From time to time, I plan to highlight books geared towards caregivers that help to promote literacy with children. I’m super excited about today’s book. 15 Minutes Outside- 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids by Rebecca P. Cohen is a goldmine of simple ideas to promote outdoor togetherness with your children during every season of the year. In this age of technology, we tend to spend more time indoors and less time outside exploring nature. Boy, are we missing out on some great benefits of the outdoors such as sunshine, fresh air and physical activity.
Cohen offers 365 ideas of activities to do with kids outside. Though the book’s primary purpose isn’t about developing literacy outdoors, she does offer several suggestions for doing just that. In January, she encourages you to keep a nature journal or do some star-gazing with a guide-book such as The Kids Book of the Night Sky by Ann Love and Jane Drake. In April, try gathering sticks and twigs to create your ABCs or words. As fall rolls around, let your kids do their homework outside or collect some vegetables or herbs from a garden and then follow a recipe to create a dish.
I was inspired to brainstorm some other outdoor activities that could promote literacy. I hope that you will try some of Cohen’s ideas or find some inspiration below to enjoy the outdoors with children during every season of the year.
1. Digital ABC Hunt
Arm yourself with a digital camera and hunt for letters in nature. Develop your pictures (black and white looks best) and create word art such as your child’s first name, your family’s last name or an inspirational word. My mom created the art below to spell out our family’s last name. She framed each letter and then attached a magnet to the back of each frame.
2. Jump Rope Rhymes
Jumping rope is great physical exercise. Sing a rhyme while jumping and now you also have a great literacy workout. The book, Anna Banana Jump-Rope Rhymes by Joanna Cole has over 50 pages of rhymes to chant. How about this one that predicts the first letter of your future sweetheart? I remember having great fun with this type of rhyme when I was young.
Tell me the name of my sweetheart.
3. Act Out a Story
There are so many great adventurous picture books that can be acted out in your backyard, in a park or on a playground. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Helen Oxenbury and We’re Going on a Lion Hunt by David Axtell are two repetitive tales that beg for some action movements outside. Children can pretend to swish through the grass, splash through the water, squish squash through mud and tiptoe through a cave all while searching for a bear or lion. Your youngsters could even create their own version of a We’re Going on a __________. Hmmm… Hello Toes! Hello Feet! by Ann Whitford Paul is another great action story. Hopping, clumping and clomping, leaping, skipping, jumping, stamping, shuffling and creeping are just some of the great words your child will learn the difference between in this super cute tale. This book is great for vocabulary development.
4. Paint Your Words
Time to study spelling words again? Gather a bucket, some water and a paint brush (the big painter kind- not the little watercolor brushes) and head outside. You can “paint” your words on the sidewalk or if you have brick house that works even better. If it’s really warm outside, your words will disappear like magic. Of course, sidewalk chalk also works great for this activity.
5. ABC Scavenger Hunt
Go on an alphabet scavenger hunt. Search your neighborhood for things that begin with each letter of the alphabet. A-alley, B-bark on a tree, C-cumulus clouds, D- dog and so on.
6. Read and Write Outside
When I was a 2nd grade teacher, my kids loved to take their independent reading books outside, sit on the playground equipment and read. On the next warm sunny day, why not find a cozy spot outside and unwind with a good book. Maybe you could even do this after a walk to your nearest library for some new reads. Or, you might even try taking your journal outside and do some writing.
7. Create Stationery
Gather some art supplies (cardstock or heavy construction paper, crayons, paint and a clipboard) and head outdoors. Create stationery (cards and letter writing paper) to send to friends and family. You could do a crayon rubbing of tree bark or paint a scene of your backyard. Stay outside or head back indoors to write a letter or card to someone special.
8. Sight Word Hide and Seek
Write sight words or vocabulary words on individual cards. Hide them throughout the yard. Now you are ready to seek them out. Have someone call out a word and then try to find the hidden word.
Though I checked out 15 Minutes Outside from the library, it’s one title that I’ll be adding to my “books to buy” list! Do you have a favorite literacy activity to do outdoors? Please share your ideas.