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Outdoor Activities to Boost Literacy Skills

Sensory Bins

Does your child love sensory bins, but you dread the mess? Summer is a perfect time to take the sensory bins outside. Sensory bins range from something as simple as beans or dried rice with a few scoops, to water beads or kinetic sand. Children can use shovels, spoons, cups, tongs, and most importantly their fingers to explore textures, find hidden objects and informally learn about weights and measures.

Sensory bins can be organized around a theme such as animals or beach theme, letters or a particular letter sound. For example, a child working on short vowel sounds might uncover cat, dog, pig and hen toys in a sensory bin. Shallow bins can also be used to practice letter formation using the finger as the writing tool. The important muscles for writing can be exercised by picking up small objects with tweezers, or tongs, or kid chopsticks.

Sponge Letters
Nothing says summer fun like water! A set of sponge alphabet letters can be used in countless ways. Play toss with soaked sponge letters to practice letter and sound recognition. Throw sponges or sponge letters into labeled buckets as a way of discriminating between phonemes in different words, practice rhyming or just about any phonological awareness skill you can think of. Build sight words with sponges and make a disappearing sight word with water on the sidewalk. Can your student rebuild it without the model?

Sidewalk Chalk

One way of changing sensory input and making words and letters more memorable is to upsize them. Sidewalk chalk is a great way to make things bigger. Letters, high frequency words, morphemes. Whether they write them 12 inches tall or 4 feet, students are going to be using more gross motor movements and big muscles. This also gives them an opportunity to “trace” things with their walking or hopping feet using even more of their big muscles. Sidewalk chalk is also easy clean up, colorful and nontoxic for younger siblings who may be tempted to take a nibble.

Obstacle Course

Another great way to incorporate gross motor movement and get kids tired out is an obstacle course. A mixture of literacy obstacles such as reading 5 words, matching upper and lowercase letter shapes, matching rhyming pairs or letter formation practice can be interspersed with more physical challenges such as monkey bars, climbing up the slide, or scaling a climbing wall. You could even incorporate the sponge letters and water to make a fun way to stay cool on a hot summer day.

Outdoor Games

Traditional outdoor games such as hopscotch or foursquare can take on a literacy slant or be combined with a beach ball with letters on it. Kids are great at inventing games on the spot. Chances are very good the rules and scoring will favor them, but if everyone is learning and having fun, that’s okay!

Nature Letters

A good friend took a series of pictures of her pet cats curled up in the shapes of various letters of the alphabet. It would make a beautiful children’s alphabet book. You and your children can make one of your own by finding shapes in nature that look like letters of the alphabet and taking photos or just collecting them in your mind’s eye. For the more artistically inclined, you can explore nature artwork such as that of Andy Goldsworthy. Challenge the children to make their own nature sculpture using only the materials they find to make letter sculptures. Be sure to snap a photo as this type of sculpture is meant to be ephemeral as the pieces are scattered back to nature.

Incorporating some of this outdoor literacy fun won’t just help your child learn and maintain their literacy skills this summer, it will also make lasting memories. Perhaps one day your child will be telling their children about the awesome spelling obstacle course they made each summer!

Interested in more summer practice?

The summer review bundle is a low stress option for families this summer. It reviews key phonics skills that children who are vulnerable to summer learning loss may not have solidified during their school year.

Free Passage Fridays!

TLN is giving you a free decodable passage every Friday in the summer of 2021! Grab your free decodable passages to use for further reading practice this summer. They are stored in TLN’s free resource library.

Building Readers For Life Virtual Summer Conference

Be sure to register for this virtual summer’s conference! We have 17 amazing presenters ready to share practical tips for educators and families. Enjoy 3 months of unlimited access!

Save 25% off with code LITCON21 until 6/20/21.


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