Keep Preschoolers Learning Outside of School

Summer is coming (really!) and now is the time to think about how you’re going to fill those long days with your preschooler.

Whether spending the day at the Chicago Botanic Garden playing summer bingo (pick up your picture card and stickers at the front desk) or exploring the Skokie North Shore Sculpture Park, the season is just too short to do it all.

We asked early childhood educators for their suggestions for small things you can teach your preschooler this summer. Here’s what they said:

Midwest Montessori School, Evanston

  • Collect a variety of bugs, view them (carefully) under a magnifying glass and let them go.
  • Create nature-inspired crafts such as caterpillars and butterflies using inexpensive and easy-to-find materials: pipe cleaners, cardboard egg cartons, clothespins and twigs.
  • Read to your preschooler and ask her to dictate back what she heard or have her draw her interpretation of the story.
  • Write summer-inspired words in yellow pencil and have your preschooler trace over the letters in regular pencil.

Sugar Plum Tree, Park Ridge

  • Take a walk in the woods and peek under and in logs to see what’s inside.
  • Walk along the beach and look in the sand for signs of nature.
  • Visit the River Trail Nature Center in Northbrook and walk the trails.
  • See tall buildings from the river. The Chicago Water Taxi is inexpensive and you can start at Ogilvy for a train/boat excursion.
  • Get to know farm animals, either at a working farm or at the Farm in the Zoo in Lincoln Park.
  • Expose them to live theater. Check out our events calendar for great ideas.
  • Ride a pony. (Call Patch 22 in Wadsworth or Glen Grove in Morton Grove)

French School and Spanish School, Winnetka

  • Make your own ice cubes using different types of juice and liquids.
  • Observe what happens to a puddle of water under the hot sun. Mark the size of the puddle using chalk and see how its size changes as time goes by.
  • Pick flowers and take them apart. Learn the different names of the different parts.
  • Make and fly a kite.
  • Go to a local farmer’s market and buy and taste new fruits and vegetables.
  • Learn a short poem and recite it.
  • Make your own paper boats, milk carton boats or bottle boats and test them out in water.
  • Catch butterflies and look at the color of their wings. Let them go afterwards.
  • Make your own ice cream using new and different flavors.
  • Make a weathervane and talk about the direction of the wind.

Countryside Montessori, Northbrook

  • Learn the names of birds in the neighborhood.
  • Identify flowers seen on walks around the block.
  • Plant strawberries.
  • Make lemonade from scratch.
  • Pack a bag together for a trip to the pool or beach.
  • Fold beach towels as they come out of the dryer.
  • Catch (and release) fireflies.
  • Scrape mud off the bottom of sneakers.
  • Make soap bubbles for bubble blowing.
  • Learn how to play Mother, May I?
  • Play a kazoo.
  • Practice marching in a parade.
  • Pull weeds (teach them which ones are the weeds).
  • Set up the tent for an overnight in the backyard.