Between sleeping in, splashing around at the beach, and no school, summer break is many kids’ favorite time of the year. However, after a few months of fun in the sun, a lot of people feel as though their kids have lost much of the information they learned through the school year. This is why it is important for you to find ways to keep them mentally engaged over the summer. With these stimulating, fun and educational activities, you can help your children stay sharp, and maybe even get them ready to enter the school’s science fair next year.
1. Backyard Garden
This activity is a great way for your kids to get some light exercise, cut down your grocery bill, and learn – all while having fun! Buy seed packets for a hardy plant, like tomatoes or cucumbers. Then gather three types of different soil. For example, you can use a loamy soil, a sandy soil and the soil that is natural to your area. Then, get six pots that are large enough for the vegetable you choose, or mark off six plots in your garden, and fill two of each plot or pot with each type of soil. To add another variable, you and your child can go hunting for earthworms after a summer rain shower and place them in half of the plots, and leave the other half without them. Next, label each of the plots 1-6 and note the kind of soil used and if earth worms were added. The last step is to plant the seeds and water them as recommended by the instructions on the seed packet or online.
Soon, seedlings should start to grow. Every other day, your child should go outside with a notebook, ruler and magnifying glass. They can measure and track how tall and how fast the different plants are growing, the color of the leaves, and later in the summer, the quality and quantity of the fruit. If they want, they can turn all of this data into graphs then write up which plants grew best with which soil, and if the earthworms may have helped them grow better. Presenting this can make a great extra credit project for their science class next year, or even help earn a first place price at the science fair!
2. Kite building
Not only is flying kites on a breezy day a favorite summer past time, but constructing them can be a fun and educational project. There are hundreds of tutorials available online that cover different methods and materials of building your own kite. As your child successfully builds kites by following these, they should take note of which fly best and the materials and shapes used to build them. Once your child has built and flown a few kites, the real fun and creativity can begin. They can start alternating shapes and materials, and creating their own original kites without instructions. As they change the shapes and materials, they should keep track of which ones can fly the highest, are the most stable, and if they are feeling adventurous, which ones can do the best tricks and flips. As they get more interested in kite building, you may find them learning about aerodynamics and physics.
A fun way to make each kite even more exciting is to decorate it with tassels, stickers and drawings — although they will quickly learn it is important to be careful about the kite’s weight. For example, they could create a Batman themed kite that is shaped like a bat and black and yellow. While they fly it, they could even wear matching Batman pajamas or a costume.
Cooking and baking are exact sciences. They require perfect temperatures, mixtures, and timing to get the desired outcome. Beyond that, they also require reading comprehension, knowledge of measurements, and some math to follow the recipes. At least once a week, help your child choose a recipe for one of their favorite foods, and then go with them to the grocery store so they can gather the ingredients. Depending on how old your child is, you can make the recipes easier or more difficult. For example, providing them with a cookbook that uses metric measurements, but only giving them customary measuring tools will help them learn how to convert between the two systems. You could also require that the dishes be larger or smaller than in the recipe book, so that they can learn about ratios and fractions.
As your child gets better at cooking, the recipes and requirements can get harder. Fortunately, towards the end of the summer, the garden should be ripening, and your child will probably have a great time incorporating the literal fruits of their labors into their dishes. As a final project, your kid can create their own recipes with their own vegetables, and provide the family with a homemade and grown dinner and dessert.
Few kids don’t love their summer vacations, but keeping them engaged and learning without summer school can be tricky. However, with high flying kites, slimy earthworms, delicious desserts and home grown gardens, they can have an amazing, active and educational summer!