February 21, 2017

Fun Indoor and Outdoor Summer Learning Activities to Help Avoid the Summer Slide

This post first appeared in conjunction with GreatSchools.org. All opinions are my own. GreatSchools is committed to getting the word out to parents about “summer slide” and encouraging the support of summer learning programs.

With creative thinking, Mami of Multiples faces the three-month challenge of keeping her four boys, from 1 to 18, active and learning.

summer learning

It seems like the year just started, yet summer vacation is already here. As a parent, I try to balance the summer months between fun and learning for my children. It’s important to experience quality time together as a family, take a vacation, and relax. It’s equally important to participate in educational activities and programs to help prevent the loss of learning.

Also known as the summer slide, learning loss happens when children and adolescents don’t engage in educational activities over the summer. According to the U.S. Department of Education, studies have shown a notable trend of learning loss when young people aren’t involved in anything educational during summer break. We may hear more about it on National Summer Learning Day. The nationally recognized day is meant to spread awareness about the importance of summer learning to help close the achievement gap. It might need more than a single day to build awareness of something so crucial.

This summer, I will have four boys to plan for: a teen who just graduated high school, identical twins starting third grade in the fall, plus a baby. With such big age differences, I’m always searching for summer activities and programs that are educational, affordable, and fun. I check local libraries, school districts, and even local chambers of commerce for summer programs. In preparing for summer activities, I consider my kids’ interests and our family’s “must-dos” for the summer. And I’ve learned not to wait too long to make our summer plans!

Besides soaking up some sun on a pool or beach day, my boys enjoy day outings. Here are some summer learning ideas that I have found work for everyone in my family and may appeal to your kids, too.

Creative ways to get kids learning during the summer to avoid the summer slide! Click To Tweet

• Libraries: Nationwide, libraries have summer programs that are either free or low cost. Everything from summer reading lists to LEGO building contests, library summer programs are suitable for all age groups. For example, my teen can partake in a college prep online course, the twins can have fun with a storybook contest, and even the baby can be part of a “mommy and me” read-aloud playgroup – all under the same roof.

Don't tell the kids...they can have fun & learn! Experience great programs this summer! Click To Tweet

• Museums: The unique exhibits, special interactive programs, and longer admission hours put museums and children’s museums high on the list for the summer. With interactive displays, especially at children’s museums, kids of all ages have the opportunity to be hands-on and learn on about science, history, art, technology, and various subjects. Many museums offer affordable day camps that focus on a particular theme like dinosaurs, space, or the rain forest. Last summer, our family visited the American Police Hall of Fame and Museum. The museum had historical law enforcement artifacts, many types of different police cars, a touch-and-feel kid’s corner, and a theater. The twins loved getting to climb into historical police cars, watching funny Sheriff the Dog cartoons in the children’s movie theaters, and dressing up as law enforcement officers and firemen in the kids’ corner. My teen was impressed with the historical law enforcement stories and real-life paraphernalia from notorious cases such as indicting Al Capone.

• Children’s theaters: In theaters across the country, award-winning plays and scripts are being performed not only by adults but by a cast of talented children, too. The twins recently saw The Adventure of Treasure Island and loved the play. It was fascinating for them to see characters they had read about perform scenes from the book in front of them. Theaters for young audiences often offer discounted or free performances during the summer where children can see their favorite books brought to life.

• National, state, and regional parks: The vast open space is the perfect setting for a wide range of learning opportunities, from forestry to camping. Families can learn about trees, animals, wilderness, native plants, and geographic elements on guided nature walks or during summer camping specials. National parks also have free admission and entrance days throughout the year that you may want to take advantage of.

Find a local petting zoo or pick-your-own farm to visit together this summer with our list. Click To Tweet

• Petting zoos and pick-your-own farms: As an urban family, an outing to a petting zoo is a great learning experience. The boys get to approach and touch various farm animals they don’t see on a daily basis. Also, lots of teaching opportunities present themselves when kids get to pick their own fruits and vegetables. Visit a pick-your-own farm and learn about agriculture and vegetation while having fun – and then bake a pie together that night with your pickings!

• Zoos and aquariums: Almost everyone enjoys learning and seeing wild animals and sea creatures. Zoos and aquariums have programs designed especially for families in the summer. I’ve seen day camps where kids learn about African wildlife, deep-sea animals, bird watching, dolphin feeding, and more.

• Volunteering: Summer is an ideal time for children and teens to learn about giving back and do community-minded service. Helping others teaches and reinforces social and emotional learning skills and attitudes important to making thoughtful and empathetic decisions. Volunteer Match has a comprehensive list of opportunities that are age appropriate, including virtual options. My twins helped distribute food to those in need at a local food bank. My teen was an assistant sports coach at a youth summer camp for underprivileged children. Both experiences were incredible learning opportunities for the boys. They unconsciously practiced social and math skills and got physical workouts. Just as important, it made them more appreciative of what they have and made them feel good about being able to help others. They want to volunteer again this summer.

Check out our list for age appropriate local volunteer opportunities this summer. Click To Tweet

• School summer programs: Saying the words summer and school together may strike fear and dread in children’s hearts, but actually many school districts offer various summer programs that students might find entertaining – even as they continue to learn. Math and science clubs, music and dance classes, fun day trips, and day camps where children receive one-on-one tutoring are usually free or a minimal fee for families living within the school’s zoning boundaries. Ask your child’s school or neighboring school districts for a list of summer options.

• At-home activities: Looking for an activity to do at home? Many arts and crafts projects can be found online and created using items already found at home. Family-friendly sources for these ideas include: Scholastic, Scholastic Summer Reading, Barnes & Nobles (Free Summer Reading Books), Nick Jr. Summer Activities, PBS Kids, Disney Family , Disney CraftsMichael’s Arts & Crafts, Backyard Exploration, Gardening with KidsSummer Activities for Tweens and Teens.

Encourage learning but still have fun with a list of indoor & outdoor summer activities. Click To Tweet

Even if your children don’t remember the exact lessons learned in the months before vacation, a summer that keeps kids’ minds active will mean they are primed to learn and will likely be quicker to recall last year’s lessons when they return to school.

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Joscelyn, Owner of Mami of Multiples & Mami Innovative Media

Joscelyn Ramos Campbell has more than a decade of experience as an award-winning former federal government public relations executive under the Bush and Obama administrations. The “super-connected power mom“ was recently named by Latina Magazine as one of “The 10 Best Latina Mommy Bloggers on the Web“; by CBS News as one of the “Top Bloggers in the Business“; by NBC Latino Work-Life Balance series as a “Top Latina Mom Blogger“; an Empowering Latina in the Marketing Field; by CNBC.com as a Top Latino Social Media Stars and Leading Hispanic Bloggers. She is the owner of Mami Innovative Media and founder of Mami of Multiples, one of the nation’s leading Latina American parenting and lifestyle sites offering resources and helpful tips for families. She is a nationally syndicated Parenting Columnist and co-hosts a Talk Radio Show. Joscelyn is a public speaker, military wife and mother to a teen son and identical twin boys. Connect with Joscelyn at @JoscelynRC & @InnovativeTalk.

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