Being outside not only improves physical health, it also reduces stress and increases creativity and attention span, according to the American Psychological Association. When the sun is shining, it's time to put on some sunscreen and take the kids outside. Plan a few special activities for some extra sunny fun.
Sunny days don't only happen in the spring and summer. Taking your child out in all kinds of weather helps her learn about the changing of the seasons. A sunny day after a big snow storm is the perfect time to build a snowman or ride a sled down a hill, since the snow is likely to be wet and sticky. Autumn is a great time to collect leaves, while spring is the time to learn about gardening. Help your child compare the different seasons by taking pictures of the same area in each season. You can also place sticky contact paper sticky-side-up on a table and have your child collect different things from nature to put on it, then cover it up with another layer when she's finished. Hang the pieces from each season next to each other to see the differences and similarities.
Children love bubbles and can often spend hours blowing and chasing them. On a particularly sunny day, it's fun to make giant bubbles outside. The Exploratorium in San Francisco suggests making bubbles by mixing 2/3 cup of Dawn dishwashing soap, a gallon of water and 2 to 3 tablespoons of glycerine. You can then create large bubble wands from pretty much anything -- wire hangers or hula hoops, for example -- by wrapping them with yarn to soak the bubble solution. Help your kids put themselves and others inside the giant bubbles, or race around the yard to see how many bubbles you can catch.
Use the sun's power to create a sun print. Have your child place objects on a piece of colored construction paper and leave it out in the sun while he plays. When he returns, the exposed areas will be lighter. Just doing a craft outside offers a change of pace as well. You can have your child make a sun catcher, for example, by gluing small clippings of tissue paper onto wax paper. If you have a large fence or other area that could use a touch up, and you don't mind things getting a little messy, your child might enjoy painting it with his unique style.
When the days are hot and sunny, cool your child down with some water. You can use personal pools or sprinklers, or find water out and about at public pools, lakes or "spray parks." This can keep your child happy for a long time.
Water balloon fights can be fun, but involve a lot of clean up. A clean alternative is to create squishy balls from sponges to soak up water and toss at each other. Artistic children might also enjoy "painting" the house or driveway with water, either with a paintbrush or spray bottle.
Maggie McCormick is a freelance writer. She lived in Japan for three years teaching preschool to young children and currently lives in Honolulu with her family. She received a B.A. in women's studies from Wellesley College.