When I was younger, I used to love how every evening we would gather around the table and just talk about how our day went. Of course, for a preschool child there is not much to say on that subject, except talking about the new words I had learned or the paintings I had made; which I truly considered a masterpiece by the way (that is, my colored finger pads randomly pasted on a white paper). We used to do this around dinner time because at that time everyone would be home, kindly sitting around the dinner table and sharing a homemade casserole (surely one of Mom’s favorites) while listening to each others stories. But it wasn’t so much about the type of meals we would share – because quite frankly, there were times it was just pizza – It was mostly about the togetherness of the moment.
To most children, the headline at the start of every summer is that school is out. No more sitting behind a desk and memorizing facts, no more getting up early and spending sunny days indoors; it’s no wonder that they seem uninterested in anything resembling school once that final bell of the year rings. What are we to do, then, as parents who want to encourage our children to keep learning? I think the answer is in the question: children are all born scientists, experimenting and testing everything in order to learn about the world they live in. We don’t have to tell them to keep learning, they’ve got that covered. All we have to do is direct those constantly open, absorbent minds toward something productive. Here are some ideas for where to aim to help them get the most out of their minds.
You’re probably thinking that no child wants to spend their summer break working on math homework. You’re probably right, but that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to keep their skills sharp during the holiday! Your littlest ones will have a blast painting small stones in different colors, then organizing them by shape, color, and pattern into numbered groups. Sneak in math lessons with bigger kids by paying them by the hour or chore for house or yard work, then show them how to budget and save that money for something they really want. Teenagers, miniature adults that they are, can even be allowed to help out with larger tasks like managing the grocery budget, with a little guidance of course. They’ll be keeping their mathematical minds fresh, and learning an important life skill!
It’s incredibly easy to keep science on your kids’ minds during the summer, because science is everywhere! It’s what and how we live, so try pulling your environment into the lesson with fun projects like gardening, or going on a “bug safari” to learn about the tiny critters making a home of your yard! Live in the city? Try an ant or worm farm for younger kids, or a terrarium for your future botanist. In between projects, try to find an interactive science museum in your area; they’re hands-on fun for all ages, and everyone comes out knowing just a little bit (or a whole lot!) more than they did before.
Instill a love for language in your children by reading to them early and often; it’s a great bonding tool and an even better way to keep them learning during the summer. As they get older, you can help them improve by allowing them to read to you, and then on their own. Also work in everyday vocabulary lessons by using your “big” words around them, pausing here and there to discuss what those words mean! Older children can be encouraged to practice using more complex synonyms on their own, and as high schoolers, they can use that expanded vocabulary to write scholarship essays and pave an easier road to a successful future.
4. Social studies
Traveling is a great way to expand your child’s world perspective and teach them about culture and geography, but it’s certainly not necessary. To your youngest children, even playing with a diverse group of children in a park or a daycare center is a lesson in culture and social skills. Bigger kids can supplement those basic lessons with trips to museums, where they can learn about the history of all sorts of cultures. High school students can use the open-minded compassion they learned from expanding their minds early on to spend time volunteering in their communities or even abroad!
Who doesn’t love a good art project? Little ones can work on projects as simple as coloring with sidewalk chalk or as complex as guided art projects teaching about artistic techniques; a mosaic, for example, could be made from tiny torn pieces of colored construction paper! Bigger kids can visit art museums, express themselves and record what they learned in an art journal, learn to play a musical instrument, or attend arts events. Some communities to a yearly outdoor symphony during the summer; what does your community do to encourage the arts?
6. Life sciences
All we have to do to encourage our kids to learn life sciences during the summer is allow them to participate in life! Introduce little ones to concepts like hygiene and basic food groups like fruits, vegetables and grains. Elementary school children can learn about the food pyramid, or if there’s one near you, visit a farm and find out where your food comes from! Bigger kids can learn to prepare meals for themselves, manage portion sizes, and learn to read and decode food labels.
Summer doesn’t have to mean a stagnant mind. There are opportunities to learn everywhere you turn and your children are eager to take advantage of them, even when they think they’re not. Unlock their potential by keeping their minds awake year-round and watch them bloom!
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Easing First day at School Jitters
Entering the big doors of a school building for the very first time and seeing hundreds of unfamiliar faces can be scary for a child. But, it is a part of life, and something that must be done. There are many things that you can, and you should do to help ease the fears of your child while making this major life-changing alteration. Little ones can get the butterflies, too, and have fear and anxiety. As big as starting school is, you can certainly understand the worries. After all, you were there once! Take a look at a few of the things that you can do to help your child prepare for this big change. These things can help ease fears and make it easier to go to school those first weeks.
Truth be told, children do not think learning is fun. Those who enjoy learning don’t call it that; to them it is exploring or discovering. Call it learning, and watch them lose interest at the drop of a hat. Then you will struggle to keep them focused while you teach and show and their minds start to explore someplace else, far away!
Nobody likes to feel lectured—neither child nor adult. Of course there are times when it is necessary to have serious conversations with children. But daily learning can be, and should be, fun. Studies continue to show that things learned through activities children consider fun actually stay put. Things memorized for the sake of acing the next pop quiz tend to be forgotten as soon as the quiz is over! Children remember what they learn from experiences they consider enjoyable.
So, to make learning fun, call it something else and do it together! Some of the answers are obvious—reading to your children, educational TV, lesson-themed video games—but let’s factor out some of the technology that is simultaneously ruining and bettering our young people, and look at some other ways to make learning fun.