Fun Ways to Keep Kids Learning Through the Summer
Ah, summer. That quintessential season of freedom to so many kids. No school, no homework, no studying. That doesn't mean the learning has to stop from June to September, though! This list of fun things you can do with your kids this summer not only promotes learning in ways that don't feel like learning, but they give you an opportunity to make some summer memories at the same time.
Maybe you've heard of "learning loss" or "the summer slide". It's the idea that there's a degree of academic regression during the summer break, because kids aren't using their brains in the same way in the summer as they would in the school year. There were some studies done on it years ago, and today the theory gets a sort of mixed reaction, with some arguing that it's completely outdated and overweighted. Whether the concept is 100% true or not, there's nothing wrong at all with keeping a little learning going through the summer!
When I say "keep kids learning" and "brains active", I'm not saying summer should just be extended school, with no real breaks. I'm not suggesting any assignments or homework or tests or drilling flash cards or memorizing vocabulary or anything like that. I'm talking about fun! Fun things you can do with your kids this summer that will teach them various, everyday life things in ways that they don't even feel like they're learning. They'll just be having fun!
Cook Up Something Together
It's no secret that cooking teaches basic math in a fun, hands-on way. You've got weighing and measuring, doubling and reducing quantities, converting to and from metric. Ounces vs. pounds, teaspoons vs. tablespoons vs. cups. Telling time, monitoring timers. You can also help them learn how to read recipes, follow instructions in specific steps, write grocery lists, and make a grocery budget.
Aside from all of that, you'll be making memories and introducing them to home cooking, which is a handy skill to have when they get older. Who knows - maybe it'll even spark a passion that they'll pursue as a hobby or career into the future!
Maybe make cooking together a dedicated, regular activity, instead of just doing it once. Every week or two, set aside specific time to cook a recipe with your kiddos. Let them have a say in choosing that week's recipe, if they're old enough. You could even let them help determine which ingredients you'll need and how much those ingredients might cost, then go to the store together to pick them up.
Fun Science Experiments
Cooking is also a good way to teach science, especially if you're baking. The way different ingredients react to each other, the importance of adding certain ingredients in a certain order, the attention needed to achieve the right consistency, how different temperatures affect the results... there's so much everyday science involved!
If you want to get out of the kitchen, there are a ton of science experiments for all ages on the internet. You can even buy science experiment kits if you'd like help getting started! Your kids might like to grow crystals and gems in various substances, use an endothermic reaction to blow up a balloon, or experiment with buoyancy.
This list of easy science experiments from WeAreTeachers is a great resource for 55 experiments you can do at home using items you probably already have around the house!
Games That Teach Strategy
Board games are so great for teaching strategy and following rules. Some are simple fun, and others, like chess, are more complex. Several require some level of logic and reasoning and critical thinking - all valuable life skills! Chess isn't for everyone, though, so don't feel bad if you or your kiddos just can't get into it.
Puzzles are another good option - analyzing the pieces, discerning which fit together and how they fit into the larger picture. There's also the added satisfaction of creating the overall art in the end!
Depending on the school and the age of your child, they might have assigned summer reading hanging over their (and your) heads. That's great, but they might not be particularly thrilled about being made to read those specific books, which makes the whole thing a struggle.
Get them other (additional) books to read for fun! Comic books, graphic novels, mysteries, choose-your-own-adventure books, science fiction, biographies about someone they find interesting, fairy tales, fantasy, whatever they like! Putting the right books in their hands can make a big difference. If they're old enough to choose their own books, let them.
Whether they read on their own if they're older or you read aloud to them if they're younger, reading books is so important. Reading improves comprehension and cognitive skills, teaches language and vocabulary, and stimulates imagination and creativity.
The public library is a great, affordable resource for all types of books. You can usually check out eReader versions of some books, too, if tablets are easier for you and your child.
Reading about history is wonderful and I fully endorse it. There's something about seeing aspects of history up close, though, that's just incomparable. Seeing tangible artifacts makes the past so much more real and puts it into a different perspective. Don't just rush through an exhibit, though. It's important to have genuine discussions about what you're seeing - the paintings, the photographs, the sculptures, the jewelry, the clothing, the history.
If museums near you aren't open yet, or you don't have any museums convenient to you, look for online exhibits and museum tours that fit your child's age and interests. So many have been started because of the pandemic, and they're great ways to experience these wonders from home at your convenience.
Let Them Do Things They Love
Traditional school time involves a lot of having-to-do-things-kids-don't-want-to-do. Books they aren't excited about reading, math homework they might not enjoy doing, methods and approaches that just don't resonate with them.
In the summer, though, their time can be better tailored to them and their personal interests. There are studies and data that indicate interest is a big driver in academic performance and success. They'll be much more likely to do and retain if they're learning about things and in ways that excite them. Personalize their activities to subjects they care about and show them learning doesn't have to be a chore.
Unstructured Play Time
Most importantly, don't worry about how much they're learning or not learning or retaining or not retaining over the summer. Don't worry about plotting out every day to maximize their education. Let them play! Let imaginations run wild and let kids do something they enjoy while they have that luxury. Learning happens all the time, even if it's not scheduled or structured.
Don't put undue pressure on them - or on yourself - to be super productive. It's summer vacation. Focus on quality, not quantity, and have some fun.