Learning through play is essential for your kids this summer. Though I’m a strong advocate for finding your own way as a parent and doing what is right for your family, I have to admit I cringe a little inside when my students tell me they spent the whole summer in summer school or doing worksheets at home.
Yes, there is research to support the fact that many kids forget some of what they’ve learned the previous year over the summer, however for most kids this is not a major concern. In my experience as soon as they get back into the groove in September they pick it up again – just like riding a bike! To me, the most important “schooling” in the summer is to be outside exploring, creating, and discovering. This hands-on real-life education is more valuable than the best set of worksheets ever created. If you want to keep your children’s brains active over the summer, take the following cues to keep learning fun!
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Make Learning Fun Through Play This Summer
1. Take a road trip to your nearest zoo:
Talk to your children about conservation and the ethics of animals in captivity. Observe the zookeepers interact with the animals and listen in on a talk behind the scenes. Take a journal with you and sketch an enclosure. When you return home design your own enclosure with recycled materials!
2. Take a hike!
If you’re lucky enough like we are to be close to the mountains, head out on a new trail and discover all that nature has to offer. Just being outside and reveling in the beauty of nature does wonders for your mood and reducing stress levels in kids and adults! If you live in a more urban area, take a walking tour of your own city! The “Look Up” books by Doug Gelbert are widely available on amazon and cover several major cities in both the U.S. and Canada! And most of them are under $2! They offer a historical, architectural, and culture view that will change your entire perspective of the city in which you live!
Take a road trip and have a picnic in a field just outside the city while you wait for nightfall. As you watch the stars come out, try to find some common constellations beginning with the big and little dipper, Cassiopeia, Cephus, and Orion. Bring a book on Greek mythology with you and discuss the stories of each. Discover why different parts of the world see different constellations. Ask why the constellations appear to move throughout the sky at different times of year when actually they’re not moving at all! Find your own group of star and sketch your own constellation. Make up your own myth to go along with it
4. Be a tourist in your own city!
There are so many places to discover right within your own city you’ve probably never been to. You can begin with the highlights such a museum or art gallery, and move to a more obscure coffee place, hidden gem of a restaurant, or secret park that few people know about. Drive to an area you’ve never been to and hit the sidewalk. Count how many cars you pass of each color and create a statistical chart. Discuss why some colors of cars might be more common than others. Create your own walking tour map for someone else. What would you include and why? Create a brochure for your own area of the city. What are the must sees and must dos? What would you recommend to avoid?
5. Get creative
For rainy days spent inside gather up some basic art supplies from your local dollar store and get creative! If you’re like me and often at a loss for craft idea, The Undeniable Power of Play is an amazing resource using simple material to inspire design-thinking and scientific reasoning. Their materials are easy to scrounge up and the crafts are super easy to recreate. Even a craft dummy like me can pull them off! It features pages and pages of new ideas and will inspire you in so many ways to customize and make it your own as well!
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6. Plant your own garden
Let it be known that I have the bluest thumb out there. I pretty much kill every plant I touch, however what kid doesn’t love digging in the dirt and planting something and watching it grow? If you don’t have room in your backyard for a garden, pick up a large garden pot and let your kids decide what they want to plant! Flowers? Veggies? Even a little grass seed sprinkled in a small pot makes for a really cute craft (insert pinterest link) . It will teach them about taking responsibility for a living thing. They’ll learn about how much water is too much or not enough. Discuss what makes for optimal growing conditions and help them to make an informed decision about what would be best to plant based on the available sunlight and location of your property.
7. Have a Cook Off
What better way to learn math than through a basic recipe? Why not try to make the world’s largest chocolate chip cookie? It will have them doubling and quadrupling fractions in no time! But wait! What is the science behind bulk-baking? Does quadrupling the recipe produce the same results or does the chemistry of the mixture change in the process? You might have to do some experimenting to find the best result. What about creating the best bite from ingredients in your fridge just like the popular TV show “The Taste?” Malcolm Gladwell says that the experience of a bite is very different from the experience of a whole plate. It’s why Pepsi often wins in taste tests but loses to Coke in when people have to drink an entire bottle. There are so many ways to explore in the kitchen!
Whatever you get up to this summer make it a time to explore new adventures as a family. You won’t regret spending quality time learning along with your kids. Leave a comment below about your own ideas and don’t forget to pick up your copy of The Undeniable Power of Play!
XO The Good Enuf Mommy