by Rachelle Tannenbaum
It’s summer, and school’s out. Does this mean that learning can’t occur during the summer? Absolutely not! In this month’s issue of the e-zine, we’ll explore ways to stretch your children’s minds during the summer months.
If you’re looking for activities for your kids this summer, you may want to check out AACC’s Kids in College summer camps. They run all summer long, with programs for kids ages 3-18. You and your child may also enjoy our intergenerational “Family Time” classes. Details about those classes (as well as all of The Parenting Center’s summer programs) can be found on our brochure.
KEEPING KIDS’ MINDS ENGAGED OVER THE SUMMER
There are many summer programs that are explicitly labeled as “educational.” Most of them are wonderful programs where kids have a great time and learn a lot in the process. But even if your kids don’t go to such programs, there are still lots of easy (and inexpensive ways) to help keep their minds active. As a side bonus, these activities will cut down on the “but I’m boooored!” whining that one hears all too often in the summer. Cooking
is an activity that the entire family can enjoy. Kids are more likely to enjoy foods if they’ve invested the time and energy to prepare it. They can also develop a wide range of skills:
- Creativity: What happens when you try new combinations of ingredients?
- Problem-solving: What do you do when the sauce seems too thin?
- Following directions
- Math skills: Just think about how many fractions are involved in following a recipe!
Take field trips. Call a local factory, fire department, or hospital to see if your kids can see how the people there do their jobs. You’d be amazed at how many people will jump at the chance to show off what they do!
Play games that involve critical thought. These can be board games, word games, card games, charades…the possibilities are endless. The games don’t have to be explicitly educational; anything that involves memory, thought, or strategizing will do wonders to promote cognitive development. Sudoku is a great example—it’s become very popular in recent years, and lots of kids like it because they don’t see it as “educational.” Two of my personal favorites are SET and Apples to Apples. Descriptions for each are in the list of recommended links at the end of this article.
Encourage reading. Research has consistently shown that reading anything—sports pages, comic books, novels, magazines—helps to improve children’s skills. Given the importance of this skill in just about every job, this isn’t something to neglect. So if your kids aren’t avid readers, how can you instill this habit?
- First and foremost, you need to find out what your kids like, and build on that. If they like sports, suggest biographies of famous athletes. If they like movies, find the book versions, or suggest books with similar themes. For example, the American Library Association has a long list of books that might interest kids who are fans of the Harry Potter series. I also find that Amazon.com can be a good resource for this sort of thing—look up any one book, and it’s usually on a bunch of lists with names like “great mysteries” or “books for those who liked Star Wars.”
- Make sure that you’ve got plenty of reading material on hand. You want to make reading a natural choice, not something that requires effort. Buy books, trade them, or take them out of the library.
- Don’t force it. If your kids aren’t big on reading, introduce it in small doses. Suggest they try reading for a short period of time, or until they finish a single chapter. If they’re still bored afterward, let them stop. If you make them read, they’ll only resent it.
- You yourself need to model the reading habit. Let your kids see you reading, and talk to them about what you (and they) read. If you’re not a big reader yourself, there’s no time like the present to start! You might even consider starting a parent-child book group, so that you can read the same books and talk about them afterward. For example, my cousin and her son recently read the book “The Day My Butt Went Psycho,” by Andy Griffiths. I doubt she’d have chosen it on her own, but her son loved it, and it was a special bonding experience that the two of them could share together.
CONTINUE TO PAGE 2