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When school is finally out for the long summer vacation ahead, young children are typically very excited whilst their parents are typically very frantic! Keeping young children busy over the summer months can be a real challenge! Clearly, hours of TV and electronic games are not the answer. Here are some great ways to keep your offspring actively entertained whilst still learning…
Growing plants is fun. There are many plants that even young children can grow without difficulty – from herbs and vegetables (great, because your child can eat what they have grown!) to flowering plants and small trees. Set up an area of your garden with your child for them to take responsibility for. If you don’t have a garden, then a window box or simply small pots on a shelf will do! Gardening offers a sense of responsibility, great practical science and a chance to play with mud!
Summer is an excellent time for stargazing. Throw out a blanket and spend time as a family marveling at the night sky: it’s a very special experience! Encourage your child to look for shapes and patterns in the stars. Do a little research and amaze them with your knowledge of a few constellations. There are some great Apps out there to help, such as Star Walk. Stargazing can raise all number of scientific and philosophical ‘big questions’.
Build a den
Constructing and playing in dens made out of pillows, blankets, couch cushions and pegs is great, old-fashioned fun! Having snacks in their den, even spending the night there, gives an added sense of adventure! Great for resourcefulness, decision-making, and collaborative play. Bigger kids (ie. Dads) enjoy this one too!
Draw up a family tree
What do your children know about their wider, older family members? Constructing a family tree is a learning opportunity for everyone. Encourage your children to ask their own questions, “Grandfather, what can you tell me about your father and mother?” Often, you will be learning alongside your child! Excellent, of course, for creating interest in history and developing simple research skills.
Play Board Games
An old pleasure rediscovered! There is a range of terrific board games to be enjoyed, from fast-paced games like Cranium or Scattergories to older favourites such as Scrabble and Monopoly. Board games encourage turn-taking, strategy, linguistic skills, calculation – the list is endless. Most importantly, they bring all family members together in a fun way. Bonus idea: invent your own board game together!
Encourage them to take a bird’s eye perspective on the world. Provide paper with large squares drawn on it and challenge your child to draw a top-down view of their bedroom; the ground floor of your house; the street; the local neighborhood. This can be quite challenging! Great for developing visualization skills and scale drawing.
Gather together a range of everyday, throw-away things like egg boxes, cereal cartons, plastic milk bottles, toilet roll tubes, etc. Just supply sticky tape, scissors, glue, and paint – then let their imaginations run wild! Be on hand to support and guide where necessary. Great for encouraging creative thinking and construction skills.
Cooking is an accessible pastime for all children. Keep it simple at first. Making pizza is a good place to start – with just the toppings for very young children. For older children making dough is great fun! Try out simple biscuit and cake recipes. Be brave and run a kids ‘Master Chef’ at home when the children have a few friends over! Move on to planning a simple three-course meal for the rest of the family, with a home-made menu and table decorations! Along with some key mathematical concepts and practical abilities, cooking is an important life skill. Start them young!
Make reading a daily activity! Go to a bookstore and choose some titles together. Choose a quiet place, turn off your phone and enjoy this special time – it’s one of the most important things you can do with your child. Reading supports fundamental learning skills. Mix this reading diet up with comics, magazines and online material (such as National Geographic for Kids).
Keep skills sharp
Over the summer, children can easily forget some key knowledge and skills used in school. Every now and then, turn pockets of time – such as a short car journey – into a short revision session with an emphasis on fun! Quickfire questions on the alphabet; times tables; number bonds etc will greatly help. At the same time, encourage your child to pay for things in a store – handling money and the calculations involved. Encourage them to read signs, instructions, leaflets, etc. Have them write a simple diary of their holiday, an email to relatives, etc. Keeping skills sharp will ensure your children hit the ground running when they go back to school.
Parenting is all about creating special memories for your child – look upon the summer vacation as a rich opportunity to do just that. Enjoy!
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