Summer is a magical time for children. Free from the structure of school, long and lazy days stretch before them full of the promise of adventure. For parents, summer vacation can be a much more stressful experience as they wait for the first whiny cry of, “I’m BORED!” Take some stress out of your summer by planning ahead. These three activities will keep your kid’s downtime full of active play that will nurture their body and mind.
Reading Bucket List
Over the summer, many kids lose some of the abilities they worked so hard for during the school year. Teachers call this the “summer slide” and it’s more frequent in early readers and low-income families. You can stop the summer slide by helping your child read every day with a reading bucket list.
Similar to a scavenger hunt checklist, the list makes daily reading a game and keep kids engaged by integrating reading into their summer play and travel. You can use an easy printable list made by educators and librarians or create your own and let your child come up with her own reading challenges to complete.
Even if you don’t need summer childcare help, a structured summer program can give kids a chance to meet new friends, stay physically active, and learn new skills. A good summer program will have enthusiastic teachers with plenty of experience in your child’s age group. Look to the school district or private parties like International Montessori School for programs that feature themes your son or daughter is interested in and let them choose from those options if possible.
Spending time in a summer program during part of their vacation helps kids remain familiar with the routines of the school year, and camps or summer schools have a curriculum designed to keep kids moving and learning all day. That means a smoother transition back to school in the fall for them, and less whining at home for you.
Kids need to move during the summer months to stay healthy and develop gross motor skills, but they also need projects that build fine motor skills too. Look for opportunities to do both skill sets together with a mapping project! Take family walks after dinner, or plan some biking trips to new places. Extend the learning when the ride is done by asking your kids to create maps of the trails and paths they explored.
This generation may never use an old-fashioned paper atlas, but the mapmaking skills they’ll learn will help stop that summer slide. Plotting landmarks and remembering direction help children retain crucial spatial skills used in math and the drawing and labeling skills they’ll use making the map keeps little fingers strong enough for writing when school starts again. Best of all, you’ll see new places as a family, and have a map of your journeys to remember your summer adventures forever.
Some unstructured time is good for kids during the summer, but having a few plans in mind can help you keep your kids healthy during their downtime. No matter what you plan for your family this summer, look for ways to integrate movement and learning together. Let your child’s interests lead the way and they’ll be busy and happy all summer long.
By Brooke Chaplan
Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most of her time hiking, biking, and gardening. For more information contact Brooke via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.