Monday, April 19, 2010

The Fun Family Way to Keep Kids’ Minds Sharp this Summer

It may seem like the minute your kids walk out the school doors for summer recess, their brains begin to drain. Not so, say many educators and parents, who believe that summer family experiences can be very educational. It turns out the family experiences you enjoy during the summer are actually great tools to keep your kids’ brains sharp.

Grace Wadell, the mother of four kids aged six to fifteen in the Radnor PA school system, is a firm believer in creating a summer to-do list. “On the first day of summer break we all sit down at the kitchen table and I ask them to give me a list of everything they want to do this summer,” she explains.

That list is varied given the kids’ range in ages and interests, and might include things like making ice cream from scratch, going to the shore, or visiting a museum. Together they choose the ones they want to do, and turn them into enjoyable learning experiences.

Wadell uses each experience as the centerpiece for learning more about a particular subject. For example, one summer the family visited the Franklin Institute, so she enrolled them into a science camp to tie in with the trip. She also took them to the library where they checked out books about science-related subjects.

Field Trips
Unfortunately, school field trips are often the first thing to go when budgets are cut. Summer provides the perfect opportunity for families to visit the zoo, museums, and parks. Even everyday errands to the grocery store and dry cleaner can be educational and fun. There are dozens of fun, affordable, and educational day trip opportunities in Philadelphia. Check out and for suggestions.

“Think of the common experiences that we have as parents that our children can benefit from,” suggests Valarie Lee, Assistant Professor of Reading at Rowan University. “If you’re going to the hardware store or laundromat, think of all the opportunities there are for measuring, sorting, and counting.”

Take the things you do every day and view them from the perspective of a child. “How can I help my child understand how to make a prediction from this, how to ask questions, how to use math skills and literacy skills,” says Lee. “Use those everyday experiences that we take for granted.”

Lee points out that in school, language is an area where many students suffer, so the more parents can talk to your children about what you’re doing, the better. For example, in the grocery store, have your child read the word milk off the shopping list and then let her find the word on the carton. Once the milk is in the cart, she can scratch it off the list.

Summer is also a great time to encourage your kids to volunteer and give back to the community. According to Carolyn Zogby, Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the Red Clay Consolidated School District, “Community service contributes to healthy development.”

For suggestions on things your kids can do to volunteer, visit

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