The end of the school year and start of summer is a time that provides parents and students with opportunities to begin new routines, to explore new activities, and to continue learning outside the classroom and away from screens. Independent free play is an important aspect of childhood, and the summertime is a perfect time for it. Plus, incorporating educational activities is simpler than you think.
Success starts by asking these questions:
- What motivates my children?
- What activities do they enjoy?
- What are their strengths?
- Which new skills do they want to develop?
Your answers are the foundation for how to develop engaging activities, and the following tips are the building blocks for a memorable summer filled with learning and fun.
- Communicate. For early learners, the simple tasks of talking and listening are opportunities to learn. Using language to describe your daily tasks and your observations as you move through the day helps young children make sense of the world around them. For older children, hearing rich language helps build new vocabulary and expand their knowledge. Sing songs. Ask questions. Tell stories. Have your children do this right along with you.
- Turn learning into a game. If there is a skill that your child needs to work on, ditch the workbook and play a game. Take sight word cards and play a game of “Go Fish.” Have kids keep score when you play miniature golf. Need to practice math facts? Get a deck of cards, flip two of them over and multiply them together. Keep it simple and fun!
- Get moving. It is always helpful to connect movement to learning. Write letters on your driveway in sidewalk chalk. Ask your children to run, jump, or hop to various letters. Predict how many steps it will take to walk the sidewalk in front of your house. Try it out to see if your prediction is correct. Do your children need to practice spelling? Give them words to spell and throw a ball back and forth to each other when you say each letter in the word.
- Get outside. A change of scenery is good for everyone and makes common activities feel new. If you usually read books on the couch, grab a blanket and take books outside. Go for a nature scavenger hunt at your local park and make a chart or graph of how many different categories of things you see. Make a list of local parks that you would like to visit over the summer and keep notes about each one. At the end of the summer, have your children write a recommendation about their favorite park.
- Get messy. Summer warmth and outdoor spaces allow kids to get messy with their learning. Practice forming letters in shaving cream. Use a paint brush and a bucket of water to “paint” your name on the backyard fence. Roll out paper in the backyard and give your child paint. Allow them to experiment with shapes and colors.
- Make connections. Help your children become pen pals. They could write to a grandparent, distant friend or local neighbor. If you are traveling this summer, have your children write a postcard including a special memory. They could send it to themselves at home and track how long it takes for the postcard to arrive. Give opportunities to tell jokes. Nothing helps kids make connections better than silliness.
- Explore. Help your children be observers of their surroundings. Ask them to look at things in the world with a critical eye. Have them describe the shapes they view as you are out on a walk. What connections can they find between the words you see as you’re driving and those you read in your books? Walk around a local historic area and discuss how life was different for people of the past.
- Utilize your local resources. Take a trip to any library in the county where various resources and activities are available for all ages. Visit your local bookstore. And if you need to, reach out to educational professionals in your area to help provide additional academic supports.