Most kids spend most of their free time watching TV, using their smart devices or playing with friends. While a little down time is certainly appropriate and a break from the pressures of standardized testing is necessary, studies show it is imperative to keep the kiddos learning over the weekends.
Here are 6 ways you can help them get smarter while having lots of fun!
1. Keep a Journal
Encourage your children to keep a writing journal. For emerging writers, this could mean mostly pictures with only a few descriptive sentences, while more advanced writers can include narratives about places they have visited, creative stories about what they want to do in the future, letters to themselves, or responses to given prompts. The options are endless but will keep their writing skills strong and creative juices flowing. They won’t miss a beat and will pick right back up with their writing when school starts, which is increasing important with the growing academic focus on writing in all subject areas.
2. Start a Neighborhood Kids’ Book Club
Help your child start a book club for their neighborhood friends. Let them pick the first book and help them create a list of questions to discuss. Have them design invitations and create a meeting calendar. Talk to them about their books, including comprehension questions, predictions, and their thoughts about the story and its characters. This will help avoid that summer swag in reading skills mentioned earlier. Keeping their reading skills sharp will help them across all subject areas in school.
3.- Plant a Garden
Take your kids to a local gardening store and talk to a specialist about the best way to start a garden. Let them ask questions about what kinds of seeds and plants grow best in your region and how to plant and care for them. Teach them about the different parts of the flowers and their functions. You can even include a gardening section in their writing journal and have them record their observations over the course of the summer. They’ll also have something fun to discuss when their teachers ask them what they did over the summer. Maybe they can even bring in some flowers for her on the first day of school!
4.- Give Them Weekend Jobs
Whether it’s helping them run a lemonade stand, assisting with a garage sale, walking the neighbor’s dog, or gathering a friend’s mail while they are out of town, help your child find age-appropriate jobs over the weekends. Teach them how to count and track their money, implement a savings program, and discuss spending on wants vs. needs. Maybe you can let them help pay for that cool school outfit they really want with some of their own money.
5.- Plan a Vacation
Allow your kids to be junior travel agents. When planning your family vacation, let them help research destinations. Have them locate their ideal spots on a map and investigate different activities to do at the various destinations. For older kids, you can even discuss the costs of driving versus flying, renting a house vs. staying at a hotel, and eating out vs. preparing meals at your temporary residency. While traveling, point out and discuss differences in the weather, architecture, dialects, and other cultural differences from your home state or country.
6.- Take Advantage of Local Resources
Use your community to provide learning opportunities. Does your city have any good local museums or historical sites? Check out any children’s programs they may offer. Visit parks and outdoor nature centers, or ask a local company for a tour of its facility. Look for farms offering pick-it-yourself opportunities (think berries, corn on the cob, etc.) or a dairy farm where ice cream is made. And don’t forget your local library. Most offer multiple reading programs and activities for all ages. With a little research, you may be surprised what’s available right in your own community. They can share the information with their teachers and spark an idea for a field trip in the Fall.