School may be out, but learning never ends. That doesn’t mean sitting your kids down for a classroom session each day. It means simply incorporating learning into everyday activities and encouraging your child’s natural curiosity. When your child shows interest in a topic and asks you questions, use that as an opportunity to encourage his or her inquisitiveness.
If your child is in school, most teachers will include progress report comments on areas in which your child may need improvement. Keep those areas in mind when engaging in learning opportunities throughout the summer. Seek out activities that focus on those specific areas. If it’s something like memorizing multiplication tables that might not lend itself to casual engagement, get some flash cards and set aside practice time or use a fun online site (search multiplication table games, there are many fun, free options).
Look for learning opportunities in everyday activities. While at the market, ask your youngster to select three red peppers or find a yellow vegetable. If it’s a quick trip, ask him or her to count the number of items in your cart to see if you can use the Express Lane. Having pizza, cake, pie or anything that will be cut into portions? Practice fractions and ask your child what fraction of the pizza he is eating.
Let your child help you bake or cook dinner. Readers can follow a recipe. Give younger children the tasks of measuring ingredients. Talk about fractions when measuring. Take advantage of blueberry season and count out blueberries for a recipe. Or guess how many blueberries are in a cup — measure and then count.
Summer is a great time to explore the local events and attractions in your area. Take in an art show; visit a petting zoo; or explore an arboretum, botanic garden or forest preserve. Don’t just wander and look. Really engage in the activity. At an art show, talk about the colors in the paintings. At the zoo, discuss the sounds animals make. In nature, take a hike and collect things that you find interesting. Bring them home and make a collage or start a bowl of “treasures.”
After your outing, keep learning by investigating some of the things you saw. Check out a book on famous artists from the library, search for fun animal facts online, identify different plant leaves or research how an acorn becomes a tree.
Read, read, read
Nurturing reading skills is crucial during the summer months. For young children, take advantage of story time at your local library. Older children can participate in your library’s summer reading program, where they can often earn rewards for their time spent reading. Don’t limit reading to books. There are many great children’s magazines that children enjoy and are a perfect option for a reluctant reader. Try Ranger Rick, National Geographic Kids, American Girl or Sports Illustrated Kids.
Even a trip to the market can be an opportunity for an emerging reader to practice. Give your son or daughter your shopping list and have him or her tell you what you need to buy.
The important thing is to think of learning not as something that just happens in the classroom or during a set aside time each day. Learning can happen anywhere, any place. Just follow and nurture your child’s natural curiosity to create a summer of fun, learning experiences.
Brenda J. Henne is a Certified Teacher and Learning Specialist with the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital Comprehensive Eating Disorders Program. Prior to joining the Mott team, Brenda gained extensive experience as a classroom teacher and educational administrator within a variety of settings. Brenda has most recently been the chair for special services at a large comprehensive high school developing and directing programs and services that enabled students to meet rigorous educational standards.
University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” and among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the nation by Parents Magazine. In December 2011, the hospital opened our new 12-story, state-of-the-art facility offering cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.