School is finally out and yes, summer is a certainly time to relax and unwind for both families and children. However, being the aspirational parents that we are, it is certainly not a time for taking our eye off the ball when it comes to learning. Family learning can greatly compensate for the loss in learning which occurs naturally over the summer months when school is out. It even has a name: the summer slide. Some of that hard-earned knowledge that your child has gained over the year will be lost unless parents intervene. Think of it as a relay race; teachers pass the baton to parents at the end of term in July and hope that parents will work to sustain the fruits of their labour over the holidays.
Good news is the tips provided below don’t interfere too much with your plans for a relaxing time by the pool sipping a Pina Colada; they are both simple and highly effective.
Attune to their interests and plan accordingly
Parents often rush to book holidays without ever consulting their children about the ways in which they would like to spend their free time. Often, given the choice between paddling in the local stream and spending a week at a luxury hotel, children prefer the former. Sit down and think carefully about your children’s individual interests and see if you can build in a day trip to appropriate locations/museums/places that will deepen your child’s learning and encourage family conversations about their interests. You can never spend too much time following a path that they are naturally curious about.
Play a game of their choice
Goodness knows which game they will choose to play with you! It might be Hide and Seek around the house, a board-game or dressing up dollies for the afternoon. Point is: you have asked, listened and responded to their needs. As and when you are playing the game, try not to let your mind wander to thoughts about work or the family admin. Embed a little bit of numeracy and literacy into every game. When the activity is fun, and you remember to embed a little bit of maths or a chat about the spelling of a word into the chat, they don’t know they are ‘learning’, but they really are!
Every child certainly loves to make a mess in the kitchen, lick the spoon at the end of the process and show off the results of their cooking efforts! However, cooking together isn’t just great for your relationship with them: it also provides a golden opportunity for parents to talk about all sorts of topics they will have covered, or will cover in school. Next time you are cooking together, see if you can weave in some chat about fractions, measurements, time, where food comes from and even a little bit of science (e.g. what temperature will the water boil at?).
Engineer giggling opportunities
I could bore you about the research on the neurobiology of laughter and the relationship between laughter and your child’s wellbeing. Instead, I will sum up the evidence which suggests that if your children laugh a lot, you are on the right track. Children should be laughing a lot at home and particularly over the summer when they are relaxing and in the company of family. Whatever brings them joy (for my boys it usually involves the sprinkler in the garden!), consciously give them more opportunities carrying out that activity.
Play family sport together
Family sport isn’t just good for children’s well-being and health; it is also linked to academic attainment. Summer is the time to take longer than usual over that game of Badminton in the garden with your kids. You aren’t just teaching them the rules of the game when you play as a family; they are learning about losing, winning and even how to regulate their emotional responses. For younger children, invest in some garden bowls, bubble machines, Velcro Darts board and/or mini golf clubs. No better way to practise our counting, addition, subtraction or times tables than through keeping score!
Read a book to them
Summer provides an opportunity to move away from the normal curriculum and stretch your children’s imaginations by choosing a family book. This book should be slightly above their age range and definitely have some challenging words and concepts in it. Read a little bit of the book to them every-day and don’t rush. When they ask a question, dwell on it. Take time to provide explanations and try and find connections between the content of the book and their experiences in everyday life. For older children, discuss characters, themes, use of language and techniques that the author uses to make the reader feel a particular way.
Some of the greatest museums in the world are in London and are free to enter. What’s not to like? For starters, try The Natural History Museum, The Science Museum, The British Museum, The Tate Modern and/or The V&A Museum of Childhood. If you don’t mind paying, and want the kids to try something different, the possibilities in our Capital are endless. To whet your appetite, there are workshops available throughout the summer on coding and 3D design, fine art tuition, and even raves for the Under 10s! If you fancy exploring London by foot with the kids, you might wish to invest in a Step Outside Guide so that the children’s interest is maintained along the way!
Create a treasure hunt at home
Who doesn’t love a treasure hunt? Traditionally, children have to decode a word clue to progress to the next clue. However, your family treasure trail can be different; tailored to your child’s ability and learning stage. For little ones learning phonics for the first time at school, create a trail based on sounds. The clues might consist of images and perhaps they have to find something that sounds the same around the house. For slightly older children, make every other clue a number sum that they have to answer. For fussy eaters, you might create a food trail around the garden. Just wrap little samples of different types of foods in foil wrappers with clues attached. You would be amazed what they will try when there is a prize up for grabs!
Have a family stall at a car boot sale
Children love making pocket money and a car boot sale provides the perfect opportunity for children to hone a variety of important skills. First of all, they have to gather up goods to sell (from friends and family), think about pricing, label items, organise everything for the big day and then use their conversational banter to drum up sales on the big day! Stand back and let them talk to people about how much something is, apply mental maths when it comes to providing change and thank people for their custom. One thing is for sure: they will enjoy spending their earnings afterwards!
Wherever you go or whatever you do this summer, encourage your children to write postcards and letters to family, friends and teachers. It will do wonders for their writing skills come September. Praise them for writing clearly and for using words that are exciting rather than boring! If you can, encourage recipients to let your child know how much they enjoyed receiving the note from your child. This way, your children will be more motivated to write again.
Whatever you do this summer, remember the phrase that has emerged from the research on parental engagement in children’s learning: it is not who you are, it is what you DO with your children that matters.
Have a great summer!
admin July 21st, 2017
Posted In: Blog posts