By: Megan Finesilver, M.Ed.
Sitting at a desk doing worksheets is not my idea of a fun summer break. It’s probably not even in the top 100 activities a child wants to do when the sun is shining either. The inevitable regression during the summer months is something all teachers encounter, however there is a solution. It involves a bit of planning, some questioning, and a lot of adventuring.
Take It Outside
The vocabulary you use is key to building excitement and holding your child’s attention. A ‘learning adventure’ could be a scavenger hunt in the back yard, mucking through a stream, a walk in the park or even going to the beach. It doesn’t have to be expensive or far away from home to provide a valuable learning experience. A map of the backyard, complete with a key and compass to find a hidden ‘treasure’, reinforces mapping and spatial intelligence. Finding crawdads, minnows or frogs while you’re walking through a stream habitat makes science “hands-on.” Physics is explored when building sandcastles at the beach or in the backyard. Children need to experiment with the correct amounts of sand and water to create the sturdiest building material.
Inquiry before, during and after the adventure will help a child connect vocabulary to their discoveries. ‘What do you think a crawdad needs to survive?’, ‘Was the treasure north of the sandbox or east?’, and ‘How many cups of water were needed for a bucket of sand to make the ideal mixture for building a castle?’ Questioning methods and outcomes will help children think about the knowledge gained and intrigue them to explore more. It then becomes an opportunity to incorporate literacy into a shared adventure.
Adventures in Literacy
Guiding children through an adventure at the library empowers them to take charge of their own discovery. Even if the child isn’t able read, finding books on the subject of interest and navigating through pictures while it’s being read will allow children to see that they’re capable of finding answers. To help with comprehension and vocabulary, the reader should frequently stop and ask about meanings of words or the author’s purpose in a passage. Storytime at the library is always a favorite for young library patrons and often incorporates puppets and props to keep little ones engaged.
For children still developing letter recognition, the alphabet can be created and manipulated in a number of fun ways. Sidewalk chalk, Wikki Stix, rocks, or sand are just a few things that can be manipulated into letter or number shapes. One of my favorite writing tools is a cookie tray and shaving cream. Simply squirt a glob onto the tray; spread it around, and voila! The tray becomes a reusable surface that costs almost nothing!
Open the Door for Hands-On Learning
To keep children learning all summer, offer opportunities for new adventures and activities, both indoors and outdoors. Science comes alive when children interact with a pond or garden. Their own curiosity and inspiration will lead to important concepts that can later be transferred to more formal learning in the fall. Experimenting with sand, water, paints, and chalk outdoors without the normal constraints of paper helps them to feel empowered with the process of learning. Encouraging children to participate and take charge in “learning adventures” will spark those synapses in their brains that will combat summer regression. Open the back door, kitchen cabinet, or toy chest and dive into math, science, and early literacy!