Fun Summer Learning Ideas
It’s an annual dilemma: Children need a break from school, yet it’s important that they continue to learn during the summer.
Educators suggest encouraging kids to imagine, explore and inquire about things that interest them. Whether kids do that with play, paper or pixels, you can find plenty of ideas to get them thinking while they enjoy summer.
To get started, create specific summer learning goals. If your child’s schedule allows it, set aside a specific day of the week as a learning day. A structured routine can help kids focus. Here are some ideas to help you fill out your child’s summer learning schedule.
Family Field Trips
Family vacations and trips to museums, historical landmarks, zoos and national parks or wildlife sanctuaries provide opportunities to learn while having fun.
Kristen Lewis, the Philadelphia Zoo’s director of education, describes the zoo as, “the region’s largest living classroom and a place that brings to life all that you see in a book.” For example, this year’s new, 3D interactive exhibit, the Trail of the Lorax, teaches kids about the orangutan. Lewis hopes that the zoo can help kids to “feel empowered and understand that their choices really can make a difference for the animals.”
Courtney Waring, director of education at the Delaware Art Museum, says, “Art museums are great places for discovery and making meaning. Family museum visits can help develop children’s critical thinking skills and hone their observation skills, not to mention having fun along the way.”
To help your children explore a museum, you can play “eye spy” or, if you’re familiar with the collection, create a scavenger hunt. Zoos and museums also offer classes and programs.
Online Reading Resources
Use your computer or mobile device to encourage children to keep reading this summer. The International Children’s Digital Library for ages 3-13 offers a free website and app that lets users select from more than 4,000 books. Read Me Stories provides iPhone and iPad users with a new book every day and is best suited for beginning readers.
The International Children’s Digital Library for ages 3-13 offers a free website and app that lets users select from more than 4,000 books.
Another online resource, Five in a Row, offers reading lesson plans and ideas for learning at home for ages 2-12. The site also features a message board for parents to ask and advise each other.
For unplugged reading, The Horn Book’s summer reading list of 68 books, organized by grade level, features newly published books for children from preschool to high school.
Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media reviews children’s apps, books, games, movies, music, TV and websites, rating them for quality and age-appropriateness and advising parents on how to use them educationally.
This summer, Common Sense is launching a virtual summer camp to help kids ages 2-17 to keep learning. It will include departments for outdoor activities, building and making, a “mess hall” where kids can learn mathematics from cooking exercises and a pen-pal section that focuses on reading. Activities will be organized by age group.
“We grouped more than 65 apps, websites, and games that are really fun and have high learning potential,” says Shira Katz, Common Sense’s director of digital learning. Besides its own activities, Common Sense recommends these kids’ learning sites and apps:
- GameStar Mechanic teaches children how to design their own videogamesas they think mathematically and creatively.
- ItzaZoo is a reading skills and comprehension game for preschoolers.
- Nancy Drew: Alibi in Ashes, a mystery game, teaches kids critical thinking skills through puzzles.
- NASA’s The Space Place teaches kids space and earth science while providing fun facts, games and projects.
Mark Lauterbach is a MetroKids intern and Temple University journalism student.