Summer learning doesn’t have to mean boring worksheets, forced reading, or multiplication problems. In fact, the more unlike school, the better! Some of the best learning takes place not sitting at a desk, but through experience. And helping your child keep her skills sharp doesn’t have to be difficult.
Learning opportunities are everywhere! Going to the pool? Make penny boats to boost math and science skills. Headed to the grocery store? Ask your kids to write your grocery list to strengthen their spelling skills or play reading games when you’re there. Long car ride? Listen to audiobooks. The key is to interact with your child: ask questions and encourage them to think critically about situations.
Here are five fun ways to keep your kids’ academic skills sharp and prevent summer learning loss.
- Summer Programs and Field Trips
Museums, zoos, language camps and churches all offer summer classes, and most of their programs are centered around educational themes. Your children may learn about wetland habitats, discover ancient Egypt, or learn to speak Spanish during a day- or week-long camp. Some families don’t have the budget or may simply be too busy for classes or camps. Even if you are traveling this summer, take the time to visit historic monuments and museums to learn local history. Many of these institutions are free, and some — such as national parks, aquariums, and zoos — often have Junior Ranger/Aquarist/Zookeeper Clubs in which kids complete the activities or questions in a booklet as they go through the park (or aquarium, or zoo) and earn badges.
- Apps and Online Games
Make your child’s screen time count with educational apps and online games. Look for ones that are ad-free with fun characters and focus primarily on your child’s development, such as those listed below.
- PBSKids.org has tons of free games that teach skills for more than two dozen topics. Your child might boost her spelling skills with Princess Presto, or learn her 50 states with Arthur and Buster.
- If you don’t want your kids online, then apps are a good solution. PBS KIDS apps teach kids about everything, from planets and constellations to habitats around the world.
- If you have a preschooler or kindergartner, iLearnWith apps are an engaging and colorful way to learn basic concepts such as shapes, colors, seasons, and more. They’re also available in English, Spanish, and French.
- Older children might prefer more action-packed apps such as Yash Math Adventure and Geography Drive Arcade, which balance just enough math and geography facts with adventure to make learning fun.
- Board Games
Add family game night to your weekly schedule! There are so many great board games on the market now, and they teach everything from fractions to phonics. So it is easy to find one that strengthens nearly any academic skill. These games are valuable tools because they make learning fun, and they serve to reward kids for their hard work at school or at home. Boggle Jr. is perfect for spelling and Yahtzee for math. Pictionary practices reading, and Scrambled States boosts geography skills. To find board games for your kids, try searching for the subject on Amazon (i.e., “Geography Board Games”).
Books are for more than just reading. Some of my kids’ favorite boredom busters are activity and craft books. From Minecraft easy-to-make projects to Star Wars-themed science experiments to rubber-band character patterns, activity books are the gateway to inspiration and creativity. Your local craft store usually has the best selection, but you can always find great titles online and ask for them at your local library. Here are some your children might love:
Kids 3 to 5
- My First Origami Kit by Joel Stern
- How to Draw People by Barbara Soloff Levy
- Preschool Art: It’s the Process, Not the Product!
Kids 5 to 12
- Loom Magic Creatures!: 25 Awesome Animals and Mythical Beings for a Rainbow of Critters by Becky Thomas and Monica Sweeney
- Star Wars Science Fair Book by Samantha Margles
- Craft Projects for Minecraft and Pixel Art Fans: 15 Fun, Easy-to-Make Projects by Choly Knight
- Beadcraft: The Ultimate Minecraft-themed Fusion Bead Pattern Collection by Johnathan M Roy
There are thousands of teachable moments available in our daily lives, and your home is full of simple materials that can be used to teach, create, and discover new ideas or concepts. Your preschooler can learn about items that are similar or different by sorting shoes or socks from the laundry. Is your pantry stocked? Let your child develop his fine motor skills by stacking cans or discover how combining primary colors (using water with food coloring) creates new ones. Have a budding engineer? Let her explore how weight affects speed by racing different-shaped objects down a cardboard ramp.Need ideas? Check out 100 Fun & Easy Learning Games for Kids by Amanda Boyarshinov and Kim Vij. These simple games are good for summer, as well as year-long learning. And be sure to check out PBS Parents’ Adventures in Learning blog for easy and fun activities.