Make Learning Opportunities Out of Everyday Adventures
by Patti Clark
School may be out for the summer, but learning opportunities shouldn’t stop with the final ring of the school bell. While summertime is a great time for kids to relax and simply enjoy being a kid, it’s also important that children engage in exciting learning activities that feel as fun as playtime.
According to the National Summer Learning Association, kids can lose about two months of learning in core subjects like math and reading over the summer, putting them at a disadvantage when they start the next school year. Fortunately, what’s known as the “summer slide” is easily preventable. Parents and caretakers can incorporate learning activities that keep kids entertained, while also keeping them sharp and ready for the next school year!
Create a Special Summer Reading Fort
Summer reading builds a richer vocabulary and keeps brains engaged. To encourage daily reading time, make it an adventure and get involved in the process. Set up an outdoor or indoor area that’s designated as “The Reading Fort.” Then set aside time to talk with your child about what they are reading. Ask questions such as, “What was your favorite part?” and “Who are the characters and what are they like?” Also, visit the library and help your child find books that are of high interest and written at an appropriate reading level. To do this, use the five-finger test: Ask your child to read a page with several words as you hold up a finger for each unknown word. If you reach five fingers, the book may be at a higher level than your child is ready for, which may cause frustration and prevent independent reading. However, if this book is still one your child is set on, check it out and read it together.
Build Math Skills in the Garden and Kitchen
Encourage your little explorers to learn how to help plan, plant and harvest a vegetable garden—all while boosting math and science skills! Start by selecting a small site for your garden, or pick up a few large containers. Work together with your child to choose which types of seeds to grow and research how they should be cared for. Plan the garden together, using a ruler to draw a blueprint showing where each crop will be planted. To help with planning and drawing, show your child how to read the seed packets to find the recommended spacing between plants. Follow the blueprint to plant the seeds, and then, as each plant grows, have your child take daily measurements and record each plant height on a simple graph. After harvesting your vegetables, plan a meal incorporating these ingredients and make your child your sous-chef! While cooking, ask your child to be responsible for measuring the ingredients. This is a great way for children to explore fractions, practice measurement, boost reading and writing skills, get used to following written instructions and learn healthy eating habits.
Go on a Word Treasure Hunt
Get your kids outside and engage them in a fun game of treasure hunt that will boost word recognition and reading skills. Feel free to dress up as pirates or explorers with props and costumes. To get started, simply use paper or index cards to write down words associated with your kids’ favorite TV shows, books or movies. If they absolutely love Star Wars, write down battle, Jedi, force, lightsaber and so on. Make a list of the chosen words and hide the cards around your yard or at a local park. Then call out the words and let the scavenger hunt begin! If you have more than one player, see who can find the words first. Play the game with as many themes and movies as you want—hiding the cards somewhere new each time.
Spark Creativity by Scrapbooking Summer Activities
Research shows that engaging in the arts helps develop cognitive and social-emotional skills. Tap into your kids’ creativity with a summer scrapbook project to document summertime favorite pastimes, including ice cream truck visits, vacations, trips to the pool and more. Each week, choose a different event or activity to focus on. Take a picture and place it on the page of a scrapbook, or create your own scrapbook by binding construction paper together. Then provide children with markers, crayons, stickers and collage materials to decorate each page. Have children add a caption to each photo, or have them dictate the caption to you. Kids will love looking back at their completed scrapbook for years to come—especially if this becomes an annual summer tradition!
Patti Clark is Vice President of Product Development at Lakeshore Learning Materials, one of the country’s premier producers of children’s educational products. A former elementary educator, Patti leads Lakeshore’s efforts to create quality, standards-based materials for early childhood programs, elementary classrooms and homes nationwide.