Many parents, who equate workbook activity with learning,
buy workbooks for their children to complete during the summer
months. In this way, the parents reason, their children will not
only keep up with their peers but may even be ahead of them the
next school year. This usually makes for a miserable summer for
the children and may result in their being turned off to all true
learning in the future.
Parents can be much more creative than that. Schools are
not the only place where children learn and teachers are not the
only ones responsible for or capable of providing activities
which help develop young minds. Summer vacation is a wonderful
time for parents to expand on the school’s curriculum and in many
cases, supplement the curriculum where it is deficient.
Science along with its tool subject, math, would be a good
place to start for summer learning. Mainly, because science
learning is best when it can be “hands on” and teachers sometimes
find this difficult to do with a large class. Also many schools
do not teach the science curriculum along with the math. This is
a mistake because math is a tool of science and children,being
concrete thinkers, understand math better when it is incorporated
One way to begin, is to help children to become accurate
observers of the world around them and to keep records of what
they observe. You could begin in the backyard by having children
see the different leaves on the trees or plants on the ground.
You might buy a magnifying glass so that they can observe more
closely. They could draw pictures of what they observe. They
could then feel the different textures of things in the yard and
describe how they feel to the touch. You could help them with
more accurate words to describe what they are feeling.
Another activity is to put a bird feeder in the yard and
have the child keep a record of the various birds that come to
the feeder. He could then make a bar graph to record the birds’
activity. You could expand on this by taking a trip to the zoo
or natural history museum to learn more about the birds in his
Have the child draw a map of the backyard, or a room in the
house, or the neighborhood. He could pace the space off and draw
what he sees to scale. He could label locations of various
trees, bushes, fences, houses, fire hydrants, and everything and
anything that he observes. You could buy some graph paper to
make the drawing to scale easier–one pace equaling one square on
the paper. Your child will learn about measurement and graphs.
Planting a garden either flower or vegetable is also a great
activity. The child could find out which plants or flowers would
grow best in the soil available. He might keep a record of the
rainfall and sunshine needed to make his garden grow. This could
also be graphed on a chart. He might attempt to grow something
which is difficult or not recommended and see why or why not he
Keeping track of the weather and temperature is another
activity that helps children become accurate observes. Put a
thermometer outside the window and have the child record the
temperature day by day. He could keep a chart and perhaps make
predictions on what is going to happen next and why.
Starting a collection is also a possibility. What about a
rock collection or stamps? Magnets are also great fun. Do
experiments and keep records on what magnets can and cannot do.
The number and kinds of experiments children can do at home are
endless. There are many books in the library that can give you
ideas. A new program called TIMS (Teaching Integrated
Mathematics and Science) developed at the University of Illinois
at Chicago is another resource.
The idea is to use the time in the summer for fun and
learning in a way that gets away from pre-programmed workbook
types of activity. I encourage you to enjoy this time with your
children and engage them in activities that will make them better
and more excited learners when they return to school in the fall.