Keeping your child's mind productively occupied when school is out not only prevents summer learning loss but also provides an opportunity to sharpen skills, develop new interests, and capitalize on new experiences. The following options address a wide variety of curricular areas. Choosing from the ideas on this list allows you and your child to add an enjoyable intellectual component to summer vacation.
1. Incorporate reading into your child's daily schedule. Kids enjoy reading independently, hearing parents read aloud, participating in summer library programs, and starting a book club with friends to add a social component to what is typically a solo activity. All of these options are great. Children will be more enthusiastic about reading independently when they can choose a variety of fiction and non-fiction books that appeal to their interests and when the books are at an appropriate reading level.
2. Take advantage of authentic opportunities to practice math skills. Calculating change when purchasing snacks, deciding which size of oatmeal at the supermarket offers the better value, calculating a tip at a restaurant, and measuring ingredients when baking at home are just some of the ways to incorporate mathematical thinking into your child's day.
3. Encourage your child to write on a regular basis. Children can significantly increase both their skills and their enthusiasm for writing when they keep a summer journal, write and illustrate their own stories, create their own poetry, send letters to family and friends, and seek out age-appropriate online writing opportunities, such as posting a review on amazon.com every time they finish reading a book.
4. Document family trips. If your family will be traveling over the summer, your child can write about where you go, what you do, and the funny moments that inevitably happen along the way. Taking photographs throughout the trip will provide your child with all the material necessary to create either a physical or electronic scrapbook to share with friends and relatives.
5. Create a project about a topic of strong interest. Whether we are trying to encourage students to read, write, or pursue other academic endeavors, I strongly recommend starting with your child's passions. When kids choose their own projects, motivation and quality increase significantly. Children who love animals may want to research one and create a book - complete with text, illustrations, labeled diagrams, and more. During my classroom's weekly Project Time, many students couldn't wait to study their favorite animals and present their books and posters to the whole group.
6. Explore new technology. The summer is a fantastic time to learn about PowerPoint, website design, iMovie, and other programs and applications that allow children to express themselves while developing valuable skills that they are likely to use as they get older. Many free workshops and video tutorials provide excellent instruction in these areas.
Steve Reifman is a National Board Certified elementary school teacher in Santa Monica, CA. He is also the acclaimed author of several books, including Changing Kids' Lives One Quote at a Time and Eight Essentials for Empowered Teaching and Learning, K-8, and the creator of the Chase Manning Mystery Series for kids 8-12. For tips and strategies on teaching the whole child, visit http://stevereifman.com.