Summer is here! And as much as I love the “lazy days” of summer, I know it’s important to use some of our extra time to keep my kids learning. But with the sprinkler and playroom calling, it can be hard to get them interested. That’s why I developed this simple system for doing summer learning activities.
If you’re like me, creating and preparing summer learning activities for your kids might not be the first thing on your list. Frankly, I’m enjoying my break. I don’t have to drive my kids to and from school every day. I don’t have to check homework, listen to memory work, or keep track of school paperwork.
I’d be content to sit in the yard with a good book while the kids play contentedly all summer long. And while plenty of time for independent and creative play is super important, I don’t want to miss the golden opportunity that is summer… these 2 1/2 months when I’m my kids’ only teacher.
Why is it important to do summer learning activities at home?
- Whether your kids attend school or you homeschool, this is a freeing time. When we’re not accountable to curriculum, standards, or checklists, there’s great joy in choosing exactly what to focus on.
- Too often no school means extra time for TV, video games, and computer activities. Let’s get kids off the screens and keep their minds fresh.
- Summer learning activities are ideal for strengthening your bond with your kids. My sister-in-law still says that the year she home schooled was the year she really got to know her kids. Even if you don’t home school during the year, you can reap some of the benefits in the summer.
- By setting up summer learning activities at home, we can find just the right activities to “fill in the gaps” for each of our kids. Did your child’s teacher tell you where he needs improvement? You have the freedom to focus on exactly that.
How do we get kids to learn in summer without groaning about it?
- Make it fun. Tip: pulling out the same tired workbooks and flash cards every day is not fun.
- Mix it up. Reading every day, on the couch, for 15 minutes is going to get tiresome. Read to your child. Have him read to you. Another day he can read to a sibling. Read into a recorder. Read on the phone to Grandma!
- Provide incentive. I’m not talking cash prizes here. Choose simple rewards that your children will appreciate.
Here’s how I’m organizing our summer learning activities:
1. I’ve prepared a learning box for each of my big kids (ages 4,5,7). Each box (a 12 x 12 inch scrapbooking case from Michaels) contains a set of learning activities that the kids can choose from during our morning table time. When the box starts to get empty, I add more activities. This way I don’t have to know now what my kids will need to learn in August. I just need to be a few days ahead.
2. When my kids have completed a task, they color a circle on their individual charts. (Get your own blank chart by clicking HERE.)
3. When the kids have colored an entire row (representing ten individual activities), they get to choose a prize on the Summer Prize Wheel.
Here are some ideas for a summer prize wheel:
- Get a treat at the Farmer’s Market
- Choose the fruit to buy at the grocery store (My kids are always hearing me say that we can’t get peaches because they’re not on sale. This time, I’ll buy ’em.)
- Help Mom prepare your favorite dessert. At our house it’s got to be a healthy dessert, because this mom can’t leave the junk alone.
- Extra TV or computer time.
- Visit a favorite park or other local destination.
- Pick your favorite meal and help Mom make it.
- Pack a picnic for just you and Dad.
- Go to an ethnic grocery store and choose a new food to prepare and eat.
- Buy a book at a used book store.
- Pick out a toy at the dollar store.
Here’s our wheel. You can see that I’ve put a little circle for each prize with my kids’ first initials. When they choose a prize they’ll put a sticker on their letter so we can keep track of who has done each prize. If they complete the whole wheel before summer’s over, they can keep learning and choose their favorite prizes a second time. You can print a blank prize wheel and write in your prizes. Get it by clicking HERE.
What types of activities can go in the learning boxes?
In each box I have game cards, activity sheets, writing notebooks, books, and more. Sometimes I just have a blank card with a task written on it. Print a set of blank task cards by clicking HERE.
So what should go in the box or on the cards?
The possibilities are endless. Here are some ideas to get you going.
- Put 5 word family houses in a bag for one task.
- Write letters on milk caps and print some word family mats for some hands on phonics.
- Do a few beginning sounds coloring pages.
- Play a game like word family UNO or word family Crazy Eights (coming this week!).
- Find creative ways to practice sounds and reading by checking out my Alphabet for Kids and Word Families Pinterest boards.
- Give your child a blank note card to write a thank you note or a letter to Grandma.
- Write a partner story. You write a sentence, and your child writes the next one. Keep taking turns until the story is done.
- Instead of giving your child writing prompts, help her make an expert list so she has writing topics for the rest of summer. Younger children might appreciate a free picture chart of writing topics to get them started.
- Create a word sort. Type them up in a table. Have your child cut the words apart and sort them by pattern.
- Print a free spelling game to play together. You might also have your child play with a sibling.
- Find hands-on ways to practice spelling by browsing my Pinterest board, Spelling Made Fun.
- Have your child gather ten store bought items from around the house, find where they were produced, and mark these on a world map.
- Gather a set of library books on a topic that interests your child. Set a timer for 15 minutes. After she’s done reading, have her tell you five things she learned.
- Find some fun history books from the library and read them together. Each book can count as a task. I love this series of books for kids up to age 10.
- Gather a small set of books at your child’s reading level and put them in a zip-loc bag. Reading these counts as one task.
- Find a chapter book or stack of picture books to read to your child. When your child listens, that counts as a single task. Check out this Pinterest board for read aloud ideas.
- Put some books in a bag for your child to read to a younger sibling.
- Create a simple book response worksheet for your child. (Stay tuned — I’ll be sharing these this summer!)
- Set a timer for reading 15 minutes. (You might get to cross off a box on your library’s summer reading record too.)
- Create a task card for a simple experiment that your child can do alone or with you. You’ll find a ton of ideas on my Preschool Science and Older Kid Science Pinterest boards.
- Find a fascinating science book and prepare a set of questions your child can research.
- Does your child need basic facts practice? Create a game to make it fun. Browse my Math Activities Pinterest board for some ideas.
- Print a free math game or learn math with items around the house. Visit my Math Activities page for a huge variety of ideas.
- Is your child learning piano? For one task card, practice each song twice. Or set a timer and practice for 15 minutes.
- Give your child some paper and art materials to create a project. My Art for Kids Pinterest board has tons of ideas for open-ended art.
- Put a set of prepared materials in a bag for a simple craft. Browse our alphabet crafts for some ideas.
- Play a game of catch with a sibling or parent.
- Jump rope for 10 minutes.
- Go on a bike ride.
- Take a family walk or hike.
- Give your child a recipe card with an easy recipe to follow.
- Teach your child to fold the laundry. Folding a load counts as one task.
- Does your child like to organize? Cleaning out the linen closet could count as a task . (Or if it’s my linen closet, maybe three tasks…)
See? Summer learning doesn’t have to be a pile of worksheets and flash cards. Make it fun. Mix it up. Provide incentive.
© 2014, Anna Geiger. All rights reserved.