I have been an educator for 25 years and a parent for 21 years. My two youngest boys are ages seven and eight. As you might expect, all three boys are completely different in personalities, strengths, and learning styles.
But one thing remains constant: children are children and as my dear friend says, "Children are wired to learn!" The key is to discover your child's learning style and interests, and run with it.
Top Three Ways to Engage Kids in Summer Learning
1. Let them play- All children, no matter their age, learn through play, whether it is solitary play or collaborative play. This is my #1 advice to parents: provide unstructured free time for children to explore, discover new learning on their own, take risks, experiment, and yes, make mistakes. Just yesterday my boys took their battery-powered monster trucks outside to play. They worked together on building a dirt pile that the trucks could climb without falling over. They did not ask for my help, I did not interrupt, and they learned a whole lot about science and forces of motion. Kids are born curious! Watch this short video that offers advice in a more eloquent fashion:
2. Child-Led Interests- Ask your child what they would like to learn this summer. My youngest wanted to grow pumpkins in the garden because he was curious about how they grow. So, we are having fun and learning much about the life cycle of a pumpkin! My middle son is immersed in Greek mythology and is enjoying reading, drawing, and writing his own myths. Are you going on a summer vacation? Study your vacation destination by researching on the Internet, looking at the Atlas, and reading books about your destination. Calculate the miles, the cost of fuel, food, hotel, campground, etc. Encourage students to keep a journal where they can write, glue pictures and postcards, and draw their experiences before, during, and after the trip. To answer those burning questions that kids have, allow them to visit the fabulous site, Wonderopolis.
3. Reading and Academics- I don't recommend forcing kids to read over the summer, but rather to encourage authentic reading and content exploration. Personally, I'm not a fan of bogging down kids with keeping a reader's log. Nor, am I a huge fan of offering extrinsic rewards for reading. If this works to motivate your child to read, then go with it. I keep a log for my kids, but usually they want to take ownership of it and being boys, they like to post the log on the fridge to compete to see who is reading the most books. I scatter books of interest here, there, and everywhere throughout the house. This will pique their interest, and I allow them the freedom to choose what and when they will read. I read aloud to them at dinner, at breakfast, or whenever we need quiet time. They have chosen to be part of the summer reading program at our local library (motivated by the prizes), but I did not force the issue. My youngest wants to learn more about geometry, and the eight year old wants to learn multiplication. Run with whatever their interests are! Encourage and praise them for any reading they do whether it is learning how to make a paper airplane, reading a recipe, or staying up past bedtime to read with a flashlight.
Ban the worksheets and workbooks, let kids be kids, encourage play time, learning, and watch what happens!
For many more summer activities to keep kids engaged and learning over the summer check out this amazing new blog I recently discovered that is a treasure trove of crafts, games, and outdoor summer activities for kids of all ages! Just click the picture below to visit!
Have more ideas? Please share in the comments section!