Now that summertime is here, there is more daylight, warmer temperatures and lots of opportunities to play and connect with your child! In the preschool years, children are using their newly developing thinking, speaking and feeling skills to figure out where they belong in their family. When young children experience a consistent, loving, secure connection with their parents, they naturally develop the ability to express their thoughts and feelings. They also begin to understand the wants and needs of others.
Here are some ways you can capitalize on the summer season to create these important connections with your child:
- Splash in the pool rather than reclining in the sun. Just last week I was at a community pool and noticed a mom relaxing on her lounge chair while her 3-year-old splashed in the shallow end. She was keeping an eye on her daughter to ensure her safety, but from a distance. While it’s definitely important to get in that me-time every now and then, this would have been a great opportunity to connect with her daughter by playing with her in the pool. This summer, when you go to the pool with your child, try joining her in the pool and let her show you her water world. Engage her, listen to her and let her lead you into her imaginary play land in the pool!
- Extend bedtime and take a nightly dusk-walk. With the sun setting later, you might let your child enjoy a siesta in the hottest part of the afternoon and stay up a little later at night. I remember taking my son for a walk as the sun was setting in the summer. We held hands and looked for rabbits, listening to the crickets together. It’s a wonderful way to connect before bath and bed time.
- Grow a little garden. Take your child to the local nursery and pick out some summer annuals or some herbs like mint and rosemary. Create a little garden – either in containers on the porch or in a raised garden in your yard. Let your child help you dig and plant. Each day you can go out together and water the garden, observing how it changes throughout the summer.
- Camp out (in comfort). Wilderness is not required. Pitch a tent in the middle of your living room or in your backyard. Sleep in sleeping bags and pretend you’re out in the woods.
- Make a salad. With temperatures on the rise, cool salads can be a great way to introduce your children to new fruits and vegetables while connecting in the kitchen. Pull up a stool and let your child wash the fruit, snap the beans, stir the dressing and toss the salad with you. Children are more likely to try new foods if they are involved and it gives you and your child a chance to connect.
- Play along. Every so often, (safety ensured) take off your parent hat, get down on the floor with your child in his playroom and let him direct you and your play time together. Let your child be the boss as you play along with whatever he wants to do without directing or correcting. This kind of interaction makes children feel loved, respected, seen and heard by their parents.