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Reading & Language

Reading Activities at the Park

A family at a park

The park is a wonderful place for children to play and explore. At the park children can learn and practice physical and social skills as they play with other children. They can also “do science” as they explore nature. If the park has a playground, children can also explore science as they slide, swing, and balance.


Ball Fun. Play a simple ball game with your toddler. Sit her down opposite you, just a few feet away. Use a big light ball. Roll the ball to her gently. “Here comes the ball! Catch the ball! Catch the ball!” Then encourage her to roll the ball back to you. Give her lots of praise as she lets the ball go. “You rolled the ball! You rolled the ball!”

So Much Nature. Put your baby down on a blanket in the grass. Let him explore nature using his senses of sight, hearing, smell, and touch. He can see the trees against the sky. He can hear the leaves blowing. He can smell the fresh air. He can feel the breeze on his skin and the grass in his fingers. Talk to him softly as you enjoy the experience together. “Feel the breeze! Feel the grass!”

All Kinds of Leaves. Toddlers love to collect things. Leaves are especially fun to collect in the fall. Explore the colors of leaves with your child. Introduce words for color names like red, brown, yellow, and orange. Compare different leaves. Are they all the same or are they different? Collect leaves in a bag. Take them home and start a leaf collection.


Balls, Balls, Balls. Children love to play with balls because they can do so many things. Play a game of catch with your child, and use words like bounce, roll, and fly to describe the ball’s movement. Use different forms of the words like bounced, rolled, and flew. Invite your child to move the ball in different ways; throwing, hitting, punching, and kicking, and notice what happens. Invite another child to play and talk about sharing and taking turns.

Balancing. Children first learn about the idea of balance as they use their own bodies. Use the word balance as your child runs around and uses playground equipment. “Wow! You really balanced your body on the swing!” Then extend this idea to other situations. “Did you see how the ball balanced on the basketball hoop before it fell through?”

Swing High, Swing Low. Encourage your child to use all of the playground equipment.  You can introduce a lot of vocabulary that describes movement and location. For example, when your child is on the swing, you can say “High, high, fly to the sky!” each time you push her. As she comes down, you can say “Down, down, swing to the ground!” When she is finished, talk about how it felt and use interesting words. “You were flying like a bird! How did it feel to soar ?”

All Kinds of Trees. Children are curious about trees because they are so big. You can be scientists as you collect some information about a tree. You can measure a tree by stretching your arms around it. “Can you reach all the way around?” Feel the bark of the tree and use words like smooth, soft, rough, bumpy, and hard. Look at the leaves of the tree. Notice the veins. Ask your child to describe the leaf’s shape. Compare the shape to something familiar. “It looks like your hand with fingers.” Compare the bark and leaves from different trees.


Ball Games. Children need practice playing team games. Sometimes you have to be flexible about the rules. Try an easy game of baseball with your child and some friends. Use a big plastic ball and a big plastic bat. Make sure that each child has a turn to hit the ball and run around the bases. Introduce words like teamwork and sportsmanship. If your child has experience with team sports use specific vocabulary like score, base hit, and homerun.

Balancing Act. As children get more practice controlling their bodies, they can balance more easily. They also begin to understand the idea of balance in a scientific way. Encourage your child to notice and think about balance in many situations. “How can we move the children on the see-saw so they will balance?” If your child has other experiences with balance make a connection. “Remember when we weighed the tangerines at the market on a balance scale?”

Who Lives in a Tree?The park is a good place to learn about how plants and animals help each other. Look with your child for evidence that animals live in the trees at the park. Maybe animals use the trees for food or shade. Look for birds flying near the trees. See if you can find any nests. Look for animals like squirrels or chipmunks. “Why do you think they like the trees?” Tell your child that it will be fun to learn more about trees. “We can look for a book about trees at the library or the bookstore.”

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