Many parents buy workbooks for their children in order for them to keep up with or get ahead of their school work over the summer. This equating of workbooks with learning sometimes makes for a miserable summer for some children and may result in turning them off to true learning. Instead of making summer vacation a continuation of the school year, parents can use this time to interact with their children in creative and enjoyable ways which are more educational.
Research has shown that doing workbook pages does not help children read better. What helps children more is for parents to read to them. Summer vacation is a good time to do this. One good system is to read to children a long book over a period of time. For example, “Alice in Wonderland” can be read chapter by chapter. Before beginning each chapter, the parent can ask the children what happened so far and what they think will happen next. Children not only are learning that there are interesting things to read about in books, they are also learning how to use language.
During their vacation, children should not be pressured to improve their own reading skills. They should be reading for enjoyment. This is best accomplished by parents providing material that is below their current reading level. Sometimes children are embarrassed to pick out “easy” books for themselves from the library but parents can do it for them. I would not comment on the books chosen, just put them on the child’s bedside table and after they have been read, simply provide more at the same level. One of the most important things that should be learned about reading is that it can be a pleasure rather than a chore.
Children need a background of experience in order to better understand the words they are reading. These experiences can be provided in the summer. There can be trips to the zoo, to the museum, to the store, to the library, and to the park. Parents can engage in a dialogue with the children about what they saw and what they liked about these trips. They might even want to keep a diary about their summer experiences.
Car trips provide many opportunities for learning. You can use the time to solve math problems. How long does it take to go 90 miles at 55 miles an hour? How many miles can you go before you will need more gas? Make children your navigator by teaching them how to read maps. There is a good book entitled, “Games for Children While Traveling” by Sid Hedges which gives other good ideas.
Card games also fill many enjoyable vacation hours. They help build language, social skills, visual memory, numerical sequence, computation and number concepts. All ages can play and it helps build family cohesiveness.
Finally, do not forget board games. They help children follow rules, take turns, and learn math skills. For young children there are games like Candyland and for older ones there is always the old favorite, Monopoly.
The most natural, effective and rewarding learning experiences are those which take place between parent and child. I encourage you to foster these experiences this summer and relax and enjoy your children.
Photo credit: Boeke / Creative Commons 2.0