Summer is full of sun and fun… and language opportunities. Whether you are looking for language-rich activities to recommend to the parents of children that you work with or for your own children, the following list will help you seek out the perfect activity for those sunny (or rainy) summer days.
Farmers Markets can be found across the world. Local markets typically occur on weekend mornings but in some areas they may be on weekdays. Farmers markets are incredible opportunities for vocabulary growth including nouns, attributes, categories (fruits, flowers, meat), etc. This is also a great opportunity for children to work on requesting items from a vendor to target speech sounds, social skills, question formation, voice volume, and other skills. Search for nearby farmers markets here.
Summer is a great time to take in a professional or minor league sporting event. You may not realize but there are 160 Minor League teams playing in 42 US States and 1 Canadian province from April to September. You can also catch pre-season baseball and football camps and have greater access to players. These events also allow for increased opportunities to learn and use language in a way that children don’t each day. From the car ride to the event, the snacks at the event, and the goings-ons during the event, children can learn and use many new words and practice other skills in a new and fun environment. Local MiLB baseball teams can be found here, United Soccer League teams here, or search online for local teams in your area.
Local zoos and festivals offer a great opportunity for children to see various animals up close. They can see their behaviors, attributes, food, living environment, etc. This gives great context to children as they continue to develop their vocabulary and understanding of books that they read/hear, information learned in school, and more. If you have the opportunity to visit a zoo, stop in at guest services to check to see if there are any kid-specific programming that day (shows of animals with zookeepers, feedings, etc.) that you can attend. The majority of activities within zoos are free after initial admission which is typically minimal or free for children.
Summer is full of outdoor theater activities. Children typically enjoy music and the interaction that live theater provides. Local theater companies produce many shows in the summer to large audiences at parks, outdoor theaters, etc. There are also camps for children available in many cities. Theater productions introduce children to different worlds, stories, music, vocabulary, etc.
Summer is a great time to visit a local outdoor garden/nature center or indoor conservatory. These environments provide a great opportunity for discussing plants, flowers, bugs, weather, etc. Again, many of these gardens provide activities for children in the summer including talks, crafts, walks, camps, and more. Public gardens are typically free or donation-only areas and provide a great opportunity for children of all ages.
If you are lucky enough to live near an ocean, lake, or river, summer is a great time to explore these areas. These are places where you can discuss animals that live in these environments, discover new plant life and animals/insects, and learn about a different environment. Hunting for shells and rocks in these locations provides an opportunity to discuss attributes of these objects (smooth, black, small, etc.) and discuss how that item got to where you found it (animal that lived in it, etc.).
There are 58 National Parks, 6,624 State Parks, and countless local parks in the US. Many local, state, and National Parks offer free programs for children in the summer and other months. You can find local state parks here, national parks here, or search for all park types near you/a zip code using this site. At parks, you can of course discuss the landscape, habitats, animals, plant life, weather, and more. These parks offer endless opportunities for language expansion opportunities.
Summer brings street festivals. Many of these include music and vendors. However, one of the best festival types for language is an art festival. Many small and large cities offer opportunities for local artists to show and sell their work. You will see every type of art from painting to photography to sculpture and more. Children love art and are drawn to these pieces. While these festivals require a great amount of supervision for children (so they do not touch/break pieces) they can provide incredible opportunities for children to view varying types of art. There will be interesting mediums used, colors, scenes, etc that lend themselves to discussion, interpretation, inferencing, and more. I love using art to discuss opinions and subject matters. Art Festivals are a particularly good location to take older children who can more deeply understand and discuss the work. It also provides an opportunity for them to interact with the artists (formulating questions, social skills) as well as participate in crafts for children (following directions, creating).
For those rainy days, local museums are a must. Even the smallest local history museum can provide several hours of language opportunities for children. Children’s museums, aquariums, art museums, and others can be great opportunities for discussing various topics. The best way to increase language at all museums is to follow a child’s lead to what they are interested in, ask follow up questions, discuss opinions, model language, and discuss content-specific vocabulary with children. Particularly with items and experiences that are new and unknown to children, take time to imbed definitions of new vocabulary when discussing various items in the museum. Again, many museums will offer day camps and activities as well as special talks for children and families throughout the summer. US Museums can be searched for here and Children’s Museums can be searched for here.
Other Summer Toys & Activities:
Summer is a great time for these outdoor activities in back yards and local locations across the world. Some of the best language-stimulating activities and toys for summer include:
Bubbles – Pools – Walks – Camping – Picnics – Water Fight – Sensory/Water Tables – Gardening – Crafts – Sidewalk Chalk – Sports – & More!
Finding activities and toys to keep kids engaged, developing, and entertained during the summer is important. For children with language, speech, social skills, and other developmental difficulties/delays, imbedding these skills into the summer activities is crucial. The more that you practice working on language during these activities, the more natural it will become and the easier it will be to do so with nearly any activity that you do with your child.
In addition to those listed above, Care.Com provides a great list of ideas to keep kids busy and engaged in the summer months. There are also many books and websites that list great local ideas for your specific city. Simply search online to find these resources. Enjoy your summer!