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Simple activities make summer learning fun

June 23, 2010
By Elizabeth Hofreuter-Landini and Linda Krulock

School's out! Summer is here, with its lemonade stands, swimming pools, fireworks and fireflies. The days are longer and in early June the possibilities seem endless. Even after all of our combined years in education, the beginning of summer still elicits a long, deep satisfying exhale - part survival, part anticipation of what will come next. The routine of the school day is behind us for a little while.

Then, as parents, realization strikes. The school routine and structure for learning is on a break. Even if weekly summer camps are on the agenda, we are once again our child's only teacher for a few, brief shining weeks. In appreciation of that, we thought we would offer some summer activities to keep a child actively learning and practicing the skills introduced in school.

Find a notebook that your child will consider his or her summer journal. This can be as simple as a spiral notebook or as elaborate as a handmade journal depending on your time and craftiness. The younger child can draw pictures of what happened that day and dictate the events of the day to a parent or older sibling. A child just learning to write can record in a single sentence something fun he did that day and then draw a picture that corresponds to his words. Of course, if you do get a chance to get away, writing and sending postcards back home is a journal entry in and of itself. The bonus is that the child can practice writing (or dictating) her address as well.

What child doesn't love getting involved in a lemonade stand? An old box transformed into storefront property makes adults part with their change no matter what the drink. This is a great summer math opportunity - a way "to drink in lots of math." Children can learn about recipes and volume in mixing the lemonade. A review of ingredients and their measurements allows children to understand various wet and dry measures and the way they fit in different measuring cups or utensils. If you are using real lemons, children can practice fractions also. Cut the lemon in half or quarters to squeeze it and then in smaller sizes to float on top. Finally, children practice simple skills of addition and subtraction in selling their goods. Customers will be more than happy to wait while a little math takes place with a paper and pencil on the side.

For the nature buff, planting a simple garden, even a container garden of herbs in an old plastic bottle fosters an understanding of basic biology. As seedlings grow into full size plants, the children can see the roots taking hold and then flowers blooming to witness science in action. If a green thumb eludes you, a few white carnations and some food coloring offers a similar first take on biology. By placing one carnation in water and others in water dyed with food coloring, you can work on a "hypothesis" of what will happen. Within a day, children will see how plants drink through their stems, an example of "capillary action" for those who like to use real scientific terms for even more teachable moments. Of course, there is always the possibility of a nature hike, too. Taking walks with a clipboard to observe and record what a child sees and hears is the foundation of good problem-solving skills and the beginning of the scientific process.

It goes without saying that reading is essential, too. Making reading a part of everyday establishes a joy of reading for the entire family. It's not just about picture books, either. Grab your favorite book and read. Allowing your child to see you immersed in a good read is a great role model for them to emulate.

It's summer and the days can be lazy, but the young child's brain is as active and ready to learn as ever. Being part of that process can be summer's best adventure.

Linda Krulock graduated from West Liberty State College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education and early childhood. She teaches senior kindergarten at Wheeling Country Day School. Elizabeth Hofreuter-Landini is head of school at Wheeling Country Day. She is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

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