By Christina Katz
You have probably heard about the summer slide—the way kids can lose a lot of the skills, knowledge and motivation they learned during the school year over the lazy days of summer. This summer set the tone that a little learning is an important part of each day so that kids still enjoy the relaxation of summer while keeping up the habit of learning.
Here are 10 ways to keep your kids’ minds active all summer long:
1. Ask for insight. Check with your child’s teacher before school gets out to see what kinds of educational goals she recommends for your child. Don’t compare your children’s academic performance to siblings or friends. Everyone learns and grows differently. Aim to support your child wherever he or she stands academically right now to maximize the enjoyment of learning.
2. Sign up for your library summer reading program. Set a minimum reading time each day of 30-60 minutes. Or break reading time into two 30-minute chunks — one for a parent-approved book and the other for whatever your child chooses to read. The library offers a lot of variety, and summer is a great time to check out age-appropriate comic books and graphic novels, as well as cookbooks and biographies.
3. Visit museums in your area. Find out in advance when the free days are to visit local museums and learning centers. Opt for guided or non-guided tour, as your family prefers. Be sure to check out the gift shop on your way out for inspired games and toys.
4. Visit local nature centers, Audubon societies, and nearby gardens. Make a list at the beginning of summer and plan to hit all the regional natural destinations all before the first day of school. Then plan a weekly outing and bring along a picnic.
5. Have a word of the day. Put the word in large letters at the top of a page with the definition just below. Hang the word on the fridge and make a game out of using it in sentences all day long.
6. Go multi-media with books you read together. Take turns reading out loud or check out audio books from your local library to listen to before dinner or before bed. Once you finish the book as a family, watch the movie together. Compare and contrast the books and the films.
7. Keep a “How I Spent My Summer Scrapbook.” Choose a blank-page, over-sized book with ample pages for writing, collaging, collecting, and embellishing. Set aside time to work on “summer books” for a half hour every day.
8. Tackle a big creative project. Choose one that takes planning, creativity, and involving others like putting on a puppet show, writing a play, or making a movie. Let your child approach the project in his or her own way, and only offer to help if you are needed. Invest a little money in your child’s creativity and their imaginations will be buoyed by your patronage.
9. Commit to a cause. If you child loves animals, see if you can spend some time volunteering at a local animal shelter. If she’s a regular fashionista, why not throw a summer fashion show to raise money for a local charity? Even a trip to your local food bank or letting your kids come with you while you give blood is a life lesson that keeps on giving.
10. Share your childhood favorites. Did you love to make friendship bracelets or collect comic books? Did your husband learn to play guitar or practice scouting skills in the backyard? Summer is the perfect time to share your favorite hobbies and summer pastimes with your kids. Why not strike up a conversation about it at dinner tonight to get the memories rolling?