Friday, May 31, 2019

ABC's of Summer Learning

It’s essential to keep learning all summer long to avoid falling into the trap of summer brain drain and to keep learning energy going. Luckily, summer learning opportunities are all around!  Here’s an alphabet-friendly guide to summer learning.


  • APPS: Educational apps are great to reinforce skills. Want more learning? Have kids write reviews of the apps. (Check out Duolingo for learning languages!)
  • ACTION!: Exercise increases blood flow to the brain. So get moving! Ride a bike, play ball, take a swim! Being active is keeps neural connections strong and in learning mode all summer!


  • BOARD (Not BORED!) GAMES: Board games are learning tools to help kids develop thinking abilities such as strategy, planning, and action-consequence relationships. Plus, they’re great for teaching patience. 
  • BOWLING: Many bowling centers offer free games to kids over the summer. Or try bowling at home! Watch YouTube videos on the physics of bowling in advance.


  • COOKING: Following a recipe helps kids practice their nonfiction skills, and measuring reinforces fractions, volume, and mass.
  • CRAFTS: Do summer-themed crafts, such as building popsicle stick cabins, making paper fans and airplanes, or finger-painting. Crafts keep kids focused for long periods and are great for motor skill development as well as for planning skills.


  • DESCRIBE: Go for a walk and take turns describing an object without using the words “very” or “really.” Use all your senses. Work in literary tools such as alliteration and similes.
  • DESIGN: Allow kids to redecorate a small space or even a whole room. Start with a graph of their plans and make a budget.


  • ENGINEERING: Try a simple engineering challenge, such as building a bridge from marshmallows and toothpicks.
  • EAT: Healthy eating and healthy brains go hand in hand.  Visit the produce section of a store or farmer’s market and allow kids to choose new vegetables to try!


  • FILM: Many movie theaters offer summer discounts for kids. Look for movies that have a connection to books, then discuss the differences.
  • FIRSTS: Summer is an opportunity to learn a practical skill, like changing a car tire, or rowing a canoe.  It’s also the first opportunity many students have to experience learning outside the classroom, like viewing constellations, or growing their own food.

  • GOOGLE: Going on a summer vacation? Have kids use Google Maps to plan a hike, use Google Search to find hotels, and use Google images to look up far away places. 
  • GARDENING: Gardening teaches kids about spatial planning, design, and the needs of plants. A “garden” can be just a small pot! 


  • HIKING: Hiking offers lots to observe and talk about, and you don’t even have to be in the great outdoors! Look for recommended urban hikes in your area.
  • HABITS: Keep up with school-time habits such as bedtimes, mealtimes, and wake-up times. Use an agenda or wall calendar to keep track of activities.


  • ICE CREAM: Make your own ice cream! Find an online recipe. You can even do it without an ice cream machine!
  • ILLUSTRATE: Make artwork to accompany a story you’ve read, or to tell the story of a summer adventure you’ve had.

  • JOURNALING: Invite kids to keep a travel journal, a reading journal, or daily activities journal. Start with a trip to the store to get a journal. (Can be a simple spiral-bound notebook.)
  • JEWELRY: Make your own jewelry! Many kits are available, or you can make some with paper mache. 
  • KRYPTONITE: Everyone has an area of weakness. (Superheroes are no exception). Summer is the perfect time to focus on weak academic areas, whether it’s reading, math, French, or saving the world.
  • KINDNESS: Building character matters. Plan an act of kindness with your kids, then carry it out. The world needs more kindness.

  • LIBRARIES: Your local library system probably offers a summer program that goes way beyond books. Check it out and participate!
  • LAUGH: Laughter is good for the body and soul. Read joke books, then try your hand at writing your own jokes.
  • MINECRAFT: Google “learning with Minecraft” to find out how to turn your kid’s obsession into a rich educational experience.
  • MUSEUMS: Learn more about the history or culture of your area—many small towns have cultural centers that can make for fun afternoon adventures. Make the experience meaningful by talking about the how/why/where of whatever you’re learning about.

  • NATURE: Take a nature hike, stopping along the path to look at plants and animals. Take photos. Practice description skills. Ask engaging questions, “why do you think that tree is dead?” “What kind of animal might have left that footprint?”
  • NIGHTTIME FUN: Read books about space or the history of constellations, then observe the starry night sky.
  • ORGANIZATION: Organization is helpful all year long. Head to a dollar store to grab inexpensive containers and help kids organize their stuff. Let them come up with the plan on how to sort/classify their items.
  • OUTDOOR GAMES: Create your own Olympic events (like ring toss or an obstacle course) using household materials.

  • PUZZLES: Puzzles are great downtime activities that keep the brain challenged and help hone skills like persistence and problem solving. Try Sudoku, Crosswords, search-a-words, and/or jigsaws.
  • POSTERS: Make a poster. Use hands-on stuff (markers, paint, stamp-and-inkpads, stickers) or design on a computer. Ideas: book posters, travel posters about somewhere you’ve visited or would like to, or an advertising poster.
  • QUIET TIME: Schedule time for rest, reading, and relaxation, even for older kids. Brains need time to recover and process things.
  • QUILT: Make a book “quilt” by creating small, square pictures about each book, then gluing them onto a larger sheet of poster board. 

  • READ: Drop everything and READ! Reading is one of the best things you can do with kids in the summer. Model reading yourself as well. Kids want to emulate the adults around them.
  • ROLLER COASTERS: A trip to an amusement park offers the chance to talk about physics and engineering. Google “roller coaster STEM” for help.

  • SALAD: Encourage healthy eating by allowing kids to select different kinds of lettuce, tomatoes, and other veggies at the local store or farmer’s market. Have them help prepare the salad. 
  • SIDEWALK CHALK: Encourage kids to write poems and illustrate them, or challenge them to draw an interesting shape.

  • TRAVEL: Visit your local tourist bureau and become a tourist in your own backyard. Visit a local park that you’ve never been to.
  • TALENT SHOW: Have kids sing, dance, or perform in some other way as they put on their own talent show.
  • UNIVERSITY: For teens heading off to university in the fall, summer is the best time to prepare for what comes next. It’s also a time for summer jobs, and as the last summer of high school, it’s a major life milestone—it’s important to take advantage of this opportunity.
  • UMBRELLA WALKS: Walk outside on a rainy day and ask kids what they see, smell, hear, and feel. Then write a rainy-day sensory poem.

  • VOCABULARY: Vocabulary is linked to school success—the greater a child’s vocabulary, the greater their reading comprehension skills are. The best way to develop vocabulary? Reading. Write down new words and definitions in a special notebook.
  • VIDEOS: Share a thought-provoking video with kids. Ask questions that don’t have one right answer. (Hint – check out for free entertaining and educational videos, along with great discussion questions!)
  • WRITE: Despite the prevalence of keyboards, penmanship and handwriting are still very important! Personal handwriting style is always developing, so it’s critical to maintain skills. Journaling and writing in a scrapbook are great ways to improve penmanship over the summer and keep vocabulary skills sharp!
  • WORKBOOKS: Today’s workbooks have come a long way in challenging kids to think creatively. 

  • X MARKS THE SPOT: Organize a fun scavenger hunt or a pirate-theme day and have some fun. Make crafts and invite neighborhood friends. It doesn’t have to be a holiday or a birthday to celebrate the summer! It’s a great way to break up summer boredom.
  • XBOX WRITING: If you have a die-hard gamer, challenge him or her to write an instruction manual or guide for a favorite game.
  • YARD SALE: This activity will teach kids lessons about organization. Kids can gather up clothing, books, and toys that they no longer use, and sort what they’ve gathered into categories. Money and customer service are two more skills they can practice!
  • YESTERDAY AND TODAY: Begin each day with a simple activity: Ask kids to write about what they did yesterday and what they want to do today.

  • ZOO: Read a book about a favorite animal, then pay it a visit at your local zoo (many offer free family days during the summer).
  • ZITI: Make a necklace using this tube-shaped pasta and yarn. Or take the kids into the kitchen and teach them to cook baked ziti.