School is out (or about to be), and kids and parents are facing a long summer ahead. Summer is full of fun activities, like swimming, barbequing, and extra family time without so many designated activities. However, because school is out, children don’t get the same academic structure, and as many opportunities for learning, as they do when school is in session. Some parents worry that their children won’t keep their brains active and engaged in the same way they do during the school year. Parents don’t need to sit their kids down for hours each day and teach them the different core subjects. Luckily, there are many affordable and fun ways to encourage kids to keep learning, even during the summertime.
1. Have your child use work books
While you certainly don’t need to sit your child down and require that they complete eight hours of work each day during the summer, encouraging them to use academic workbooks is a great way to keep them in the pattern of quiet work (like teachers require during the day and for homework.) Academic books don’t have to be boring; look for a workbook that your child will enjoy. Workbooks that encourage kids to learn about many different subjects are best, but you can also choose a book that focuses on a trouble area for your child. Even if your child spends an hour each week day working in their workbook, they will be spending five hours per week maintaining the academic work routine that they learned in school.
A survey by the National Summer Learning Association found that 66 percent of teachers polled felt that it took them at least three to four weeks to re-teach the previous year’s skills after the summer was over, so you will really be helping your child stay on track, and maybe helping their teacher as well.
2. Take your child somewhere they can learn
There are so many zoos, children’s museums, science museums, and other educational spots you can take your children. These places give children a chance to have fun, but also encourage them to keep learning. You can increase their chance of learning new things by interacting with them, or by signing them up for free (or inexpensive) classes at the different centers. When you visit the zoo, stop and actually read about the animals you are visiting, instead of just looking about them. Ask your children questions about the different animals.
If you plan to travel a lot this summer, consider purchasing a zoo or museum pass that comes with a reciprocal list of other museums or zoos you can visit for free. Check out the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Also consider visiting your local library; reading is one of the best ways kids can learn, and many libraries have free summer reading programs that reward kids with prizes for completing their reading.
3. Include teachable moments on your vacation
Learning doesn’t have to take place in a museum or by sitting at a table. If you are planning a vacation or a road trip, include fun and interesting stops as you travel. The museums and zoos listed above can work, but so can almost anything else. If you are driving, encourage younger children to practice counting by keeping track of the road signs or by counting cars by color. Older children can help read maps, look for city markers, or help count out change when purchasing food or gas. If you get a chance to visit the ocean, research the different animals that live there with your kids. Go over survival techniques if you go camping or hiking. Any vacation can become educational if you just take a little time to think it through.
4. Encourage your kids’ creative side
Summer is a great time to let your kids spend more time doing what they actually enjoy (and we don’t mean playing video games or watching television.) If your child likes writing, set aside time each week to encourage them to write a story or a poem. If they need help coming up with ideas, try Scholastic‘s Story Starters. If you have an older child, they may be able to take an affordable creative writing class at the local community college (sometimes high school students are allowed to do this.) They could also take a class in a wide variety of other subjects.
If you have friends with kids your own kids’ ages, get together and put on a theater production: This can be a very educational and fun learning opportunity for kids of various ages. If they like art, plan various art activities for them as well.
5. Get your kids moving
Math, science, writing, reading, and the other more “academic” subjects aren’t the only thing your kids are missing out on when it comes to learning away from school. Summer camps can be a great way for kids to get active, so consider signing your kids up for a sports camp. If you don’t want to do an organized camp, you can still help your kids get exercise by taking them regularly to the park, going on bike rides, or taking them swimming. Summer is a great time to get outside and get active. Your kids can also help you do more around the house; many children love to help fix things, or help out in the yard, and this can help them to exercise as well.
Summer is a fun time, but it doesn’t have to be a time that your kids forget everything that they learned at school during the year. Encourage your kids to learn this summer, but also have fun, and at the end of the summer they will be relaxed and ready to continue learning back in school.