10 Ways to Get Ready for Kindergarten...Outside!

Kindergarten readiness can be a source of anxiety for kids and parents alike. Avoid drill-and-kill practice and prep your preschooler for the classroom with these fun outdoor activities.

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Summer Dilemma

by Traci Geiser

As the lazy days of summer go by, your mind may start to wander to thoughts of fall and back to school. It is important to be sure your preschooler is prepared for kindergarten, but who wants to trade in fun in the sun for working on counting and the ABC’s?

Experiential Learning

The good news? You don't have to choose between building kindergarten readiness skills and playing outdoors. Many parents think flashcards are the best tools for learning math and literacy skills, but research shows that young children learn best through hands-on, playful activities. Try these ideas next time you're playing outdoors to boost your child’s skills.

Shady Reading

Gather up a basket of books and a blanket, then find a shady spot to read together. Simply reading to (and with) your little one every day helps her understand print concepts, improves her speech and vocabulary, promotes parent-child bonding and fosters a lifelong love of books. Plus, what better way to enjoy a sunny day?

Sidewalk Learning

Strengthen the muscles needed for writing by drawing with sidewalk chalk on the sidewalk or driveway. Ask your child to write her name or practice writing the ABC’s to see how many letters she knows. As a bonus, you'll have the best looking driveway on the block ... and when it's time for another lesson, the chalk rinses off easily with water.

Alphabet Spotting

Take a walk or bike ride around the neighborhood and be on the lookout for signs. Encourage your little detective to sound out the words she can read, and help her sound out the ones she doesn’t know. Kick-start friendly competition by picking a letter to hunt for. The one with the most “B or b” sightings wins!

'I Spy' Rhyming

Play "I Spy" with rhyming words. Find an object and think of a word that rhymes with it, then have your child guess what you have found. For example, if you spot a tree ahead, say, "I spy with my little eye, something that rhymes with knee."

Tally Mark Counting

"Using sidewalk chalk, make anywhere from 10 to 20 marks on your sidewalk, depending on your child's skill level," suggests kindergarten teacher Betsy States. "Next, have your child count while hopping to each mark. Have your child jump forward and count forward, then practice jumping backwards while counting backwards. Mix it up by starting at random numbers."

Number Ball Bounce

Play catch with a ball or beanbag, and count each time you catch the ball. Bounce the ball to each other first with one bounce before catching, next two bounces, then three. The first person to have too many or too few bounces loses and the game can start again!

Picnic Patterning

Create patterns using fruits or veggies from a picnic, snack or a family barbecue. Patterns are the foundation of many more complex math concepts. The strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, raspberry pattern she creates isn't just delicious—it's beneficial for the brain!

Shaving Cream Finger Painting

Take advantage of swimsuit weather by playing with shaving cream. Encourage kids to write numbers, letters and shapes to strengthen fine motor muscles. Spray a bit on your child’s back, tummy or legs and use it as a human canvas. Or, make a pile on the patio table and let kids fingerpaint it in. When you rinse it off, the table will be clean and her hands will be too!

Library Visit

When it's too hot to be outdoors, visit your local library for storytime or to find books about something your little one's showing interest in this summer. Investigate bugs, frogs, crawdads or fish in books, and then find some out in the wild.

Nature Hunt

Go on nature hunts and see if you can find some things that you may not be able to identify. This is a great springboard to a study of birds, bugs or plants that are native to your neighborhood.

Play with Purpose

Don’t waste the summer away with flashcard practice inside. Instead, move the learning outside and into the sunshine. Your child can gain valuable kindergarten readiness skills through playful activities with a purpose. Not only will she get what she needs to be ready for school, she will have fun summer memories with you and gain an understanding that learning can be fun! For more hands-on fun in the sun, check out our collection of outdoor games.

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