The most important thing is to keep your children reading. Set aside 20-30 minutes daily when everyone in the family is reading. It can be a newspaper, magazine or book. Go to a library or bookstore often to get new selections. You can have a family read aloud once a week. Younger children should spend part of their reading time reading orally; parents can turns reading a paragraph or page. No matter how old the child is sometimes it is nice to listen to a parent read or hear a book on tape. Discuss everyone’s reading selections at dinner. Talk about the best part of the story or parts the reader did not like. What do you think will happen next? Would you like the main character as a friend? Why or why not?
Start a neighborhood parent child book club. Everyone reads the same book and gets together to discuss the book, eat a snack (perhaps a food that was mentioned in the story), act out a chapter from the book, dress up like characters from the book, or do an art project related to the book.
Keep your child engaged in writing with a brand new journal or diary that locks. Blank hardcover books with room for pictures and text turn even the most reluctant writer into an author. If you are taking a trip, let your child make a scrapbook complete with photos and text. Buy postcards for your child to send to friends and relatives. Have your child email friends and relatives. He/she can start a blog. They can make their own family newspaper to share with friends and grandparents. It could include sports information about a sport they participate in over the summer or professional games they have attended.
The entertainment sections could have an advice column, movie and book reviews. Your child can create a vocabulary game or math game to play and write step by step directions. Younger children can make their own grocery lists. Maybe your child likes to cook, he/she could create a recipe and write the directions to make the dish and then cook up a meal. There could be a writing prompt jar. Everyone can write several prompts, fold the prompts and put them in a jar. Other members of the household can pick a prompt and write a story using the prompt he/she selected.
Gardening is fun, teaches responsibility and can use reading, writing and math skills. Children can research the flowers and/or vegetables and fruit they want to grow. They can plan the garden. Then they can make a list and plan a budget of what they will need (tools, seeds, plants, soil, stakes, a small fence etc). At the garden store they can compare prices for all of their items on their list. They can decide if they want to use seeds or plants and determine which will be better for their garden and why. They can measure the plot and where to put the plants or seeds. The next step is to prepare the soil and dig the holes. They may need to add fencing to keep out wildlife. They will need to water the plants and weed the garden. If more than one child is working on the garden, they can assign days for watering and weeding. They can graph their plant growth and keep a log of their plant care and observations. Once the harvest is ready, they can pick their produce and use it for meals, cut some of the flowers to make the dinner table festive or even set up a mini farm stand to sell their items. At the end of the harvest season they can write up a summary of what worked and what they might change for next year’s garden.
Board games can teach a variety of skills from math to geography. They can also teach teamwork, patience when waiting for your turn or when you have bad luck and roll the wrong number or pick the wrong card, and improve focus to remember where a card was hidden. Once a week family games nights are also great for bonding.
Math skills are can be kept sharp through every day activities like cooking. Your child can double or make half a recipe using math involving fractions. Plan a shopping trip with a budget. Let your child cut out coupons to use. At the grocery store he/she can compare prices of brands and sizes. Older children can figure out the tax and add it to the bill. A lemonade or bake stand can teach math skills with money and be rewarding. Dice and decks of cards can be used to reinforce or teach probability. Road trips can be used to determine elapsed time. Children can practice division with decimals to determine miles per gallon when their parents fill up the car with gas. On a long trip “Buzz” is a fun game. The first person starts with one and the next person counts two. Whenever there is a number that is a multiple of seven or has a seven in it, the person says “buzz” for his or her turn. If you forget to buzz or say buzz on the wrong time you are out.
During the long, hot days of summer, your children can keep their skills sharp and have fun at the same time. You just need a little imagination and time to share together.