~~This is an updated repost. Scroll down to see the original post~~
There’s no question: children work hard during the school year. Equally unquestionable? They look forward to Summer Vacation with the excitement they usually reserve for their birthdays. I tend to think they (us teachers, too!) deserve a break from the daily grind. And, whether or not they admit it, breaks allow students the chance to feel ready for school to resume. Breaks are important! Still, there’s a significant amount of research that shows that the months-long Summer Vacation is also a opportunity for children to “slide.”
For most children, I find that whatever knowledge they lose over the summer is balanced by their natural development. Without having done a lick of work they can return to school in the fall and immediately accomplish huge leaps in reading or math. Others return having lost a dismaying amount of mastery. (One might argue that, if they lost it, they didn’t master it in the first place but that’s a discussion for another time). So, when parents ask me what I recommend that their children do during the summer, I like to have a few ideas on hand. It may vary from child to child, depending on his or her needs, but here are a few ideas that are great for EVERY family. These ideas can make your vacation not just relaxing, but enriching:
Whether your family goes camping in Yosemite National Park or travels to a more exotic local, there are plenty of ways to turn vacation fun into an enriching experience. You can:
- Look at maps with your child. If you’re driving, show them the route you’ll be taking. If you’re flying, discuss which countries, bodies of water or states you’ll be traveling over. Be sure to mention any cities or landmarks they can look for along the way. You can get on GoogleMaps with them and explore the area you’ll be visiting, even see a street view. I promise they’ll love visiting a place they saw on the internet!
- Other map ideas:
- Discuss the key or legend on the map with your child. Encourage your child to use the scale to estimate distance. Road maps also have small numbers telling how many miles between cities, which can help break down road trips into smaller chunks of travel for those kids that always want to know if you’re “there yet.”
- Play the license plate game–with a real map of the U.S. Your child can color in each state as he or she spots it and add a hatch mark for each additional one. Bonus points for foreign plates!
- Invite them to do some research about your destination with an eye to choosing an activity he or she would like to do. Lonely Planet has a fun series of travel books geared towards children’s interests.
- It’s always a good idea to visit a local museum, but it can also be educational (and fun) to explore local geology or pick cherries at a local farm.
- Listen to audiobooks while you’re driving (or sitting on a train or waiting in an airport lounge). Borrowing eAudiobooks from your library is both easy and inexpensive. Since the books are returned electronically, there isn’t even a chance you’ll run up any late fees!
- If you like to read aloud to your child, try to find a chapter book or middle grade novel set in the location where you’ll be traveling. For example, Penguin/Random House has a series of Mysteries set in the U.S. National Parks.
- Print out (or buy) a map of the world (or the US or your state) and help your child mark the places he or she has been.
- Give your child some money for the trip. You can either do this in a lump sum or by installment (day by day, etc.) Tell them they can use the money for whatever they want, but they won’t be getting any more (until the next day or whatever your determination). Make sure they know that what the plans are for the day (or trip) so they can budget, save or splurge. It’s always interesting to see which kids save and which spend. Kids can be surprisingly generous with friends and siblings.
- If you’re traveling out of the country, you have a wonderful opportunity to discuss the exchange rate and foreign currency. Before you leave, visit a website with your child to look at the exchange rates in different in countries. Explain that there are costs involved when changing from one form of currency to another.
- Keep a vacation journal. You might encourage your child to keep one on his or her own, but chances are they’ll require a little outside encouragement. Don’t limit the journal to writing. Bring along colored pencils or pens and shading pencils so they can draw or sketch if they feel like it. Or take a leaf out of Andrew Whyte’s book and have your child take scenic pictures of his or her favorite Lego (or other toy) during your travels.
I’ll be back later this week with reading and math ideas. In the meantime, I hope I’ve given you some ideas to get the ball rolling. Feel free to ask questions or comment with your own Summer Enrichment ideas!