Topics in ECE: 6 Things to Do with "Summer Children"

Summer breaks from school are quickly approaching and I always have parents ask me for suggestions on what to do with their children during the summer. Over the years, I have come across quite a few ‘lists’ of summer activities. To be honest, they make me a little crazy. Most families are not going to devote time every day to do a project or follow what the calendar lists indicates for the day. Two things often happen with that scenario. The family gets behind because there are days when they have activities planned away from home. The children get discouraged because they think they are ‘behind,’ even though there are no requirements. The other thing that can happen is that the three month lists looks so daunting to begin with that some families give up before starting. That is why I like a short list of possible activities to do during those summer months. I like activities that help the children maintain their skills, while still being fun and engaging. Although there are myriads of ideas about summer activities, here are six that I think are good suggestions for engaging the ‘summer child.’

  1. READ every day possible. I really like my grandchildren’s school because they have a ‘reading challenge’ over the summer. The children keep track of pages read and there are rewards and activities that correspond with their totals when they return to school in August. My three grandchildren are always trying to ‘win’ the page total for their classroom. Go to the library or bookstore often to make sure they always have a book to read (or books for reading aloud to the pre-readers). Kids who read and are read to simple know more!
  2. WRITE often by creating a journal. A journal can be simple pieces of paper or to make it a little more engaging, have your child choose a journal book or ringed notebook from the store. Have your child write about where you go during the summer months or if you stay home, have him write about where he hopes to go someday. Drawing pictures is an important part of writing. For young children it IS writing (putting their thoughts on paper).
  3. GET OUTSIDE as often as possible. We know childhood obesity is a serious threat to our children. If you do not have a yard, try to visit a park or open space often during the summer months. Purchase inexpensive items for fun games. Examples: Frisbee catch, hit balloons back and forth with a tennis racket, play kick soccer with a Nerf ball, see how many forms of life you can find in a tree (you’ll be surprised), or run/walk a 5K race as a family. For very young children, take them on a neighborhood walk and see which letters of the alphabet or numbers they can see on signs and buildings. You will notice that all of my suggestions require the body to move. Don’t spend the summer in front of the TV or electronics.
  4. PUT ON AN ART GALLERY STROLL. Have your child(ren) create art projects using various materials. When you have a number of projects, display them on a fence, side of a house or building, or a large board. Invite family members or neighbors to come and ‘view’ the art show. Have your child(ren) describe and talk about each project. Serve refreshments.
  5. BUILD SOMETHING! Collect disposable materials (such as empty toilet tissue or paper towel rolls, empty boxes or pieces of cardboard, wood pieces, etc.), glue and/or tape. Challenge the child(ren) to build a project or sculpture using the materials. Encourage them to plan out what they are going to build. In all areas of education, children are encouraged to use critical and creative thinking skills. Building helps develop critical thinking skills and reinforces many engineering skills.
  6. DO SOMETHING FOR COMMUNITY SERVICE. Summer is a great time to help children understand their role in the community. Providing some type of community service helps the child feel good about helping others and builds the child’s self-esteem. Helping a neighbor with yard work, taking dinner or treats to another family or an elderly person, serving at the local homeless soup kitchen, collecting contributions for a non-profit or community need, are a few suggestions.

Make this summer the best possible by helping your children to do new things and sharpen their thinking skills for the new school year in the fall.