathering his rain boots and fireman’s hat to go outside and “put out fires” with the garden hose. Kim said her three girls, 4, 6, and 8, just made a home for a frog with sticks and a rock castle for a slug. Andrew’s kids love to participate in the family composting, learning that “what we don’t eat, the plants can eat.” Looking up sites online and following the progress of the materials makes for lots of discovery and conversation.

However, kids differ in their level of interest in the out of doors. Some need no suggestions and others can use a thought or prop to get the play going. One dad said, “Sometimes our kids need a task to stay outside like ‘Find the biggest weed,’ check on the progress of a plant, or help their parents construct something outdoors that they might have got off of this website. He’s learned that offering some suggestions to start play or adding a prop to their play can help kids take off and lead their own play. More language learning occurs when the child is directing the play, learning skills of problem-solving, negotiation, dialogue and collaboration–all valued in later academic pursuits and future employment! In addition, encourage your kids to start a summer journal, illustrating their day and writing captions of their pursuits. Practicing reading and writing is a lot more fun when tied to an interesting experience like collecting rain drops or sailing a boat down a stream.

Even the most inventive, creative kids can use an idea from us now and then to amuse themselves on a summer day. Here are some great language learning toys to take outside for fun discovery:


Grab Jumbo Bananagrams, the super-size version of the popular Bananagram word game, with 144 waterproof 3” square letter tiles and weave a web of words at the beach, in the backyard or poolside with several suggested versions accommodating up to 8 players. Keeps your body and brain active for sure! imgres   Take Ferry Boat by Green Toys for a trip across a creek, in the pool or just pretend on dry land combining three favorite children’s play themes–cars, boats and water! Come aboard with a special pull out ramp to glide the two cars onto the ferry and then slide the ramp back into the boat for take off. 41lTBxHQbfL._AA160_ Explore the out of doors to gather leaves, mini pine cones, feathers, or pond water to examine with the new Nancy B Science Club Microscope and Activity Journal by Educational Insights. Kids love to prepare their slides, examine specimens 400x the size, and record their activity in the companion journal. Listen to the language learning in this scientific tool as children learn, describe, problem-solve, infer and write their conclusions. imgres-1 Fill a bucket of water and bring along Stack ‘n Squirt Pals by B kids, fun loving rubber blocks that stack on land or float in the water. Get ready to be the target or squirt big or little friends while water shoots out the top of the whale, in front of the octopus or the edge of the seal.  Clever faces and familiar animals encourage nice conversation as new pals enjoy some water play. Win Green Gingerbread Cottage Girls need a little privacy for a tea party, I was told, as they skipped into Win Green’s Gingerbread Cottage Playhouse and closed the curtains. This quick set-up house of embroidered and appliquéd cloth and metal pole support serves as a getaway outdoors on a sunny day, inspiring kids’ imaginations.