The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Parents Creatively Teaching Their Children

Many parents, who equate workbook activity with learning,

buy workbooks for their children to complete during the summer

months. In this way, the parents reason, their children will not

only keep up with their peers but may even be ahead of them the

next school year. This usually makes for a miserable summer for

the children and may result in their being turned off to all true

learning in the future. 

Parents can be much more creative than that. Schools are

not the only place where children learn and teachers are not the

only ones responsible for or capable of providing activities

which help develop young minds. Summer vacation is a wonderful

time for parents to expand on the school’s curriculum and in many

cases, supplement the curriculum where it is deficient. 

Science along with its tool subject, math, would be a good

place to start for summer learning. Mainly, because science

learning is best when it can be “hands on” and teachers sometimes

find this difficult to do with a large class. Also many schools

do not teach the science curriculum along with the math. This is

a mistake because math is a tool of science and children,being

concrete thinkers, understand math better when it is incorporated

with science.  

One way to begin, is to help children to become accurate

observers of the world around them and to keep records of what

they observe. You could begin in the backyard by having children

see the different leaves on the trees or plants on the ground.

You might buy a magnifying glass so that they can observe more

closely. They could draw pictures of what they observe. They

could then feel the different textures of things in the yard and

describe how they feel to the touch. You could help them with

more accurate words to describe what they are feeling.

Another activity is to put a bird feeder in the yard and

have the child keep a record of the various birds that come to

the feeder. He could then make a bar graph to record the birds’

activity. You could expand on this by taking a trip to the zoo

or natural history museum to learn more about the birds in his


Have the child draw a map of the backyard, or a room in the

house, or the neighborhood. He could pace the space off and draw

what he sees to scale. He could label locations of various

trees, bushes, fences, houses, fire hydrants, and everything and

anything that he observes. You could buy some graph paper to

make the drawing to scale easier–one pace equaling one square on

the paper. Your child will learn about measurement and graphs.

Planting a garden either flower or vegetable is also a great

activity. The child could find out which plants or flowers would

grow best in the soil available. He might keep a record of the

rainfall and sunshine needed to make his garden grow. This could

also be graphed on a chart. He might attempt to grow something

which is difficult or not recommended and see why or why not he

is successful.

Keeping track of the weather and temperature is another

activity that helps children become accurate observes. Put a

thermometer outside the window and have the child record the

temperature day by day. He could keep a chart and perhaps make

predictions on what is going to happen next and why. 

Starting a collection is also a possibility. What about a

rock collection or stamps? Magnets are also great fun. Do

experiments and keep records on what magnets can and cannot do.

The number and kinds of experiments children can do at home are

endless. There are many books in the library that can give you

ideas. A new program called TIMS (Teaching Integrated

Mathematics and Science) developed at the University of Illinois

at Chicago is another resource. 

The idea is to use the time in the summer for fun and

learning in a way that gets away from pre-programmed workbook

types of activity. I encourage you to enjoy this time with your

children and engage them in activities that will make them better

and more excited learners when they return to school in the fall. 


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