Help your child retain reading, writing and math skills this summer without making it feel like work. Incorporate learning into daily errands and interactive activities found in your own backyard.
According to the National Summer Learning Association, students who don't participate in any summer enrichment or educational activities lose about 22 percent of knowledge and skills gained during the school year. Teachers often spend the first two months of school reviewing past material.
When you help your kids make the connection between what they learn in school and how the material relates to the real world, they retain more of their new skills and grow into more engaged, enthusiastic learners.
1. Calculate tips. Next time your family eats dinner out, help your child determine the tip when the bill arrives.
2. Grocery shop. Dictate your grocery list to your child and have him keep track of the list. As you shop, talk about prices, sales and healthy choices.
3. Visit a farmers market. Peruse seasonal produce native to San Diego with your kids. Ask about fruits and veggies you’ve never heard of. Practice math skills by giving your child a list, a budget and some money to shop at the market. Find a list of San Diego County Farmers Markets at www.sdfarmbureau.org.
4. Grow a garden. Kids can learn more about their environment by cultivating their own fruits and vegetables. No room in your yard? Grow a patio or container garden together. Your child can take pictures or make notes in a daily gardening notebook detailing the life cycle of the plant, any problems encountered and how she worked to solve those issues. Learn how to create at patio garden here.
5. Cook together. Involve your child in meal planning and preparation. Depending on your child's age, he could be responsible for a meal once a week. Following a recipe helps your child practice fractions and reading.
6. Play travel agent. Thanks to the Internet, your child can easily research your family's vacation or a hometown field trip. Give him a list of questions to answer about the location, cost and hours of a specific site she wants to visit. Continue the learning when you arrive at your destination.
7. Tune in. If your child is passionate about music, attend free concerts in local parks. Encourage her to learn about the history of the music she's interested in and read biographies of favorite musicians.
8. Explore nature. Apply what your child has learned in life science to your backyard. “[My daughter and I] always talk about different birds, bugs, and how flowers and trees grow,” says Catherine Elder, mom of an 8-year old. “She actually teaches me some things that she's learned in school. It makes her feel good to know she is helping me learn, too,” Elder says.
9. Go digital. Got a bug or plant enthusiast? Have her grab the camera and go on a scavenger hunt for different species. When she's done she can make a digital presentation of her discoveries.
10. Journal. Purchase an inexpensive journal that your child can personalize (or make one). Write a prompt or question at the top of the page. Take turns writing messages and stories back and forth. Scholastic offers writing prompts at www.scholastic.com/teachers/story-starters.
11. Read together. Summer is the perfect time to help your child find books and magazines that match her interests. Read together or start an informal book club with your child and a few friends. Schedule an afternoon to discuss the selection over an afternoon snack. Discover San Diego’s Summer Reading Programs and “8 Books Moms Should Read with Their Daughters.”
12. Be a scientist. Discover great DIY science experiments you can do at home.
Looking for more educational summer fun? Find day camps and classes about science, nature, digital media, art and much more in our camp directory.
Freelance journalist, Christa Melnyk Hines, and her husband are the parents of two boys. She is the author of Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected: Raise a Thoughtful Communicator in a Digital World.