25 Activities to Keep Kids' Brains Active in Summer
As students set out on summer adventures, send their parents a much-needed "life preserver" -- a list of 25 activities to share and enjoy with their children. These fun activities cover all subjects and grades; there truly is something for everyone. And, if you have your own summer adventurers at home, this list can rescue your kids from the boredom and blahs of rainy summer days. This year, do more than amuse and entertain your kids and hope for the best for your students, keep their minds working all summer long!
It's summer -- that time of year when teachers bid farewell to students, hoping their gleefully escaping charges don't forget everything they've learned during the school year. It's also the time of year when nervous parents take on the challenge of keeping their children physically busy and mentally active during long summer days. To help those efforts, Education World offers 25 ideas that not only reinforce skills taught during the year, but also to entertain students through the summer months. Share these resources with parents to help them and their children make the most of the lazy, hazy days to come!
Many of these activities link to online resources. In most cases, however, the activities can be completed even by those without Internet access. The activities that do require Internet access can be printed and distributed to students before school ends or accessed and printed by parents at most public libraries.
- Fill in summer's special days and events on the Education World Coloring Calendar for June, July, or August. Or help children use pencils, drawing paper, and rulers to create, decorate, and fill in their own summer calendars.
- Teach kids to cook with the step-by-step lessons and recipes at Cooking With Kids. The site also includes measurement reminders, safety tips, and suggestions for involving kids in the cooking process. Or check out your local library or book store for one of the recommended Heritage Cooking for Kids: Taste History books and try out recipes from Colonial days, the Civil War, and the Lewis and Clark expedition.
- Make homemade Bubble Solution and experiment with such unique Bubble-Blowing Tools as strings, milk containers, and garbage can lids.
- Read aloud The Paper Crane by Molly Bang. Then introduce the art of paper folding by printing and following the instructions for How to Make an Origami Crane. Younger children: Try making a fish.
- Go on a Light Walk, an outing designed to teach kids the properties of light and facts about the sun. Bob Miller of the Exploratorium explains it all. Can't take an online tour? Do your own image walk by printing the directions and template found at the site.
- Create musical instruments from materials found around the house. Need help? Enchanted Learning provides instructions for such Musical Instruments as a rattle, box guitar, maraca, and rain stick.
- Cool down by making Ice Cream in a Bag. The simple technique produces delicious ice cream in about 5 minutes. What ice cream varieties will you and your child concoct?
- Read aloud a selection from Candlelight Storybooks or your own favorite myths or fairy tales. Discuss the stories with your child. Then invite your child to choose a favorite story, and together make a diorama depicting a pivotal moment in the tale.
- Catch a firefly and then go online to learn more about fireflies or read a book, such as Fireflies by Sally M. Walker, to help your child learn more about them. Then invite your child to complete the Education World Firefly Facts work sheet. Firefly Facts Answers:
- Fireflies are really beetles because they have four wings; true flies only have two wings.
- Most fireflies like warm, humid areas.
- In the United States, glowing fireflies are found east of the middle of Kansas.
- Firefly larvae feed mostly on earthworms, snails, and slugs.
- Scientists believe fireflies use their ability to flash as a warning signal to predators and to attract mates.
- Print a grid of dots from Connect the Dots by Math Cats and invite your child to make an original tessellation.
- Staple together pieces of plain paper or use a notebook to help your child make a cartoon flip book. Kids draw a sequence of cartoons and simulate motion as they "flip" through the pages. (Note that the first image in the series should be at the bottom of the stack of pages, and the illustrations should progress from bottom to top.) How to Draw Cartoons or The Complete Cartooning Course by Steve Edgell, Brad Brooks, and Tim Pilcher, offer simple instructions for drawing cartoon figures.
- Learn about national parks from the comfort of your own home, and encourage your child to complete online activities and become a Web Ranger. Materials are grouped by age and include cool awards and a membership card.
- Start a rock collection. Collecting Rocks, a Web site by the U. S. Geological Survey, offers advice to help the novice collector gather, identify, and store neat rock specimens. The Audubon Society Pocket Guide Familiar Rocks and Minerals North America will help children identify and label the rocks and minerals they find.
- Plan with your child a family activity day. Decide how much money to spend, and help your child research events and activities in your area and choose an affordable activity the whole family can enjoy. Remind your child to be sure to allow enough time for the activity, and to remember to include food in the day's plan. (The online Planning a Party guide will help.) Don't forget to bring a camera and take lots of pictures. Your child can mount and label each photo and create a family scrapbook of your special day. You might provide the questions below to help guide your child's thoughts as they plan this special day.
- Describe the event or activity your family will attend.
- Will everyone in the family enjoy this activity? Why do you think so?
- What do you need to arrange ahead of time? Will you need to purchase tickets? Pack a lunch? Make reservations?
- What supplies or materials will you need?
- What costs will be involved?
- Take a virtual CampusTour of colleges and universities your high school student might be considering. Tour the schools' grounds, look at maps, view videos and photos, and request information about those institutions of higher learning. If you don't have Internet access at home, take your tour at the local library.
- Have your child follow instructions to Build the Best Paper Airplane in the World. Then ask your child to design an original paper airplane and diagram the steps for constructing it, so another family member can recreate it!
- Start a family or neighborhood book club. Even a parent and child can form a book club, by reading the same book and chatting about it. For larger groups, check out some online hints for starting a book club.
- Hang a white sheet outside at night and shine a light on it. Observe the variety of insects it draws. To identify some of those nighttime visitors, explore links such as this one or read the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders.
- Kids rarely have the opportunity to design their own rooms to best suit their individual needs. Invite your child to devote some thought to ways to improve his or her living space. Explore with your child Kids' Room Decorating Ideas to find ways your child might individualize his or her room. Then have the child draw the layout of their "new" room. The following questions might guide kids as they consider the possibilities:
- Other than sleeping, what do you do most often in your room? Play games? Work on a computer? Listen to music? Do homework? Entertain guests?
- What furniture or other items do you use most often? What do you use least often?
- What kind of storage do you need? A dresser? A bookcase? A clothes hamper? A desk?
- What do you like best about your room? What do you like least?
- How do you want to change your room?
- Help your child make a set of tangrams with instructions found at the Math Forum's Constructing Your Own Set of Tangrams. Trace the designs on a piece of paper, mix up the tangram pieces, and use them to create jigsaw puzzles.
- Create a thing of beauty from a lump of coal! With a few common ingredients, you and your child can grow a "Magic Crystal Garden" with pieces of coal. Instructions for the crystal garden can be found at Joey Green's Mad Scientist Experiments.
- Soar into space (the space in your bedroom, kitchen, or dining room) by constructing Science Bob's Balloon Rocket. This simple science experiment using a balloon, string, straw, and tape, illustrates the use of air pressure to produce movement.
- Turn plain white carnations or fresh-picked Queen Anne's Lace into dramatic colored creations by Coloring Flowers. Using just food coloring and water, flowers can be changed from white to any tint, usually in just one day. Colors deepen over time, and kids will enjoy modifying the experiment to see what unique combinations they can make.
- Invite your child to play a Math game and record his or her scores on a sheet set up like the illustration below. Choose a probability game, a timed flashcard activity, an online game from a site such as FunBrain, or another favorite math activity. Then have your child graph the results of the Game Challenge chart. Celebrate your child's effort with a special treat.
Game Title: _________________________________
Round Kind of Game Level of Difficulty Score 1 2 3 4 5
- Put old wallpaper and magazine scraps to good use by using them to create Recycled Paper Beads. This easy activity requires very few common materials and keeps kids very busy on rainy days. When they're finished, children can string their beads and give them as gifts or wear them for fun.
Article by Cara Bafile
Copyright © 2009, 2016 Education World
Summer is coming up quickly! I love summer break because it helps me recharge for the next school year. But summer break doesn’t always have a positive impact on our students.
Some of our students spent most of summer break playing video games and watching television. Kids can definitely learn from video games and T.V. shows. But those activities are not as enriching as reading, visiting museums, and practicing math facts. Unfortunately, our students don’t all have equal opportunities to extend their learning during the summer.
Here are some other sobering facts about summer learning loss (from http://www.summerlearning.org):
- Students take a significant hit in their math skills over the summer. The majority of students lose about 2 months of grade level equivalency in math computation skills (Cooper, 1996).
- Reading achievement also declines over the summer, typically for low-income students. Most low-income students lose over 2 months in reading achievement (Cooper, 1996).
- More than half of the achievement gap between low-income students and their higher-income peers an be attributed to unequal access to summer learning (Alexander et al, 2007).
Yikes. These statistics are scary! We also have to consider that in addition to the summer learning loss that students experience, we use up instructional time re-teaching 2 months’ worth of skills. That re-teaching cuts down on our instructional time for the year, which means students learn even less than they could be learningduring those nine months that we do have school!
We work too hard during the short time that we have our students to let them slide back during the summer! Although we don’t have control over what happens at home during the summer, we can definitely take steps to minimize summer learning loss.
In this post, I’ll share FREE parent letters with suggestions for summer learning activities, and I’ll explain why I give my kids pizza boxes to take home over the summer! I’ll also provide links to my summer homework packets.
The first thing we can do is educate parents about what they can do to prevent summer learning loss. I always provide my students’ parents with a list of 10 fun learning activities that they can do over the summer. These activities are enjoyable, simple, and usually free (for example, a car game that has students reading license plates). These lists also have book suggestions for students to read over the summer.
You can download (for free!) the summer learning tips here for your Kindergarten, first grade, or second grade students. Each packet is designed to be parent-friendly, so you can send it home “as is.” Click on the image(s) below to download the handouts that you need – they are included in both English and Spanish.
Another action we can take is to educate our students about the importance of summer learning. For the months leading up to summer break, I talk with my kids about how learning can happen at home and at school. I tell them how important it is to continue reading, writing, and practicing math over summer break.
Then, toward the end of the school year, I begin preparing their take-home pizza boxes. I ask a local pizzeria if they would be willing to donate one (unused!) pizza box for each student. They always agree – maybe because it’s free advertising! Then, I begin filling the boxes with leftover school supplies. If necessary, I purchase more pencils and crayons to fill the boxes. The boxes are great because they’re sturdy and relatively large (less likely to be lost over the summer).
In the box, I also include a summer homework pack for each of my students. The summer homework pack provides a review of key reading and math skills that we’ve worked on throughout the year. Since I’ve taught Kindergarten through second grade, I’ve developed materials for each grade level. Here are some photos from the packs:
If you’re interested in any of these summer homework packs, click on the images above to learn more. You will probably not want to send home everything in each packet (there are tons of materials!) so you can also use some of it for end-of-the-year review.
Once the supplies and summer homework packs are in the pizza boxes, I close ’em up and send ’em home! I make the “pizza box presentation” kind of a big deal. The boxes do sit in the room for a day or two before I give them out, and the kids are just filled with curiosity…most of them think they are getting pizzas. Ha! But they are still super excited when they find out what is really inside.
I am thankful that my own upbringing was such that I did not stop learning during the summers. I feel very strongly that we need to do everything we can to provide similar experiences for our students! We certainly can’t control whether or not they actually DO the activities we suggest, but we can make our best effort to help students extend their learning into the summer.
Have you seen the effects of summer learning loss? What do you do to prevent it?