Keep minds sharp over summer!
Ways to continue your child’s education over summer
For most children, summer is a time of relaxing and forgetting about school and homework. The last things on their minds are books, studying and tests. They just want to have fun.
As parents of learning disabled children, however, we worry about our children losing momentum and learning skills. We worry that if we don’t continue their education through summer, our children will be even further behind when school starts again in the fall.
We also know that our children struggle with learning, and if we try to get them to learn something during a time that is supposed to be a break for them, they will resent us and may even resist as fiercely as a cat resisting a bathtub full of water.
Make summer learning so fun that they won’t know they’re learning.
The trick to continue a child’s education over summer is to make learning fun. Toss the workbook pages, textbooks, and studying and just have fun. You do this with toys, games, TV shows and everyday living.
K'Nex Education toys
I put these K'Nex Education toys in front of my son and he went to town with them.
One of my son’s favorite kind of toys is building toys. Just playing with building toys can be an education because you need an engineer’s mind to create structures that are sound and will withstand the elements (in our case that means dogs running by).
I recently discovered that K’Nex has a number of educational sets. The K’Nex Education toys are fun and are great for teaching simple machines and physical science. All I had to do was put the set down in front of my son, open the instruction booklet and stand back. He began working right away like a man on a mission. He can’t resist a building challenge, and that was what I was counting on. Even though the box had the word "Education" big as life on it, he had to build because he loves it so.
Strategy game QwirkleAnother tactic I use to keep the education train rolling is finding games that are educational and fun.
There are logic and strategy games like Qwirkle and Blokus or word games like Bananagrams or Quiddler. There are also subject-specific games like Scrambled States that helps with U.S. geography or Skeletons in the Closet that teaches the skeletal system. There are plenty of game options available to help your children keep their minds sharp during summer while also having fun.
Of course, let’s not forget about the wonders of educational television! Most of the shows on Discovery, National Geographic and History channels are filled with excitement, cool animations and loads of action, so that kids forget they are learning anything. There’s always something on these channels and others like them to keep kids entertained and educated throughout the summer. If you have something specific in mind that you want your children to learn, you can always peruse past episodes of these kinds of TV shows on iTunes. There are some shows that are free to download, so keep a lookout for those.
Speaking of free, there are also a great number of podcasts and video podcasts you can find on iTunes that are educational and filled with fun and excitement just like the TV shows. These are harder to sift through because many gold nuggets don’t have brand names attached to them like TV shows do. But if you have the time, try out a few to see what you and your children like.
Lastly, there’s the education of everyday living. Life itself is an education. You truly do learn something every day. Doing things like taking nature walks, cooking, planting a garden, going to museums or even taking a vacation yield lots of educational opportunities.
A walk along a nature path will give you and your children plenty to talk about and plenty to discover.
On nature walks or hikes, you can study wildlife, plantlife, bugs and rocks. You can talk about how the earth was made, what plants are safe to eat in the wild, how animals in the wild survive and things like that.
You can discuss the beauty of nature or even the harsh reality of nature if the topic arises (especially if it starts to rain while you are walking). You can look at the different ways animals or bugs protect themselves (coloring, speed, camouflage, exoskeletons, etc.). Or you can look at the different kinds of rocks you see and try to determine if they are igneous, metamorphic or sedimentary.
While cooking, you can teach math skills by measuring ingredients and discussing what different measurements mean. You can discuss the different tools used to measure dry ingredients and wet ingredients. You can go over how many cups are in a gallon or how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon. You can also teach new vocabulary while working with measurements or going over different cooking techniques, such as the difference between julienned and chopped, or whisking versus stirring.
Another great education in cooking is the science involved. While waiting for water to boil, talk about what temperature it boils at or about the three states of matter by looking at how water can become those three states. You can also talk about mixtures and solutions while tossing a salad or dissolving salt or sugar in your batter.
If you are planting a vegetable garden, you will have plenty of opportunity to discuss the need for food by all living things. You can talk about the plants’ needs as well as your needs. You could also extend the discussion into the need for bees and other pollinators. If you are planting an organic garden, you will want to discuss why it is important and how it helps you and your family live healthier lives. You may want to discuss the vitamins and minerals you will get from the different foods you are planting.
If you are planting a flower garden, talk about design, color choice or wanting to provide a fresh smell to the air or attract butterflies and hummingbirds. If you have a budding landscape artist in your child, have him or her help you choose where to plant and maybe even choose the flowers with you while you are shopping.
Trips to an art museum, botanical garden, natural history museum or even campsites or vacation resorts are wonderful opportunities to learn. Just be prepared to engage your child in conversation about whatever it is you are seeing or experiencing. The act of talking about it, discussing it and formulating opinions and ideas is an education in itself. You have the opportunity to get philosophical or theoretical with some of these discussions. They could be very fun and informative for the whole family.
If you have the opportunity, take a guided tour on some of these trips. The guide will be a huge source of knowledge for both you and your child and will be happy to provide all the information you need and maybe even some folklore to make it all very fun. You may want to encourage your child to ask questions or answer questions the guide has. This will be very helpful for children who have trouble speaking up in class during school, and help him or her break out of that shell.
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