Summer Fun and Learning Activities for Kids
The greatest thing about learning during the summer is that you don't have to teach anything. Just benefit from long days and favorable weather and do fun stuff together!
Let them follow their passionEven if your child's schedule is busy during the school year and he or she attends all possible extracurriculars, there is still a chance that some interest is left out. The best way to find out is to ask them what they would like to do.
Unfortunately, formal education often exploits kid's interests to "trick" them into learning. From the math problems where you have to subtract candies and ice-cream cones to edutainment games. At least during the summer, let your child's natural inquisitiveness lead the way. If they like something - they would want to know more about it. Help them! If they are obsessed with a movie, what is it, they like the most about it? The myth and world-building? The costumes? The storytelling? The way actors make us believe in it? The cinematography? The weapons?
Would they like to learn more about the real-life inspiration for fantasy settings or about the time the period film is set in? That's an opportunity to read more about history or visit a museum. Or did they crack that special effect and now want to recreate it for TikTok? Are they into cosplay now? How about making costumes and props together?
Fuel their curiosity with field tripsSometimes, children are so overwhelmed with daily routines that they want nothing from summer but rest and freedom. Give them some slack - a week in their pajamas won't ruin them. It will refresh them and make them hungry for new things. Then, when they are thoroughly bored, take them hiking and show an app that recognized different plants and animals. Assign points for spotting rare species - the winner gets to choose a family activity for the next outing.
You can also take a trip to a place of historical significance or go on a tour to learn more about local history, architecture, landscapes. Such things create vivid memories and inspire children to explore new things and be hungry for knowledge instead of being jaded and bored. Moreover, trips teach some practical skills - for example, how to plan itinerary and get ready for a trip (make lists, pack the necessities, etc.)
Encourage reading and writingJoining a book club in a local library or starting your own is a great way to kill two birds with one stone - and it is a great alternative if outdoor activities are not an option for some reason. Take turns in choosing what books your club will read for the next meeting and keep the score of who reads more! To make sure everyone did read the book - not just found a synopsis online or saw the dramatization, challenge them to keep a reader's journal, where they would write in a couple of sentences what they've read today and how they liked it. The progress of their writing skills over the summer will surprise you!
Although reading lists are usually issued for the summer by the school, I urge you to take them to a bookstore and let them choose a book. That is one of the mistakes many parents make: they think that the most interesting books ever are those they used to love when they were kids. So when their children are thoroughly unimpressed with those, they bemoan "kids these days" and blame social media for ruining reading. Give them a chance to find something for themselves.
World cuisine projectHow about learning something new about different countries and getting a useful life skill in a process? Make a plan to cook a dinner inspired by the cuisine of a different country every day. Your child gets to choose which country you will do next, but also is responsible for the research and ingredient list (you can negotiate what is realistic and what is unobtainable). Definitely cook together! Buy a scratch map or download an app to track your progress.
You can make a USA cooking project (each state has its signature dish) or keep it simple and do a one-week project with continents (a tip: Sunday is Antarctica and you prepare homemade ice cream).
Windowsill farmSummer is a perfect time for growth, so try growing some veggies together! If you don't have a backyard, boxes on a windowsill can also be a home for your little seasonal garden. You can plant something for the cooking project, by the way!
Although having a plot out in the open will encourage your children to spend more time outside and will teach them about the treacherousness of weather, even a windowsill farm can teach them many things about patience, planning, caring, and discipline. Let your child take on the responsibility to water the plants and make sure they have everything they need to thrive. And of course, when the efforts come to fruition, let the kid cook it!
However understandable your desire to structure your child's time might be, remember: schools have breaks for a reason. Children need this freedom to explore their interests, to find new acquaintances, to be out in fresh air, to be physically active, to play, to run around and yell - just be children. This is necessary for them to rediscover how inherently fun learning is.
Jeanna Bray is an educator, a parent, and a writer based in Seattle. She believes in life-long learning and that curiosity saved a cat. She also collaborates with online projects that promote education and literacy, so you can ask her for a PaperHelp.org discount code.