Soon the school bell will ring to dismiss students for summer vacation. Excited students look forward to time at home free from homework and class projects. However, the beginning of summer need not mean that your child’s learning go on vacation as well.
It is easy in this day of high-stakes testing to forget how much children learn from everyday activities. Whether at home, in the grocery store, or in a museum, there are many opportunities for your child to continue learning. The following are suggestions to keep your child’s brain and imagination engaged. Your child can learn and have fun at the same time.
Love Your Public Library
The public library can be your child’s best friend in the summer months. Most libraries have story time available for younger children. Even if you are unable to participate in the story time sessions, schedule a weekly or bi-weekly trip to the library. You’ll need to allow a block of time to allow your child to browse through the collection until she finds books that look appealing. Most libraries allow patrons to check out a large number of books on each card. At first it may take your child some time to find books that she is interested in reading. Ask the children’s librarian for suggestions. This person knows what children of all ages are reading and enjoying and can help steer your child in the right direction.
Most libraries also contain a large selection of dvds and music to choose from. There are excellent programs that will teach and entertain your child when you wish for them to be occupied by the television but want to have some control over the content they are viewing.
Improving Communication Skills:
Of course, old-fashioned reading is the best option for your child to continue developing their skills. Ask your child to tell you about the characters, share the plot sequence, and give you the main idea of the story in a few sentences. All of these are skills that are worked on in reading class during the school year and can be practiced and reinforced without worksheets and paper and pencil assessments.
Writing letters to friends and relatives will help your child develop communication skills and improve her handwriting. For the price of stationary and stamps, your child can enjoy receiving letters and communicating with friends they don’t see in the summer and relatives who live far away. Even in this age of digital communication, actually writing a letter allows your child the opportunity to practice their handwriting skills. Ask grandparents to send a letter so that your child can enjoy the thrill of getting mail. They may think it’s old fashioned at first, but perhaps getting mail of their own will change their opinion.
Kids can be encouraged to use the computer to improve their writing and communication skills as well. Emailing a friend or relative forces children to get their thoughts down in a cohesive manner which will make sense to the reader. Likewise, getting email in return allows children to see how important it is to state ideas clearly and concisely. Practice truly does make a difference but it’s necessary to practice good writing skills if you want to see an improvement in them. Merely using texting abbreviations won’t translate into increased skills in the classroom.
Math and Reading Skills:
Menu planning and grocery shopping offer opportunities to develop reading and math skills. Children of all ages can learn about budgeting, food shopping, and meal preparation. Children will improve their skills with fractions by doubling recipes when cooking. In the grocery store, let children help you select items from the list. Children can compare prices and use a calculator to figure out unit prices and best values. Kids can also help you determine whether using a coupon on a national brand is a better buy than a store brand for the same volume. You might consider giving your child the money if she finds you a better bargain!
Don’t Forget Physical Activity:
Playtime is also a fun way to continue a child’s learning. Board games and card games teach reasoning skills, reading, math, logic, sportsmanship, and manners. Children can draw maps of their house, yard, and neighborhood. These activities develop spatial skills, measurement abilities, and develop directional skills.
Many games that kids play outdoors develop physical coordination. Shooting hoops in the driveway, jumping rope (what a concept!), riding bicycles, and playing in the water sprinklers give children a chance to develop their muscles and burn off energy. A side benefit is that they will sleep better at night when they have had ample opportunity for physical activity during the day.
Finally, there are probably historical sites close to home that offer lessons in history. If you live close to a larger city, you may have access to museums and exhibits that change periodically. If you live in a rural area, contact your state historical society for a list of sites in your area. You may be surprised at the number of historical sites around your town and on highways close by.
Learning does not have to end with the school year. These activities will allow your child to learn and develop intellectually and physically while she just thinks she’s having fun!
How You Can Help:
Here are some specific questions to ask your child about what they’re reading:
- Who are the characters? What do they look like? How old are they? How do they dress? What do they like? What are they afraid of? Who is the best character in the story and why do you think so? What do you most admire about the hero/heroine? Who is the bad buy? Does the ‘bad guy’ have any redeeming qualities? What do you think makes the ‘bad guy’ the way he/she is? Do you identify with any of the characteristics of any of the people in the book?
- Where does the story take place? Describe where the story occurs? Does it occur all in one place or in several places? How are the different locations alike and how are they different?
- When does the story happen? What is one way in which this time period is different from today? How might the story be different if it took place in another time period? Would a change in the time period make the story better or worse? Why do you think so?
- Did you like the ending of the story? How might the story have ended differently? What did you like most and least about the story?