Keep Learning Going Through the Summer

Deep into summer, children thriving through play, free from the strictures of the academic year, full-time caregivers are starting to count down the days to the start of school. Concerns about the inevitable “summer backslide” might be creeping into some parents minds.

Here are a few suggestions to keep the learning going through the summer, without resorting to workbooks or learning apps. Keep the summertime fun going . . . just sneak in some surreptitious brain development.

1. GAME NIGHT

Enjoy a weekly game night as a family. Try games that promote critical thinking skills and strategy. Or perhaps a game that requires letter recognition, or basic mathematics. Card games, Scrabble Jr, Think-it Link-it, Backgammon, Jenga. A little healthy competition between kids and parents can motivate them to think ahead and recognize patterns.

2. CREATIVE CONSTRUCTION

Legos, Lincoln Logs, Magnatiles are all great options. But so are less expensive options such as wooden blocks or even your basic cardboard box. Provide them with paint, glue, scissors, tape, construction paper, popsicle sticks, and even toothpicks. Challenge your child to build a bridge or a tower and see what engineering skills they can develop.

3. MATH PRACTICE

Draw a series of targets in sidewalk chalk on your driveway. In each target write a number. Give your child a bucket of water and a couple of sponges. Have them throw their sponges and whatever numbers they land on can be combined in different equations. Or do the same with hula hoops and bean bags. Or put numbered targets on the wall and get out a nerf gun.

Perhaps you could go treasure hunting on the beach. Count up all the seashells you find and add them to how many your child found. Who found more and by how much? Real-life story problem solving right there.

4. LIBRARY TREASURE HUNT

Weekly visits to the library are one of the best ways to spend the summer. See if your child can find a book on dinosaurs, or dogs, or pirates, or whatever their current interests are. Or find a book with a certain letter in the title. Or a book of a certain color. Check out at least one new book each week. Sign them up for their very own library card and let them learn the responsibility of checking out and returning on time.

5. STAY ACTIVE

Active bodies mean active brains. The hottest days of summer can make us stay indoors,  usually in front of a screen. You can beat the heat and stay active by hitting the pool, running through the sprinklers, or hiking in the mountains. Staying indoors is sometimes necessary, so throw on a Cosmic Kids Yoga video and let your kids move their bodies through a variety of poses as they get immersed in the storytelling. Or take them to an indoor jumping center or rock climbing wall. Air conditioning and physical exertion! Win-win.

Don’t forget that you are your child’s partner. Immerse yourself in these activities with them. Keep the connection alive. They’ll be back in school before you know it.

“Mom . . . I’m Bored!” Embrace the Summertime Blues

Summertime: when the livin’ is easy . . . except when it’s not.

Holiday celebrations, hosting barbeques and picnics, finding child care, taking kids to their various enrichment activities, swimming lessons, road trips, family reunions, and more. What a wonderful time of year! But with all that joy and all those fun activities we can get stressed from all the running around. Our children can be over-stimulated and under-rested. And over stimulation and sleep deprivation can lead to behavioral and developmental problems.

Summer has changed a lot in a generation. In the 80s the days were filled with running around the neighborhood in bathing suits and cut-off shorts, chasing the distant jingle of the ice-cream truck, dashing through sprinklers, and playing pick-up games of Kick the Can. And don’t forget laying out in the backyard with tanning oil slathered all over you. Some things have changed for the better (thank you sunscreen!) but other things seem a bit . . . much.

With all the wonderful opportunities and activities and year-round schools that we have now, there is one thing oftentimes missing from our children’s lives: BOREDOM.

Did you know that some child psycholgists say that boredom is good for our children?

Yes, it’s true. Boredom is actually a benefit, and not something to be avoided.

Boredom has been proven to promote creativity, problem-solving, and independence. Boredom may be just the stimulus that your children need this summer. Yes, all those enriching camps and lessons are wonderful. And yes, those sanity-saving screens are convenient and easy to hand to our children when we need a few minutes to ourselves.

However, if we schedule every minute of the day and fill the leisure minutes with mind-numbing online content, we are doing our children a disservice. They need to be bored in order to have the time to tinker, time to think, and time to explore. Boredom helps them learn self-regulation. It provides them opportunities for conflict resolution (sibling rivalry anyone?). It gives them a chance to be in charge of themselves and flex those developing independence muscles.

It is HARD at first to shed the assumption that we need to be full-time entertainment directors for our kids. And if we don’t provide the fun and refuse to hand over a screen, that’s even harder. At first. But if you can cope with the complaining and bickering for a few minutes, it won’t take long before you’ll see your kiddos find something to make or break or solve or climb.

So lean in to the summertime blues. Let your kids be bored. It’s good for them. It’s good for you.

“Aaah, summer – that long anticipated stretch of lazy, lingering days, free of responsibility and rife with possibility. It’s a time to hunt for insects, master handstands, practice swimming strokes, conquer trees, explore nooks and crannies, and make new friends.”
~Darell Hammond

Lazy Hazy Crazy Days

The old-time melody “Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer” evokes images of small town festivals, parades, popsicles, watermelon, and corn on the cob. It reminds us of our childhoods spent running through sprinklers and playing night games with the neighbor kids.

The summers of childhood have changed dramatically in the last generation. More and more children today spend their summers addicted to screens and computer games. We find ourselves over-scheduled with work, finding child care alternatives, summer camps, vacations, reunions, festivals, barbecues, and more. It’s easy to let the extra activities of summer overwhelm us and make us yearn for the predictable schedule of the school year. Some schools are already back in session!

Now our long summer days are shortening incrementally with every sunset. The oppressive heat is starting to abate ever so slightly. The back to school supplies hit the stores weeks ago. Our joy-packed Summermusik camps and classes have wrapped up. Many of us have spent our summer rushing from one activity to the next.

And while we may be looking forward to routines and cooler temperatures, we still have a little time to indulge our senses and renew our minds. Perhaps we can channel Mr. Nat King Cole’s memorable lyrics and eek a bit more summer out of the next couple of weeks.

So go out into your backyard with fresh eyes. Hunt for the nectar gathering bees. Take your little one by the hand and run through the sprinkler. Take your shoes off and let the sensory input of the dirt, sand, and grass ground you. 

Our Fall classes will be here before you know it. Reserve your spot (in one of our TWO locations) and rest easy in the final days of the season. Find a moment to breathe it all in, and love it all out.

Thank you for spending part of your summer with us. We loved every minute of it.

Summer Plans

This summer, the Salt Lake Library’s reading program is titled “Dig Into Reading.”  What a great and affordable way to spend time with the kids.  You can find their calendar online here.

One thing I like to do is plan other simple activities (like reading specific books or making a special meal) around outings.  The concept was born during my perfectionism-as-a-mom state, but I have carried it through because I’ve really enjoyed the memories we make as a family.  I’ve just gotten better at simplifying — when I was hard on myself, nobody was having any fun.

So here are a few ideas based on some of our most successful family activities if you want to augment some of the city library calendar events.

The Magic Lantern: watch Aladdin, do a family service project (granting someone a wish), set up a low table on the carpet and eat dinner while sitting on pillows; find a child approved version of Arabian Nights to ready together.

Cowboy and Worm: Read Diary of a Worm or How to Eat Fried Worms; go fishing; introduce your kids to the magic of The Apple Dumpling Gang; make good old fashioned pork and beans for dinner.

Watch Beekeepers: make a delicious honey-based dessert (this simplified baklava recipe looks promising); find some online coloring pages that are honey and bee related; have a spelling bee.

Riverside Garden Storytime: Go on a hike; check out the butterfly exhibit at the Hogle Zoo (the ones that are pinned to the board – in the small animal building); spend some time weeding your garden (hah!) or maybe just plan a seedling; visit some public gardens (Temple Square is free, but Red Butte Garden is always a delightful place to visit, too!)

Don’t forget you can do the same for our Kindermusik studio summer programs!  In face, one of the favorite themes ever I build around our Kindermusik Summer Camp.  Check back next time for some ways to splash in the water, spend a busy day, sing with the opera, enjoy the music of Latin America or pretend to be royalty!

Do any of these spark your own ideas?  Please share!

Tags: summer, library