Beyond the Playground

Written by: Lincoln Park Preschool and Kindergarten

As warm weather approaches, the great outdoors seems to beckon children and parents alike. Slides, swings, and climbing structures welcome summer play with open arms, and parents enjoy watching their children release energy freely. While playground equipment is engaging for a time, it can quickly become dull when used in the same manner everyday. Below are some ways to make outside time more enjoyable and allow parents to be active participants in the excitement of summer while strengthening their child’s development.

Gross Motor

  • Dance barefoot on plastic mats covered in shampoo- keep your balance!
  • Set up items from around the house to create an outdoor obstacle course.
  • Write many gross motor activities on cards and put them in a bucket. Try to get through all of the cards as quickly as possible. Examples: Gallop to the tree and jump 10 times.  Hop up the hill and roll down.

Social Studies

  • Walk around your neighborhood and write down interesting places you see. When you get home, make a neighborhood map including the places you noted.
  • Make a list of different sounds in your community and try to find them as you walk around. Ex: bus horn, goose honk, bicycle bell.


  • Count change at home and write down your total amount. Head to the Farmer’s Market and discover all you can do with that money!
    • Purchase a snack
    • Purchase berries and make squish art on white paper
    • Tip the musician
  • Mud day! Wear bathing suits and have tubs of mud for children to explore. Add baking and measuring supplies, plastic animals, and toy vehicles and let imaginations fly. Ask thought provoking questions such as, “How do we make mud?” and “Why do you think this mud is thicker than that mud?”
  • Explore with bubbles and then try to make your own solution. What makes up bubble solution? What is important to add? Have many liquid materials for your child to experiment with- let them make silly, smelly, and strange concoctions. Did any of them work? Why or why not?


  • Hang a white bed sheet between trees. Fill spray bottles with watercolors and blast away at the sheet!
  • “Paint” trees and sidewalks with paintbrushes and water. To make it more colorful, draw with chalk and then paint over the design.
  • Tape paper down a slide. Dip toy cars in paint and race them down the slide. If the slide is unavailable, this can be done on a flat surface.


  • Search the city for alphabet letter representations (a gate shaped like a T or tree branches shaped like a Y). Take a photo of the letters you find and try to make an entire alphabet book!
  • Tape alphabet letters to a Twister mat and call out alphabet letters or sounds instead of colors.
  • Story Stones--draw pictures of nature onto stones (or cut and tape from magazines). Arrange them in different sequences to create multiple summer stories.

Summertime is full of learning opportunities through play.  What are some other enriching outdoor activities you do with your children?


Jamie Tiller spends her days as the Curriculum Specialist at Lincoln Park Preschool and Kindergarten, where she has happily worked since 2003. Jamie has taught in multiple classrooms and was the Education Director until 2013, when her daughter was born. After taking a year off, Jamie quickly felt the itch to go back and be a part of LPP team once again. She considers herself lucky to share her passion and enthusiasm for early childhood education in such a magical environment.



Posted on May 13, 2015 at 3:36 PM