It is summertime and the last thing our kids want to think about is schoolwork. Most of our children deserve a rest or break from regular school assignments and projects.
Prevent the Summer Slide
However, taking a break from learning for the entire summer can cause children to lose up to 3 months' worth of reading and math skills from the previous year. This is the infamous "summer slide" that most teachers encounter when our children return to school in the fall. However, there are many creative ways in which parents can minimize or prevent the dreadful "summer slide" from happening. Some suggestions include:
- Go to your local library. The beauty of the library is that it's free. You take the children to the local library and encourage them to find books in areas for which they have a passion. Let them choose what they like to read or learn about and be prepared to catch even the most reluctant learner becoming excited about reading. And remember, the library also offers other things other than books. Libraries offer access to videos and music recordings. In addition, many local libraries offer educational presentations and engaging and entertaining presentations throughout the summer;
- Day Trips. Almost anywhere within a day travel of your home you can locate any number of national parks, state parks, nature preserves, wildlife rehab centers, art facilities, museums, and any number of locales of historical, artistic and social importance. Packing a lunch and taking a day trip is a great way for kids to discover new things about their world and their area of the country. Check out if there are any new exhibits in the local museums that your children may have been learning about in school or may have expressed an interest in;
- Play board games and puzzles. In the electronic age, it seems hard to believe that any of our kids would be interested in playing an old-fashioned board game. So make it fun. Break out the board games like Scrabble, Monopoly, and Pictionary. Make it a family game night and sit down and be prepared to enjoy a relaxing evening with popcorn, chatter and the kids;
- Create your own board games. Some of your children may want to choose a subject they love such as dogs, cooking, dinosaurs, soccer, sports, etc. And then challenge them to design a board game around their passion. Creating a board game involves researching their topic, creating the game board, figuring out the rules, and writing simple directions for others to follow. This is a hands-on activity that truly will put several areas of learning and skills into action during the summer. It's a great activity during a rainy day or a day in which everyone's sitting around claiming that they're bored. If they're bored, then have them create a board game;
- Grow some food. Having your kids grow a few plants during the summer (whether they're in a tilled plot of land, in some pots on the back patio, or some other fashion) is a great way for your children to learn about where food really comes from. Building a veggie patch, planting a fruit tree, or cultivating an herb garden on your back windowsill are all ways for your children to grow edible crops that everyone can enjoy;
- Most younger children enjoy cooking, even though their parents may not appreciate their help. But cooking provides the opportunity to learn about science and chemistry. Why do cakes rise? How do egg whites turn from a clear sticky substance into glossy white peaks? Cooking also provides great lessons on measurement and volume. Have your child divide a recipe by half. Have them use a variety of measuring devices. Making a pound cake can show children how different amounts of substances (butter, sugar, and flour) can look different but still weigh the same amount. The boundaries on which your children can learn through cooking is only limited by your imagination and your permitting them to remain involved in the process. So don't be shy. Have them jump in;
- Cards. Remember how you loved playing Go Fish when you were a youngster, Crazy 8's when you were older, and maybe Hearts as an adult. Card games are fun and relevant at any age. Reintroduce your children to the fun world of card games;
- Teach them to knit. Many adults now complain their children don't have ample opportunity to practice fine motor skills. Knitting, hand sewing and crocheting are fun skills for smaller children to learn, but will also exercise their fine motor skills and help build finger dexterity. If your children are too young to handle needles safely, then try finger knitting. Even the youngest child can learn to finger knit and learn to produce yarn chains that can be turned into friendship bracelets;
- Build a worm farm. While growing up, my daughters loved everything that wiggled, squiggled and was slimy. Consequently, building a worm farm was high on their list of requested projects. The internet is full of easy directions on how to build your own worm farm. Doing so, kids can learn about recycling and biodegrading. They may also enjoy watching their worms nibble food scraps which turn into compost. And who knows, they may learn that while caring for these somewhat offbeat pets that even the smallest creature can produce something that contributes to the ecosystem; and
- Tongue Twisters. Young children seem to delight in any form of tongue twisters. Whether you are asking them to repeat: "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers" or "she sells sea shells down by the seashore", young children will crack up and end up giggling with delight. Any number of tongue twisters are readily available at fun sites on the internet.
This list of summer activities to prevent brain drain over the summer is not all‑inclusive. Creative parents can probably think of many more projects that will entice their children to unwittingly use their brains and the knowledge that they've used during the past year. So parents, don't be afraid to do something different and don't be surprised about how many free or low-cost activities you can find in your community in which your children can enrich their knowledge and prevent brain drain.
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