The ABCs of Summertime Nature Play

No visit to South Mountain Park is complete without a stop at SMEEC. Whether you’re looking for tips to enjoy family, friends or solo time in the Park, a deeper understanding of the plants, animals and history of South Mountain or a place to hold your next memorable private event, SMEEC has something for everyone.

During the heat of the Arizona summer, however, spending time outside can be tricky – especially for children. Research has shown that exploring, playing and having fun is an important and beneficial part of childhood that helps cognitive, emotional, social and physical development.

But continuing to provide opportunities for children to be engaged in nature play can be as easy as ABC: Acclimate and Be Creative!

Acclimate
Our bodies are really good at adapting, especially if we’re smart in helping them along. Start slow, and gradually increase time spent outside along with the intensity of play. Use areas of shade and take advantage of cooler temperatures such as the early morning or after dark. It’s important to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water, and always wear appropriate sun protection!

Be Creative
Integrate new items into play that will help children stay cool. Water play is certainly a popular choice, with options such as spray bottles, buckets filled with water, car wash sponges and even the garden hose – but don’t forget to be aware of water conservation! Old sheets and towels can be used to construct shade forts and trimmed palm fronds can be used as giant natural fans.

When escaping the heat is necessary, consider bringing nature inside to continue the interaction with nature through art, tactile and creative manipulative play. Rocks, small sticks, leaves, grass clippings and even sand or dirt in tubs can all be used. (Lay down a sheet or tarp to help make clean up easy.)