Creative Ways to Keep Kids Curious and Learning All Summer
Marine Freibrun is a mom, teacher, and blogger. She has taught grades 2, 3, 6, and 8. She lives in Idaho with her husband and two sons.
This has been an interesting school year, to say the least! As teachers, we pivoted quickly, learning to teach remotely in ways that engaged our students. We wore masks, kept six feet of distance, and more as we carefully followed COVID guidelines. Even with over 10 years of teaching experience, I have had to make a whirlwind of adjustments and do a lot of fine tuning. Last fall, students returned to school in a patchwork of formats, with many kids missing out on important learning as a result of schools closing abruptly the previous spring. What was really amazing to see, however, was students’ excitement and resilience as they returned to school this past fall. They came ready to learn, engage, and persevere.
As a mom of two school-aged children myself, I know how important it is to keep the momentum of learning going all summer long! I have lots of creative plans up my sleeve for exploring and discovering over the break in ways that build on my kids’ readiness to learn. With the school year winding down, I plan to share these simple, fun, and meaningful activities with my students’ families.
Reading and Writing
Schedule a family game night each week. Ask your child to read the directions and rules to different games as a way to decide which one your family will play that night. As you play, encourage your child to guide you through each step. After playing, family members can come up with new or different rules for the game. Discuss how these rules will affect how the game is played. Help your child write new directions using transition words, like “first,” “next,” and “then” to sequence the steps. You can even challenge them to design their own board game using materials you have at home.
Read! Read! Read! Kids are never too old to enjoy being read to. Visit the library together to find books that you’ll both enjoy. Ask your child questions about what you read. Prompt them to compare themselves to the main character as a way to make connections to their own lives. Or, they can identify a problem they have faced that mirrors a problem in the story. When you finish the book, write an alternate ending together.
Switch perspectives. After reading a book, prompt your child to imagine how the story might change if it were told by a different narrator. Invite them to draw, write, or act out the story from this new perspective.
Explore the great outdoors. Nature is bursting with math, and summer is an ideal time to discover its many forms! Watch the BrainPOP movie Fibonacci Sequence together to discover how and why this sequence shows up in nature. Take a hike, stopping along the way to notice the many epic examples of math in all its natural glory. Here are some things you may see. Keep a list or take pictures along the way:
- Radial symmetry in butterflies, leaves, and spider webs
- Fibonacci sequence in flowers, such as a sunflower
- Shape of honeycombs—according to mathematicians, a honeycomb’s shape offers the perfect balance of strength and space required for honey storage
- Patterns in rainbows, markings on animals’ coats, and ripples in a pond
Be creative. Use the examples of math in nature to inspire art projects, such as recreating patterns observed in animal markings, making a mosaic inspired by honeycomb, or designing a spider web with yarn or string.
Conduct summertime surveys. Your child can poll their pals about favorite summer foods, sports, activities, and more! Then challenge them to poll grown-ups on the same topics and compare and contrast the results.
Get cooking! Choose a favorite recipe together, then challenge your child to double it to feed more people, or halve it to feed fewer. Help them calculate how much of each ingredient they’ll need to feed your group. Measuring each ingredient— “mise en place” as the chefs call it—allows your child to hone in on measurement skills. Follow the recipe’s steps… et voila! Time to eat!
Get baking, too! The perfect ratio of cookie ingredients is three parts flour, two parts fat (like butter or oil), and one part sugar or honey. Encourage your child to experiment with different combinations until you find your new favorite. Brush up on ratios by watching BrainPOP’s Ratios movie.
Make observational drawings. Choose a spot outside and invite your child to sketch every detail they observe. Have them return to the same spot at different times of day, and do a drawing each time. Notice the changes.
Study shadows. In the morning, go outside and put an X on the ground in chalk. Throughout the day, return to the X, facing the same direction. Have your child draw your shadow. Repeat this between 3-5 times over the course of the day, and look at how the shadows change. Hypothesize what causes the change.
Sink or float? Predict whether certain objects, like pennies, pencils, or even game board pieces will sink or float in water. Then fill a bowl, sink, or bathtub with water and test each object. What did your child notice? Were there any objects that surprised them?
Monitor the moon. Go outside together after dark and find the moon. Have your child sketch it each night to track its phases. At the end of the month, look at all of the drawings and discuss the patterns they noticed. Extend learning by watching the BrainPOP movie Moon Phases and use Make-a-Movie to present their findings.
Explore the neighborhood. Help your child make a map of your neighborhood, or even the whole community. Show them how to make a key so others can read their map. For an extra challenge, see if they can use what they know about measurement and proportions to make their map to scale.
Discuss the news. Clip or print out an interesting article. Before reading, ask your child what they know about the topic. Then read the article together, pausing for questions. Encourage your child to take notes, like circling new words, jotting down questions or thoughts in the margin, or underlining interesting details. After reading, suggest ways to respond, such as writing a letter to the editor to share their thoughts. Or, channel their inner journalist and encourage them to write their own article on the subject.
Explore summer holidays. Discover the origins and significance of different summer holidays with your child by exploring BrainPOP topics, such as Memorial Day, Juneteenth, and Declaration of Independence. Or visit the library to conduct research. Your child can share what they learned by writing an article from the perspective of someone reporting on the very first day that the holiday was celebrated, or drawing a symbol to represent the holiday.
Body and Mind
Practice mindfulness. While practicing mindfulness is important all year long, summer break is an opportunity to learn more about this strategy. When back in the hustle and bustle of the school year, you and your child can tap into mindfulness practices to center and focus yourselves. To get started, explore the BrainPOP Mindfulness topic as a family.
Get moving! As a family, brainstorm a list of exercises for your body and soul, like dancing, deep breathing, drawing, or just taking a walk. Display the list somewhere everyone can see it, and use it as a reminder to practice self-care.
Make a memory jar. Each day of summer, invite your child to write or draw one great thing that happened on a slip of paper. Fold it, put it in a container, and don’t open it until at least the beginning of the school year. During the winter months, when you need a reason to smile, pull out a memory and reminisce.
Enjoy Time Together
Most importantly, have FUN this summer!
Engage with your child as you try these suggested activities. Take breaks, slow down, and enjoy the time together!
For more ideas, download BrainPOP Summer Learning Packets, featuring reading, math, writing, and physical fitness.