What is your favorite memory of playing outdoors as a child? Do you remember the smells, sounds, sights, tastes and emotions of summer vacation? Outdoor exploration and learning has a long-lasting effect on a child’s overall development and emotional well-being. Spending time learning outdoors…
- Nurtures creativity and imagination
- Supports the development of a healthy lifestyle
- Makes learning more engaging and relevant
- Develops learning through play and exploration
- Develops an interest in the environment and greater surroundings
Using the outdoors to fulfill basic childhood needs—jumping, running, climbing, swinging, racing, yelling, rolling, hiding, and making a big mess—is what childhood is all about! For many obvious reasons many of these things cannot usually occur indoors, yet children must have these important experiences! Today, kids are more and more contained and controlled by small apartments, earlier academic instruction, busy schedules and tense, tired, and overworked parents. Outdoor environments fulfill children’s basic needs for freedom, adventure, experimentation, risk-taking, and just being kids.
Children need a variety of learning opportunities and experiences in order to learn and maintain these skills, especially children with hearing loss. Having multiple interesting areas to explore will help children generalize learned skills into any situation they might find themselves in. When designing your outdoor play space, try to include…
- Multipurpose open-spaces (grassy field, stage, raised deck, etc.)
- Anchored play equipment (jungle gym, playhouse, climbing structure, etc.)
- Natural elements (Flowers, vegetable garden, sandbox, water table, etc.)
- Risk and challenge (Wheeled toys, balance beams, stepping stones, etc.)
- Cultural decorations/elements (wind chimes, totem pole, flags/banners, etc.)
Many of your child’s favorite outdoor activities can easily be modified into a listening task to help maintain skills throughout the summer. Use an activity that is highly motivating to your child and adjust it to fit the child’s listening goal. When listening outside, it can be difficult to hear and focus, so assistive listening devices (FM, DM, MiniMic, etc,) will make playing outside more enjoyable for everyone. Below are some simple ways to engage kids in listening activities while enjoying the sunshine and warm weather:
- “Silent or loud?”
- Collect items from the yard and place them in a box one at a time. Shake the box while listening and try to decide if the item is silent or loud. You could also try and guess what kind of item might make that type of sound
- “Sound walk”
- Go for a walk around the neighborhood and listen for a variety of sounds (birds, trucks, dogs, music, bugs, etc.). Keep a list of everything you heard and try to imitate the sounds for your friends and family at home
- Draw a hopscotch with sidewalk chalk and throw a bag or a rock to a square. Practice producing speech sounds with each hop on the way to pick up the item.
- Parachute games and songs
- Making Waves: Children can make small, medium, or large movements to make various types of “waves.” You can incorporate a story about a ship on the sea, weather, etc. &/or use your voice as a tool to emphasize directives.
- All Change: The teacher calls out birthday months, pre-assigned numbers, colors, etc, and those children swap places under the chute before it falls, and run to an empty space.
- Outdoor “cooking”
- Everyone loves mud pies! Use natural materials to create a meal for friends or family. Old plates and silverware is all you child needs to create a gourmet meal of grass, sticks and flowers
- Ask your child for special kids of food or to follow cooking directions (e.g. stir, pour, choose, dump, etc.)
- Scavenger hunt or “Safari”
- Play hide and go seek around the yard with preferred toys or search for animal toys on “safari”
- To find the object, the child has to listen for clues and follow directions in order to successfully achieve the goal
- Give your child the opportunity to try and trick you by hiding an object and describing where or how to find it.
There are many activities you can make up on your own as well. So get creative this summer! Connect with us on Facebook or email us at [email protected] and let us know what strategies you used to help your child reach his or her listening goal.