FAMILY & CHILDCARE — When school lets out, summertime brings long, carefree days of play and fun. It can be easy to forget how much children learn through play, but they have a natural sense of curiosity. With a little thought and a few supplies, summer is a perfect opportunity to revitalize their innate love of learning that may be a bit squashed after a year of academic pressures, tests and schedules.
“At this time of year, we often hear families express concern about children losing academic skills during summer break,” said Sue-Ann Lively, of KinderCare. “The pressure to add academic learning to summer can lead to increased anxiety, which isn’t helpful for parents or children. Children retain what they learned best when they’re engaged and interested in what they’re doing. As we head into summer, think about the skills your child learned during the school year and how you could incorporate those skills into activities your child enjoys doing.”
1. Build on Classroom Skills
Practicing writing may not be at the top of your children’s summer activities lists. However, writing might be more appealing if it led to something fun, like a card or letter from a relative or friend. By encouraging your children to write to pen pals, like friends or family members, they will not only practice their literacy skills by writing letters and reading replies, but also work on important executive function skills by learning to manage anticipation while waiting for a response. Even children who are too young to write can participate by drawing pictures and dictating the captions to family members.
2. Go Outside
A walk around the neighborhood can turn into an opportunity to build STEM skills by observing changes over time. As you and your children walk, ask questions, make predictions and discuss what you see. This way, you’ll be forming hypotheses and analyzing your results, just like scientists.
3. Find Learning Opportunities in Regular Activities
Cooking provides a variety of opportunities to work on math skills. For younger children, that could mean getting two carrots and one apple for a recipe. For children who are learning fractions and multiplication, that might mean figuring out how much of an ingredient to add, such as “If the recipe calls for 1/2 cup of flour and we’re doubling the recipe, how much flour do we need?”
Board games are another opportunity to build academic skills, like math and literacy; executive function skills, like waiting for their turn; and social skills, such as being a gracious winner.
Additionally, read with your children daily and help them find opportunities to practice reading skills, such as reading signs aloud at the park or reading books out loud to other family members.