The days are getting longer. And with the absence of school comes freedom from our humdrum routines. Most of us greet the summer months with a mixture of relief (Ahh, no more lunches to pack at 6 a.m.) and anxiety (Will my daughter’s brain turn to mush?). We’ve all heard about the proverbial “summer brain drain,” kids losing months of learning over the summer months only to find themselves behind in September. Not to despair. There are some simple, and fun, ways to add real learning value to your summer vacation routines.
1. Put some spice, and predictability, into summer reading
Take the anxiety out of summer reading requirements by making a schedule and rewarding your child for meeting summer reading milestones. Last summer, a friend and her little ones fashioned a construction paper “beanstalk” on the wall of their kitchen. For every book read, a colorful leaf was added to the growing vine. By the time school started, Jack and the Beanstalk had nothing on these guys. And if you’re looking for some great additions to your school’s list, use HOMER’s Summer Reading Challenge and create your own reading vine.
2. Make math games part of family fun
One of my kids’ favorite math games, “I’ve got a number,” is a great way to give your kids a math workout on a long road trip. Come up with a number between one and 100. Take a mini white board and write down math clues to help your kids guess the number. For example: I’ve got a number. It’s divisible by five but not by two. It’s also known as a “quarter.” It’s one-fourth of 100. See how long it takes your kids to guess “25.”
3. Scrabble is a great vocabulary builder
Our family loves team Scrabble. When our girls were really little, they played on a team with the grown-ups, but now that they’re a little older, they’ve formed a team of three to take us on. There’s nothing more fun than scoring 14 points with that pesky Q, except maybe watching your 7-year-old make the word “zebra” for 16.
4. Encourage your child to keep a summer scrapbook
Keeping a scrapbook of summer fun, even if that fun takes place in the backyard, encourages your child to develop storytelling skills, writing skills and to explore their own creativity. Target and Michael’s are great resources for scrapbooking supplies, and Scribble Press has a great publishing tool if you want to save those memories for posterity.
5. Don’t forget free time in the great outdoors
No matter how important it is to keep some structured learning going on over the summer, it’s equally important to give your children time to explore the world independently with no agenda. Plan a campout in the backyard and spend the night stargazing. Who knows? Maybe learning the names of the constellations will spark an interest in the Greek myths, or even space travel.