With remote learning wrapping up and summer camps canceled, many families are at a loss for what to do with their children this summer. We spoke to two experts, Dr. Rebecca Silverman and Dr. Carol O’Donnell, who offered creative ideas for keeping kids entertained and learning this summer.
Dr. Silverman offered ideas for cultivating a love of reading in the Growing Great Readers podcast, where she advised:
Create a Positive Literacy Environment that Encourages Reading
Parents that place value on reading or listening to books by taking time to read themselves, read to their child, or provide time for children to read on their own shows kids that reading is really important, which helps encourage them to do it. Another important element is creating an environment where children see reading as not only enjoyable, but also as a tool for learning about the world. So, if you’re your child asks questions, you can say, “let’s go look that up in a book.” This habit can encourage children to see that reading is a resource for them to learn about the world around them.
Make the Most of Summer Reading
The role of families is hugely important in developing literacy skills. In addition to reading with your kids regularly, you can…
- Listen to audiobooks with your kids
- Let your kids read what they want to read – including graphic novels, TV tie-in books, etc.
- Talk to your kids about the books you’re reading on your own
- Point out words or features of a book so they begin to recognize the structure of books
- After reading with your kids ask them open-ended questions like, “What did you think of the story?” and “What did you learn from it?”
Summer learning shouldn’t stop at reading. We also talked with Dr. O’Donnell about fostering curiosity through science projects and everyday opportunities to ask questions in the Raising Curious Kids podcast. Here is some of her advice:
Opportunities for Summer Learning are Everywhere
- If you’re doing laundry with your child by your side, talk about how something goes from being wet to being dry
- If you’re cooking as a family, explore what happens when you mix things together and why something bubbles up when you add baking soda
- Hands on investigation of the world around us allows kids to ask questions. It’s okay if you don’t know the answer! What matters most is providing that opportunity for your child to think critically about what they’re observing.
Take Advantage of Online Resources
- The Smithsonian Learning Lab offers free resources for families to support summer learning from the Smithsonian’s museums, zoo, cultural and research centers & libraries.
- National PTA has also compiled 5 Summer Camp Alternatives for Your Kids
Don’t Forget that Nature is a Classroom Too!
Take walks with your child and observe the world around you. Your neighborhood offers great opportunities for your children to keep learning! If there is a tree tilted to the side in your backyard, help your child think about why it’s tilted to help them make sense of what they are seeing. It’s important to ask simple questions like “What do you observe?” “What do you wonder?” “What kind of questions do you have about it?”
Take a walk with a goal of noticing and wondering and looking for these types of scientific phenomenon that are around us all the time!
Listen to more great parenting tips from our Notes from the Backpack podcast.
Rebecca Bauer is the Family Engagement Specialist at National PTA.