It’s officially summertime, and children are out of school. Yay! But, now how do we help students retain the knowledge and skills they learned during the academic year that just ended? More than that, how do we help children remain on the forward path to achievement without making them feel as though they are actually still in school? Learning happens everywhere and it takes place when school is in session and over the summer break, too.
Kids want to enjoy their time away from the classroom, go to the beach, the pool, the park, and anywhere but school. It’s their vacation, after all! But, if no targeted reading, writing or math-related work is done, the brain atrophies. Teachers dread seeing their students return to school in September and instead of moving forward, they have ‘un-learned’ an entire year’s work.
To help combat this, parents can engage children in targeted learning activities such as these:
Send the Kids Outside: Studies have proven that physical activity helps grow not only strong muscles but also strong brains. From old favorites like tag, leapfrog, and handball, to more organized games like basketball and baseball, outdoor activity stimulates both the mind and the body. So send your kids outside to play. They learn important team-building, cooperation, and other ‘soft’ people skills, and they don’t even realize it. They are just having fun!
Time For Cooking in the Kitchen: Have your child assist in planning and preparing a meal for the family. They learn to follow instructions, measure food portions and ingredients, and reading happens in the process. Quality parent-child time, and with your help, the result is delicious home-cooked food, too! Besides the skills involved when using a recipe from a cookbook or family favorite, you are proactively teaching children what you do to prepare meals each day. Don’t be surprised when you come home from a long hard day at work and dinner’s already on the table. Your child may turn out to be a future Julia Child, and a great help for you.
Scrapbooking: Have your child go through some old magazines, newspapers, or they can try sketching or drawing pictures that relate to different topics or themes, and collate them in such manners that they constitute a pictorial journal about their summer activities.
Play ‘School’: We have all played this game, and with friends or family, your child gets to take turns being the teacher. That is both fun and educational, and kids read, do math, practice science, or conduct simple experiments[with supervision, of course]. Encourage the ‘teacher’ to develop lesson plans and create simple assignments for the students as they decide who will be the teacher first. They choose subjects, topics, and an activity related to the topic. Also, engage children in discussions on current events, neighborhood news, and age-appropriate ‘global’ topics. Let them design mock or real projects for solutions to problems or needs in their community. Plan to help them consider the steps they would need to take for making it a reality. Include any organizational help needed, as well. Fun and civic minded!
Road Trips: ‘I Spy’ is another game that children can play in the car, on the bus, a subway train, or neighborhood walk. Spotting things seen along the way, spelling the words, as well alphabetizing each item. There are so many variations of this activity that are all about fun and learning.
Family Reading Time: Set aside a time each day, or at least two times each week, for family reading time. Try playing “Knock, Knock” when your younger children read. The child reads but knocks on the table when he or she comes across a difficult word for you to help with. Sometimes you find that your child remembers the word the next time it comes up in the story.
Everyday activities that we, as adults, take for granted can be transformed into learning and teachable moments for the children. Remember, ‘Mother May I’? Put a new twist on it! A little more mindfulness, creativity and less idle, unsupervised time online, becomes more person-to-person real ‘face time’, and keeps kids developing interpersonal and socialization skills for real life. Monitor all play activities to ensure safety and let the summer stride begin!