Parents are feeling the pressure to keep kids engaged in education throughout the summer break. You might always feel that pressure, but it’s exceptionally present this year. We’re still recovering from education disruptions due to COVID-19. Here’s our take on it: let kids have fun.
At United Way of Whitewater Valley, we’re focused on Childhood Success and Youth Success. Building skills and improving school performance means that more students in Union County and Wayne County will be workforce or college-ready when they graduate. Making them more competitive with their peers across the country. We get it. It’s serious business, but let kids have fun.
Kids Just Want to Have Fun
It’s been a stressful year for kids, too. They may have struggled in some subject areas this year and you might be feeling like you’re not doing enough to get them ahead or even get them caught up. That’s why we want to share some advice with you that will allow your kids to learn and develop without them even knowing it: let kids have fun. It’s that simple.
You see, kids use play to learn and develop. According to the National Association for the Education on Young Children, play is essential:
“Children practice and reinforce their learning in multiple areas during play. It gives them a place and a time for learning that cannot be achieved through completing a worksheet. For example, in playing restaurant, children write and draw menus, set prices, take orders, and make out checks. Play provides rich learning opportunities and leads to children’s success and self-esteem.”
Not only does play keep children active, it also reduces stress – which is something we all could practice. To help you get creative with playtime (and reduce your stress), we’ve assembled a list of locations where you can let your kids have fun. At each of these locations your child can have fun at no cost to you!
Whitewater Memorial State Park
If you have a budding naturalist in your home, Whitewater Memorial State Park is the perfect place for an outdoor excursion and they have lots of special events for kids and families. Their events list includes Wildlife Forensics, Ecosystem Exploration, Tricky Tracks, and other themes designed to get your kids excited about exploring their environment. Most events have hands-on components where attendees get to learn a new skill by completing a project to take home and they get education to get young naturalists interested in the world around them.
In addition to planned events, the park allows for hiking, boating, swimming, fishing, and camping. So it might be the perfect time to plan a family “staycation” and explore the wonderful things in your own area.
Sensory Playground & Garden
Does your little one have special needs or accessibility requirements? We know just the place for you to enjoy a fun play-filled day that’s inclusive for all children. The Sensory Playground & Garden offers a safe, fenced-in playground with adaptive equipment so that kids with sensory processing disorders and physical disabilities have a wonderful time playing alongside friends. This playground is the dream of five Earlham College students who were looking for a project that could leave a lasting impact on the community.
The park includes a new sensory garden and equipment designed to stimulate auditory, tactile, olfactory, and visual development – which is perfect for all kids, not just those with sensory processing disorders. In fact, experts suggest that sensory play helps all children develop fine motor skills, build language skills, and regulate internal discomfort, like boredom. It also encourages problem solving and sparks an interest in learning. Better yet: the kids just think they’re playing, so you can enjoy watching them play and know that they’re working on some crucial brain development at the Sensory Playground & Garden. Let kids have fun!
Grab your swimsuit and sunscreen: we’re headed to the Splash Pad! This is a great way to let your kids cool down and stay safe around water. We found a great list of tips to make your Splash Pad experience even better.
- Keep an eye on your kids to make sure they are safe; there is no substitution for supervision.
- No running, rough-housing or jumping in the splash pad area.
- Bring lots of water to drink. Active kids need a lot of water on a hot day.
- Tell your little ones not to drink the water: they might think the nozzles are water fountains.
- Have your kids use the bathroom frequently and change soiled diapers immediately to cut down on the risk of contamination for your kids and others.
Source: Emily Brooke Riley
Our More Than Words word of the month is collaboration, so encourage your children to play with the other kids and come up with impromptu games to exercise their creativity!
While you’re planning a trip to Glen Miller Park for the Splash Pad, you may want to take some time to visit the Music Garden. There are three interactive music installations for children to make noise and learn about sound. Research shows that musical play helps with coordination, language development, increased IQ, improved test scores, and spatial-temporal skill development. To your kid, it just seems like a lot of fun! This is a great way to help them let off some steam and subtly hone skills that will benefit them in the upcoming school year and throughout their life. Let them get loud and let kids have fun!
Plan a day to enjoy the Nature Center, Butterfly Garden, and Playscape at Hayes Arboretum. Take the entire family on a healthy hike or register your kids for Explorer Packets to access videos of stories and activities to get them excited about nature.
It’s time to get the family involved with Cope Environmental programs! They have Toddler Time for your littlest little ones, Full Moon Night Hikes, and Family Programs for a fun excursion that engages the whole family. If you just want to explore on your own time, be sure to visit the 30-acre Children of Indiana Nature Park – and pick up a deed because your kids were declared owners of this park on Indiana’s 200th birthday!
Exploring East Central Indiana
Looking to go somewhere totally new? We have just the list for you! Our neighbors to the north put together a list of family-friendly activities throughout East Central Indiana that will allow you to have a blast and sleep in your own bed after a long day’s play. We’re talking petting zoos, paint ball, ziplines and more! Visit ForgeECI.com to download their handy guide on the Top 10 Family Destinations in East Central Indiana.
We hope this list helps you plan a fun, engaging summer adventure for your little ones. It’s important for the whole family to spend time together simply having fun. If you’re feeling a little uncertain about the hassle of taking your kids out to explore the Great Outdoors, check out this guide for tips on planning, preparation, and just what to do once you’re officially out and exploring. You can get your kids excited about going outside as easily as serving lunch or snack time out in the grass! The only rule is: let kids have fun!