In fact, studies have shown that children lose ground if they don’t maintain healthy learning habits during their three months off.This doesn’t mean that children need to be doing activities that are explicitly educational in order to keep their brains sharp for back-to-school.
There are many opportunities to ensure your child’s break keeps him or her thinking and learning, but still having fun. Here are just a few.
- Make trips to the library.
Summer reading is one of the best ways to engage children’s minds during the summer months. This can be a battle if your child is not a fan of reading—but the benefits of regular reading for young minds are too important to pass up.
Make reading fun for children by allowing them to choose their own material. Take a trip to the library and have everyone pick out a book or magazine of his or her choice. Even if it’s a graphic novel or a car magazine, the interaction with words is enough to start a habit.
By allowing children to pick things to read that speak to their interests, they will be more likely to keep reading. Encourage children to learn more about the things they find interesting in their summer readings. For example, an article about space travel could turn into an informal research project about space, just for the fun of it.
Let your children see you reading, and make sure that they have time to read several times a week. And if they prefer reading in electronic format instead of print, don’t forget to keep the tablet charged so there are no excuses not to read!
- Plan road trips together.
If you will be going out of town anyway, allow your children to help plan the trip so that they will get more out of the experience. Make sure there is at least one educational activity during the trip – whether that be visiting museums or art galleries, historical landmarks, or nature parks.
A trip to a museum will be more fun for everyone if the children have a say in which museum they get to visit. Although you may not be able to honor all of their requests, you can at least give them the opportunity to be part of the decision-making process.
You can also encourage your child to learn more about the spot he or she picked – to become a sort of expert or tour guide for when you arrive. The research your child does, even if it’s just on Wikipedia, will broaden his or her understanding of the experience and open new doors for future learning interests.
- Engage in dinner-table discussions.
It may not always be possible to have a sit-down family dinner, but any opportunity to have a deeper conversation with your child will help build important critical thinking skills. Don’t just talk about how the day went; ask your children questions about “adult topics,” like politics or the news.
Ask questions and allow them to share their opinions in a way that keeps the conversation going. Ask “why” and “how” to get them to think more fully about their ideas.
Another great way to have meaningful conversations with your children is to talk about the summer reading they’ve been doing, or about what they’ve learned in preparation for that upcoming road trip.
- Get physical.
Physical activity is good for the body and the mind. Promote your children’s brain health this summer by allowing them to play outside, or by encouraging them to take part in summer sports.
Whether it is a family game of football in the park, a neighborhood soccer team, or an evening bike ride along the Rillito, there are many opportunities for kids to get off the couch and start moving.
If they become really interested in a sport, then there is also another avenue to engage your child’s mind with more learning – suggest she or he read more about famous athletes and sporting events, or even learn more about the rules of the game and its history.
Summer learning doesn’t have to mean filling out workbooks and writing mini reports – although that is sometimes a good way to keep overachievers quenching their thirst for knowledge. Actively thinking, reading, and interacting with their immediate surroundings and interests builds children’s critical thinking skills, sparks their curiosity, and keeps their minds strong for the next school season.