Studies show that during summer months kids who don’t read can lose two to three months of the skills they learned in school. Use it or lose it right? But how do you go about getting in daily activities that help prevent summer slide? It’s easier than you might think, and it doesn’t have to be limited to sitting at home reading a book. Yes, go to your library and get books. Join some summer reading programs. And encourage children to read for at least 20 minutes a day on their own. But here are a few other ways to keep their brains in business so they are ready for the new school year that awaits them.
Plant a garden – Pay a visit to your local nursery or home improvement store and pick out a few good starter plants and a bag of garden soil. You don’t need a large yard to have a garden. You can make or buy a box planter and keep it on your patio. Tomatoes, strawberries, and blueberries are my kids’ favorites. But we planted a few zucchini and crookneck squash plants about a month ago and we have already pulled 6 full sized pieces to use for dinner. I love plants that produce quickly. And so do the kids. They get to see the fruits of their labor and enjoy the benefits of eating healthy foods that they have grown themselves. And they learn the skill and responsibility of caring for something.
Cook together – Cooking together is a great way to combine reading and math. Ask your child to choose a recipe that looks delicious and work together to prepare it. Cooking with your kids provides you both with the benefits of quality time together, making memories and having conversations. You are working together to create something special. Learning to cook also builds confidence in kids, improves motor skills, and teaches life skills that allow kids to be more self-sufficient.
Read together – We read every night. It’s our one thing that always happens. We used to do it separately, with my husband reading to our son while I read to our daughter. But recently I decided to incorporate more literature into our nightly reading and it makes more sense for us to do it together. Now, every night we pile in the big bed and read. We started with Charlotte’s Web, and now we’re reading the Little House on the Prairie series. I love that they are getting a glimpse of what life was like for children in other times and places. And remember, kids are never too old for reading together.
Challenge the kids to build something – My kids like to play Minecraft. Recently, after they turned the game off, I challenged them to pick a doll or stuffed animal and use something in their rooms to build a home for it. I required that the structure have a floor, a door and a roof. This task didn’t require any reading, but forced them to use what they know about angles and edges and critical thinking to create something from scratch. Using the imagination allows kids to tap into the skills they have learned and keeps them fresh. Do you have crafty kids? Put together an inventor’s box with wood, string, cardboard and other scrap material you might have around the house and let them head outside to piece together the next great invention.
Get out and explore nature – Every state has a National Park, a State Park, or a Regional Park system. Nature centers, wildlife preserves, and local trails are always nearby. Get an inexpensive composition book to use as a nature journal and take the kids out on a hike somewhere to explore the habitats and wildlife. Some locations have self-guided trails with signs describing what you see around you or something important about the surrounding environment. Be sure they read these so they can learn the history or relevance of the signs. After or during the hike, ask them to sketch in their nature journal and write a few sentences about where they are, what they see, and what they like most about their adventure. I just asked my kids to do this yesterday after our hike and I enjoyed reading about what their favorite experience was. Also, over time, I can see their growth in the journal entries as they use more descriptive words and write lengthier paragraphs about their experience. My preschooler draws pictures about her favorite part and I write her narration on the back. These are fantastic mementos to keep, documenting our adventures together as they grow up.
And don’t forget to talk to your kids. So often we talk at them, but we need to be sure to take time to have meaningful conversations about whatever strikes their interest at the moment. Where do bananas come from? What’s your favorite animal and why? How is a dust devil different from a tornado? Where in the world is Pie Town? Talk with your kids. It’s one thing that will build their confidence, their vocabulary, and their relationship with you.
Which activity do you plan to try out this summer?