By Elizabeth Redhead Kriston
No more pencils.
School is over.
This was the spring time schoolhouse mantra of my youth. The sounds and sightings of song birds along with the slowly lengthening and warming days always got me riled up and ready for that final bell of the school year. I could hardly wait for the long lazy days of summer.
As a parent, the onset of summer has a much different feeling. It is more foreboding than fun. With the end of the school year and the long hot days of summer approaching, I find myself trying to figure out how to end the “stop learning” part of the rhyme, but still keep the “having fun” part.
I read a statistic once that claimed teachers spend the first three weeks of the new school year re-teaching skills lost to the average student over the summer. That is a lot of time spent reviewing old material instead of introducing the new curriculum.
Ways To Keep Literacy Skills Sharp
To help combat this seemingly inevitable loss of skills while still allowing kids to have fun, I created some strategies which can be built into the great things most families already do in the summer. I even threw in a few math, history, geography and science ideas as well!
- Read aloud for at least 15 minutes a day to your child. For toddlers choose brief board books that rhyme, have rhythm and repetitive phrases. Sandra Boynton is one of my favorite authors for toddlers. http://www.sandraboynton.com/sboynton/Introduction.html For preschoolers try longer picture books. Go to readwme.com for a great selection. For school aged kids read chapter books, the newspaper, comic books and magazine articles, whatever they like. Encourage them to read to themselves as well. Heck, it could even be the back of the cereal box.
- Written scavenger hunts are a fun way to keep kids active and work on literacy. Use simple lists for little ones and add pictures to help them decipher the print.
- Create a map of your family road trips (for older kids use actual maps). Have kids read the names of the town they are going to or passing through. Add points of interest on the way even if it is just “grandma’s house.” Add miles to help work on math skills. Have them figure out how long to the next stop or how far you have already driven.
- Take the time to read the signs. Signs are everywhere at playgrounds, on roads, amusement parks, in shop windows. When driving keep an eye out for those blue metal historical site markers, pull over and read them to infuse a little history.
- Shopping is a great way to teach. Give your child a few dollars and head to the nearest farmers’ market or garage sale. Read the signs and encourage them to figure out what they can buy with the money they have.
- Cooking is a great way to impart a little science, math and reading all at once. Buy some unusual produce at the market or even better, pick from the garden you planted together and find a recipe on-line or in a cookbook to make new delicacies for lunch or dinner.
- On rainy days explore museums or even the zoo (it’s usually less busy when it rains). Many museums are free or have good deals for kids. Try a nearby university to see if they have an on-campus museum. Spend time talking about the descriptive plaques or signs. You can even find self-guided tour aps for your smart phone for some museums and zoos. Bring along a sketch pad and pencils and spend some time recreating the art or draw the animals. The Cleveland Museum of Art http://www.clevelandart.org/ and others have little stools you can carry so you can sit and draw!
- While out on an adventure or when having a fun day, take photographs of all you do. Make an Experience Book which is a photo album documenting the day. You can make a homemade one or use services like Snapfish snapfish.com/ or Shutterfly www.shutterfly.com. Label the pictures with words and captions if you’d like.
There are endless ways to support your child’s literacy skills throughout the dog days of Summer. Your kids will be having so much fun they won’t even know they are learning. List your ideas in the comment sections.
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