Guest Post: Adding Reading to Your Outdoor Play

Happy Tuesday, friends! Ginny from The Writing Well is sharing some tips and tricks for incorporating literacy into your outdoor play now that the weather is getting warmer.  She has several classes coming up this summer to enrich your child’s writing- check her website for more details! 
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As the days get longer and the weather grows warmer, our thoughts naturally turn to outdoor play.  Enhance your outdoor time with reading and writing activities that make learning fun and natural. 
Detail scavenger hunts
Help your child take notice of the world around her with this “I Spy” activity.  Take a walk outside, visit a favorite park or simply head to the backyard; bring along a notebook and pens.  Ask your children to tell you (or write down) any details they notice: an unusual tree or brightly colored bench are good examples.  Once home, turn your details into clues for a scavenger hunt.  Make clue lists using pictures or words, then head back to the spot for some hunting fun.  
Mixed media
Go beyond finger paint with an activity suited for all ages.  Use shaving cream, play sand, rice or even oatmeal, whatever you have on hand.  Take plastic sheeting, cutting boards or aluminum pans outside; spread the material of your choice on the surface.  Let children use their fingers, sticks or paintbrushes to write or scribble, then take pictures to record the results.  
Natural object letters and shapes
This is a great activity for toddler and preschool “collectors”.  Let your child gather rocks, leaves, sticks, flowers, blades of grass – whatever strikes his fancy – on an outdoor excursion.  Use the objects to form letters, numbers or shapes on the sidewalk or front steps.  Have little ones still learning their letters?  Use sidewalk chalk to draw an outline first.  
“Found object” stories 
Suitable for children Pre-K and up, this activity is a fun, reusable option with different results every time.  Drop objects collected outdoors into an old shoe box.  Pull out one item at a time and place it on the table; continue until you have a row of five or six objects.  Model using the objects as inspiration for a story (is the stick a fairy wand, or perhaps the mast of ancient sailing ship?), then let your child take the lead.  Let younger children dictate; confident writers can pen stories on their own.
Wordless picture stories
Inspired by the work of David Weisner (author of Flotsam), wordless picture stories are great for budding photographers and pre-writers.  Take photos of scenery and objects on your next outing: capture animals, rocks, trees, or even street signs and cars.  Print the images and use them to tell a story in pictures: order them as desired, then staple together or glue into a notebook.  If you’d rather keep the images digital, simply copy and paste them into a document file.  
The key to developing a lifelong appreciation for literacy is integration.  Make it a part of your family’s everyday life inside and out, and your child’s interest in reading and writing will become as natural as the springtime sunshine.  
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Ginny Kochis is owner of The Writing Well, a tutoring and homeschool consulting business based in southern Springfield.  State certified and the mother of two young children, Ginny is dedicated to providing Northern Virginia families with engaging learning experiences in reading and writing.  Services include individual and group tutoring, classes and workshops, and homeschool assistance.  Join The Writing Well this summer for week-long workshops in study skills and writing.  Visit Ginny’s website, http://www.thewritingwellonline.com for more information or contact her at thewritingwell@earthlink.net or 703-909-7425.

Join The Writing Well this summer for two valuable four-day workshops.  The Study Skills workshop helps students discover how they learn, then teaches skills to foster successful study habits.  Students will learn to how to read with a purpose, take effective notes, get organized, manage their time well, and more.  The writing workshop gives students the opportunity to read, write and share a variety of pieces across all genres – both fiction and nonfiction. Topics include effective brainstorming and planning, building and defending strong arguments, creating solid characters and plots, and revising creatively.  Workshops are $80 for four days of instruction and are Monday through Thursday from 10 AM to noon.  Workshops sessions begin July 9 and end August 2; two sessions are available for each workshop.  Contact Ginny at 703-909-7425, thewriitngwell@earthlink.net or http://www.thewritingwellonline.com.