Well, believe it or not, summer is right around the corner–and that means having the kids at home again, all day, every day. The summer can be a great time to make memories with your kids, and it can provide really exceptional educational opportunities, but it can also overwhelm you pretty quickly if you aren’t prepared for long afternoons of restless children.I still remember a lot of the great summer learning activities I did when I was a kid. They can really help shape a child’s personality and interests in a way that school often can’t. So here’s a list of ideas to help you make summer learning fun for your child.
Ways To Make Summer Learning Fun For Kids
1. Your Friendly Neighborhood Library
Local libraries are a great place for kids to hang out, and a sincere love for the written word is one of the most meaningful gifts you can ever give your child.
Most libraries have lots of events planned for kids, especially during the summer, which can include storytelling and get-togethers featuring food, games, and other activities. Beyond that, many libraries feature enhanced areas for children, with a variety of classic books as well as educational computer games.
One tip: If you treat the library like an obligation or a chore, most kids will sour on the place, which is something you don’t want. Instead, turn a trip to the library into a treat. Let your kids wander around and choose their own books (being mindful of their safety, of course). And make sure you leave there with a stack of books for yourself–there’s no better way to show how enjoyable reading really is.
Check your local library’s website to find out about summer events, and mark your calendar now.
2. Organized Sports
Another fun summer learning activity is sports. Learning the value of exercise and teamwork (and learning that they’re a lot of fun!) is important at any age. Learning to win and lose competitions with grace and dignity is also important–and pretty hard to pick up from online video games.
But organized sports can teach you even more than that–it was through sports, for instance, that I learned to think strategically and tactically, and this skillset has served me tremendously in adulthood.
A few minutes on Google should be able to turn up some local leagues and summer camps if you don’t already know of any. Field sports like soccer, baseball, and football are always popular, and for good reason, but why not consider a 2-week camp for tennis, fencing, or a martial art?
3. The Old-Fashioned Family Vacation
If you’ve got the time and you’re conveniently located, you might consider visiting any of America’s famous historical sites. Some of my fondest memories as a kid were long car trips to places like the Grand Canyon, Monticello, or Kitty Hawk. I won’t pretend that every moment went smoothly, but the experience was valuable and memorable, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
You might be thinking that there’s no way your young children will fully appreciate the meaning of those places. You’re probably right. But they’ll see that you appreciate them, and they’ll come to value their importance with time. Trust me–it happened to me.
Of course, sometimes your schedule or budget won’t allow a longer trip, but there’s always local history to consider. One of the really convenient things about history is that it happens all over the place! You’d probably be amazed to discover the places of historical interest to be found within a 30 or 45 minute drive from your house; pick a time when the whole family can go, and plan to make a day trip out of it.
To find nearby places that might be worth visiting, you can look your location up on google or wikipedia and cruise around a little bit. You might really surprise yourself with what’s available. Visiting historical spots is certainly a great way to make history come alive and one of the most worthwhile summer learning activities I can think of.
4. Local Summer Plays And Theater Camps
I still remember doing local plays in the summers after first and second grade. A lot of towns have some kind of inexpensive camp where a bunch of kids can learn how to act, do makeup, and all of that stuff, and then put on a show for parents at the end.
It might sound kind of silly, but I still think those early theater experiences were instrumental in helping me learn to speak in front of other people, which is an essential skill for success, whether you’re pitching a proposal or defending a dissertation. Or just asking somebody out.
5. Create A Family Web Site Or Facebook Page
Knowing how to use computers and the Internet will be critical to your child’s success in life. So why not start messing around with it now?
Web sites can easily be created for free on WordPress.com or tumblr.com. You can supervise your children as they pick out themes to decorate the site, and write articles describing family activities and funny stories. You can take pictures for the site, or even scan old family photos and post them. Finally, you can invite your friends and family to come to the site and leave comments. It could really turn into a beautiful long-term project.
Don’t worry if you have no idea how to do any of that– WordPress, and Tumblr are all designed for people who don’t know how to use them when they start out. Sit down with the kids, read through the web sites, and figure it out together!
Of course, it goes without saying that the Internet can be a dangerous place for unsupervised children, and you should be sure to monitor your child’s online activity at all times. But if the kids’ web activity is safely supervised, the experience of building their own web site can be uniquely empowering and educational–maybe for you, as well. Or if they are not old enough for that yet, you can try some early coding games to get them thinking out how computers work and interested in STEM learning.
Okay, so this one kind of goes along with the library thing we already talked about, but the value of reading and loving books really can’t be overstated.
As a long-time tutor and educator, I can attest to the fact that students who come to love reading from an early age have a huge head start over other kids when it comes to testing and learning. Almost any kind of reading is good, or at least a good start–that can include newspapers, magazines, even comics (just take a look at them to make sure they’re appropriate).
Sometimes it can be hard to get kids to read, and to some extent you’ll have to work with your kids on this one. My mom had a simple system–if I, or one of my brothers, told her we were bored, she would have a list of chores ready for us to do. We learned pretty quickly to entertain ourselves, and that frequently meant reading. You can’t force a kid to enjoy reading, but you can make it a more attractive option. You can read together or on your own to model the desired behavior. Reading is such a fantastic summer learning activity.
There you have it–six surefire ways to keep your kids busy and intellectually engaged during the summer months. The best thing you can do right now is to plan ahead. You may want to use this printable kids summer schedule template to get organized. Take a little time to poke around online, make a list of places and activities that you think your kids might be interested in, and keep it handy. That way, when you hear that inevitable phrase–“Mom, I’m bored!”–you’ll know just where to turn.
Which of these summer learning activities do you think your child will enjoy the most?