Total disclosure guys: I’m the ultimate cliche, writing this from a Starbucks with an iced drink and a million calorie (yet delicious) danish beside me. This post comes from a work assignment so I (unfortunately) have to do more than lazy around in blissful air conditioning this summer.
I can’t think of anything more awful for an infant than a hot summer day. For someone who has very little control over their body temperature and relies on us to help them go hot or cold, summer can be very uncomfortable. Even in air conditioning, non mobile infants quickly become little icicles from lack of movement. And what to do with them? Older toddlers to school age kids can enjoy building a sand castle, playing in a sprinkler, and eating summer fruits.
From that paragraph alone, can you see how I struggled with this assignment? Yeah.
Let’s start with activities that allow the infant to move, yet still incorporate the summer theme.
- Misting Water: Fill a spray bottle with water and set it to mist; gently spray the infant from a distance of about two feet so that they aren’t getting the full blast of water, incase it startles them or they get to wet. Start somewhere neutral, like their hand, and depending on their reaction move to their arms, legs, top of head. Continue as long as the infant holds an interest.
- Bubbles: Need I say more?
- Laying Out: A lot of infants, especially non-mobile ones, rarely get outside during the summer because parents are afraid of the sun’s rays and hot temperatures. But by taking the right precautions, caretakers have little to worry about. No matter the temperature, limit time outside (that won’t be in a shaded stroller, strolling with a breeze) to 15-20 minutes. Apply sunscreen to any exposed skin and put on a wide brim hat to protect their scalp. Pick a shaded area and lay a blanket out for the infant to lay down on. Sitting on the sidewalk, grass, or playground surface may not seem like a big deal to us, but the change in sensory may be hard for infants to adjust to. They may also pick up tiny things (little sticks, pebbles, trash, blades of grass) to gum on. Just laying on the blanket and taking in their surroundings will be enough for most infants, but feel free to bring a toy or two if yours might be antsy.
- Sand Toy Exploration: We avoid giving the infants any exposure to sand, but I think giving them sanitized beach toys to explore and handle would be a fun idea. Beach toys, to me, means sand buckets, shovels, sand shifters, and sand molds. Demonstrate how to shovel or how to shake the sand shifter (imitating others’ actions is an infant achievement).
- Build a Sand Castle: Again, we avoid sand exposure, so use blocks instead.
- “Mr. Sun”: Use finger play to sing the song “Mr. Sun” with infants.
I do an art project a week with my infants, so here are a few of the things we are doing for the summer.
- Using dark and light blue paint, finger paint an ocean scene!
- Encourage infants to paste down pre-cut fish on blue paper
- Give the infants tissue paper to crumple (which they should automatically do) and then have them glue it down on tan or green paper to make a lake/beach scene.
- Finger paint tan paint on blue paper to create the beach!
- Stamp water animals on paper. (We have stamps with large knobs that we use for the infants.)
- Cut tan and brown paper into squares and other shapes; encourage infants to paste them down to create sand castles.
- Crush graham crackers and help infants sprinkle over blue paper to create another kind of beach art!
- Set out a variety of different colored pre-cut shovels and buckets. Let the infant choose which one to paste down.
- Take an empty toilet paper roll and dip one end in white paint. Help infant stamp ‘bubbles’ onto blue paper!
- Paint the bottom of infant’s hands or feet with brown paint and have them do hand prints or foot prints ‘in the sand’ (tan paper)!
Finally, how to get that sensory exploration when you don’t want them in the sand, or think they are too small for a baby pool.
- A small sensory table filled with a couple inches of water is fine for infants. I only fill it enough so if they put their hand in, the water can wash over the top of their hand.
- One day, add cups to the water. Another day, find small water cans. If you have water animals, put those in one day. Another day, add sponges. Then, do something that will float — stacking rings do just fine. You could do water sensory play with infants twice a week, just add in a new item (and when you run out of ideas, start over again!).
- This may sound silly, but I’m bringing in a couple beach towels, and we’re going to have the infants lay on them. Doesn’t sound like much? Actually feel a beach towel! Unlike your clothes or a bath towel, beach towels tend to have a scratchier feel because they are out in the sand and need to be more resistant. That texture difference is important for infants to feel.
- Instead of sand, purchase some sandpaper and cut into squares. Paste onto paper and make into a book, give to the infants as is, or paste on a larger poster board and invite infants to crawl over and come feel.
- Take a package of graham crackers and crush into fine crumbs. Put this in the sensory table as is or with some shovels and cups.
- Make two different kinds of beach bottles. One, put in sand and shells. Another, put sand and water. Either way, make sure caps on bottles are securely closed. I’ve had sensory bottles with tops hot glued, taped, and super glued closed. All ways work fine.
- Find a CD or MP3 of waves and other water noises. Play during your quiet and nap time. Yes, hearing this is a sensory exploration!
Another couple fun things we’re going to do with the infants that don’t necessarily fit into these categories.
- Wear a summer color day — choose a color (I like red, orange, yellow, and blue) and invite everyone to wear that color!
- Wear your bathing suit/favorite beach outfit! This is a good choice for the day when you’re doing water play or the ‘sand’ sensory day.
- Have a variety of beach hats for the infants to practice putting on and taking off (fine motor skills!). Ask parents to bring in beach hats for the infants to try.
- Instead of beach hats, do this activity with sunglasses. Take pictures; so cute!
Okay, typing this all out made me a little (a lot) more excited for summer with my infants. It’s always great when everyone can have a fun activity to do in the summer!