Summer is no time for kids to take a break from learning. But it is a great time for them to discover that learning is fun and can happen anytime and anywhere — not just in school classrooms.
We’ve pulled together a mix of traditional and offbeat educational ideas from several resources, among them local teachers and Web sites including greatschools.org.
• Help your kids form a summer book club with friends, in which they meet once a week to talk about a book they’re reading. Have fun with it by creating contests, dressing as favorite characters or acting out book scenes.
• Join a summer reading program at the public library. Most branches in Richland, Lexington and Kershaw counties offer programs for young readers and teens alike.
• Find a book to enjoy as a family, reading aloud a chapter or so each night and discussing it.
• Offer special incentives to encourage reading. For example, take your child to see a movie after he or she finishes the book it was based on.
• Planning a day trip or family vacation? Half the fun starts before you get there. Involve your child in the planning by practicing how to use a map to find cities and tourist attractions, and how to estimate distances. If you are driving, work with your child to figure out how many gallons of gas it will take to get there and estimate the cost. If you are flying or traveling by train, check travel schedules and costs. If you are going to a different state, look up information about the state, such as the state flower, state bird and interesting attractions.
• Have your child keep a journal. It can be about anything — even the movies he sees — and it’s a great way to maintain and sharpen writing and language skills.
• Have your child create a scrapbook. Collect postcards, brochures and menus from vacations, and encourage your child to write descriptions of the places you visited. Or suggest a scrapbook chronicling your child’s year in school, with artwork, photographs, letters, newspaper clipping or school mementos.
Science and nature
• Visit a Midlands park. Better yet, participate in one of their nature programs. Sesquicentennial State Park in Northeast Richland, Saluda Shoals in the Irmo-Chapin area and Congaree National Park in Lower Richland offer a variety of kid-friendly programs — some free, all affordable.
• What better way to learn the basics of science and how things grow than to plant your own garden? You can start with seeds or small plants. Talk about what plants need to be hardy: air, water, sunlight and nutrients. Vegetables are especially fun and educational to plant because your child will learn where food comes from and will also get to eat the end product.
• For a nighttime activity, set out on a mission to catch lightning bugs. Or, have kids do some research on the night sky, then try to spot what they’ve learned.
• Ask your child to be your energy consultant and help find ways to conserve energy and water in your house.
• Cooking is a great activity that teaches math concepts. Choose kid-friendly recipes that require measuring a variety of ingredients.
• Empty your change into a jar every evening. Let your kids spend time sorting and counting the change. When they want to spend some of the money, make them figure out how much will be left when they do.
• Make grocery shopping a game. Let your child keep a running estimate of the groceries on a small pad of paper. When you get to the register, see how close they came. Also, use coupons and let kids calculate the final price of items. Have kids do simple addition or multiplication by purchasing two of the same item and figuring out the price.
Art and history
• Learn about the history of your community by visiting the places you pass but normally do not have time to visit. At the State House, for example, read the monuments or take a formal tour. The Historic Columbia Foundation has a number of programs about colonial life, or visit one of the historic homes. Visit an area museum, whether it’s the larger State Museum or a smaller one that highlights community history, such as the Lexington County Museum or Cayce Historical Museum.
Compiled by Dawn Kujawa