As a kindergarten teacher and mother of four children, I find myself naturally capitalizing on natural learning opportunities and teachable moments. Consider these ideas to engage your child in fun and playful learning experiences this summer.
Summer is a great time to take advantage of a more relaxed atmosphere by being intentional with our time, words and actions. When we enrich pockets of time with our children at home, in the outdoors, or on-the-go it can help promote social-emotional, physical and/or academic growth. Here are some tips:
1. Ask Questions.
Simple questions, such as, “Why do you think that happened?” or “I wonder what else we could find out about that?” or “I wonder why/how that happened?” can be triggers of curiosity and open the gateway of deeper understanding for investigating further topics your child is interested in.
Ask these questions when your child expresses interest on topics they come across in print or digital media or through experiences and interactions in the outdoors or on your summer travels. You may be surprised what avenue you may end up taking with the prompt of a simple question. You also have the chance to learn something yourself when you take action to investigate.
2. Schedule Screen-Free Time Each Day.
This can be difficult until we make it a habit and routine. There are many programs, shows and sites that can be very educational, but it is important to balance our screen and technology use with real-time experiences.
When we are off of our devices it opens opportunity to read, to play a game, to practice an instrument, to create or to just let our minds wander. In our household my children know that when the screens are off that boredom is a choice. I am working to teach them the value of screen-free time so they are balanced individuals.
3. Structure A Routine for Learning.
As a kindergarten teacher I always send my students away with some recommended sites and resources to keep learning and to help retain skills over the summer. Many of these recommendations can be appropriate substitutions for mindless video games if you would like to bump up the quality of time spent online.
You may want to schedule outings, such as visits to the library or attending special programs or bigger ticket activities, such as visiting a children’s museum or discovery center.
4. Get Outside.
Nature abounds with opportunity for discovery and wonder. Personally I enjoy phenology – the study of changes in plants and animals in response to seasonal changes. Slowing down and paying attention to our natural environment from the perspective of a young child engages all of our five senses. and mindful observation in nature can help us connect to our surroundings both physically and spiritually.
When children play outdoors it is good for both their mental and physical health as well as boundless opportunity for learning.
5. Use Travel as Opportunity to Practice Social Skills.
On our recent family vacation We used our time together in public settings (campgrounds, shops and restaurants) as opportunities to practice manners and other important social skills. We were intentional working with high expectations, positive guidance, support and modeling.
Encourage your child to create art and writing. Feed your child’s creativity by providing simple, open ended art supplies and materials, such as: crayons, paper, tape, cardboard tubes, popsicle sticks, fabric scraps. Open ended playthings such as play dough, Legos, blocks, play silks and dolls are great to stimulate your child’s creativity and imagination, and will help him or her investigate design and apply problem solving skills.
Designate an area in your home where children can freely explore these materials. Occasionally, you may want to challenge your child’s thinking by asking questions, providing writing prompts, or organizing play things with a thematic intent.
7. Make Music.
Our family has found strong value in the experience of music lessons for our children. Our two eldest children (ages 12 and 10) take weekly guitar lessons, which provide both enrichment and an outlet for creativity. I love watching and listening to my children play the guitar. I also learn from them when they share their learning with me. My younger children have access to simple instruments (a harmonica, bongos and an ukulele), which also encourage fun and curiosity.