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Camp PBS Parents

13 Ways to Sneak Learning Into Summer Fun

Kids looking at bugs
My five-year-old daughter, Celia, had an amazing year in prekindergarten. She had the kind of teacher you are lucky to have even once in your school career, and he sparked a love of learning in her. While I want to keep the momentum going over the next few months, I don’t want to push the academics too hard. I want us to have a relaxing, fun summer; I simultaneously hope with all my might for a gifted kindergarten teacher.

Here are my favorite ideas for sneaking learning into the summer months:

1. Try simple science experiments. An oldie, but a goodie, the baking-soda volcano is a tried and true way to spark fun and creativity during the summer months. When I looked up the instructions, I was shocked at how easy it is. To my surprise, there are countless fun and simple experiments that families can do at home, even without a background in science.

2. Create a family newsletter. Enlist your kids to choose a template from your computer’s office suite. Older kids will be able to quickly learn their way around the program. Younger kids can help take photos and write stories about family adventures, vacations and fun times at home. They can dictate their summer memories to a parent or older sibling. Include a favorite summer recipe. Send your newsletter to family members and friends.

3. Find a pen pal. Celia wants a pen pal so badly she can’t stand it. Her school friend is moving to another state, so we’ll try to arrange a correspondence with her. Celia also has cousins scattered about, but she wants a new friend, preferably in her favorite country, France, so I’m planning to check out pen pal programs such as International Pen Friends. Yes, I’ll monitor her pen pal friendships closely!

4. Make up silly stories. Remember Mad Libs? You can create your own fill-in-the-blank stories. Don’t overthink, just start writing. “Every time we pass by the big house on the corner, we think about the time our pet (animal), (name of favorite teacher), got loose in the neighborhood and ended up eating (favorite food) out of (favorite neighbor)’s refrigerator.”

5. Record your own audiobooks. Let your child read her favorite book while you record it. Save the recording on your computer, and let her listen to her story when she craves down time. If you have several kids, assign each a character.

6. Create your own book series. Start by brainstorming ideas for a character and setting. Then think about what will make your character special. Maybe he or she is an amateur detective or obsessed with baking cupcakes. Older kids can write their stories on the computer, and younger kids can dictate to a parent or an older sibling.

7. Experiment with different art media. Play with different types of paint, from watercolor to oil-based (wear a smock!). Make your own paint. Check out pastels, colored pencils, charcoal and other art supplies. Help your kids discover their favorite ways to express their creativity. Encourage them to make mixed-media masterpieces.

8. Play restaurant. Gather some takeout menus and a play cash register. One child places an order, and the other tallies up the bill. Make your own menu, featuring your kitchen specialties. When a parent returns home from work, let the parent order off the menu.

9. Use word magnets to make sentences. Write words on magnetic tape, or get premade magnetic words. Let your child use a cookie sheet to rearrange the words to make sentences. Challenge your child to make longer and longer sentences.

10. Do laundry together. Crazy but true, laundry is educational! Preschoolers can help you sort laundry by color, find matching socks and count towels and washcloths.

11. Study a foreign language. A whiteboard is as much a summer essential as a beach towel. Every morning, write a word of the day in a favorite language – my child is crazy about French – and use the word all day long. Try working your word of the day into regular conversation and making up silly sentences.

12. Make a reading scrapbook. After reading a fantastic book, encourage your child to draw pictures about the story. Your child can also make up an alternate ending, write a sequel and create a timeline. Keep the book notes in a folder and turn them into a reading scrapbook at the end of the summer.

13. Do jigsaw puzzles together. It may seem old school, but jigsaw puzzles are a great activity for summer downtime. We take puzzles on vacation and work on them in the afternoon when it’s too hot to go to the beach. The best puzzles have crisp, detailed pictures without swaths of solid colors.

These are just some of the ways I plan to combine learning and fun this summer. Let’s hear your favorite ideas in the comments below!

  • guest

    Joining the summer reading clubs at either your local library or your favorite bookstore keeps reading interesting.  We also love to check out the summer series; many cities have weekly series of music or theatrical events.  Anchorage has a Tuesday event that is free at the local library; a different musical group each week!

  • Pingback: PBS Parents: 13 Ways to Sneak Learning into Summer Fun « WGBY Education

  • Paige Blumenthal

    These are really great, thank you! I’ll be putting many of these to use!

  • Jess B

    I decided to start homeschooling my kids (next year) for many reasons. Public schools are failing, most kids these days have no moral fiber in them, and much more. That is why I’m going to be taking over their education.

    My son’s Teachers all have said that he has attention problems and that they are having a hard time getting him focused for more then 5 minutes, but once they can get him to focus he is really bright/smart. His occupational therapist mentioned that we should try to put him on a medication to calm/slow him down. For one I don’t believe in that type of medication… I can easily get my son to focus for more then 5 minutes, so I believe homeschooling is the best overall option for him. My son is in Kindergarten by the way, moving onto first grade next year.

    My daughter will be preschool age next year… so I will be getting an early start with her.

    I can’t wait to start homeschooling and I am glad PBS has so many options for education and such (like worksheets, shows, etc. ). Thank you.

  • Diamond

    I did that and it’s fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • babymama

    Is this storable?

  • Amber

    This is an amazing way to make play-doh for people with allergies to ingredients in play-doh (myself). I used vegetable oil instead. I did have to use a lot more oil than 8:1, but it came out great! You can store it in an air-tight container.

  • Jess B

    My son’s teachers said the same thing and my son is only 5 1/2 years old. They said that they are having a hard time getting him to focus and the maximum time they can get him to focus is about 5 minutes. One of his teachers mentioned trying out medication for a month to see if it “helps” him, but I said No way (I’m more into the homeopathic versions of medications). I’m tired of my son coming home from school, looking sad and saying that he doesn’t want to go to school anymore. Soon enough I will start homeschooling him. So all in all, I understand where you’re coming from.

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