Ahh, summertime! Goodbye routines and hello carefree days! While every mom wants her kids to have a fun and relaxing summer break, no one wants her children to stop learning--or worse, to lose ground on what was previously learned. But, the fact is that, without some educational activities during summer break, most children lose about 2 months worth of school year learning! How can you avoid the "summer learning slump"? Read on for 8 tips to help your children continue to learn over the summer --and have fun doing it!
1. Read, Read, Read
While this is probably the most obvious way to keep your kids learning, it might not be the most fun for them. But, here are a few simple ways you can make reading fun again.
- Go to the library as a family and pick out a book that will interest everyone. Then, each day (or every other day if that works better) set aside family time and read the book together. If your kids are old enough, take turns reading aloud to each other. If not, read to them.
- Implement family reading time. If your kids are old enough to read on their own, and the family book idea isn't working out, just set aside time for everyone to sit together and read his or her own material. Letting your kids see you read is important. It shows them that reading is something you care about and isn't just a chore.
- Read magazines and the newspaper. Many magazine have kids versions--like Sports Illustrated and NatGeo Kids, that provide great opportunities for kids to read about things that interest them. The articles are short and you can sneak a few in before bedtime. Also, take the time to look through the local newspaper with your kids. It's fun for children to learn all about what's happening in places they're familiar with.
- Talk about what you read. The single best way to know if your kids are comprehending what they're reading or what you're reading to them is to talk about what you read. Ask open ended questions to get them talking. Start by asking what their favorite part of that chapter/article/book was. Or, ask what they think will happen next.
- Read a book and then see the movie. If you're having trouble choosing a family book, consider picking one that's been made into a movie. Then, after you've read the book, you can talk about the similarities and differences together.
2. Grocery Shop Together
Once the kids are out of school, you probably find yourself dragging them to the grocery store so you can get your shopping done. Well, take that trip to the grocery store and turn it into a learning experience! First, set a budget. (Be sure to discuss what a budget is and why you need one!). Then make a list of what you need. Find the store circular and look at what's on sale and revise the list if necessary. You can also cut coupons from the local paper. Then, estimate how much you think you'll spend. Once you're at the store, arm your kids with a calculator and let them add up the items as you shop. When it comes time to pay, if you've gone over your budget, your kids can help make decisions about what to keep and what to put back.
From finding a recipe, to making sure you have all the ingredients (and enough of them), to the actual preparation, cooking offers so many learning opportunities! First, cooking is a great way to sneak some math into your day to day life. Allow your kids to do all the measuring themselves. Take a moment to look at the measuring cups and spoons and talk about what's bigger 1/4 or 1/3 of a cup. Or, compare a teaspoon and a tablespoon. You get the idea!
And, when it comes to cooking, it's important to follow directions of the recipe, or you risk ruining the entire thing. If you have the time, try making 2 batches of the same thing. With one batch, follow the directions fully and measure precisely. With the second, haphazardly throw the ingredients together. Then, do a taste test and compare the results. Does one taste better than the other? If so, why?
4. Make Something (Arts & Crafts)
Kids love to create, so set them up with art supplies and let them experiment. For younger kids, let them mix paint colors together to see what happens. For any age, if it's a warm day, set them up with a huge piece of paper and let them paint outside, using their hands and feet as paint brushes.
Or, take a trip to your local craft store and try something new together. Learning something new will keep everyone's minds sharp and will give kids a chance to flex their mental muscles--especially if you're learning together. They might catch on more quickly than you do, which is a great time to let them take the lead and teach you something! From knitting and crocheting to scrap booking and leather crafts, there's sure to be something that interests everyone. Many local craft stores also offer free classes to learn how to do specific crafts, so take advantage of that resource together!
5. Spend Time Outside
Keep busy with physical activities that also encourage learning.
- Taking swimming lessons definitely qualifies as learning something new (see #4) and your kids will have fun doing it!
- Simply playing games in the pool is a good idea too. Encourage your kids to play "Crocodile Crossing". For this game, all players but one huddle together. Each picks a type of fish (gold fish, salmon: younger kids may want to pick colors instead), then lines up along a wall of the pool. The remaining player, the crocodile, stands out of the pool with her back to the others and begins to call out fish in quick succession. When players hear their fish called, they begin to swim - as quietly as possible - to the other side. If the crocodile hears someone moving (no peeking!), she tries to catch him before he reaches the safety of the other side of the pool. If he’s caught, he becomes the next crocodile. For the next round change up the category to something that makes kids think: odd numbers from 1-10, synonyms for the word fast, etc.
- Organize a scavenger hunt in the backyard. If it's raining, move that scavenger hunt to a museum or even to a local mall (just switch up the things your kids have to find).
- Go on outdoor adventures together! Visit local parks and nature preserves or wildlife centers and go bird watching or on a plant identification walk. If you live near mountains go on a hike together.
Reading and writing go hand in hand, so be sure to keep your kids writing over the summer, too. There are many natural opportunities to have your kids write.
- Have your child write a letter to a friend and then mail it to them. Hopefully their friend will write back and they can keep up the pen pal relationship all summer long. If your child can't write yet, have them dictate the letter to you. Once you've transcribed it for them, have them draw pictures to go along with the words.
- Keep a family journal and take turns writing in it at least once a week. The journal can serve as your family's record of fun things you did over the summer. (Remember, fun doesn't have to mean big, over the top things! Take pleasure in the simple things like staying up past bed time to catch fireflies or making s'mores.)
- Start a family blog and use that as the family journal! There are plenty of easy to use, free blogging platforms out there. So choose one and learn how to blog together.
- Do some creative writing. Have your child write a poem or a short story and illustrate it!
- Make lists! Whether it's a to-do list or a checklist of things you don't want to forget to pack for vacation, enlist the help of your children.
7. Plan a road trip
Even if you can't go far, plan a road trip with your kids to somewhere you've never been. Maybe it's a new park a few towns away or an special ice cream store you've been wanting to try. Spend time looking at maps with your kids, and look at all the different ways you can get there. If your kids are older, you can also talk about distance and how long it will take to get there. And, if you're going on a long road trip, you can have the kids calculate the cost of gas and tolls along the way.
8. Learn about where you're going on vacation
If you have a family vacation planned, take the opportunity to learn about your destination. Even if you've been there before, there's probably plenty you don't know. If you're going somewhere brand new, that opens up the learning opportunities even further. Gather books on the new place and read about the history of your destination and what fun things there are to do. If you're traveling overseas, the possibilities are endless! From different currency and climates to different government structure and cultural customs, there are many avenues for learning in a fun way.