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Summer Creative Play Guide for School-Aged Children

babysitter with two boys completing a puzzle

Summer is almost here and soon your kids will be out of school! You may be wondering what to do with your kids while they are home for the summer. Here is your summer guide to creative play for your school-aged kids. Not only can you use this information for yourself, but it can be shared babysitters and/or family members who may care for your children.

Outdoor Play

There are countless mental health benefits to unstructured outdoor play time, including practicing healthy social and emotional learning, exercising creative problem solving and employing critical thinking skills. Think about activities you did when you were a child; such as hide-and-seek, playing with water balloons, riding your bike, etc. This type of play fosters independence and promotes healthy socialization for your child.

When children have free play time with others, they need to come up with the rules to their own games. This encourages them to practice critical thinking skills and to work on being emotionally flexible when things don’t go their way. Essentially, they are learning to independently problem solve.  These learned skills will help them throughout their lifetime.

Maintaining friendships and making new friends over the summer is also healthy for children. When possible, encourage your children to play with neighbors, peers from school, or friends from summer camp. This will allow them to have fun and maintain social skills learned throughout the school year.

You can even involve your babysitter.  Consider setting up playdates for your babysitter and your children with other neighborhood children and their babysitter or parents. Summer experiences are always more fun when they are shared with friends! Here are some fun activities you can try with your children this summer:

  • Running through the sprinkler in your yard
  • Teaching kids about gardening and planting
  • Drawing with sidewalk chalk
  • Making tie-dye t-shirts, socks, etc.
  • Riding bikes

Indoor Play

It’s good to have a running list of activities, as well, for those days the weather doesn’t cooperate.  Before you turn to screens, consider some of the indoor activities listed below:

  • Creating your own pillow fort
  • Doing arts and crafts
  • Making your own pet rock, all you need is a rock and some acrylic or tempera paints!
  • Making small sculptures with model magic or modeling clay
  • Creating your own puppet using paper bags or socks and then put on a puppet show
  • Cooking and baking
  • Decorating cookies
  • Playing board games or doing good old-fashioned puzzles can be a lot of fun and promote turn-taking, logic and reasoning skills
  • Bookmaking and storytelling, kids can create their own books and write and illustrate their own stories

When in doubt, a trip to the local library, swimming pool, or neighbor’s house can be a good way to get out of the house and have fun.

Summer is a great time for children to be creative and continue learning important life skills outside of the classroom. Summer is also a time to help kids continue to grow socially and emotionally while being involved in activities that foster critical thinking and creativity. Giving your children time for unstructured play with others will help them maintain good mental health over the summer and may ultimately ease their transition into a new school year.

A note about the author:

Tristan Ford-Hutchinson, MPS, LAPC, ATR-BC, CCLS is an art therapist and counselor at Peachtree Art Therapy and Counseling who specializes in working with children, young adults and families. Email Tristan Ford-Hutchinson or visit her website to learn more.

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