What uplifting song does your child enjoy listening to during summer? Are they like Alice Cooper, singing and yelling defiantly that summer break from school has arrived? Or are they more similar to Nat King Cole and his listeners, who look forward to sleeping and playing games throughout the summer? No matter what type of person your child is, there are ways that the whole family can use summer as an opportunity to learn. Check out the ideas below for some tips on how to make the most of summer and still have plenty of fun!
Keeping your kids’ learning going during summer travel can be fun with the right amount of preparation and realistic expectations.
If your children take a break from learning during the summer months, you may be concerned about summer learning loss and its impact on them. It is understandable that you would want to help your children keep up the progress they made during the previous school year.
Summer travel is a great opportunity to sneak in some learning while also having fun. Use your vacation time wisely by following these tips and suggestions for adding educational fun to your summer travel plans.
Four Important Reminders to Keep Learning Fun During Summer Travel
- K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Sweetie!): As much as you want to encourage the continuation of learning during the summer, remember to keep it simple. Your kids do not need complicated lessons, crafts, or games. One or two well-selected items can bring hours of joy and discovery. Do you recall those days when your kids could keep themselves entertained for hours with a cardboard box? Same principle.
- Keep It Real: Real expectations, that is! Parents frequently make the big mistake of building up these unrealistic fantasies of how summer travel (and its associated learning fun) will occur. Will your kids really want to sing 99 Bottles of Root Beer on the wall five times on the way to the shore? Great song that includes math concepts but might not be everybody’s idea of fun.
- Personalities: Are you or your kids introverted or extroverted? Most families have a combination of these two types of personalities. Plan accordingly. Extroverts will want to play interactive games and go mingle with crowds at educational exhibits. Introverts will need to recharge with time by themselves.
- Interests: Consider the different interests of your family members. Put in your best effort to make sure that everyone gets to play a travel game or visit a site that particularly interests them.
Suggested Ideas to Add Learning Fun to Summer Travel
Assuming that you want tips for preparing to learn during summer travel:
-Choose a destination that you’re genuinely interested in. The more you’re looking forward to learning about a place, the easier it’ll be to engage with it.
-Pack light. lugging around a huge backpack or suitcase will make it harder to be spontaneous and flexible with your plans. -Make some basic plans, but leave room for serendipity. By plotting out a few key activities and sights, you’ll have a solid foundation for your trip. But if you’re too rigid in your planning, you’ll miss out on the best parts of traveling: the surprises that pop up when you least expect them.
-Talk to locals. One of the best ways to learn about a place is to ask the people who live there. They can tell you about the best off-the-beaten-path spots, fill you in on the city’s history, and offer insights into the day-to-day realities of life in a new place.
It is important to do your research before you travel to a new destination. You can find out more about your destination by visiting the library and looking for books about the area. You can also search online for information about the route to your destination and the surrounding area. It is a good idea to encourage your children to make notes or draw pictures of what they learn during their research.
Make sure to look for special sites during your research that would be educational for your kids. These could include landmarks, exhibits, and events. tailor your selections to fit your travel schedule.
Students can build background knowledge by engaging in various summer activities. One such activity is summer reading. Summer reading can be used to build knowledge in any content area. Summer learning does not have to be overly complicated. I prefer to think of it as building up background knowledge. The more information a student has about a topic, the more connections they can make. One way students can build background knowledge is through summer reading. This can be a helpful activity for expanding students’ understanding in any content area.
If you want to turn your children into lifelong learners, the key is to have them build on what they already know and activate that knowledge to learn new things. Here are some easy things you can do over the summer to help them build their background knowledge.
Choose a map app and search for local museums. Visit the websites of these museums for resources on how to make the most of your visit. Then, use the “Plan your Visit” site to figure out the logistics of your trip. After that, consider what exhibits would be appropriate for your child and what you want your child to take away from the experience.
Before beginning a project, have a discussion about what everyone knows and what they want to know. Afterwards, follow up by asking what they learned that they didn’t know before. Keep the conversation informal, and explore the project further by looking at the gift store before leaving.
If you want to get more out of your museum visit, check to see if the museum has any other materials or activities that you can do while visiting. For example, the North Carolina Museum of History has “Pre-Visit Materials” that you can print out beforehand, which feature an exhibit map and age-appropriate activities. Remember that this is NOT a school field trip. It is a day of exploration and fun! If your child finds something that sparks their interest, it is okay to change the focus of the day!
If you’re not near a big city with big city museums, there are still plenty of options for museums to visit. A little research can help you find some hidden gems, like a mill museum, a small museum of art and design, or a dairy museum that has homemade ice cream at the end of the tour. There are plenty of fun and educational adventures to be had, even if you’re not in a big city.
To find a park near you, search for parks on your map app. Local parks with playgrounds and athletic fields will come up first, but if you scroll down, you’ll also find amphitheaters, interpretive trails, and other activities. I found a county park near me that has a butterfly/hummingbird garden and a separate bird garden. You can check out a butterfly or native bird guide from the library before you go so you know what to look for, and see how many you can find while you’re there!
Getting there is half the fun!
I used to pack a secret vacation bag for the trip when my children were younger. I would scour the best toy catalogues and bookstores to find books and other activities to keep them entertained during the car trip. I would pull out these activities one by one throughout the trip when they got restless.
In addition to commercial travel games, but there are fantastic free ones. We would find signs with each letter of the alphabet in alphabetical order. We would keep a list of states’ license plates we saw. Children can track our progress on their “map”–placemats. Which can also come in handy to verify state capitals. Podcasts and audio books are also great for the whole family to listen to while in the car or other forms of transportation.
It’s important to remember to have fun while you’re learning! If the kids start to get bored or hungry, it’s no problem to change course. Sometimes, 10 items on a scavenger hunt can be too much. Before it gets too overwhelming, say something like, “Let’s find one more, and then we can go to the snack bar.” The most important thing is that everyone leaves happy.
Integrating Math into Everyday Activities
If you want to have some fun while integrating math into your summer, visit a farmer’s market. Many farmer’s markets are one of the last places where you can still pay with cash, so it’s a great opportunity to put math skills to use. For example, you can have your child determine how much 3 pounds of sweet potatoes would cost. To make it more challenging, you can ask which stand has the best price. Give your child several bills and see if they can determine which denomination of bill to use to pay. And don’t forget to count the change!
Help them read a map by finding the best route from home to school. You can work on your math skills without spending a lot of money on workbooks. Try challenging yourself to count to 50 or say the 6 times table before the red light turns green. You can also help yourself read a map by finding the best route from home to school. Here’s some things to try:
You can use dice to help your child practice a range of math skills, depending on their age and grade level. For example, they can work on counting, identifying numbers that are the same, determining which numbers are greater or less than each other, or multiplying using the six times tables. Older students can learn the commutative property of addition and multiplication, which means that the answer is the same even if you switch the order of the numbers (3 x 4 = 12 and 4 x 3 = 12). You can find free printable dice worksheets here.
If you want to practice higher-level math, try playing Damult Dice. In this game, each player gets three dice. The goal is to be the first person to reach a total of 200, 300, etc., by adding two numbers and multiplying by the third. For example, if you roll a 2, 3, and 4, you could get 20 [(2 + 3) x 4] or 14 [(3 + 4) x 2] or 18 [(2 + 4) x 3]. Of course, someone will need to keep track of the score for everyone. If you want a division-based version of this game, check out this math for love blog post.
Students can use dominoes to learn about addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Subtraction and division are not commutative, so the order of the numbers matters. To make a subtraction equation, determine which number is larger. You can find printable dominoes online.
Your child could practice math while enjoying a delicious treat by reading one of the many counting books created by popular candy companies such as M&M’s and Reese’s Pieces. If you’re looking for more math-themed reading material, be sure to check out this extensive list of math books that are sorted by skill and grade level – your local public library is sure to have many of these titles available!
You can find 5 math enrichment games on Learning Liftoff’s website that you can make cheaply using items such as shells, water balloons, and pool noodles from a local grocery store. You can also have fun practicing math skills with commercial games such as Sequence, Pizza Fraction Fun, Rummikub, and Cover Your Assets.
You should check out MathGameTime for online games that are organized by grade and subject. The Get the Math section on the website shows how Algebra is used in the real world with interactive challenges. This is a great resource, especially for older students who might be wondering why they have to learn Algebra.
Extending Learning for Middle and High School Students
Teens can improve their academic skills by engaging in intentional activities such as planning a meal. This activity requires teens to find a recipe, go to the store to buy the ingredients, and use their measuring skills. If they double or halve the recipe, they can get even more practice.
If you have lots of junk around the house, why not get your teenager to help you organize a yard sale? They could work on their writing skills by starting a journal or writing poetry, songs, or short stories. Then they could put those writing skills to use by sending snail mail letters to elderly family members, which would make their day!
If you want to help your child develop important literacy concepts while also engaging them in fun and meaningful conversation, consider watching movies together. Here’s a list of movies that are both educational and enjoyable. Click on the movie for more information and some discussion ideas. You can go beyond the characters, setting, and plot with these general questions that take a deeper dive into theme, symbolism, and point of view to name just a few of the literary elements.
Read for fun
Additionally, summer is an excellent time to catch up on reading for fun! A great way to start your summer vacation is by visiting your local library (or bookstore). Many libraries (and some bookstores) have summer reading programs for kids – be sure to check them out and sign your kids up!
Read Theory on the Go
You can set up your child’s Read Theory account by following this link. This article explains how ReadTheory works, and provides tips for goal setting, a Knowledge Points Badge progress chart, and a reading log. You can also print out a color copy of the badges to keep track of your progress.
It doesn’t matter if you’re spending your summer days at home or on the road – remember to ask your kids lots of questions to encourage their natural curiosity and create opportunities for them to learn more. These suggestions should help stop your kids from getting bored and maybe even turn them into lifelong learners!