by Stacy M. Turke
on the On the Road with @stacyturke OTR blog
It seems hard to believe, but it’s already August, which means that the new school year is just around the corner. I am starting to see the “Back to School” section of my local stores filling up with the usual supplies such as crayons and paper, backpacks, and locker organizers. TV ads for school uniform sales and tutoring services run all afternoon, and school parking lots are already showing signs that teachers are beginning to set up their classrooms. I have started organizing my activities and files, getting them ready for that first week back; and I’ve begun to put important dates on the calendar for fall. All the things I need to do to be ready when that day arrives in the not-too-distant future. But I have this nagging thought that I’m structuring and organizing and sorting my way through these days without enjoying the slower pace and longer daylight hours that summer brings. I can’t help but wonder, “Can’t we slow this down a bit?” I mean, we still have a few weeks of summer left before the rush begins again! Can’t we keep playing for a bit longer?
The answer of course is “yes, yes, we can!” And for many of us, we should. I believe it’s important to play and keep the slower pace of summer as long as we can to help refill our sense of well-being and energy. And it doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated play. Think back to your own childhood, mom and dad. Do you remember what you enjoyed doing the most in the summers when you were young? My guess is that your favorite summer activities involved water, in some form or another. And in the heat of this extra-hot summer, what could be better than playing with water?
Water-Play Ideas from your School OT
Yep, tried and true. I didn’t have to mention swimming and your mind already went there, right? So why state the obvious? Because I wanted to be able to share WHY swimming is so great for kids.
- On a hot day, nothing cools a body as quickly and efficiently as a dip in the pool (or lake or ocean).
- Swimming involves the whole body, which means the whole brain is engaged, too.
- When kids are swimming, they are strengthen all of their muscles; and strong muscles are needed to maintain sitting positions in school.
- Learning to swim, and playing in the water in general, helps kids develop motor planning skills, which will make learning new physical activities easier.
- Swimming lets kids explore different sensations, such as water lapping gently on their skin or rushing past their face; the quiet of the world when underwater; or the light of the sun dancing off the waves.
- Kids don’t have to be expert swimmers to have fun with other kids in the water.
My family didn’t have a pool and we were not close to a swimmable lake. But we had a sprinkler; and as kids, my brother and I took advantage of it often. I can still remember how those first droplets of cold water felt on my skin when the sprinkler began to spin and spray, and how long our giggles lasted as we jumped through the middle to get to the other side. So what, besides fun, did we get out of running through the sprinker?
- A chance to cool off
- Aerobic activity and fitness
- Varied sensations, such as cool water, slippery grass, sunlight on the water droplets which may create rainbows, to name a few
- Silly, goofy play, and rarely being alone. Just try to run through a sprinkler as a solitary activity. Friends will come out of the woodwork!
Paint with Water
I personally loved painting with water when my own kids were young. We would take a bucket of clean water outside with a couple paintbrushes, the kind you would use to paint the house. MAKE SURE THEY ARE CLEAN (did I yell that?) or you might end up painting for real! The water “paint” can go on any surface, but we especially enjoyed painting the driveway and garage door. On sunny hot days, the water dried pretty quickly, so the surface could be repainted endlessly. We painted tic-tac-toe; we painted letters and words, simple shapes, whatever we were interested in. And while we were having fun, my kids were working on:
- Strengthening the muscles and joints of their arms, which provided stability for those writing muscles in the fingers
- Improving the development of their eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills
- Being creative and sharing materials
- Bonus: Take sidewalk chalk outside with you; and after drawing, “paint” over your work with the water. It will dry clean and you can write all over the driveway again!
Inevitably, one or more of your remaining summer days will be a rain-out. But no problems if you have a bathtub or large sink! You know all the usual water play toys, but have you ever taken a water squirter or turkey baster into the tub? What about shaving cream? Or the two together: use shaving cream in the tub, then wash the designs off the bathtub wall using the squirter or baster!
I assume it goes without saying, but just in case: remember to supervise your kids when they are playing with or in water. Keep eyes on swimming kids at all times and use floatation devices in addition. Grass gets slippery when wet, so consider using water shoes to increase traction. Use sunblock. And most of all: MAKE SURE YOU HAVE FUN TOO!
Yep, I yelled that also. Never underestimate the impact of fun!
Stacy M. Turke, OTR/L: “On the Road with @stacyturke OTR blog.” Stacy has been a school OT for 30 years with the same school district in Michigan in what she describes as “my dream job.” Her career has ranged from working in a “center-based” school to working in public and private schools throughout the county, including those in the rural, suburban, and urban areas. She has experience working with students with a wide range of educational needs, to include cognitive impairments, Autism Spectrum Disorder, physical challenges, sensory processing needs, and many other learning challenges. She expresses her enthusiasm when she says “This career has been fulfilling, always presenting new and interesting challenges, and is NEVER boring!” You can connect with Stacy on Pinterest at https://www.pinterest.com/stacyturke/ and on Twitter at @stacyturke.
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