Tuesday, June 17, 2014

It’s summer – time of unlimited learning opportunities, time for children to pursue their own interests and make use of free time given to them. Unfortunately, so many kids nowadays spend their free time glued to TV screens, game systems, and other electronic devices. I am not going to be recommending those as the ways to learn this summer as I believe that the best learning happens through direct experiences and exercising imagination. I am offering 10 ways to unplug and learn with both your mind and your body.
Planet Smarty Pants: Top 10 Ways to Learn Something New This Summer

1. Read This Summer

The best way to learn something new and to prevent a “summer slide” is to read. I am very fortunate that we don’t have to “make” our daughter read – in fact, we have to peel her away from books to do other things. However, reading is one thing that I wouldn’t hesitate to make “mandatory” in summer. There are many free reading programs available to encourage young readers and reward reading – check out this great round up of free reading summer programs from Mama to 5 Blessings. In need of good books? Check out my book recommendations for different ages and my Best Children Books Booklists Pinterest board.

2. Get Out in Nature

Children can learn so much from being in nature. They will remember anything they discovered on their own much better than what they learn from an educational TV program. You can bring a field guide to identify trees, flowers, or birds or, perhaps, just let them observe the world around them and use their imagination.

3. Go Somewhere You’ve Never Been

Many families, including ours, travel somewhere in summer, but one can have amazing experiences just checking out local newspapers or websites for events around you and picking something that your children might enjoy. New experiences that engage the whole body are the best and live the longest lasting memories.

4. Start with Art

Summer Banner1
You don’t have to send your child to an art or drama camp unless he or she is very interested in those activities. There are many free cultural events in the summer – we love our Shakespeare in the Park program. Or you could simply find an art book in the library and challenge your child to imitate their favorite artist from the book.

5. Learn a new sport

Tennis Lessons
Summer is also a great time to try out a new sport – either in a camp or with friends and family. My 7 year old is finally getting her wish – she is taking tennis lessons.

6. Find New Music

Don’t just turn on to a regular radio station when you are in your car. Try different stations and discuss different music genres. Introduce your children to the favorite songs from your youth or let everyone take turns teaching others new lyrics.

7. Cook Something New

Cook Something New
Not everyone can travel to a different country physically, but traveling virtually is easier than ever with Internet. At least twice a month I am looking for a new recipe from a different culture and make it with my daughter. Not all of them worked out perfectly, but the fun is in trying something that we don’t eat every day, and also learning a thing or two about the place this recipe came from.

8. Pick Up a New Hobby

I am not talking about children picking up a new hobby, but about us, adults. Our children should see that we are lifelong learners and are willing to try new things. And if we are passionate and interested about something, they might either jump on the same train, so to speak, or use our approach to new things as a model in pursuing their own passions.

9. Make New Friends

Make New Friends
It’s nice that children can spend a lot of time with their siblings (if they have them) during vacations, but it’s also time to make friends the old-fashioned way – by going outside to go look for neighbors to play with. If that doesn’t work where you live, you might have to make an effort and organize playdates. I have only one rule for playdates in our house – it has to be electronics free. I think gaming playdates might be fine for older kids, but I find it rather pathetic for elementary school children to spend time together staring at screens instead of interacting with each other.

10. Let Your Children Be Bored

When I wrote about our plans for Smart Summer, one of my great blog friends Leah from Almost Unschoolers made a comment saying that her children are most creative when they are bored. I admit that this doesn’t quite happen here  - because our daughter always goes for “R” when she doesn’t know what to do with herself. But we don’t need to entertain our children 24x7. They will learn plenty when they are doing what children should be doing – playing active games with their friends and pursuing passions of their own choosing.

Bonus Option # 11

If your child is particularly interested in something and you can afford it, a high quality camp might be a great option. My daughter enjoyed science, and this year we are trying Camp Galileo for a week. She started her week yesterday and came home exhausted but very pleased. Galileo camps teach pre-K – 8th graders to be innovators who explore, create and fail without fear (and fail she did on her first science project there). I am a web ambassador for Camp Galileo – please feel free to check the link for a camp near you and save $30 by entering 2014INNOVATION code at the checkout,  if you register before July 13th.

Your Turn

What new things will your children be learning this summer?

Learn Something New Right Now!

This post is written for a collaborative project School’s Out. You are welcome to jump to the landing page and check out fantastic contributions of Kid Bloggers around the blogosphere.
I am sharing this post with my favorite Kid Blogger link ups and share days.


Ticia said...

All great suggestions. From the pictures I'm seeing at Camp Wilderness Ridge my boys are having a blast at camp.

Princess has been having fun with our different play dates and plans for this week.

Emma @ P is for Preschooler said...

My daughter is most creative when she's bored. I love the idea of parents getting involved in their own hobbies - when we're passionate and enthusiastic about something we love, it's easy for kids to catch on to it too!

maryanne @ mama smiles said...

Sounds like Smarty has a great summer planned!

jeannine said...

Totally love your list and agree less screen time is the way to go! What's more boring than sitting around staring at a screen?

My kiddos rarely say they're bored. They've always had the freedom to play and explore on their own. I agree with you that we often entertain our children too much. They need to play and create their own fun!

This isn't a new hobby but the kiddos have a new fountain and water pond full of fish to care for this summer.

min said...

Looks like a fun summer! I've noticed that kids fall into two camps - one likes and needs structure, the other prefers free play. You can probably guess what K prefers since she is opposite A on most things. :)

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

I think you're right about the hobbies - though for a moment I read that as "pick up a new hubby" and was a worried :) I remember both my parents tinkering and trying out new things when I was a child - and it is part of what drives my own curiosity now.

As to video games - I'm constantly surprised at the things my children are pulling from them. Did you know, for instance, that Animal Crossing includes images of real artwork from the masters- and even a "spot the forgery" challenge? You just never know where learning will creep in :)

Alison P. said...

I tried to get my son to read at the beginning of the summer and it wasn't working so I worked on a few different things. We have added it to his chart so he gets a magnet if he does it. We have another chart that he can write the minutes on but the thing that helped the most was to give him a timer that he could use to get the minutes! It worked miracles. He read for 90 minutes the first day and I had to pull him away :)

Bronwyn Joy said...

Very good ideas. We should try and squeeze a couple more in next week before school goes back!

Amanda Vasquez said...

Great ideas and LOVE that poster :)