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.
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.