Many parents buy workbooks for their children in order for
them to keep up with or get ahead of their school work over the
summer. This equating of workbooks with learning sometimes makes
for a miserable summer for some children and may result in
turning them off to true learning. Instead of making summer
vacation a continuation of the school year, parents can use this
time to interact with their children in creative and enjoyable
ways which are more educational.
Research has shown that doing workbook pages does not help
children read better. What helps children more is for parents to
read to them. Summer vacation is a good time to do this. One
good system is to read to children a long book over a period of
time. For example, “Alice in Wonderland” can be read chapter by
chapter. Before beginning each chapter, the parent can ask the
children what happened so far and what they think will happen
next. Children not only are learning that there are interesting
things to read about in books, they are also learning how to use
During their vacation, children should not be pressured to
improve their own reading skills. They should be reading for
enjoyment. This is best accomplished by parents providing
material that is below their current reading level. Sometimes
children are embarrassed to pick out “easy” books for themselves
from the library but parents can do it for them. I would not
comment on the books chosen, just put them on the child’s bedside
table and after they have been read, simply provide more at the
same level. One of the most important things that should be
learned about reading is that it can be a pleasure rather than a
Children need a background of experience in order to better
understand the words they are reading. These experiences can be
provided in the summer. There can be trips to the zoo, to the
museum, to the store, to the library, and to the park. Parents
can engage in a dialogue with the children about what they saw
and what they liked about these trips. They might even want to
keep a diary about their summer experiences.
Car trips provide many opportunities for learning. You can
use the time to solve math problems. How long does it take to go
90 miles at 55 miles an hour? How many miles can you go before
you will need more gas? Make children your navigator by
teaching them how to read maps. There is a good book entitled,
“Games for Children While Traveling” by Sid Hedges which gives
other good ideas.
Card games also fill many enjoyable vacation hours. They
help build language, social skills, visual memory, numerical
sequence, computation and number concepts. All ages can play and
it helps build family cohesiveness.
Finally, do not forget board games. They help children
follow rules, take turns, and learn math skills. For young
children there are games like Candyland and for older ones there
is always the old favorite, Monopoly.
The most natural, effective and rewarding learning
experiences are those which take place between parent and child.
I encourage you to foster these experiences this summer and relax
and enjoy your children.