NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Learning or Lagging?

Learning or Lagging?

             For many children, summer vacation can be either a learning wasteland or a learning paradise. The temptations are great for children to spend hours watching television or playing video games. Fortunately, with a little ingenuity and planning, summer can be transformed into a time to stretch the mind, explore new hobbies, learn about responsibility and build on skills learned during the school year.

            Summer is the perfect time for children to discover that learning is fun and can happen anywhere. We want children to grasp that learning is fun and can go on all the time, anytime, anywhere, with handy materials, not only in a classroom. Summer is a great unstructured mass of time to try out new things and explore interests that don’t necessarily fit into the school curriculum.

            Grow the biggest zucchini in your neighborhood -What better way to learn the basics of science and how things grow than to plant your own garden? You can start with seeds or small plants. Talk about what plants need to be hardy: air, water, sunlight and nutrients. Vegetables are especially fun and educational to plant because your child will learn where food comes from and will also get to eat the end product.

            Clip, paste and write about your family adventures -A family vacation is a perfect opportunity to create a trip scrapbook that will be a lasting souvenir of family adventures. Collect postcards, brochures and menus from restaurants and tourist attractions. Encourage your child to write descriptions of the places you visited and tell stories about your family’s escapades.

            Paint the picket fence, baby-sit or volunteer at a soup kitchen

Even young children can learn to be responsible by helping to set the table, take care of a pet, clean out a closet, wash the car or paint the picket fence. Ask your child to be your energy consultant and help find ways to conserve energy in your house. Outside summer jobs and community service help children learn to be punctual, follow directions and serve others.

            Become the family’s junior travel agent - Half the fun of a trip starts before you get there. Involve your child in the planning by practicing how to use a map to find cities and tourist attractions, and how to estimate distances. If you are driving, work with your child to figure out how many gallons of gas it will take to get there and estimate the cost. If you are flying or traveling by train, check travel schedules and costs. Research your destination in books and on the Internet. If you are going to a different state, look up information about the state, such as the state flower, state bird and interesting attractions. Have your child write or email the state tourism bureau to ask for information.

            Summer Math Activities - What can you buy for $5 at the corner store? From the ice cream truck? In a hardware store? At the beach?   The $’s don’t have to be spent – only estimated as to what they could purchase. Start collecting change in a jar on the first day of summer vacation. At the end of a week, a month or the end of the summer (depending on the age of your child) count the change and make a special purchase.

            Map the weather: Keep a running log of the weather. Include temperature, humidity, clouds, precipitation, wind, air pressure. Can you predict what the weather will be tomorrow?, and label.

            Set aside time each day to read. Track the books your child reads and reward him or her with a special activity or treat when he or she reaches certain milestones (for example, every 10th book). Do art projects based on favorite titles, such as drawing a favorite scene, or making paper bag puppets.
            Send the kids outside: Studies have proven that physical activity helps grow not only strong muscles but also strong brains. From old favorites like tag, leapfrog, and wall ball, to more organized games like basketball and baseball, outdoor activity stimulates both the mind and the body. So send your kids outside to play. Bonus points if they make up their own games! Here are some more ideas for fun summer learning games:        

            Implementing just a few of these suggestions into your summer schedule can have huge academic rewards for your children when they return to school. Additionally, the summer should be a time for some downtime and family fun, so remember to keep things low-key, simple, and relaxing!

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