After finding a list of ‘Ways to Keep Your Kids Learning This Summer’ by Cristiana Ventura, I was inspired to rewrite her list with my own suggestions and additions. Here are some ideas to keep your kids’ minds and bodies active this summer:
1. Make a library list
Make a trip to the library more intentional by having your child make a list of the topics they want to learn about during the summer. Maybe they’re interested in dinosaurs, or plants, or space. Many kids are naturally curious about the world, and this curiosity can be a great motivator to keep them engaged and learning. When they ask questions you don’t know the answer to, write the question down so you can find books about it later. For older kids it can be helpful to have them identify the types of books they enjoy (nonfiction, fantasy, biography, sci-fi, etc). For insecure or reluctant readers, knowing what they’re looking for might also make a library visit a little less overwhelming.
Tip: Many libraries now have websites that allow you to search their collections. Use this opportunity to teach your children some basic computer research skills by picking out books online before you visit. While most kids nowadays are comfortable using the internet, a surprising amount still don’t understand how to effectively choose keywords and quickly evaluate whether a search result looks relevant, or have the patience to look through multiple pages of results. As a result, many high school and college students waste time sifting through useless search results or give up when not immediately presented with an exact answer to their search. Teaching computer literacy through perseverance and critical thinking skills will prove beneficial as your kids get older and are expected to do independent research.
2. Utilize travel time
If you’re visiting family or going on vacation, time spent sitting in the car or waiting for a flight can be put to use. In addition to keeping books on hand, you can play car games that encourage kids to keep their brains active (see a fun list here). Or make up your own- challenge your kids to count types of suitcases, license plates or chain stores as you go.
Tip: If your kids are old enough and you’re stuck in one location, try an active game. When my brothers and I were young, my dad would take us to work with him during the summer and challenge us to find all the staircases and count the number of stairs in the building. This scavenger-hunt-slash-counting-game kept us occupied and moving, gave my dad time to get work done, and was a healthier alternative to putting us in front of a screen. If your kids are well-behaved, you can try this in hotels or other locations.
3. Model leisure reading
Many kids out there associate reading with school and textbooks, and therefore see it as a chore. Modeling leisure reading habits is one way to encourage your child to engage more with books. Bring a book wherever you go. Talk about the book you are currently reading, what made you want to read it, and why you enjoy it. Let them see you reading in your downtime, and they will be prompted to do the same. You can also ask for a tour at your local library and have the librarians explain what different types of books are available.
4. Bake together
For younger kids working on reading and math, baking is a fun way to sneak in some learning. Have them pick out a recipe and read the ingredients and instructions. Work on their motor skills by having them write out a shopping list, and ask them to total up the bill at the store before you check out. This is also a great opportunity for some science learning. Before you start, you can introduce them to standard measurements, volume, and wet vs. dry ingredients. Teach them about nutrition and chemistry by going over how the body metabolizes different substances (fats, sugars, protein) and talking about why oil mixes with soap but not water.
Tip: Another way to integrate reading into everyday activities is to turn on subtitles when you watch movies. The combined auditory-visual experience can help kids learn letter sounds, sentence structure and new words.
5. Cite your sources
When you explain something or make a point, show or explain to your kids where you learned it. Rather than answering questions with ‘I don’t know’ or making something up, find an article or a book for them (or you) to learn more. If someone is generalizing or making unfounded assertions, challenge them to cite their sources. This will not only model reading for your kids, but will also help them develop critical thinking skills.
Tip: When searching for information, explain to your kids how you determine which websites or news outlets are trustworthy. For older kids, talk about how to evaluate if an article is clickbait or satire, whether the tone is biased, and if all sides of the story are presented. This can easily evolve into a discussion about how to develop a strong argument, find compelling evidence, and present a convincing case- all skills which will come in handy as they progress to college and beyond.
6. Visual Motivation
Kids who aren’t confident about reading or don’t naturally enjoy it might appreciate a way to track their progress. A chart showing the books they’ve read and how many pages they complete per day can help them take pride in their reading and set goals for the future.
7. Write together
Help your child compose and mail a letter to a friend or family member. If they’re old enough, have them write or type it themselves. Talk about how the postal system works. If your recipient lives in another state or country (or even just a different town), take out a map and show your child where the letter will be traveling, and use it as way to introduce them to geography. Even history can be relevant here- you can talk about how and why those countries, states, or towns were founded.
Tip: Introducing your kids to journaling is another way to work on their writing skills while developing their emotional intelligence. Encourage them to write down what happens, how they feel about it, and why. Teaching introspection and healthy coping mechanisms (writing) will help them become more articulate and socially adept.
I hope these suggestions can make this summer a time of positive growth for you and your child!