By Shelley Shoemaker
Hearing the words summer and learning in the same sentence is enough to strike fear into the hearts of many school children. But, it really doesn’t have to be that way. It doesn’t have to mean a workbook or worksheet packets. It’s important to show our children that learning can take place anywhere, anytime with whatever is at hand. Life and experiences are the best teachers. Read on for ideas you can do at home with your child.
10 Fun Learning Summer Learning 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 your child will learn where food comes from and will also get to eat the end product.
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 your child to write descriptions of the places you visited and tell stories about your family's escapades.
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 your 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 your child to create a neighborhood theater with some friends. 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 your child 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 your child 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, work with your child to figure out how many gallons of gas it will take to get there and estimate the cost. If you are flying or traveling by train, check travel schedules and costs.
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. Have your child write to the state tourism bureau to ask for information.
7. Visit a jelly bean factory or a glassblowing studio.
Whether you are going on a trip far away or staying close to home, seek out places where children can learn how things are made. In San Francisco, you can visit a teddy bear factory; in Arkansas, a glass blowing studio; and in Hawaii, a macadamia nut factory.
8. Turn a museum trip into a treasure hunt.
Get your children 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 your 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 your child has studied in school.
9. Get stickers, tattoos and comics for free.
Composing a letter helps build writing skills and can be especially rewarding when your child gets a reply in the form of a cool free item. The book, Free Things for Kids suggests more than 300 places you can write to get such items as stickers, temporary tattoos, comic books, magazines and sports memorabilia. Some of the items cost a dollar or less, but the majority are free. The book, updated annually, also includes Web sites to check out for free downloadable software, ezines or other items to send for by mail.
You can help your older child build citizenship skills as well as practice his writing by encouraging him to write a letter to the editor of the local newspaper or a local government official about an issue he is concerned about, such as building a bike path or renovating a local playground.
10. Become an investment guru or a math wizard.
Summer is the perfect time for older children and teens to learn about the stock market and the value of investing. A good way to get started is to investigate publicly held companies that teens are familiar with, such as Apple Computer, eBay, Nike or Tootsie Roll. The Motley Fool "Teens and Money" Web site is devoted to helping teens learn about saving and investing. Your older child might also want to join a Junior Investor program to learn more about the stock market. It is also possible to help your teen get a head start on high school math by doing math puzzles.
Whatever you do, enjoy your time together. Don’t forget to check out the free reading programs at your local library. It’s a great way to encourage reading over the summer motivated by prizes and raffles. If reading independently is a problem, get books on CD and have your child read along.
Have a fun-filled, safe, and happy summer! And, of course, I’m always interested in your comments, questions, suggestions, etc. so don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Excerpted from http://www.greatschools.org/students/summer-activities/68-summer-learning-activities-that-are-practically-free.gs