Backyard gardens, puppet theaters, scrapbooks and crafts are some of the ways to keep children active and their minds working all summer long.*
Summer vacation can be either a learning wasteland or a learning paradise. With a little ingenuity and planning, the summer can be transformed into a time to stretch the mind, explore new hobbies, learn about responsibility and build on individual skills. Learning can take place whether you are taking a trip, or spending the summer in your own neighborhood. Be careful not to over-plan or give into lazy temptations of video games and couch-potato time. Here are some fun ideas for stimulating summer activities:
1. Grow the biggest zucchini in your neighborhood.
What better way to learn the basics of science and how things grow than to plant your own garden? You can start with seeds or small plants. Talk about what plants need to be hardy: air, water, sunlight and nutrients. Vegetables are especially fun and educational to plant because kids will learn where food comes from and will also get to eat the end product. So, how big can it grow?
2. Clip, paste and write about your family adventures.
A family vacation is a perfect opportunity to create a trip scrapbook that will be a lasting souvenir of family adventures. Collect postcards, brochures and menus from restaurants and tourist attractions. Encourage a child to write descriptions of the places visited and tell stories about your family’s escapades. Or suggest a scrapbook about a favorite sports team or a chronicle of this year in school. The scrapbook might contain photos with captions, newspaper clippings or school mementos.
Many photo-sharing Web sites, such as Shutterfly or KodakGallery, will help you (for a fee) create professional quality photo books, where you arrange the photos and write captions.
3. Get theatrical.
Young children can make their own puppet theater. Begin by cutting off the finger-ends of old gloves. Draw faces on these fingers with felt tip markers and glue on yarn for hair. Or glue on felt strips to create cat, dog or other animal faces. Then a child can create a story that the finger puppets can act out. For older children, find books containing play scripts for young people and encourage them with friends to create their own neighborhood theater. They can plan a performance, make a simple stage at the park or on the steps of someone’s home, create playbills and sell tickets.
4. Make chocolate mousse or build a bird feeder.
Toy stores and craft shops are full of kits for making things, from bird feeders to model airplanes to mosaic tableaux. These projects teach children to read and follow directions, and offer the added benefit of creating a finished product. Science experiment books encourage children to observe and ask questions while providing hours of hands-on fun using scientific concepts.
What child wouldn’t be inspired to bake cookies or make chocolate mousse? A cookbook geared for children is a good place to start. Ethnic cookbooks provide an excellent way to explore the food of other cultures, and open up conversations about how people do things differently in other parts of the world. Children are much more likely to eat something strange if they make it themselves.
5. Paint the picket fence, baby-sit or volunteer at a soup kitchen.
Even young children can learn to be responsible by helping to set the table, take care of a pet, clean out a closet, wash the car or paint the picket fence. Ask them to be your energy consultant and help find ways to conserve energy in your house. Outside summer jobs and community service help children learn to be punctual, follow directions and serve others.
6. Become the family’s junior travel agent.
Half the fun of a trip starts before you get there. Involve children in the planning by practicing how to use a map to find cities and tourist attractions, and how to estimate distances. If you are driving, together you can discuss navigation or other tools in your car for an interesting look at the many facets to make travel happen. If you are flying or traveling by train, check travel schedules and costs – these are great options for exploring math together.
Research your destination in books and on the Internet. If you are going to a different state, look up information about the state, such as the state flower, state bird and interesting attractions. Children can write to the state tourism bureau to ask for information.
7. Turn a museum trip into a treasure hunt.
Children can get excited about visiting a museum by exploring the museum’s Web site and taking a virtual tour. When you go to a museum, take into account short attention spans and don’t try to cover a whole museum in one day. To make them less intimidating, start in the gift shop and let a child pick out some postcards of paintings or objects on display. Turn your museum trip into a treasure hunt by trying to find those paintings or objects in the museum. Look for interactive exhibits and for periods of history that may have been studied in school.
Older child build citizenship skills as well as practice writing by encouraging them to write a letter to the editor of the local newspaper or a local government official about an issue of concern, such as building a bike path or renovating a local playground.
*Portions of Article reprinted from: https://www.greatschools.org