How to keep your child learning all summer long

Jun 13, 2013 at 11:00 a.m. ET

Summer is a great time for parents to move away from teaching their children about concrete skills, and move into more abstract and broader concepts. For example, for young kids, this might mean learning phonics instead of letters.

Collecting shells

The summer is a fantastic time to teach kids how to learn, including skills that build perseverance, how to take initiative and the importance of having a curious, inquisitive mind.

Contributed by Rachel Robertson

Whether you are headed to the store, the playground or the beach, the summer provides endless learning opportunities and teachable moments for parents and children.

Cook up a learning opportunity

Cooking with your children can prove to be a wonderful way for them to learn not only about some of your favorite recipes, but critical skills pertaining to science and math. When cooking with your little ones, try not to focus on the outcome but the process that gets you there. When lining up the ingredients, ask your child to predict what is going to happen. You might even want to be a little adventurous and leave an ingredient out of the recipe to see what happens. Summer fruits, like blueberries and strawberries, can be helpful (and yummy!) counting tools when teaching your child about math.

Back to the basics

The local library can be a cost-effective and fun summer activity for children of all ages. Not only will it allow them to grow their love of reading and find books on topics they are interested in, but the library often holds readings and events that your children might enjoy attending. For older children, the library could offer volunteer opportunities that might enable them to meet other people their age.

Use the news

Newspapers and magazines, whether online or print, can help your child understand what’s going on in the world and also create some great dialogue. For older children, you might ask them about their favorite article of the day and their perspective, which will encourage them to tap a wider range of emotions and facts.

Extending learning to the playground

The link between physical activity and learning is strong, since children learn by doing and being actively engaged. Not only does physical activity promote physical development, it also supports cognitive, social and emotional development. The local playground and park (or even your backyard) offers a wealth of cognitive and social-emotional learning opportunities for children including playing games, meeting new kids, playing in sand and picking up sticks. All of these activities teach skills such as reciprocal communication, team work, taking turns, coordination and sensory awareness.

Summer getaways

You don’t always have to travel very far for a fun and fulfilling summer vacation with the family. Draw a circumference around your town — research different vacation venues and let your child explore different activities in the area. This will build the child’s historical and social studies skills, and they’ll enjoy meeting new people during your adventure. If your family already has a long-distance vacation planned, help your child to learn more about the area by reading online articles and books about its history, people, culture and cuisine.

Exploring is key

Ask your child something he wants to learn about and embrace it. It could be something about dinosaurs, space, social studies, your hometown, his school, journaling, language development, etc. Talk with him about this topic. Go to the library and find books about it. Let him ask questions. It’s not always about giving children answers; it’s about letting them explore.

About the author:

Rachel Robertson is the Director of Education and Development at Bright Horizons Family Solutions. She has more than twenty years of experience in the education field and has served as a professional development and education quality consultant, classroom teacher, center director, and quality and training manager. She is the author of numerous early childhood development books and articles and presents professional development seminars at national conferences. Rachel holds a Master’s degree in Human Development.

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