Learning through exploration and play has long been recognized as one of the best ways to teach children to ensure the skill becomes part of their long-term memory. Summer can be a great time to show your children the relationship between what they learn in school and what they term as real life. Teachers would be truly appreciative as one of the most frequently asked questions in classes of all kinds is How/When am I ever going to use this in the real world. The fun activities listed below are designed to hone the educational skills of kids as well as be great fun for families.
- Math: Pool Games–Have young children swim laps and time how long it takes. If age appropriate, divide the time by the number of laps to obtain an average time per lap. If the pool has a diving board, score the dives of the older children on a scale of 1 to 5. Encourage them to use scores such as 3.8, 4.7, 2.5, etc. Once every diver has completed five dives, have them add up each other’s scores. Finally, have them divide the total score for each diver by 5 to gain an average score per dive. The upcoming summer Olympics along with the natural competiveness of children will make this very appealing to your children.
- Reading: Comic Books, Magazines, Newspapers–Some parents feel reading skills can only be improved if children read books on or above their level. Whether it be a comic book, magazine, newspaper, or books on their level, the important thing is that children are reading. The summer is a great time for children to read those things they really wanted to read during the school year but did not have enough time. This reading should be for pleasure and on topics which interest the child. Model reading or read with your children to show how much fun reading can be. Further, it’s another opportunity for you to spend time with your child.
- Science: Nature Exploration–Go hiking on a trail in the woods. Have your children make lists of things they find along the way. Make it a competition and they will likely really get into observing nature. Allow time for them to investigate what they find unless it is something which could harm them. The lists could include items such as birds’ nests, ant hills, moss on trees, animal tracks, and different types of animals seen. Snap pictures along the way. These may become useful the next school year. In this area, the Great Dismal Swamp offers a plethora of sights for everyone.
- Social Studies: Explore Local History–Help your children learn about your city, town, county. Did American Indians live in your neighborhood at one time as the Nansemond Indians did in Suffolk? Did the Union Army spend part of the Civil War in your area? Who founded your locality?
- Art: The Sky Is the Limit–Help your children make a scrapbook of the family’s summer activities. Have them draw pictures of things they observed on their nature hike. Help them make a collage from brochures about your locality. Design a shirt. Invent something with scraps of yarn, bottle tops, plastic bottles, buttons, etc.
- Writing: Journals–Teach your children how to keep a diary or journal. Let them know from the beginning how little or how much they write each day is up to them.
- Music: Outdoor Concert Series–Many localities have an outdoor concert series during the summer. These concerts normally offer a wide range of music which can help your children develop an appreciation for a wide range of music.
- Physical Education: Get Off the Couch–Do not let your children vegetate in front of televisions or gaming stations this summer. Have a scavenger hunt. Teach them how to skim rocks across a pond. Have them run relay races or invent silly jumps (when the heat index is not in the dangerous range).Play Frisbee or go bike riding with them. Play hide-and-seek.Take walks around the house, block, neighborhood. Your family will have fun together and everyone will become healthier.
The catch to these educational suggestions is to not let your children know skill-building is your main objective as that often will ruin what could have been a fun experience. Most of these activities appeal to the natural curiosity and competitive nature of children. Remember, when kids learn or practice skills through exploration and play, those skills become embedded in their long-term memory.