Infant and Toddler

Infant and Toddler Early Learning Activities

Summer Fun and Learning Outside for Kids: Math

Have you heard or read that some doctors are writing prescriptions for kids with the orders: Go Outside and Play? There is so much that kids can do outside, especially in summer. This is a series of posts on different ways of having fun outside for kids that supports early learning and later kindergarten readiness. Today is math fun.

outside math fun and learning activities for kidsChildren learn thru their experiences, especially the hands-on activities. How about some feet-on ones? When walking with kids, count the number of steps, or maybe the number of cars on the street, or trees that look like Christmas trees. In the yard, kids can count the number of times they can jump. If they are able, they might want to check how many times they can jump on just 1 foot. Hopscotch is a great game to play for matching the written form of a number to it’s name.

outside math fun and learning activities for kidsWhen riding on the bus or in a car, kids can look for shapes. Some houses have points like a triangle. Are there any things that look like circles? This part of a playground is a big circle.

outside math fun and learning activities for kidsSometimes, there are patterns made out of shapes, like this driveway. Recognizing patterns is a complex thinking skill that helps with remembering and sequencing.

outside math fun and learning activities for kidsIn the sandbox, filling containers is math play. Kids learn that it takes many small bits to make one large amount. They use such math concepts as more and less, full and empty (zero).

Rocks are great to use for numbers and for size. What rocks are big, which ones are small? Size isn’t always straightforward. Even a small rock can be bigger than a really tiny one, or a rock that’s so big it’s too heavy to lift can be much smaller than a really big rock.

slide-turnsThe ladder on the slide goes up in a series of steps, a regular distance apart. Numbers go up the like a ladder and down like the slide. Taking turns is a way to practice one-by-one. As we count, the numbers go up by just one each time.

These activities are exactly what the doctor ordered: play outside, plus they combine fun and learning. What other ways can kids have math fun outside?

Summer Art Fun and Learning Activities for Kids

A friend of mine is doing a summer course in Art Therapy in Europe and shared this photo. It’s the inspiration for a blog post on summer art activities for kids that combine lots of fun and learning.

summer outside art activities for kids
photo by J. Kellam

Art can happen outside as well as inside and art materials do not have to be limited to crayons and paper. Chalk will decorate a sidewalk, a trampoline, or a driveway without cars. Does your backyard have a fence? Kids can “paint” pictures on the fence using big paint brushes, squirt bottles, and plain water! On hot days the water dries very quickly, but tell the kids that their paintings have just turned invisible.

Rocks, twigs, leaves, and other nature materials can also be used to “draw” a picture. Lots of imagination might be needed but that’s a bonus. Kids can even paint on the rocks.

Smooth the sand in the sand box using a big piece of cardboard. Kids can make all kinds of art. Practically anything can be used for tools, such as a wooden spoon or an old hair pick. Using the large side of a cereal box, cut a sort of ruler with big points on the edge to make lines in the sand. By slowing moving it, kids can make wavy lines.

summer outside art activities for kidsA giant box, such as an appliance box, gives lots of space for drawing, painting, or coloring. Besides brushes, kids might want to try paint in a squirt bottle, as long as they remember only to squirt the box.

Children’s art is surely self-directed play and kids can explore and create in a variety of ways. Art activities provide opportunities for problem-solving, creating, and expressing oneself.  As children create art, they are practicing making and manipulating images in their mind. Visualizing and imagining are valuable learning skills and not just for early childhood. For a play-of-the-day, what kind of art might your child like to do?

Children Have a Need and Hunger to Explore

As parents and caregivers, we are also responsible for the raising of children’s minds. The ancient philosopher Plutarch said: “The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled.” It might be that we had enough fire on the weekend–the wood got damp and the fire smoked more than burned, so I will tweak that quote:
Children are born with not just a need, but a hunger to explore. That’s why they put everything in their mouth!

children need to explore
Children’s early learning and development will include countless opportunities for exploring and many times it will be right at home. Here are some easy explore (science) suggestions…


  • playing at the kitchen sink scienceRun some water in the sink or a big container. Round up some objects like a plastic fork or spoon, an old toothbrush, popsicle stick, metal spoon, sponge, jar lid, etc. Let the kids explore what floats and sinks.


  • coffee filter marker artUsing a coffee filter, kids color with markers, wax crayons, pens, and pencils. Once that’s done, kids can spray the filter with water. What happens to the colors? Do all of them spread out?


  • exploring slimeMake up a batch of slime. What happens to it when it’s stretched out? Will it stay rolled up in a ball?


  • Chocolate chips look like tiny mountains and stay the same shape. For a tasty exploration, stir up a batch of cookies and discover what happens to them after baking. They disappear! Oh, and the chocolate melted? Better eat another one to make sure.

cooking with kidsChildren explore and discover as they play. Of course, they explore things we wish they didn’t, like what happens to the wading pool when a bucket of sand is dumped in the water, or how orange juice doesn’t make good gravy for mashed potatoes. It might be all in the name of science, but the results give parents gray hairs, or worse, scary nightmares.

One afternoon when playing in the park, my son discovered what happens when riding a shopping cart down a hill. How about your kids? Any memorable discoveries as a result of their explorations and play?

What Makes Summer Magical for Kids? Camping Outside

This holiday weekend will be the first camping trip of the summer for many families, and for kids, another adventure in the great outdoors. Nature is one giant playground and kids get to spend from early morning until late evening outside having fun. Did you know that some amazing early learning and development comes with … Continue reading What Makes Summer Magical for Kids? Camping Outside

FUN is a Key Element in Sports for Kids and Pros

When Brazil welcomed the world to watch the soccer matches of the World Cup, enthusiasm for the sport of soccer spread far and wide. Although young children are excited to play, how long will that last? Unfortunately, for many children not long enough. Just recently, an article has been circulating called “The real reason why … Continue reading FUN is a Key Element in Sports for Kids and Pros

Soccer, Soccer: Read All About It and Score!

Instead of paragraphs of reasons about why it’s so important to read to kids for early learning and brain development, here is a graphic ↓↓ that tells a few in just a quick glance. You can use all the excitement about soccer and find some some stories to share with kids of all ages.There are … Continue reading Soccer, Soccer: Read All About It and Score!

Soccer Helps Kids Learn About Opposites

Learning about opposites is quite complicated for young children and needs lots of experiences; soccer can help. The excitement and involvement can help kids with opposites as they watch and play. Some soccer opposites are up-down, in-out, win-lose, happy-sad, big-little, close-far, fast-slow, and these are only a few. In a soccer game, most of the … Continue reading Soccer Helps Kids Learn About Opposites

Young Children and Rough and Tumble, Big Body Play

Not as controversial as weapons play, big body or rough and tumble play is often discouraged by parents, especially in the house. The wrestling, jumping, chasing, tumbling, racing, rolling and other play can get pretty loud even in a big place. But, little bodies seem to play like this naturally and it’s part of early … Continue reading Young Children and Rough and Tumble, Big Body Play