This week, either to take advantage of summer weather or to encourage the sun to supply some summer weather, playground time has been the topic. There are countless different ways of building on that playground time to expand children’s learning. When kids are little learning is fun and all the teachable minutes add up to a considerable total by the time they start school.
On the playground today take advantage of all the things that can be counted. How many steps up the slide? How many high are the monkey bars? Count how long it takes to slide down the slide, whee…1, 2, 3. If your child knows how to count, here are some thinking questions: do more fingers go down the slide or do more feet? how many swings do 3 people need to swing? Addition and subtraction can even be included. If there are only 3 swings, can 4 people swing? How many more swings would there need to be? If there are 5 alligators in the swamp by the slide and 2 more in the swamp by the swing, how many alligators are in the swamps? Parents and caregivers do not need to do more than just 2 or 3 of these at a time to make a significant difference. Out of 20 or so minutes at the playground a couple little activities are easy to squeeze in and from years and years of experience in the classroom I know it’s powerful. Just don’t get close enough to count alligator teeth!
Imagination is like any other skill. For some people it is easier than for others, but for all of us, it gets better with practice.
A playground offers just as much opportunity for exercising the imagination as it does for exercising the body. The monkey bars can be a deep, dark jungle or an exciting circus or a space capsule. The swing can be a waterfall or a high mountain. The fort may be a pirate boat lurking on the ocean or a base station on another planet. Children sometimes need adult help to expand their imaginations beyond what they have recently seen on TV, movies or video. Kids also like to try various roles for themselves, monsters, princesses, animals, heroes, warriors, etc.
In addition to imagining various places and different roles, the imagination can also dream up new ways to play with the equipment. The ground often becomes the swamp or the burning hot lava and the trick becomes how to move on the equipment without getting a foot on the ground.
Sometimes, we have to imagine that the weather is better than it is, which may be the hardest task of all!
How do you exercise your imagination on the playground?
So far playground time has helped kids learn some basic reading skills-making connections between text and experience-and promoted physical development. That’s something to sing and swing about.
Here’s a simple song that uses the Mulberry Bush tune:
This is the way we swing on the swing,
swing on the swing, swing on the swing.
This is the way we swing on the swing,
at the playground.
This is the way we slide on the slide
…. at the playground.
This is the way we climb the bars
… at the playground.
This is the way we run on the grass
… at the playground.
Why sing? Good question. Singing helps develop language, vocabulary, sentence structure and syntax knowledge. Plus, it encourages rhythm and the coordination of music and movement. Music, in turn, helps promote math skills. The spaces between notes prepare the brain wiring for understanding the spaces between numbers and the up and down sequence of notes mirrors how numbers go up and down in value. Music is often a shared activity. It can be the vehicle for making friends. I know it’s not easy as a parent or caregiver to sing with the kids at the playground but it really adds to the learning value. And the FuN!! Is this doable for you? Does knowing how important it is help?
Yes, fun at the playground can even help build prereading muscles. This is a simple and appealing book for preschool and kindergarten kids. Maisy, the mouse, goes to the playground and has fun, of course. At home, you can read what Maisy does and then go off a playground and do those things, too. Talking … Continue reading Kindergarten Readiness – Playground Fun #2
Time at the playground is more than working off energy. Lots of learning happens in this space. On the swing, even if your child doesn’t yet know how, the back and forth motion is a basic rhythm. It’s also a simple pattern. The slide is a physical experience of opposites, up/ down. Think of all the … Continue reading Kindergarten Readiness – Playground Fun #1
Tomorrow, is Father’s Day. Several children in my kindergarten class live in a different house than their dad or have minimal contact. Even at this young age some of them have lost their dad. The issue of Father’s day and Father’s day cards and gifts has to be handled with sensitivity, just as Mother’s day does. … Continue reading Kindergarten Readiness – Father’s Day
Parents’ trash can be kids’ treasure. Children can make a treasure out of almost anything, but whatever it is can be the start of a collection. And collecting is another way to build readiness skills. The most obvious one is categorizing: to what group do all these things belong? Another is sorting, for instance, these … Continue reading Kindergarten Readiness – Collections
The headline in the paper said “The Hoop Is Back”. The reporter interviewed Sadie Yancey from Virginia and Toronto and she talked about the increasing popularity of hula hoops and their health benefits combined with fun. A hula hoop is a great idea for kids. Learning to hula with one can be tricky but kids can also roll it … Continue reading Kindergarten Readiness – Hoop it Up
A deck of cards is a super easy item to pack for vacation. Card games can be played just about anywhere, even in a tent when waiting for the rain to stop. Go Fish is one of my favorites. There are all kinds of decks, too, numbers, fish, people, animals, etc. Here is a sample … Continue reading Kindergarten Readiness – Card Game Fun
Everything including the kitchen sink!! The kitchen sink is usually a fine place for some basic science but just because some things can go down the drain, a big plastic bowl may be a better ‘sink’ today. Yesterday was so much fun playing in the water in the sink that here is another idea. This … Continue reading Kindergarten Readiness – More Water