Summer learning resources for learning all year long
I have talked before specifically about ways to get kids reading. What about additional skills they need to do well in school and in life?
If your kids are anything like mine, summer vacation comes and they think it's a 3 month break from anything learning related. Each year they are disappointed that I have a very different idea for putting our time to good use during the summer!
If anything, honestly, I might go slightly overboard during the summer. We continue reading as normal (30 minutes a day for my 2nd grader, 40 minutes a day for my 3rd grader, and 45-60 minutes a day for my 5th grader).
We also add in math practice as well as writing practice that we might not normally do during the school year. And don't forget puzzles and life skills!
You see, I take a “big picture” approach to learning during the summer. A mix of book learning with experiential learning…all designed to challenge my kids, make them think in different ways, and help them grow in multiple areas.
Here's how I do it:
Reading for life
Reading is one of those skills that “practice makes perfect”. There's just no other way around it! However, when kids are first learning to read, it can be frustratingly hard for them. Hard = don't want to do it!
Keep in mind:
- From beginning reading until about 3rd grade, kids are learning to read.
- Starting in about the 3rd grade, kids begin reading to learn.
It's a huge distinction to make! Believe me, the kids notice the difference when they get to that age.
Summer is an incredible opportunity to take a break from school reading material to find material that your children love to read!
Do they enjoy nonfiction books? Mysteries? Adventures? Fantasies? Fairy Tales? Something else?
Grab our fiction book recommendation lists by age:
Now with all the resources available online, finding materials is even easier!
Reading ideas to try:
- Get your child a library card and use it a lot. Ask a librarian for ideas – we've always gotten great ideas from our librarians!
- Let your child choose what to read – even if it's magazines or comic books. They count!
- “Read” audio books
- Start a parent-child book club. Let your child pick the book – everyone reads it then gets together and talks about it. This was recommended by one of my son's teachers and is great for comprehension skills!!
- Join a free reading program through your local library – there are prizes built into these programs as incentives
- Use bookstore money as a reward.
Resources to check out:
- Audiobook apps – Oodles (free), Audibles, Tales2Go, and more
- Online Reading – there are so many options! I love RazKids because they have leveled reading books so my kids are reading at just the right level.
Another part to reading is writing. I try to incorporate that in fun ways – writing shopping lists, letters to pen pals or family, stories, library book wish lists, and so on. My favorite part, as a parent, is the read the stories they create. Amazing!
Math skills building
Repetition, repetition, repetition. That's the name of the game with math. Some kids will need more practice and repetition than others will. We love getting what we call in our house “summer learning books” and doing just a page or two a day to keep those math skills fresh and moving forward.
I have also created a few documents that are meant to improve accuracy and speed in basic math facts. The idea: practice these facts and time how long it takes to complete a column.
The goal is to get to the point where your child can complete a column (or more!) in a minute with 100% accuracy. It takes time and repetition, but not nearly as long as you might think 🙂
Grab our sheets to improve in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division!
Puzzles are so good for kids' brains (and adults too!!). They make us think in different ways, creating new pathways within the brain that help us with problem-solving skills as well as in day to day life.
Ever since my kids were little, we've always done classic puzzles in various forms (floor puzzles as young children to traditional puzzles – increasing in difficulty – as they get older).
In the last couple of years, I have also added in different puzzles. I personally love doing Sudoku puzzles and was thrilled to find kids versions of this wonderful challenge!
You can now find them in 4×4 and 6×6 squares (they are traditionally 9×9 squares). My kids have a blast trying to figure them out! We add a little competition to it as well to keep it fun and motivating going.
Other puzzles to try: word searches, word scrambles, and even crossword puzzles.
Logic puzzles are another favorite of mine! They make us think in new and creative ways to solve the problem, which I just love.
I have been able to find very simple kid-friendly puzzles online in limited quantity. Once my kids mastered those, we moved on to harder ones and just do them together. That way it works my brain as well as theirs and keeps their frustration level low as they take a bigger jump in difficulty.
Chess – while chess is not a puzzle, per se, I noticed a huge change in my kids' ability to solve problems once they started playing chess. Our school also hosts a chess club that the kids love to participate in!
My kids are *slightly* competitive and enjoy taking turns (because I have 3) playing each other to find out who is the ultimate champion!
Summer STEM camp
Our school district offers a summer STEM camp with many different topic options.
STEM camps are fabulous resources for kids because they offer a chance to be around other kids while still being in a structured setting. These camps also give kids the ability to gain experience in activities and areas that you may not feel comfortable doing or have the ability to do at home.
Just a few topics that our school district's STEM camp offers are: kitchen chemistry, sculpture design, robotics & engineering, intro to archeology, and invention convention.
Do a Google search for your county and “summer STEM camp” to see what might be offered in your area.
Learn a Life Skill
Whether it's swimming, doing laundry, growing a garden, vacuuming, cooking, or anything else, take advantage of the summertime change of routine to build life skills.
These skills will help you as they start to be able to contribute to the household more and more. These skills will help your kids to reach adulthood as competent, self-sufficient adults.
Because, really, who wants their child to grow up and leave “the nest” on to call home in their first week away because they don't have a clue how to do their laundry or use the microwave?
By taking advantage of some time off from normal routines and the hustle and bustle of the school year to learn additional skills you will be helping your kids to grow immensely in many important areas of life!