Kids' First Years

Summer is the Season for Kids to Explore and Play Outside

The combination of sunshine, exercise, and having fun with loved ones promotes healthy lifestyles, improves coordination, encourages curiosity, and creates many special shared memories to talk about for years

by Michelle Smith Howard, President & CEO, Kids’ First Years

Alexandria, VA – Summer is the perfect time for families with young children to get outside and play together. The combination of sunshine, exercise, and having fun with loved ones promotes healthy lifestyles, improves coordination, encourages curiosity, and creates many special shared memories to talk about for years.

Getting outdoors for a little while each day increases the variety of things your child can see, hear, smell, and touch. Preschoolers are like little scientists excited to discover new things about their surroundings.

Children explore and learn about the world through movement and play. There are many types of play: Exploring objects and their features using the senses, imaginative and pretend play, creative activities such as drawing or coloring, and physical play such as crawling, running, rolling a ball, and more.

As a reminder, the City of Alexandria is a community partner in our Kids’ First Years network. Visit for a complete list of over 100 parks, sports fields, rec centers, nature centers, and trails—all just waiting to be explored. Many offer year-round programs and exhibits for children and adults of all ages.

Get Back to “The Basics” This Summer

Kids’ First Years embraces The Basics, which are simple yet powerful principles to help young children thrive. Below are activities tied to the principle of Explore Through Movement and Play. All of them are easy to do in your home, yard or neighborhood. Best of all, they are free – no purchase required!

  • Go on a scavenger hunt for specific types of objects. For example, look for things that are blue or things that are made of wood. Let your child do most of the thinking and talking.
  • Find opportunities for your child to draw with crayons. Talk to your child about the pretty colors of crayons. Show how much you enjoy watching your child create something on paper.
  • Have fun rolling a ball back and forth. Toddlers love simple repetitive activities that involve taking turns. Try different ways of rolling the ball, such as counting out loud or saying “My turn” and Your turn.” Don’t be surprised if your child starts to mimic your words!
  • Little ones love to push buttons – especially buttons that make things happen. This helps to teach them about cause and effect. Let your child help push a doorbell or elevator button. Or let your child help turn on the water faucet or flip the light switch. Talk about what the child did and what happened as a result.
  • Find new things to do outside with your child. For example, listen to what it sounds like when you knock on the mailbox. Scratch in the dirt with a stick to uncover rocks or insects.
  • Play freeze games like “Red Light, Green Light.” When you say Green Light, your child can walk or run until you say Red Light, when the child stops moving and stays completely still. These types of games help teach listening skills and self-control.
  • Join in when your child plays pretend. Let your child take the lead by deciding what to play. Whatever your child is pretending to be, ask questions and get involved in the playacting. You’ll learn about your child’s interests and be able to build on their ideas.
  • Provide your child with simple toys and objects to use creatively. Blocks, smooth-edged or wooden kitchen utensils and balls are all great for exercising “creative muscles.”
  • Take walks and point out places that are important to you and your family. Name them. Ask your child to help you find the way to the corner store or the playground. Children love to be navigators for adults!

Learn more at

Preschool Enrollment Made Easy with ALX Preschool

ALX Preschool – a network of public and private child care programs – enables families to use one common application to apply to participating programs.

Enrolling your child in a local preschool program is so easy! Just go to and click on the APPLY NOW button when you are ready to begin the application process.

Questions? Call 703-746-5437 or email [email protected]

ICYMI: Marion Moon Fondly Remembered at Alexandria Sportsman’s Club Awards Banquet May 17 

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