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June 10, 2024

Summer Learning with the Power of Play

Keep Learning this Summer with Play!

Summer is here, and families and teachers are looking for ideas to keep kiddos entertained, engaged, and learning. 

My advice? Keep it simple: play!

During a recent visit to Monticello’s Nature-Based program, I had a conversation with a teacher that shifted my mindset. I asked what kids wanted to do after spending all day learning in nature; I assumed they’d crave screens and long bubble baths, but she revealed something surprising: those kids just wanted to keep playing outside! It turns out, the more children are exposed to the freedom and joy of outdoor play, the more they crave it. And, they learn from it, as illustrated by the infographic from the Strong Museum of Play:

The Magic of Unstructured Play

So, how can we create more opportunities for unstructured play this summer?

Start with a simple conversation. Get the whole family involved – kids, parents, even grandparents and neighbors. Discuss what a fun, playful summer looks like. How can we prioritize outdoor activities, reduce screen time, and encourage exploration?

The key is to get creative. No need for fancy toys or expensive gadgets. Nature provides endless opportunities for adventure! A trip to a local park, a nature scavenger hunt, building a backyard fort, or even just lying in the grass and watching the clouds can spark imagination and joy.

The Digital Age Dilemma

You may be thinking: “But what about technology? It’s a part of our lives, and my kids love their devices.” I hear you! While technology certainly has its benefits, it’s important to find a healthy balance. There are plenty of ways to incorporate technology into playtime without letting it take over. 

Check out the resources below for insights and ideas about how to incorporate tech in positive ways, along with an article and video about the impact of too much screen time: 

You can also explore educational apps that encourage movement and learning, set clear limits on screen time, and stick to them. 

The Great Outdoors

Spending time playing in nature has countless benefits, from reducing stress and anxiety to improving focus and creativity.

The Harvard Edcast episode “Kids Need a Break” highlights the importance of outdoor play for children’s well-being. It’s a reminder that “go outside!” isn’t just a nostalgic phrase from our childhood; it’s a call to action. Whether it’s exploring a local hiking trail, camping in the backyard, or simply planting a garden together, outdoor activities offer endless possibilities for learning and fun. 

Explore Indoor Activities

When the weather doesn’t cooperate, or you want to stay inside, these ideas are a place to start!

Whether inside or out, play will keep students learning all summer long.

If you’re looking for more ideas about using play for teaching and learning, Teaching Channel offers several continuing education courses. Explore the empowerment, wonder, and meaning play can bring to your teaching!


About the Author

Susanne Leslie is a Professional Learning Specialist at Teaching Channel. She holds a B.A. in Sociology and a Master’s in Education. As a parent educator, Susanne’s specialty is Culture and Early Childhood instruction. In her current role, she writes courses and content, focusing on our Hybrid Blended Learning courses

Fun Fact: Susanne has jumped out of two (perfectly good) airplanes!

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