Kids love summertime because it means a break from school. But breaking from school does not necessarily mean that their learning should stop. Summer should not turn kids into zombies who beome brain dead by sleeping a lot, hanging out, or worse, playing mischief. Your kid should find pleasure not only in going to the beach, hanging out with friends and other fun summer activities, but also in learning new things. He should also strive to retain what he learned in school. According to the US Dept of Education students lose as much as 25% of their learning in the summer. The experts call this "summer learning loss" or "the summer slide".
Studies such as that of Harris Cooper at Duke University, and that of a team of researchers at Duke University, indicate that although US students have similar progress through the school year regardless of academic status, those who belong to upper-income families tend to hold continous progress during the summer. This is because the rich can afford to send their kids to places that provide them high quality experiences or expose them to intellectually stimulating activities. These exercise their minds and bodies.
Your kid can learn and have fun this summer without you having to spend a lot of money. Below are ideas for activities that your kid can do to prevent him from having "summer learning loss" and make him ready for the next school year:
Reading has unquestionable benefits for the brain short term and long term. A reader child exercises his brain, uses his imagination, and gain important knowledge as to how the world works. Reading is also an activity that becomes pleasurable when done regularly.
When in school, teachers normally give students reading time. In summer, kids tend to forget to read and lose this habit as other summer activities like too much play, watching tv, and “hanging around” grabs most of their time. You can continue to have your kid maintain their reading habit by going to the library or buying him books that he would enjoy. Require him to read for at least an hour a day.
You can also reward reading by giving him the privilege of watching movies, playing with video games, or giving him small tokens like toys or other goodies after he reads. Encourage reading habit by making sure that your kid read first before going out or at night before turning in.
2. Learn to play a musical instrument
Music has many benefits on your kid’s brain and summer is a best time to begin to learn to play an instrument. This is because your kid can find time to practice every day, which is a necessary for him to keep improving.
3. Learn chess or play board games
Chess gives the brain a great workout and many studies suggest its many brain benefits. Among other mental skills, chess playing results in spatial, numerical, and administrative-directional abilities, along with verbal aptitudes. A Hong Kong study shows that chess players showed a 15% improvement in math and science test scores.
Kids today are less interested in playing chess because they would rather play the more entertaining video games that are fast-paced and do not need a lot of patience and concentration. You have to be creative in rewarding your kid to play chess. A great way to start is by playing with him, and being enthusiastic about teaching him the game.
There are other board games that exercise the brain but not as intensely. Scrabble will help your kid learn new words and definition. It also teaches mental agility. Monopoly teaches kids about money and math. Board games that are played by more than two players also encourage socialization and bonding with the family and friends.
4. Learn sports
It is a truism that whatever is good for the body is good for the brain. Physical exertion by sports not only strengthens the body but also the brain.
In addition to actual physical benefits, sports teaches important life skills like self-confidence, team work and strategic thinking.
There is a wide variety of great sports that your kid can learn - from basketball, baseball, tennis, biking, swimming gymnastics to martial arts like karate and tae kwan do. Observe your kid and see what his sports inclination is.
Teens 14 and above can also take up body building, which not only gives a boost to a teen’s self confidence, but is also great for long-term fitness.
5. Learn a foreign language or learn new words
Learning another foreign language is a great advantage in today’s world because everyone in the world is more connected than ever. Knowledge of foreign language can help your kid later in life, in his future studies and his career. It also opens their minds to a different culture and way of thinking.
You can also give kids a more modest but great objective of learning new words. Many vocabulary books are available in bookstores; choose the one that teaches new words painlessly does not teach by rote memorization. Rote memorization is the most boring way of learning new words.
Of course kids can learn new words by simply reading. Encourage your kid to list down new words that they learn by reading, including their meaning. Test him and reward him for learning the new words. An extensive vocabulary leads to your kid’s enjoying more books, resulting in exponential growth in knowledge. Having an extensive vocabulary also makes your kid a better writer.
6. Keep a journal
Keeping a journal or a diary teaches your kid how to write, which is a good skill to have. It also makes your kid value his experience, make him become introspective, think deep, and increase his self-awareness. Self-awareness, among other things, is crucial to your kid's psychological health.
7. Write stories
Writing stories exercises the imagination and creativity, in addition to the advantages above of keeping a journal. It also increases your kid’s vocabulary, especially if he uses a tool such as a thesaurus to improve his writing.
8. Learn cooking or baking
Cooking and baking is a very useful life skill. Aside from the great benefit of your kid learning to prepare food which could be necessary for his future independence, your kid also learn practical uses of math, specifically fractions, measurement and time.
Gardening is a great way to teach biology to your kid. It makes him understand how living things grow, and what are necessary to sustain life. It also teaches your kid to love nature.
10. Play computer games or educational games
The objection of education pundits against computer games is that it is fun, therefore it is brainless entertainment. But this is not necessarily true. Many computer and online games actually exercise the brain while being entertaining. The best ones are strategic ones where kids solve problems on the fly.
There are also online computer games that are educational. The ones to avoid are violent games, especially those that make your kid win randomly and by chance alone, and do not really reward cleverness. Because playing computer games tend to be addicting, moderation should be key to taking advantage of their benefits while minimizing the bad effects.
11. Brain teasers, problem solving and skills practice books
These books help your kid retain what he learned in school, and provides learning reviews in a fun way. Learning school skills in advance is also a good idea as it increases your kid’s competitiveness and self-confidence in school.
You can also find many learning sheets online. Below are examples:
12. Practice math
Math is a weakness of many students because it takes practice and patience to master it, qualities that are not normally found in fun-loving kids with short attention span. It is much like learning a music instrument or excelling in sports.
The other reason is concepts in math build upon the ones that come before. If students do not master concepts early on, it can lead to “Math is Hard” syndrome.
Summer is a great time to catch up with the fundamental Math concepts and practice Math skills in advance. In summer, there is plenty of time to focus on one type of skill. But like everything about summer, it should be done in a fun way.
These learning materials try to teach math in a fun and painless way:
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