Summer is so much fun, but order still has to take place in our homes and our kids’ lives. Here are some great activities to keep the education level going, while having some fun!
Visit the Library
Libraries have some fantastic summer programs for kids and families. The Summer reading programs are fun, thematic, and the more kids read, the more great prizes they can earn.
Many libraries have an increase of children’s activities, shows, and family events in the Summer months. Check the calendar or brochure for your local library to see what events are coming up. Some events require registration, but usually they are free.
Visit a Museum and/or the Zoo
Summer is the perfect time to plan an outing to a museum or the zoo. You can take advantage of deals and avoid crowds by going mid-week. Check your local library; some lend out free admission passes to area museums and zoos.
Taking field trips gives your kids enriching experiences and extends their learning. It helps build background knowledge and vocabulary, two important literacy skills. Kids also build comprehension skills by reading signs and maps and reading or listening to information about the various exhibits.
Plan a Beach or Park Outing
Not all Summer field trips have to be to a museum or a zoo. Kids also learn from playing. Going to a beach or a park offers a chance to build background knowledge and vocabulary.
You can extend the learning by using new surroundings to practice math skills (counting, sorting, noticing similarities and differences in size/shape), phonemic awareness (find something that begins with each letter of the alphabet, look at signs to find letters or letter sounds), and comprehension skills (read and decode maps and signs, talk about your setting and what you are doing).
You can extend the learning even further by reading books that pertain to your outing, and by having your kids retell what they did at the end of the day, including as much detail as they can, to further practice vocabulary and comprehension skills.
Take a Road Trip
If you will be driving for any length of time, play car games to help build phonemic awareness, vocabulary, comprehension, and math skills. Playing games as a family in the car is also a great way to spend quality time together and help pass the time quicker. Here are a few ideas for games to play:
- ABC Hunt – Look at road signs, license plates, building signs and billboards to find each letter of the alphabet in order. You can take turns or have a competition to see who can spot the next letter first.
- I Spy Letter Sound Hunt – Find objects outside of the car starting with each letter of the alphabet in order. Whoever finds the object has to say what they found and what letter it starts with. For example, “I spy an arrow that begins with A.” Encourage kids to get creative with the tougher letters, using adjectives or words that end with the letter.
- Car Bingo – Make your own or download and print bingo cards listing objects that you are likely to see on your trip. As you see an object, mark it off on your card. See how many bingos you can get before you reach your destination.
Watch a Movie
Read a book together and then watch the movie adaptation. So many popular, quality children’s books are now turned in to movies. Decide on one that your whole family can enjoy, and then everyone read the same book. You can read the book aloud to younger kids (usually children’s listening comprehension is above their reading comprehension so this is great for younger children who might be interested in a particular book or series but can’t yet read it on their own).
If your child is able to read some of the book, you can do a shared reading with him or her – take turns reading pages or chapters. Older kids can read the book on their own and then discuss the book with you when you all finish.
Once you have finished the book and discussed it, reward yourselves with a family movie night. Talk about the similarities and differences between the book and the movie: How was the movie interpretation like how you pictured the book in your head and how was it different than you imagined? What was in the book but not shown in the movie, and why do you think it was left out?
Go on an ABC Picnic
To help build phonemic awareness skills, take young kids on a picnic and have them help you find and pack something that begins with each letter of the alphabet. For example: appetite, bug spray, cooler, diet soda, entertainment, food, grill, hats, ice, juice, ketchup, lighter fluid, matches, napkins, outdoor toys and games, plates, quilt or blanket, radio, sunglasses and sunscreen, tablecloth, utensils, volleyball, water,snacks, yummy treats, or zipper bags.
Another option is to have your kids do an ABC hunt and find something outside that starts with each letter of the alphabet. For example: ants, bees, caterpillar, dragonfly, elm tree, flowers, grass, hats, ice-cream truck, etc.
You can also extend the letter/word practice and the picnic theme by printing up word searches or word scrambles. Some examples:
- Picnic food word search
- Picnic word scramble
Games are a great way to spend quality family time together and have fun while learning. Games practice a variety of educational, thinking, and logic/reasoning skills. Games also practice social skills, including turn-taking, speaking, and listening. Schedule family game nights or pass a rainy afternoon playing games.
Pick a Family Genre
Choose a literary genre and everyone in the family read a selection from that genre. You can choose to read the same book or different books within that genre, depending on everyone’s interests and reading levels. Try to choose a genre that is outside what you normally read.
After reading a selection from your chosen genre, discuss what you read with each other. What did you like/not like about your selection? Is it a genre you are interested in reading more selections from, why or why not? Each member of the family can take turns choosing, changing genres each time.
Be a Chef
Everyone in the family work together to make a meal or bake desserts. Cooking is a great way to practice literacy and math skills.
Find the recipes you want to make and then have your kids help write the shopping list for the ingredients. This practices reading and writing skills.
At the store, have your kids compare labels and prices to practice reading and math skills. For younger kids who can’t yet read, you can build phonemic awareness skills by playing letter/sound hunt games. For example, I’m looking for an ingredient that starts with the letter “_” or the “_” sound. Have your kids help read the recipe directions and measure the ingredients to further practice reading and math skills. If you have younger kids, you can choose recipes from kids’ cookbooks or “mommy and me” cookbooks, which feature simpler, kid-friendly recipes and easier-to-follow picture steps.
For children who like to work with their hands or design things, you can engage them with a building project, sewing project, or other crafty project. Summer is a great time to do projects because kids are usually less involved and have more free time to be creative. Choose a project that is appropriate for your child’s age level and attention span. You can choose projects to do together and/or projects your kids can do on their own.
Projects you do with your children can be more complex, while projects they do on their own should be simpler. To get inspiration, visit a craft store, hardware store, or search the web. Building and craft projects are great for practicing reading, math, and thinking skills because they involve reading and comprehending multi-step directions, measuring, thinking geometrically, and visualizing. Projects also help build intrapersonal skills, and if worked on with others, they can build interpersonal skills as well.