Category Archives: Activities

Five Ways to Keep Your Child Learning This Summer

So, it’s summertime. If your children are anything like mine, they had it up to the tops of their brains with learning over the school year. But if you are anything like me, you want to make the most of your summer and help your child learn throughout the season. You want to see them excel, and that means helping them make the most of their time even on those long summer days. Of course, you’ll let your kids sleep in and have days off. You’ll enjoy seeing them sitting on the couch and reading for hours or pulling out a plethora of Legos and building something from the tile floor up. Because that’s all part of learning too.

But are there more ways you can keep your child learning this summer without making them think they’re having “school” time?

Here are 5 ways to keep your child learning this summer

1. Teach them a board game.

This will likely depend on your child’s age, but one good choice for children is. Who knows, your child may grow into the next grand master. If not, there are still numerous things they can learn through the game of chess. Some chess proponents suggest teaching your child the game even before they start school, as it teaches them a variety of skills. “Chess teaches children many fundamentals, like problem solving, focus, patience and follow through,” advocate Laura Sherman and Bill Kilpatrick. These writers also mention that studies show chess helps children improve in not only problem solving and patience but also actual scholastic skills. Test scores in math, reading, and science see an increase. Who knew?

Of course, you could choose board games other than chess. Games that help teach your child various educational skills include Boggle, Scrabble, and Scattergories – for English, or Battleship and Monopoly– for strategy.

2. Invite them into the kitchen.

Whether you have a boy or girl, kitchen skills are vital to learn. I’m thankful that someone(s) along the way taught my husband to cook, because he is more adept in the kitchen than I am. I usually make our day-to-day meals, but whenever we have guests over, he’s the one who will whip up a fabulous dish of Indian butter chicken or tandoori on the grill.

Getting your kids to help in the kitchen can teach them valuable lifelong skills. Not only will they be able to make themselves something other than Raman or French toast when they go away to university, but cooking in the kitchen can help them improve in math and more. For instance, if you double a cookie recipe, let your child do the math and figure out exactly how much flour you need if the original recipe calls for one-and-a-quarter cups. Or let him decide what to do if you want to cut the recipe in half and it calls for one egg? Do you put in half an egg? Such problem solving can help your child as they go through not just the kitchen, but life is well.

Of course, the fun part is at the end they have a great meal to share with the family or a batch of cookies to enjoy and perhaps give to a neighbor or an elderly friend.

3. Visit the library.

Libraries have books. Enough said.

But really, libraries have so much more. Often during the summer, a city library will provide activities that encourage learning. In the Fresno County, our library system offers a variety of summer activities, including a man who visits libraries with boxes and cages full of various of reptiles; he teaches children about reptiles and even lets them hold or pet some of them. There are also craft activities offered, many of which are divided between children and teens. So, there’s something for everyone.

Even if your library does not offer these types of summer activities, taking your child to the library provides them the chance to pick out books that cater to their interests. In my case, one of my children love middle-grade novels and will inhale half a dozen books in one day if given the chance. One of my children loves science and books about vehicles (and pretty much any book that includes pictures provides interesting information). Another of my children enjoys building things and loves books about how things work, including Legos and how cartoons are made. We always take a large, strong bag into the library with us because we rarely leave with fewer than twenty books.

4. Encourage their unique interests.

Does your child love to draw? Or music? Or writing? Perhaps during the school year, amidst homework and assignments and extracurricular activities, your child doesn’t get a chance to really do much that fuels their passion. So, let that fuel and passion run wild during the summer! If they like to draw, make sure they have access to art books and sketch pads and sharp pencils and colored pencils. Perhaps you can pick up some books from the library on how to draw or find a couple interesting how-to-draw videos online.

The same goes for the interest of writing. These days you can find books for children on those topics, or look up little educational how-to’s on YouTube. Maybe you can schedule an afternoon or two each week where you are make time for these unique skills. Your whole family can practice together, or it can be a one-on-one activity with you and the child who has that interest.

5. Let them help plan a trip.

This could be a day trip or an overnight camping excursion, or even a longer trip, but let your child be involved in every aspect of planning it. Let them make a list of the foods you need to take, and even join you in shopping for that trip. Let them brainstorm with you what practical things you need to pack, depending on the weather and what amenities are available where you’ll be going.

A camping trip in a tent, or a cabin in the woods is a great opportunity for your child to think about what is really needed to survive a few days “out in the wild.” How much food does your family need? What about activities to keep you busy? Don’t forget the sunscreen and hats if you’re going to be in a place where there’s a lot of sunshine. Preparing for a trip is great fun in itself, but having them help you prepare for every aspect of it also teaches them valuable life skills.


Closing Thoughts

The possibilities really are endless as far as ways you can help your child continue to learn even during the summer vacation. All you need is an attitude of loving to learn yourself, as well as loving to teach. You don’t need to have all the skills you are trying to encourage in your child. My son is far beyond me in art (as I’m still in the stick-figure-drawing stage), but that doesn’t mean I can’t encourage him to one day become an illustrator or graphic designer. Or wherever his passion may lead him.

Provide opportunities for your children to learn this summer, and you never know where it may lead them in the future.


Sources/Additional Reading:
Photo: “Cake Heaven” – Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Khan Academy – A Great Learning Resource!

If you’re like me, you’ve found that nearly the whole summer break has passed, and you pretty much forgot about any plans you made to help your kids keep up with the new skills they learned during their past school year. Between summer trips, camps, VBS, sleepovers, library trips, and finding a way to keep out of the heat, homework and study time was left far behind.

My husband mentioned to me a website that a friend of ours recommended, Khan Academy, especially for helping kids obtain or keep remedial math skills. I signed up through my Facebook, just to check it out … and was hugely impressed! First of all, it’s free. And I was able to create an account for each of my kids. They chose their user name, and chose a math “mission” for their respective grade level, which leads them through quizzes and questions that takes them through a well-rounded series of lessons. If there is anything they don’t understand, they can click on a short tutorial video to teach them that particular skill.

When they complete a certain number of minutes or lessons in math, I let them click on one of the other areas. (Computer animation is a favorite for all of them. It’s a series of videos, which show how math, geometry, and similar skills can be used in real life … and fun stuff like creating Pixar animation!)

At the end of the week, I received an email that told me what my kids had been up to on their missions at Khan Academy. At a glance, I could see how many minutes they had spent on the website, how many points they had gained, and how many minutes and questions for each area (such as “rational number word problems” or “multiply two-digit numbers”).

With just a few weeks before school begins, Khan Academy is a great way to help kids recall math skills they might have forgotten over the summer, and give them a head start in learning new concepts. And have fun all the while!

My 11-year-old daughter, Jessica commented, “It’s really fun. While doing homework, you can also build up your avatar and score more points. Plus math isn’t the only thing to do there. There are a bunch of other subjects. My favorite is computer art with Pixar.”

My nine-year-old son, Allen, said, “I like the math and I also like the avatar thing. And one of the things I especially like is the computer art and that I get to watch things on the website.”

Eleven Alternatives to “Pokemon Go” … Stimulate Your Child’s Summer

child taking a picture

Child taking a photo at a museum.

Maybe you have time limits to your kids’ screen time and all you hear is, “But Mom (or Dad), there’s nothing ELSE to do!”

Maybe you don’t want your seven-year-old running across space, dodging vehicles, and landing in a canal or reservoir on their mad dash for Pokémon Go characters.

Maybe you don’t allow video games in your household.

Maybe your conspiracy radar is going off like a beacon because if Pokémon Go has really been downloaded that many million times and created such an interest … there must be something funny going on and you don’t want your children to be a part of that.

Maybe you just want to do better with the whole parenting thing this summer and seeing your kids with their faces buried in smart phones or tablets doesn’t give you the warm fuzzies.

Here are eleven activities you can do with your children to escape summer blues … and avoid chasing Pikachus.

1. Make cards for friends and relatives … and send them snail mail.

How many relatives, especially elderly ones, can you think of who would love to receive a homemade card in their mailbox?

2. Read a Shakespeare play, or some of his sonnets, aloud and perfect your British accent.

Or Irish accent. Or Western or Southern. You can even memorize a sonnet together and have an accent competition.

3. Make a list of original photos for your child to take.

You could also have a family (or pet) photo shoot with your child as the photographer.

Or a photo scavenger hunt.

4. Write and illustrate a story together.

Let your child run free with imagination and help out in places where he or she gets stuck. You might be surprised with what even the youngest children can come up with.

5. Learn fruit cutting or flower arranging.

You will find plenty of YouTube tutorials to help you get started, and create some great treats or gifts for family or friends.

6. Make chocolate.

Anything goes: bacon chocolate, peanut butter chocolate, orange mint chocolate, cinnamon chocolate.

7. Have a bake sale.

Or a homemade chocolate sale … and raise funds for a favorite organization or ministry.

8. Create a time capsule.

Decide together on what date in the future you will open it.

9. Put together a summertime scrapbook or journal.

Add something to it every day.

10. Create a long-term “bucket list”.

You might or might not have heard of John Goddard. He made a life goal list at 15 years of age, and accomplished over 100 of them. Encourage your children to do the same (and if you don’t have a life goal list, make one yourself!)

11. Start a blog together on a theme you and your child enjoy. 

My 11-year-old daughter loves reading, as do I. This summer, we launched a book review blog, Jewel Rose Reviews, where we hope to publish a review once a week on a book we’ve both read. That way, readers get input from two perspectives: mother and daughter, and Jessica and I get to read, write, and take photos together. All fun stuff!


So there it is. Some ideas to keep you and your kids busy this summer, whether or not you’re playing Pokémon Go. And if you have any tried-and-proven family activities you would like to share with other readers, please leave a comment!

On the Farm “I Spy”

Can you spy 15 sheep among this equipment on the farm?

On the Farm I Spy

Art and concept by Aiden, 6 years old.

Please leave a comment if you’ve found all the sheep (or even if you didn’t). Aiden would be thrilled to hear from you.

The Rocking Chair Project

Rocking chair before fixing it up

Rocking chair before fixing it up

It wasn’t really my idea.

It was my mom’s idea.

Well, it was her chair, actually.

It had been sitting in her backyard for years, probably serving as a perch for some of her plants.

But she was moving it on, and asked if I wanted it before she placed it on freecycle.

Of course I did! I pictured sanding it down and letting my husband varnish it and do the finishing touches.

Then I had a second thought.

What about turning it into a summer project with my daughter?

I knew she’d be more than happy to help.

And she was.

She claimed the seating area as hers to work on.

Sanding in the sun

Sanding in the sun

I showed her how to sand it down as we spent a couple sessions sanding.

Then I showed her that steel wool is similar to sandpaper, in that you still have to follow the grain of the wood as you smooth it down.

The wood burning was my mom’s idea too, and, as Jessica couldn’t help with that part, she had a blast taking pictures of me as I worked on it.

Her favorite part was “painting” the chair with shellac.

After it dried, we smoothed it down one last time with steel wool and brushed it with a second coat.

We presented it to my husband upon his return and she cheerfully informed her dad that she had done part of it “all by herself.”

Painting the rocking chair

Painting the rocking chair

I knew that letting her help with it had been the right decision.

I asked her, a few days later, if she learned anything interesting from the project. “Make sure you know which way the wind is blowing before you start to sand.”

Hey, you never know when information like that might come in handy.

The finished product on our balcony

The finished product on our balcony

Choose Togetherness

Choose Togetherness

Lasting Impressions

Lasting Impressions

Point to the Stars

point to the stars

Singing, a Joy of Christmas

Singing, a Joy of Christmas

The Joy of Giving

The Joy of Giving