It’s almost summertime and the livin’ will be easy. Oh wait, you’re a parent. Never mind, the livin’ is about to get chaotic — but chaos can be fun, and educational.
While you’ve spent the past nine-ish months supporting the expansion of your child’s mental, physical, and social development, you haven’t been doing it alone (if they go to school). You’ve had assistance from teachers, coaches, and all the other people that help kids grow into bigger kids. But soon, the majority of this “fostering of development” will fall on your shoulders … and hands, and heart, and feet …oh heck, every last drop of you will be called upon this summer.
While camps and other such organized activities handled by other responsible adults (or teenagers) were sent down from the parenting heavens to sneak learning (and free time for you!) into your kid’s summer, you’ll likely be met with “ugh, mom” if you suggest activities that even have a whiff of education.
So, let’s hide the learning in fun activities. Here’s how …
1. Educational obstacle courses
Create an “obstacle course” with various stations that each have a challenge your child needs to accomplish before moving on to the next. For example, a station requiring they solve age-appropriate math problems, read a passage of a book out loud in a silly accent, build the tallest block tower they can, perform a simple science experiment (like seeing what happens when they mix baking soda with water), and any other fun activities that also require their brain to do some work.
Oh, and the initial impetus to get them to participate? A prize at the end. Bribes are where it’s at.
2. Video game coding
For the older kids, there are now online courses and computer programs that teach them how to code their favorite video games. Instead of just pushing a button or flicking a joystick to make a character perform a pre-programmed action, your child can be the one developing the simulation, graphics, artificial intelligence, physics, input, or audio programming. They’ll be learning computer science skills while still interacting with their favorite games.
3. Awaken the arts
Because many programs like art and music are being cut from schools, summer can be a great time to take those classes elsewhere (online, at a local recreation center, etc.). And, summer offers children the free time to hone these skills.
According to author Malcolm Gladwell, it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a master in a certain field. So, if little Madeline wants to become the next Wolfgang, she’ll need to cook five hours a day, each day of the average summer vacation, for the next 22.5 years. Or, she can just take a cooking class that teaches her how to boil some pasta and mix in some canned marinara sauce. Then, to really ingrain this “helping with the food prep” thing …
4. Contributing cook
Purchase a children’s cook book (or have your kiddo look through simple recipes from a cook book you already own), have them select a few recipes they would like to prepare for the family each week, take them with you to shop for the ingredients, and drink a glass of wine in the tub while they cook (or just fantasize about doing that while you supervise their culinary efforts).
5. At-home science experiments
First off, buy the following ingredients: glue, glitter, confetti, raw eggs, and coffee grounds. Just kidding (but, who knows, those ingredients may be the fixings for the next billion dollar idea.) You can go the DIY route with the help of Pinterest and your pantry, but if you want “less stress and mess” options, there are great resources like The Young Scientists Club and Home Science Tools which mail you pre-made science experiments based on the age and interests of your child.
6. Foster their emotional intelligence through journaling
Although “emotional intelligence” isn’t graded in school, it’s one of the most important skills a child can learn. Have your child fill out one page of a journal every morning, or every evening, practicing “free-flow” writing where they can express anything they want. Ensure this journal is a safe space for them by assuring them they will be the only person to read it — and back that up by not snooping!
As you’re working on keeping the arithmetic and grammar brain cells alive in your child this summer, don’t forget that it’s also OK (even great!) to let loose with some fun activities that don’t include an ounce of learning. A healthy mix of mindful and mindless fun will ensure your child rolls (or hesitantly shuffles) into the next school year with a full-functioning, yet relaxed, brain.