Summer is a perfect time to experiment with outdoor activities for toddlers and preschoolers. Open-ended art projects that emphasize process over product help young children develop crucial skills as they interact with others and think creatively. Grab some sidewalk chalk, and try these DIY sidewalk chalk activities to get your preschoolers outside and immersed in play today. Here are three fun things you can do with sidewalk chalk!
Sidewalk Chalk Paint
"The kids and I loved doing this art activity when they were very young," says Rebecca Green in Banish Boredom: Activities to Do with Kids That You'll Actually Enjoy. "Perhaps it's because it instantly brings me back to the wonderfulness of summer, but I also think it's because they were so completely engrossed in getting messy with their art projects. It was really something to watch! I'd seen several different recipes for cornstarch sidewalk paint, and I decided to make it a thick consistency and see what the kids would do with it. I made several colors and gave both children small plastic cups of each to avoid competition and complaints of hogging."
- 6 cups cornstarch
- 3 cups water
- 6 colors of washable tempera paint
- Working with one batch at a time, in a medium bowl, mix together 1 cup cornstarch with ½ cup water. Stir until the cornstarch is incorporated well. It will take a little muscle; the kids typically like to help with this.
- Add several drops of one color of tempera paint. If you’d like the color to be brighter, add a little more. Mix until you get your desired color. Then transfer the colored paint to a smaller container for painting.
- Repeat until you have six different colors of paint (or as many as you like).
- Once you have all the sidewalk paint mixed, take your kids outside, hand it over, and watch out. "We first did this project with the kids where really young (one and two-and a-half years old),” shares Green in Banish Boredom. “My children started off making small dribbles with paintbrushes onto the sidewalk, and they soon moved to pouring it out in big globs all over each other. Although I wished I had put the kids in their bathing suits, I encouraged their inclination to turn the art project into a sensory experience. They squished and swirled colors together and loved it so much that neither seemed bothered by the fact that they were being covered with a sticky mess. A plus of taking messy art outdoors is the actual cleanup itself. When you hose them down, the kids also think it’s bonus water play. Don’t worry; it washes out—even out of hair.”
More to Do
- Help your kids use the chalk paint to mark outdoor games, such as hopscotch or tic-tac-toe.
- Hit the streets and chalk mark around your neighborhood. Consider your neighbors and use your discretion! “Someone on our street wrote, ‘Look both ways!’ on every corner, and I loved it. But not everyone will appreciate such things,” say Green.
- Use the paint as a fun opportunity to practice and reinforce letters and numbers by having the kids trace templates you’ve already marked on the sidewalk.
The creator of Not-So-SAHM, a family-focused lifestyle blog, Rebecca Green writes about arts and crafts, field trips, DIYs, recipes, party fun, and the all-around silliness of her family. She started the blog in 2011 when she decided to take break from practicing law to become a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) and spend more quality time with her family while pursuing creative endeavors. Her book, Banish Boredom: Activities to Do with Kids That You’ll Actually Enjoy, offers inspiration for parents looking for fun, stimulating activities that will contribute to children’s physical and intellectual growth. Discover ideas for art projects, science projects, sensory projects, outdoor activities, and field trips that will help you find a balance between keeping you and your kids engaged and entertained.
Sidewalk Sets and Numerals
Reinforce counting, numerals, sets with this activity from The Giant Encyclopedia of Math Activities for Children 3 to 6
- Long expanse of sidewalk
- Sidewalk chalk
What to do
- Ahead of time, plan the sidewalk sets and numerals.
- Ask the children to think of items to draw on the sidewalk for each numeral 1 through 10.
- On a sunny day, go out to the sidewalk to start the project.
- Divide the children into 11 groups. Depending on the size of your class, there may only be one child in some or all of the “groups.”
- Give them the numeral they are to work on, and ask them to draw a big numeral on the sidewalk with the chalk.
- Next, ask them to draw the items previously discussed in the classroom, making sure they are drawing the right number of items to match the numeral.
- When the sidewalk mural is completed, invite other classes outside to see it.
- At the end of the day, provide water and wide paintbrushes to wash everything away.
Edited by Kathy Charner, Maureen Murphy, and Charlie Clark, The Giant Encyclopedia of Math Activities for Children 3 to 6 features over 600 activities written by teachers for teachers! Organized by curriculum area and time of day, each activity is complete with math concepts, materials needed, and step-by-step instructions. The easy-to-use math concept index makes it simple for teachers to find an appropriate activity. Classroom-tested by children, the activities in the book captivate children's imaginations and create wonderful opportunities for learning and fun!
Develop your child's pre-writing skills with this activity from Everyday Play: Fun Games to Develop the Fine Motor Skills Your Child Needs for School by Christy Isbell.
What You Need
- large adult-size paintbrushes (at least 3" wide) or paint rollers
- large bucket of water
- liquid soap (if you want to use soapy water)
- sidewalk chalk
- outside wall or fence
What to DO
- Encourage your child to use sidewalk chalk to draw large circles, crosses, and horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines on the outside wall or fence.
- Give him a bucket of water and paintbrushes or rollers and invite him to "wash the wall" with the paintbrushes or rollers.
- Show him how to trace the lines or shapes with the wet paintbrush to make the drawing disappear.
- Use large sponges or rags instead of paintbrushes to wash the wall.
Fine motor skills are a stepping-stone for school readiness and Everyday Play, written by pediatric occupational therapist Christy Isbell, gives parents the tools they need to make developing those skills easy and fun. "When it comes to writing, don't rush it" says Isbell. "Most children will be able to copy a triangle and a diamond by the time they are four-and-a-half years old. Once your child can copy all forms and shapes, she should be ready to begin writing letters."