Engage your kids in learning throughout the summer with a variety of experiences to help them to continue their growth and prevent learning loss. If you have a phone or tablet, apps can do more than keep them busy. It is important to select apps that engage your child, strengthen their skills, and promote learning. In addition, make sure to balance screen time with playtime to help your child to create a healthy relationship with technology.
As the school year comes to a close and the end-of-school events fill every waking hour, it can be easy to forget what lies ahead. While the children are getting more and more excited to have three months with no obligations, the parents see the inherent danger in the situation: the kids will be joyous for the first two hours of their newfound freedom and lamenting about their boredom for the rest of the time. Rest assured, this parental dread of summer is not uncommon or unrectifiable. It is a simple matter of planning things for your children to do. To the parents who want to avoid three months of television watching for their children, fear not; here are a few programs to help keep your child engaged over the summer.
On Fridays throughout the summer, the Delaware Museum of Art offers a “Glory of Stories” event in which children ages two and older can go and be read a book, tour some art relevant to the story, then complete an art project. This is a great time for your child to explore creatively, be exposed to all kinds of professional art, then create some art of their own. This fun Friday activity is an awesome weekly opportunity to get out of the house and seek different cultures close to home.
To a child looking to try something new, Wellspring Farm holds a summer riding camp from June 12th through August 14th for all children 6-13 even remotely interested in dabbling in this craft. The children will do things such as receive basic riding instruction, work on their balance, learn about the anatomy of horses and how to care for them, play games, and do crafts. This program teaches children how to be safe with a large animal and bond with their peers and the horses. The week is concluded with a horse show for the children’s family and friends. The children do not have to have any experience riding to participate and will be mentored by the older riders who have more practice and wisdom.
From June 31st through August 4th, the Brandywine River Museum of Art has a camp which offers children ages 9-14 the opportunity to explore their interests in both nature and art. The camp emphasizes exposing the parallels between the beauty of the outdoors and the beauty of painting. They will observe patterns in nature and try to mimic them in artwork of their own. This is an opportunity for intellectual, personal, and social growth and offers opportunities to be exposed to the artwork at the museum.
Earlier this week, I had one of my weekly conversations with my sister. She has two teenage daughters and a younger son named William. Her girls have always been eager readers, impressing me with the conversations around the novels they have read. As she and I were talking, she mentioned that William was sitting right next to her reading a book.
“So,” I asked, “What is he reading?”
“Well,” she paused and answered, "all William reads is non-fiction about world history. I’m sort of alright with it, but shouldn’t he be reading fiction too? He is missing out on so many wonderful stories.”
I answered, “He’s interested in world history, that’s wonderful! Let him read whatever he wants. ”
Find something that your child is interested in
Sometimes there seems to be a whole lot of “shoulds” around reading. In my mind, children should not feel they need to read any particular genre. If children are interested, engaged and eager to read something, let them read just that. What many experts recommend is wide reading. We want our children to learn about the world, and we want them to encounter text that will help them expand their vocabulary. The best way to do this is to find the types of books that our children want to read. And, it doesn’t matter what it is.
Local libraries cover a wonderful range of topics and present these topics in formats ranging from picture books, chapter books, nonfiction informative books and graphic novels. Did you know that there are graphic novels about everything from photosynthesis to Louis Armstrong? And, did you know that there are books on everything from the Mount Vesuvius eruption in 79AD to Marcus Persson’s creation of Minecraft? Interest is such a strong force in engaging readers. As you move from summer camp, to the beach, to cooking, to gardening, engage your children in readings that might spark the interest you’ve seen in them during a summer activity.
Make reading a shared experience with audiobooks
Another way to spark excitement summer reading is through audiobooks. During the summer, many families spend hours traveling from one destination to another. Listening to audiobooks during this time makes time pass more quickly. Listening to stories can also expose your child to new ideas and rich vocabulary. Another advantage of audiobooks is that children can listen to and understand books that might be too hard for them to read independently. This benefits younger readers, reluctant readers and children with reading difficulties. If the topic or story is interesting to your children, the chances are high that they will listen intently, and in turn, might be excited about reading books that are similar to the ones they have all heard read-out-loud.
When the school year ends, there is often a celebration of students’ year-long achievements. But when students walk out of the school’s door for summer, what happens over the next 10 weeks can be just as important. As a parent and educator, I wonder what I can do for my children to keep them academically engaged and not just staring at a screen. While there are options to fill every perceived need a child may have from day camps, sports camps, overnight camps, religious camps, and STEM camps, summer enrichment programs may be overlooked by parents. Parents often want their children to maintain academic readiness or continue to move forward. While younger students collaborate in reading and math groups, high school classes are offered to broaden one’s experience or allow focus on preparing for college testing.
When looking at an institution to supplement academic gains, there are four items to consider:
The reason many parents choose an academic program in summertime is to avoid the ‘summer slide.’ Essentially, this idea is that, without consistent engagement, students will become rusty in math and reading. For over a hundred years, educational experts have been examining and quantifying the loss that children experience when they have an extended break from a consistent learning environment. Statistics support a continued level of engagement, especially in regards to mathematics and reading. In the Review of Educational Research, Harris Cooper reviewed 39 studies that indicated that achievement test scores decline over summer vacation. While this may affect various socio-economic groups to different extents, studies found a consistent academic program alleviated this drop.
2. Differentiated instruction
Most parents want to know that their children will be engaged, challenged appropriately, and that their needs will be met. Will your child receive individual attention or be a face in the crowd? One factor for evaluating a summer school program is the teacher-to-child ratio. Since you are concerned about your child’s progression, feedback is also important, both informally and formally.
Knowing what interests and motivates your child to be his or her best is also important. This could be very different for a high school student in an intensive college prep course than for a pre-kindergartener who has never been in a formal class setting. Simply getting your child to overcome the anxiety of walking into a new experience can be a struggle. Positive recommendations from teachers, administrators, and other parents can often help guide your decision.
If you’re a working parent, ask yourself what hours in your child’s school day cause you the most concern. If you’re thinking of those critical hours between 3pm and 6pm, according to research conducted by The Afterschool Alliance, you’re not alone.
The need for before- and after-school care for school-aged children makes a top-notch Extended Day program an integral part of an education decision. To ensure the highest quality of care and comfort for each child at the start and end of a busy day, a good Extended Day program should offer parents and school-aged students opportunities that are:
- age appropriate
Extended Day professionals understand that students in different age groups have varied academic, psychological, and physical needs. To accommodate these considerations, they strive to provide a variety of settings, activities, and staff to best support each child.