Why are we doing all of this?
(Simple Summer Educational Activities for Young Children)
June is that time of year when parents rush to find the perfect camp, the perfect program, and/or the perfect tutor for their children. July is that time of year when parents are rushing their children to such activities, and often asking, “Why are we doing all of this?”
My advice is quite simple – and it’s the same ‘boring’ advice I have been offering to parents and educators for over 30+ years, and it does not require much money – just TIME. And I believe that the pandemic has reminded all of us that the most important commodity we have is time with the people we love.
The activities I suggest are SO very simple that you might laugh at first glance. (Feel free, as I can’t hear you.) I asked my kids (now young adults) and current students to share with me some of their favorite activities over the years, and I was amazed that their selections never involved anything fancy or high-tech.
Therefore, I have included these activities below, and you will recognize that you have most likely seen these suggestions again and again, and perhaps you have done these activities again and again. Yet they are worth revisiting again, and again.
- Read to your child. According to the National Commission on Reading, “The single best indicator for success in school is reading out loud to your child.” This fact is based in research from 1985 and proves true even today. It applies to students of all ages. It requires only 15-20 minutes every day, of one-on-one time with parent/caregiver and child. The benefits are remarkable. (I will be sharing an ‘old’ workshop of mine on “Reading Aloud to Your Child at Any Age” in a future post.)
- While reading to your child, be sure to discuss the book. P.T.A. TODAY claims that “a good sharing story session should be dominated by talk, and 80% of the talk should be commentary.” This is not a time to “test” your child’s understanding of the story but merely talk about it – the characters, the storyline, the events, etc.
- Take a walk in your yard, and discover things of different shapes, colors, sizes, or textures. Go on a nature hunt and collect items of interest. Encourage your child to start a nature journal, where he can draw pictures or take notes of his observations. As we all know, being outside is not only healthy, it invigorates our brains. As I shared at a recent workshop, “Research indicates that children should be outside for at least 2 hours each day. Parents are convinced that their children’s technology use will help them succeed in life. But young kids would be far better off with no screen time and more time outside” (McKenna, 2019).
- Make a meal or bake a cake from scratch. (Read the directions to or with your child as you prepare.) A mom of one of my students shared how one day during the pandemic she and her children baked cookies, corn muffins, and banana bread. She involved her children throughout the entire process! (Now that’s teaching life skills at its best.) You might even leave a baked good at someone’s door who might not be feeling well, and leave a special note with it.
- Draw a picture or make a card for someone that is shut in. (Do you see a pattern here?) There are many members within our nursing homes that have gone months without seeing family and friends. Sending pictures and cards to these residents would make their day!
- Play a board game, or create one, as a family. Play cards. Do you see the learning opportunities here?
- Take out a variety of art supplies (buttons, feathers, beads, pipe cleaners, construction paper, glue, glitter, paint, crayons, markers, old tissue boxes, paper towel rolls, egg cartons, etc.), and let your child use his imagination and create anything he would like. My boys often made robots, or cars, or anything that made noise.
- Take out the Legos or blocks, or puzzles, or finger paints, or play dough, and let your child go to town.
- Have a picnic in the backyard or the front yard. Take out a blanket, some lemonade, and a favorite book or game.
- Encourage your child to start a writing journal. Don’t worry about grammar or punctuation, just allow your child time to write about his thoughts, feelings, daily experiences, etc. Let him share with you if he’d like. For those children who are not yet writing, encourage them to draw pictures.
- Write a family gratitude list, and add to it every day. Being thankful refocuses our attention on what is important, and gives us hope.
So, for this summer, I would encourage you to slow down and see that there is substance in the simple things in life. If there is one lesson I have learned through the years, it is that our children do NOT need high-tech video games, or online activities, or prepackaged programs. Perhaps, if there is any silver lining in the horrors of the pandemic, it is the blatant reminder that life is precious and spending time with our children is the most significant. And sometimes, it is in the ordinary – that we can find the extraordinary.