By Patricia Dimick
Whether it’s summer vacation or a rainy day at home, there’s always an opportunity for parents to help their children learn. From trying out new hobbies to learning personal responsibility and practicing academic skills that they’ve already learned, your kids can keep their minds sharp all year long.
Even some everyday activities and practical tasks can help strengthen and maintain your child’s academic and communication skills. Encourage your children to love learning with these five simple, yet effective, ideas.
Teachers: share these with parents to help them get more involved with their kids’ learning at home, or use them to engage your own children in learning.
Learning: A love of reading
Reading is one of the least-practiced skills during summer vacation. Most kids choose activities that are more “fun,” like video games or playing outside. Here are a few ways to make reading more appealing to children before they go back into the classroom:
Inquire at your local library about summer reading clubs. These offer more motivation for your child to read, such as a raffle for a prize or coupons to local restaurants. Many stores have clubs as well, with prizes such as free books. Let your kids read what they want over the summer, allowing them to choose from comic books, choose your own adventure novels and sci-fi books, all of which may keep their attention longer.
If your library doesn’t have a club, start your own family reading club. Talk about the characters and ideas in the book as you all read along. If there’s a movie version, watch it after reading the book and talk about the differences.
Finally, bring the book to life by having your child draw or paint their favorite scene or graphically organize the plot, which will encourage strategic thinking.
Learning: Self-discipline and problem solving
Going outside as a family can be both fun and educational. Playing outside benefits your child in many ways and can actually make your child smarter, whether you’re looking for geocaches or hiking on a local trail.
This unstructured time helps your child solve problems, build self-discipline and focus on what they’re seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and perhaps even tasting. Kids can use their imaginations and interact with their surroundings, such as building a fairy house out of natural items found in the backyard. Children also learn skills such as cooperation and self-confidence as they explore and play games with you or their friends.
While you’re spending time outdoors, you can start a family garden as well. Grow plants and vegetables from seeds and have your kids track the progress in a journal. Have them take photos of the different stages of the growing seedlings. Teach your kids about how plants grow and what they need to survive and make sure they develop a habit of watering and caring for the plants on a regular basis.
Smart Screen Time
Learning: Various topics
While screen time should be limited, electronic devices can be used to maintain and enhance your child’s academic skills. The visual and auditory features of educational software engage all types of learners and make learning fun and easy.
Look for apps and websites that are appropriate for your child’s age and development stage. There is a growing number of educational video games that you could try as well, but make sure to check the ratings first.
Arts and Crafts
Learning: Reading instructions and recycling old materials
Art and DIY projects allow your kids to express themselves while practicing fine motor skills as well as preschool skills such as counting and making shapes. Older kids also benefit by seeing how colors mix; they can also practice reading instructions. When your child works with their hands, they may be able to relax and build a better level of concentration.
Look around your house for fun project materials, such as paper towel and toilet paper rolls, pipe cleaners, washable paint, glue, construction paper, crayons and tissue paper. Start by making simple crafts such as finger puppets and move your way to more complex ones like bird feeders.
Musical instruments made out of household items, paper flowers, various decorations and cat toys are just some of the many different crafts you can try to make with your kids.
Learning: Organization and counting
Household chores present an important way for kids to learn. They help your little ones build responsibility, work ethic, and time management skills. Help young kids count as they clean up or make it a competition to see who can pick up the most toys in 60 seconds. Older kids can organize the pantry or your office bookshelves, which will help them learn organizational skills.
Better yet, have your kids help you make your own cleaners out of common ingredients such as lemon juice or vinegar, and baking soda. They’ll be astonished by the chemical reactions.
Later, they can help you can clean the kitchen or the bathroom with your DIY cleaner. Use this time to teach your kids about bacteria and the importance of regular cleaning.
Informal learning during the summer, like cleaning around the house or reading instructions, can be as useful and rewarding as classroom learning. You and your kids can use the summer months to learn together and build a strong family bond—a win-win for everyone.