Keeping Kids Learning While Having Fun This Summer
By Amy Williams
School’s out for summer! The kids are thrilled and looking forward to a lazy summer of swimming, watching tv, and playing with their friends. While a little down time is certainly appropriate and a break from the pressures of standardized testing is necessary, studies show it is imperative to keep the kiddos learning over the summer.
According to recent studies by the National Summer Learning Association, the average student can lose up to two months of reading achievement and 2 months of grade equivalency in math over the summer. Driving the point home, 66% of teachers report spending three to four weeks reteaching material at the beginning of the school year, while 24% indicate spending closer to six weeks. Obviously, it is imperative to maintain their learned skills over the course of the summer break.
So how can this be done without months of whining, complaining, and good old fashioned resistance? Kids need time to just be kids, so keep the summer learning fun, and they’ll never even realize they are still learning! Here are some inventive suggestions to integrate reading, writing, math, science, and social studies into fun summer activities.
Keep a Summer Journal
Encourage your children to keep a writing journal. For emerging writers, this could mean mostly pictures with only a few descriptive sentences, while more advanced writers can include narratives about places they have visited, creative stories about what they want to do in the future, letters to themselves, or responses to given prompts. The options are endless but will keep their writing skills strong and creative juices flowing.
Start a Neighborhood Kids’ Book Club
Help your child start a book club for their neighborhood friends. Let them pick the first book and help them create a list of questions to discuss. Have them design invitations and create a meeting calendar.
Plant a Garden
Take your kids to a local gardening store and talk to a specialist about the best way to start a garden. Let them ask questions about what kinds of seeds and plants grow best in your region and how to plant and care for them. Teach them about the different parts of the flowers and their functions. You can even include a gardening section in their writing journal and have them record their observations over the course of the summer.
Give Them a Summer Job
Whether it’s helping them run a lemonade stand, assisting with a garage sale, walking the neighbor’s dog, or gathering a friend’s mail while they are out of town, help your child find age-appropriate jobs over the summer. Teach them how to count and track their money, implement a savings program, and discuss spending on wants vs. needs.
Plan a Vacation
Allow your kids to be junior travel agents. When planning your family vacation, let them help research destinations. Have them locate their ideal spots on a map and investigate different activities to do at the various destinations. For older kids, you can even discuss the costs of driving versus flying, renting a house vs. staying at a hotel, and eating out vs. prepearing meals at your temporary residency. While traveling, point out and discuss differences in the weather, architecture, dialects, and other cultural differences from your home state or country.
Take Advantage of Local Resources
Use your community to provide learning opportunities. Does your city have any good local museums or historical sites? Check out any children’s programs they may offer. Visit parks and outdoor nature centers, or ask a local company for a tour of its facility. Look for farms offering pick-it-yourself opportunities (think berries, corn on the cob, etc.) or a dairy farm where ice cream is made. And don’t forget your local library. Most offer multiple summer reading programs and activities for all ages. With a little research, you may be surprised what’s available right in your own community.
Summer is meant to be a time of fun and relaxation. With a little planning and creativity, it can include some wonderful learning opportunities to help keep your kids’ learning skills sharp, as well. You can give your children some amazing summertime memories while providing a great foundation for the following school year.
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