Continued Learning for Kids Over Summer Break
There is some controversy over how much of an impact the summer break has on the academic skills of children, however there is evidence that kids benefit from just 15-30 minutes per day of learning or reading over the summer. Children are born with natural curiosity and are eager to learn about the world around them, and there are many ways to keep kids learning and reading that do not involve worksheets or iReady. Children who have a learning disorder or ADHD are at a higher risk for losing skills over the summer and may need more specific interventions.
Of course, it’s great when children want to read; go to the library or borrow electronic books from the county library website. Help kids find books, magazines, joke books and/or graphic novels about their interests. Reading to your kids, even when they can read themselves, is a great way to spend time with children. Reading to your kids provides exposure to advanced vocabulary and an opportunity for discussion about the story. Ask questions “What do you think he’ll do next?”, “What do you think he is feeling?” Listening to audio books activates many of the same parts of the brain as reading does and counts towards those 15-30 minutes per day.
Give kids a notebook, pencils, pens etc. Suggest they keep a personal journal or sketchbook for their thoughts and feelings; it can be private, but many kids like to pass notes or drawings back and forth with a parent. Consider giving kids a fun writing prompt or asking them to write down what they want to do this summer or list the places where they want to go for future vacations. Make up a secret code and write “secret” messages back and forth. Enlist their help with writing a shopping list or a list of what to pack for vacation. Have them write a card or letter to family members or friends. Window markers, sidewalk chalk, and bath paint can make writing fun for younger kids. Play Mad Libs (www.madlibs.com) for some laughs and learning!
Make math relevant in daily life with finance and budgeting. Kids can earn money or tokens for doing extra chores at home to save for something they want (keep it on a smaller scale for younger children). Help them calculate how much they need to earn, include the tax, and maybe even the gas for older kids. Math can be integrated into meals, from the shopping and cooking to cutting pizza into fractions. Encourage kids to figure out if it is more cost effective to buy 1 quart or 2 pints of berries. Enlist their help with measuring and weighing ingredients. Cutting recipes in half works with ratios and proportions. Play a geometry scavenger hunt. Can you find three triangles in the room? Let kids help plan a garden and do the math involved with the area and perimeter of the garden, the distance between plants etc. Make paper planes and measure how far they fly. Math is even integral with sports. Check out “Football: The Math of the Game” by Shane G. Frederick and “Baseball: The Math of the Game” by Thomas K. Adamson. Other math books that make the topic fun and relevant (by Marilyn Burns): “The I Hate Mathematics! Book”; “Math for Smarty Pants”, and “Spaghetti and Meatballs for All”
Family board games and card games use math, reading and writing skills. Let kids be the banker, keep score, read the rules. Kids can create their own board game. Have kids make a summer calendar with fun activities. Have them be the “time keeper” during a family outing, keep score of who had the most physical activity that week by adding up movement minutes, or estimating distance during bike rides or walking. Ask which new chore they would like to learn to do or what new hobby they want to experiment with.
Unscheduled time without electronics is also important. Boredom is healthy for children. It encourages creativity because kids have to learn to entertain themselves instead of being passively entertained by something or someone else. Being alone with one’s thoughts and feelings helps build self-awareness.
Have fun this summer and make learning a part of every day activities!