|By Artaxerxes (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), via Wikimedia Commons|
You know, the one where all the great information and skills your child learned during the school year dwindles and is forgotten in the months of no brain stimulation?
Some ideas that my family's done or that I wish we would have done...
I am a big believer that kids should read every day. I don't care if it is a comic book or a 1000 page novel. As long as it is age appropriate, kids should read.
- You can have them read signs along the road or the map at the zoo.
- Kids can read below their reading level to work on speed and just enjoy the story.
- They can read at their level (or one a little challenging) to work on increasing their reading abilities.
- Visit the library often.
- Take turns in the evening with the family reading out loud together - like people did before television. This builds family bonds and is an inexpensive fun activity that can become a fun family tradition.
- Ask about what your kids are reading. Can they summarize what they've read? What do they think will happen next? How would they have ended the story differently?
- Gather a group of friends and start a summer book club. Pick a few good books, and meet once a week to talk about them.
- Check out the many places that offer summer reading rewards, such as your local library, bookstore, or school.
Games and puzzles are another great way to build thinking skills.
- Board games can work on colors and counting for young children, and problem solving and strategy building for older kids. They also work on social skills (such as waiting your turn and being a gracious winner or loser).
- Computer games can be great learning opportunities, despite all the warnings to limit screen time. Too much of anything is not healthy - we need balance in our lives. Monitor screen use for age appropriate activities and limit times, but allow intellectually stimulating games sometimes. Many computer games allow kids to learn from their mistakes and master skills in fun ways.
- Age appropriate puzzles, sudoku, cards, and word games are a great way to learn critical thinking, build vocabulary, and keep math skills sharp.
- Throughout the day you can ask your kids questions that require thinking before answering. Instead of letting them give just a simple factual answer, ask how they came up with it or how they feel about something.
- Let them help you pick out meals for the week, taking into consideration the nutritional components of a healthy meal. Ask how they would like the broccoli to be served.
- If they help cook, you can have them convert a recipe to double it for a neighborhood picnic.
- Describe the weather forecast and plans for the day and ask what clothes would be appropriate with that in mind.
- Ask kids how they feel in response to things that happen throughout the day.
- Play a game of what if? How would something that happened have turned out if they did or said something differently at any given moment? (One rule: you can't change what others do or say in real life, so you can only change what you would do or say in the game.) Think about the response other people would have had (such as "What could you have said that would have changed the outcome when Billy cut in line at the slide?" Or "What Sally would have said if you said ___ instead?) or ask about what physical events would have changed (such as if they threw the ball to Bob at first base instead of to the pitcher or if they jumped into the cold pool instead of entering slowly).
- Ask if there's another way to do something, since there are usually many options to get to the same place or conclusion. Maybe there's an alternate route to take to the zoo since there's an accident on the road you usually take. (This also works well if they get the wrong answer, such as on a math problem.)
Play and explore
- Outdoor play is amazing for kids and their development. As they climb, roll down hills, build forts, or do whatever, they are working on motor skills.
- Playing with other children helps develop healthy social skills. When kids are always told what to do (school, sports, other scheduled activities) they never learn how to be independent, which can harm them in the long run.
- Play school. Kids love to be the teacher and teach others!
- Visit a museum, zoo, or historical site.
Music and dance
- Kids love to put on shows for friends and family with acting, singing, dancing and playing instruments. This can be impromptu fun or a more organized neighborhood event where they make posters to announce the show and even make tickets to give out.
- Older kids will love to shoot videos of themselves and share online. Be sure parents review what is posted and it is appropriate for the type of posting (public vs private).
- Coloring, chalk art, painting, building with blocks or Legos ... so many options!
- Design a "dream" bedroom and show how even small changes can update the room.
- Make a map of your town of all your favorite spots: home, parks, grocery store, the zoo...
- Have kids make up their own game, complete with game pieces and rules.
- Design new outfits from dress up clothes (or actual sewing for older kids) and put on a fashion show for friends and family.
- Build an art gallery over the summer. Make paintings, paper mache, clay models, whatever suits you! Put it all out for display at the end of summer and invite friends and family to see the art!
Volunteer and give to charities
- Kids, tweens and teens can find many opportunities to volunteer during the summer months.
- It can be as simple as playing with young neighbors while their parents do yard work or run to the store, help with a neighbor's pet and newspaper while they are out of town, or pick up trash on a family walk.
- Teens can find volunteer positions in many places. In my community that may be with their church or synagogue, at Deanna Rose Farmstead, hospitals, animal shelters, Harvester's Food Bank, and many more.
- Kids can write letters to soldiers, make blankets for sick or foster kids, pick up trash at a park, plant a tree, make a care package for a soldier, and many more.
- Anyone with long hair can donate hair to kids in need through ChildrenWithHairLoss or WigsForKids.
- If your family wants to financially help a sponsored child in another country, check out Unbound. Your child can help write letters to that child and learn about that child and his/her life from letters received.
- As a family: go through closets and dressers to find clothes, games, books, and toys that are appropriate to give to your favorite charity. To see how charities rank, check out CharityNavigator and CharityWatch.
- For more ideas, check out DoSomething.org.