Ready, Set, Explore!

Summer has officially arrived, and with it, a renewed energy to fill the coming months with play and adventure. Whether you’re the type to make a summer action plan or play it by ear, we encourage you and your family to get outside, try new things, and explore all that Pierce County has to offer! Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Plan a family day at one of the 44 Pierce County Parks, Facilities & Trails, which includes recreation centers, a sports complex, an ice rink, a skateboard park, boat launch sites, golf courses, trails, a disc golf course, and a large number of open spaces.

  • Find a favorite splash pad in the South Sound area with this list from Parent Map.
  • Check out a festival from our family-friendly list for music, children’s activities, cultural performances, and more.

Four Categories of Play

While planning for fun, affordable and convenient family adventures, it’s important to think about offering a variety of playful experiences for your child or youth. Intentionally engaging in multiple play types will give your child or youth the most well-rounded experiences and strengthen developmental growth. The American Academy of Pediatrics identifies four categories of play, each with its own functions and benefits. Try to incorporate each type of play into your summer routine!

Object Play occurs when a child explores an object and learns about its properties. This type of play progresses from sensorimotor explorations to the use of symbolic objects for communication and abstract thought. 

Physical, Rough-and-Tumble, or Big Body Play is akin to the play seen in animals and at school recess and allows children to use their big body muscles, take risks in a safe environment, and foster skills needed for communication, negotiation, and emotional balance. 

Outdoor Play improves sensory integration skills, engaging a child’s motor, cognitive, social, and linguistic domains. 

Social or Pretend Play, Alone or With Others describes when children experiment with different roles and learn to cooperate within a shared set of rules. This type of play is categorized as self-directed or adult guided, both of which benefit children. Self-directed play gives children the space to explore and gain an understanding of their preferences and interests, while guided play is defined as “a child-led, joyful activity in which adults craft the environment to optimize learning.”

Open Ended Play

Go beyond the everyday coloring book while still keeping things simple and affordable with a Nature Journal! This easy, at-home activity shouldn’t require any special purchases and will be the perfect addition to family walks, bike rides, lake days, and picnics. A nature journal sparks curiosity, encourages deeper reflection, and helps our young friends remember what they learned. The pages in your journal can be blank or littered with questions and writing prompts. Follow the link above for step-by-step instructions with pictures!

In The Community

Independence Day

The United States of America celebrates the fourth of July to commemorate the date in 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress. It meant that American colonies, who were a part of the United Kingdom, wanted to become their own country. 

When we think of the fourth of July, we often think of freedom, but what does it mean to be free? Try asking the children and youth in your life what their idea of freedom means every year on this holiday and record their responses to see how their thinking evolves as they age.

National Ice Cream Month

A scoop of ice cream is delicious year-round, but a scoop of ice cream during the summer AND National Ice Cream Month is bliss! Here are nine spots around Pierce County that the whole family will love.

  • Bliss Small Batch Creamery | Tacoma, WA 
  • Berry Dock Ice Cream Shop | Steilacoom, WA 
  • Main St Dairy Freeze | Sumner, WA
  • Shake Shake Shake | Tacoma, WA 
  • Ice Cream Social | Tacoma, WA & Ruston, WA
  • The Cupbearer | Roy, WA
  • Gabe’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream | Puyallup, WA 
  • Helen’s Donuts and Ice Cream | Tacoma, WA 
  • Sweetreats by Harbor Cakes | Gig Harbor, WA 

International Day of Friendship

On July 30 the United Nations celebrates friendship regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion to inspire peace efforts between individual communities, countries, and cultures.

We may share a lot of similarities with our friends, like the clothes we wear, the color of our hair, and the music we listen to; but we will also find that there are differences in our interests, the way we look, or our personal style. Friendships hold space for the ways we are similar and different as we learn about ourselves and deepen our appreciation of others and their lived experiences. Check out Playful News February for reflection questions to ask your children, tips on how to foster healthy friendships, and friendship-focused book recommendations. 

Caregiver Corner

There are many ways that parents and caregivers can support children and youth in their discovery and pursuit of passion. Letting children lead, being supportive rather than applying pressure, and observing children in their independent, self-directed play are a few ways to navigate your child’s self-discovery journey in a healthy way. Knowing what resources are available to you and your family is also a necessary component to supporting your child or youth, and public libraries are community hubs to do just that!

Pierce County Library’s Read Beyond the Beaten Path challenge and Tacoma Public Library and Puyallup Public Library’s Oceans of Possibilities challenge are running all summer long! Follow the links to read, complete fun activities, build community with fellow readers, and attend Special Events and Performances and Storytimes.

Free Meals at Tacoma Public Schools

Free meals from Tacoma Public Schools are available to all children 18 and under this summer! Breakfast and lunch will be available Monday – Thursday, June 27 – July 28, at the following schools: Baker Middle School, First Creek Middle School, Giaudrone Middle School, Gray Middle School, Hilltop Heritage Middle School, Mason Middle School, Meeker Middle School, Stewart Middle School, Truman Middle School, and Wainwright Intermediate.

Breakfast will be served from 8:30-9:15 a.m. and lunch will be served from 11:30 a.m. -12:15 p.m. Students must eat meals at school.

A few more observances for your caregiver radar…

  • National Father Daughter Take a Walk Day | July 7
  • Global Hug Your Kids Day | July 18
  • National Baby Food Week | July 17-23 (Check out these resources for assistance finding baby formula in your area).