As the school year ends, students look forward to all the adventures of summer break. Though, parents and educators are concerned with the two and half months of no formal academics, which often lends itself to the “summer slide” in learning. Children need the time for exploring the world around them and developing their creativity. However, having some regularly planned activities to help retain their academic knowledge is a way to prepare your child for the upcoming school year. Here are some ideas for summer learning fun.
- Have a time scheduled each week to make a trip to the public library. Kids love browsing all the books and choosing ones to read. Not to mention, public libraries often have summer reading programs or activities based around literature which are free.
- For 20 minutes each day, have a time set aside for reading. This can be you reading to your child (even the older ones like this), your child reading to you, or your child reading on their own. The key is letting your child choose the book.
- On road trips, play the sign game. This is where you find words on billboards, buildings, or street signs for each letter of the alphabet. Not only does it help with reading, but also occupies your child so you won’t hear, “Are we there yet!”
- Check the websites of your local book stores for summer reading events such as author visits, book events, or creativity days.
- Have your child create either a daily schedule or a schedule for a special event. Be sure to discuss how long each event will occur to incorporate the concept of elapsed time.
- If you are taking a road trip, plan ahead by using a map to navigate the course. Talk about the mileage between major landmarks and if the speed limit for certain roads is so much, about how long should it take to drive from landmark to landmark. You can even create a driving schedule with times for pit stops and food breaks. Have your child bring the schedule and map on trip to plot the course.
- Cooking is always a great tool. Use the internet to find new recipes to make together. Let your child do all the measuring and pouring of the ingredients. With all the summer fruits, it makes a great connection for talks about nutrition. The best part of all is in the end you get to eat your creation.
- Search the couches, seat cushions, and washing machine for coins. Once the scavenger hunt has taken place, count the treasure. To extend this, have your child look over store ads for something to spend his/her money. The item she/he wants might be more than what they have. So, create a plan to earn money over the summer to save up for the item. Not only is it a great lesson in economics, but also teaches delayed gratification in a real-world context.
- Take a hike in nature. Talk about the different plants and animals you see. If items are collected along the path, when the hike is over sort the items and talk about how your child classified the collection. Also, take a hike at a different location or during a different time of the day. After the second hike, compare how the two hikes were similar and different.
- Create slime with your child. There are plenty of recipes online to help with this. Have your child predict what will happen when all the ingredients are added together. After the slime is made, have your child use his/her five senses to describe it. Discuss the change in the states of matter which occurred when the slime was made. Experiment with it by adding more water or a different color of dye.
- Keep a weather calendar. Include the high and low temperature of the day, observations of the sky, sunrise time, and sunset time. Discuss the patterns in the weather, then have your child make predictions of future weather based upon the patterns.
- Visit a local farm, garden, or garden club. Observe what is happening. Ask the people in charge about the different life cycles of the plants/animals. If possible, have your child “work” on the farm or garden to provide a hands-on experience. If a visit to one of these places is not possible, think about how to add either an outdoor or indoor garden in your home and create one. Make daily observations of your garden and discuss the changes.
- Provide your child with either a notebook, or paper, for keeping a summer journal to record adventures or ponderings. Let your child have choice of the topics and whether to keep it private. For the tech savvy child, keep the journal electronically using a word processing program.
- Write letters or cards to relatives. Your child could even become pen pals with a friend. The friend can be close or away. If close, set up a “special meeting” for the friends to exchange their letters as this will serves as motivation for the letter writing.
- Have your child write a letter to their teacher thanking them as well as telling about memorable moments that occurred over the past school year. Likewise, have your child write a letter to their new teacher for the upcoming year to tell about themselves as well as what your child is looking forward to in the next grade level.
- If there is a cause your child is passionate about or a change he/she would like to see in the community, research it and write a letter to local government officials.
Go out and enjoy the summer. Like eating a balanced diet, create a balance between unstructured activities (which promote creativity and problem solving) and structured activities (which provide learning opportunities).