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The Lazy—and Learning—Days of Summer

August has always been my favorite part of summer—first as child and then as a teacher. For many of us, the school-year calendar dictates our schedules and time available to relax and play in the summer sun. 

My family moved to Eugene 21 years ago from a small town on coastal Maine. Our first summer in Eugene, my children (then 8 and 11) and I would pick High Bush blueberries and explore our new city. Every day, while exploring, my daughter would ask me: “Mom, do you know where we are going? Are we going to get lost again?” My usual response was, “Yes, I think I know, but if we get lost we can figure it out together.” That’s basically my philosophy as a parent.

As a parent and preschool teacher, I’ve learned the importance of slowing down and making the most of the time we spend with our children. Very young children—ages 0 to 3 years—have a growing awareness of their environment; the loving, important people in their lives; and a fondness for exploring through their senses. Taking advantage of free—or nearly free— summer experiences in our community is a great way to enrich you and your child’s lives.

Here are some activities for soaking up the end of summer with your child.

  • Berry theme day: Picking fruit with children—especially blueberries, blackberries, and tree fruits—is a great way to start off your day. Even very young kiddos can pick blueberries and place them in their own small container. Follow up berry picking with cooking, eating, and reading with your children. This can extend the experience and help children learn to do so many things. Smelling, tasting and squishing blueberries are early experiences for the six months to one-year set. One to three-year-old children can experience blueberries by pouring them in and out of containers. Place a cleanable mat on the floor with a cookie sheet, small amount of blueberries, and a few cups and spoons. Let your toddler practice scooping, pouring, and eating blueberries! For older toddlers, make muffins together. Follow up for fruit-picking activities with Jamberry by Bruce Degen and Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey (a classic Maine story). Visiting our public library for book choices is always a fabulous habit to begin with children, even for babies.
  • Splish-splash fun: Supervised water play is an easy and wonderful way to play with your child. For ages 0 to 3, freeze small washcloths and put them into a sink with a small amount of cool water. Add pouring cups for more fun! For toddlers, fill a small tub of water with cups, squirt bottles, or empty reusable dish soap squeeze bottles or hand soap pumps. Hand pumps are especially popular and great for motor skills development. Add ice cubes or child-safe treasures to the tub for extra fun. If you’re looking for nature-based water play, visit one of the many creeks and lakes in our area. In addition, many local playgrounds come equipped with water and sand structures and splash pads. (Visit eugenecascadescoast.org for a list of recreational sites). You can also enrich your water play fun with Sand and Water Play by Sherry West and Aimee Cox, Wetland Animals by Deborah Hodge, My Visit to the Aquarium by Aliki, Puddles by Jonathan London, or Andrews Bath by David McPhail.

Bubbles are another fun form of water play and simple to make! Gently mix 4 cups water with 1/2 cup liquid dish soap and a 1/2 cup of sugar or cornstarch syrup.

  • Nature exploration: Look for opportunities for invention and exploration. With your child, collect items from nature. While on a nature walk, look for pinecones, leaves, rocks, sticks, flowers, etc. Give your child a small bag with handles that they can carry with them to collect their treasures. This will help limit the amount of items you bring home and give your toddler a sense of independence and feeling of accomplishment. Once home, designate a place to keep your found treasures. You could encourage your older children to create art projects with their treasures. If you’re on the hunt for other craft or STEM ideas, visit MECCA (Materials Exchange Center for Community Arts). This nonprofit store is loaded with affordable art supplies, craft projects, and materials to build with. Books to extend exploration and invention activities, include Inventions: Anything is Possible by Giulia Belloni, Galimoto by Karen Lynn Williams, illustrated by Kathryn Stock, The Carpenter by Bruno Barros, What Do You Do With an Idea by Kobe Yamada, illustrated by Mae Bensom, and The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashleigh Spires. 

As the lazy days of summer are coming to an end, grab the sunny days while you can and create memories to last through the rainy winter. See you at the park or the library!

This article appeared in the August 12, 2019 edition of the Register-Guard. Full link here.

Heidi Davidson is a retired preschool teacher/director and currently sits on the board of Parenting Now! where she can continue to work and support the very young children in our community and their parents.

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