These activities and experiences will keep young children learning across content areas through sunny summer days!
Vacations are times when families spend time away from work and school.
Some families travel for vacations, and others stay home.
Vacations are times for fun, special activities that families share together.
Vacations give special memories that last for all our lives.
Vacations do not need to be expensive to be special.
Language and literacy activities
In preparation for this theme, ask children and families to bring vacation photos to display. Create a simple display using an old map, umbrella shape, or car shape cut from large paper. Use each child’s words to caption each picture, and continue to refresh and expand the display throughout the theme.
Begin building directionality and spatial skills in children by displaying a map and following the routes of each child’s planned or past vacation. Ensure that each child’s vacation is represented. If a child’s family is staying in town for vacation, use a city map (now often available for free online from the city’s Web site or the local Chamber of Commerce) and track routes of local places they may visit. Use the appropriate map for appropriate travel, and make each child’s adventure special for everyone to appreciate!
Provide colorful, lined paper for each child to create his or her own list of vacation essential items. These might include towels, sunglasses, bathing suits, sun block, special toys or games, snacks, etc. Talk with children about why we don’t need or use most of these things every day! Encourage children to use their own writing and invented spelling skills. This allows them to develop their own personal relationship with language and grow confidence. Provide support if asked.
Discuss with children the ways they can help make vacations better for their families. Encourage them to think of all parents and other adults may do to prepare for vacations, such as working and saving for extra money, driving long hours in traffic, and finding destinations. Explore with children the ways they can help to make their vacations better, such as being quiet in heavy traffic, putting things away quickly when needed, and keeping the vehicle tidy. This process helps children feel invested in the process and gives them esteem value in the family. Share each child’s ideas with parents. You may even want to create a “Ways ___ (child) Will Make Vacation Better” handbook to share with families.
The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant and Stephen Gammel Aladdin Publishers (1993).
This ageless classic is as much a delight to share with children as it is for them to experience! The story of how everything changes when all the family comes for a stay, and the tenderness of the sweeping illustrations combined with the down-to-earth language make it one that should be part of your library forever! It is widely available in libraries and for purchase everywhere.
Summer Vacation A Story about Patience Rourke Publishing (2003).
While I was teaching, I only found this book in libraries, but it is also available from Amazon.com, and other retailers now. The language and illustrations are simple, but the story’s emphasis on accepting new people, new habits, and new ways really speaks to young minds, and make it one worth revisiting even after vacation time.
Music and movement activities
Packing Up my Suitcase (Action and Thinking Song) Tresa Patterson
I’m packing up my suitcase (Motion opening case.)
Going on a trip!
Make sure I have everything (Tap finger beside head in thinking motion.)
And nothing I forget!
Remind me now, what will I need? (Motion children to call out items.)
Oh yes, ___(child’s name) I need___, ___. And what’s that? _____, too!
Without your help, what would I do?
(Continue song as long as children actively participate.)
Now, I’m all set, and ready to go!
But will anybody help me carry this load? Motion carrying heavy suitcases together with children)
Which Way Movement Song Tresa Patterson
This song helps children learn basic direction on a map in a fun way. Drawing a large state or U.S. outline on an old bed sheet makes it even more fun outdoors!
When you reach to the sky, you’re heading north
When you go down low, it’s south, you know!
When you stretch to the right, you travel east
Reach for the left, and you’ll go west
Any way you go can be the best if your map says so!
Practice the song with children as they use and see real maps throughout the theme.
For older preschoolers or school-age children, provide simple compasses, and let them practice direction and location skills outdoors. Compasses are very affordable these days at sporting equipment stores or even from novelty catalogs. Talk with children about why knowing directions can be an important and even lifesaving skill.
Songs and Fingerplays
“Vacation’s Here” Tresa Patterson A simple chant, just create your own rhythm!
Shout it loud, shout it clear!
The time has come, vacation’s here
Time for swimming, time for friends
Daylight time that never ends!
Traveling together, near or far
On a plane or in a car
Wish with me upon a star…
That even when vacation ends
The memories remind me we’re always friends!
“Sing a Song of Sunshine” Jean Warren
Tune: Sing a Song of Sixpence
Sing a song of sunshine
Be happy every day
Your smile is your sunshine
To chase the clouds away
Be happy in the moment
No matter what you do
Sing a song of sunshine
And let sunshine through!
Remember to repeat songs, including the action song earlier in the plan, so the children can learn and enjoy them to share!
In addition to the Which Way Movement Song and compass activities described earlier, here are a few more fun learning ideas for summer days!
Beach Ball Balance
Invite children to join in small groups, and challenge each group in creative ways of balancing a beach ball on their body without letting it drop. Can they tip it on the nose? Does it rest on the head? See what they come up with for 15 seconds or so. Let them experiment with balancing themselves on the balls, too!
Perhaps this is just a Southern tradition, but in today’s drive-through mentality, children often don’t experience any processes over time. Fill a large jar ¾ full of water, add 3-4 tea bags, and let it bask in sunlight a few hours. Encourage the children to monitor the making, and suggest favorite fruit juices to add in for an even tastier treat as well as a science lesson!
Give children disposable cups with equal amounts of ice cubes, and tell them they may position their cups anywhere they like in the outdoor area, and observe which cups melt first. Talk with children about why some cups turned to water faster than others. Allow children to create their own chilly fun with ice cubes, too!
How Do I Get There Charades
This can be done indoors or out, but children love it outdoors because they have more space! Write various basic destinations on 4″ x 6′ cards, then encourage children to draw a card and act out the best means of travel to get to the destinations– such as airplane, car, bicycle, on foot, how about swimming? Children will amaze you with their choices and acting abilities, too!
Science and Math Activities
How much to go?
Do some simple adding calculation to give children understanding of the cost of travel. Children always imagine that going anywhere is possible, and of course, free, but probably not so much in today’s recession. As you drive, as children to note prices of gasoline, then use a map to show how far favorite attractions are from your city, and guide them in figuring the cost of fuel to get there, not counting getting in! This gives them a real world experience with budgeting!
Ask children where their dream vacation would be, and guide them into planning a trip there, thinking about the climate, the foods, the costs, making each destination a project throughout the theme. Children can design their own promotion poster for their personal destinations from the facts they learn!
All about money
Collect a sampling of currency from a foreign nation. Families are often able to cooperate with you if you give them advance notice. Allow children to explore this different money throughout the theme, researching its value, symbols, and meaning. Return any loaned items at the close of the theme.
Ice cube trick
This has been around for ages, but never fails to get an audience of kids! Put an ice cube into a transparent cup of cold water, and ask children for ideas on how to get the cube out of the water without touching it– of course, have fun, and accept all answers! Then, place a thread across the surface of the ice cube, with the ends reaching well across the cup. Sprinkle the cube and thread with him salt, and ask children to count to 10 with you, then lift out the cube by the thread! A true crowd-pleaser and great science lesson in one!
Create a fun and festive vacation mood at snack time by serving slushes made from pure fruit juice concentrates and ice in a blender. Add fanciful paper umbrellas or colorful straws to make everyone feel like they are poolside!
Add umbrellas, beach towels, and portable chairs to the area for play. Visit local travel agencies for brochures with colorful, exotic pictures for display.
Put large sun hats, sunshades, and tote bags for dress up fun, too.
Add airplanes and boats, along with small containers children can fill to create pools to accompany their built structures. Encourage children to design their own airport, and role-play its operators.
Table toys and Games
Design simple lotto cards using summer-related stickers or drawn symbols, and encourage children to cover their card symbols in a bingo or blackout style game by giving directional phrases, such as ” If you have a sun, north of the center, cover it”. For younger children, use basic directions of up, down, left or right.
Visit your local library for DVD’s about the areas where you or your children’s families will bee visiting. Local attractions often have filmed presentations, as well. Your local Chamber of Commerce is another resource for these items, free of charge.