NEWS FLASH PARENTS: Summer is nearly over! Yep, that’s right. Most of you are thinking No way! You must be joking. Summer just started! But it’s true. Now, here comes the really scary question – What have your kids learned this summer? A few of you are giving yourselves congratulatory high fives because you have been on the ball and your kids have been working hard all summer. Go ahead, give yourself another high five. You deserve it! However, for most of us, good intentions were swept aside by fun-filled days at the pool. But, don’t fret. There’s still time to get your child’s brain in gear before August and the new school year rolls around. But you should start soon! The brain is like a muscle. You have to use it to keep it in tip top shape. When your child learns, cells or neurons in their brain make connections between one another, essentially making your child smarter. When these connections aren’t used, they can disappear. So kids can actually slide backward intellectually over the summer and lose knowledge if they don’t work to keep it.
But, where do I start? you may wonder. Most teachers would emphasize two basic areas on which most children should work. First, kids need to read. Independent reading for enjoyment is one of the best ways to build reading skills. Quite frankly, it’s essential. So, do whatever you have to do to make your kids read. Put it on their chore list if you have to, or better yet, try to make it fun. Consider forming a book club with a few of your child’s friends. When they finish the book, host a book themed sleepover or party. Then, take turns and have the other parents host the next round. Plus, take advantage of all of the summer reading programs available (from Barnes & Noble to your local library). Kids can earn all sorts of prizes for their hard work.
The second area on which most kids need to work is improving their knowledge of math facts. This can range from addition to division based on their grade level, but regardless, many children have a weak knowledge of basic facts. These are the building blocks on which most other math concepts are built, so by knowing them inside and out, kids can help their overall math abilities. Once again, you can find ways to encourage your child to learn by making practice fun. For instance, play Go Fish with flash cards. If a player asks “Do you have a 12?” then any card with a sum (product, etc.) of 12 could be handed over for a match.
Most importantly, just start the crank and keep your child’s brain active any way you can for the rest of the summer. Here are a few simple ways to keep kids thinking…and they might actually enjoy it…Gasp!
Ages 2-5 • Go on a scavenger hunt. Take a walk and look for numbers, shapes, letters, or colors.
• Start a collection of something (break out all of your spare buttons, cut stamps off of envelopes you receive, etc). Then, use these items to count. Count them individually, by twos, or line them up into rows of ten. Then, classify and sort your collection by different attributes, such as size, shape, or color.
• Set up a listening center for your wee ones. Most libraries have great selections of children’s books accompanied by a CD.
• Grow something! From climbing beans to sunflowers. Measure your plant as it grows. Have your child create a picture journal of its progress.
Ages 6-9 • Have a family game night each week. Many games require a lot of brain power – from utilizing strategy or memory to counting out money.
• Let you child help you make something in the kitchen. Reading directions, measuring, and working with fractions (Can you use two ½ cups instead of a whole cup?) will kick that brain into high gear.
• Hide a treasure with your child and make a treasure map together. Then have someone else try to find it.
• Read Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss. Then make your own Oobleck (just Google it) from just corn starch and water. It’s super simple. Trust me, you’ll have as much fun with this one as your child and (s)he will think you are the coolest parent ever. Then, think about other fun activities you could relate to books.
Ages 10 – 12 • Obtain or print a map of the United States and another of the world. Then, see where items in your home come from and find those places on the maps. Check food, clothing, electronics, toys, or anything else with a label that your child finds. This will help your child become more familiar with their world.
• Have your child write and send cards to people in your community. Thank a firefighter or your mail carrier for their hard work day in and day out. Everyone could use a smile once in a while. Don’t forget to have your child address the envelope correctly. This is a skill lost on many elementary aged students.
• Create a summer scrapbook (or even a collage on poster board) chronicling all of the fun activities that you participate in this summer. Your child can include pictures, captions, and souvenirs.
• Start a magazine or comic book subscription for your child. Kids usually devour these and never realize they are actually reading!