Plans for summer are coming together. Bobby is in tennis. Susie
is in cheerleading. The local pool pass has a prime spot on the
fridge. You have a strategy for keeping your energetic children
busy for the summer.
The only thing you didn't make a specific plan for was keeping
your children's minds active. Of course, you don't want your kids
to sit for hours of flashcards and worksheets, but you do want to
do something so they can remember what they learned over the school
You need a middle ground. Here are some ideas that fit into
Keep them reading
Magazines. As parents, we know reading is an important skill and
often ask our children to read every day even over the summer.
Remember, not all reading comes from a book. Magazines offer pages
of high-interest reading and your child will love getting something
in the mail.
Family Read-A-Loud. This summer is the perfect time to start a
family chapter book. As children get older, parents start to shy
away from reading to their children in favor of being read to by
their children. But even children who can read more complex books
benefit from being read to. Choosing the perfect book for your
family is the key. Try a series. If your family enjoys it, you have
the next book already picked out. Taking a car trip? Try a book on
CD. My personal favorite is Jim Dale's award-winning reading of the
Harry Potter series.
Word problems. Word problems are a great way to practice a
variety of math skills, from fractions to time and money. Try
adding a word problem into daily conversation. When doing a verbal
problem, use numbers that would be easy for your child because he
will be doing it without paper. Think about times of the day where
numbers are involved. For example, when driving, as you pass from a
35 mph speed zone to a 45 mph zone, ask your child the difference
in the speed limit. Another example: The movie starts at 1 p.m. and
will last an hour and a half. When will we get out? For younger
children, ask easier questions like if Nanny and Papa come how many
movie tickets do we have to buy? Find a level that is challenging
but not frustrating. As your child gets better, make it more
difficult by adding unneeded information or asking more complex
questions. For example, we need 24 buns for the Fourth of July
party. They are sold eight in a package for $1.25. How much will
the buns cost?
Math facts. Some information we learn we need to be able to
access quickly. Math facts fall into this category. To keep the
facts fresh in your child's mind it is important to go over them
every few days. However, this doesn't mean flashcards are your only
option. Here are a couple of games that can work for addition,
subtraction, or multiplication.
• Get out a deck of cards, minus the face cards. Deal them all
out equally face down, similar to the game War. Each person flips
their top card. The person who is able to name a fact (+, -, or X)
using the numbers on the cards the quickest keeps the cards.
• Spread out a set of dominos face up. Call out an answer. Each
person tries to be the first to find the domino with the right
number of dots and yell out the fact. For example, the caller yells
9. Then the player finds and shouts 7 + 2, 3 X 3, or 9 - 0.
Fuel writing and learning
Journal. So often the summer slips by in a haze of fire crackers
and bike rides to the ice cream shop. Before you know it, the
summer is gone and your child hasn't picked up a pencil since
school got out. Keeping a summer journal not only helps review
skills but becomes a perfect way to remember an exciting summer.
Entries don't have to be long. A few well-written sentences a
couple times a week will do. Help your child find a fun notebook or
let him type it on the computer. He might also enjoy a place to
draw a picture or add a photo to make the entry truly
Educational games. Children love playing games and are willing
to work hard to get to the end. This summer invest in an
educational game. There are games to work on just about any skill
from making change to finding the verb in a sentence.
"There are so many great games that reinforce skills," says
Margaret Wilson, the owner of Brainstorms in Lindenhurst. "Children
don't always realize they are sitting for hours working on the
To find your closest educational store look in the phone book
under "school supplies" or visit www.teacherstores.com.
Shannon Drizd, a first- and second-grade teacher at Meadowview
Elementary in Grayslake, says "the benefits of working with your
child during the summer maintain skills and build confidence to
start the next school year strong."
So over the summer, take a few minutes a couple times a week for
a quick review. Not only will you be keeping your child's mind
active, but you will be creating family fun.
Books for family read-aloud
There are literally hundreds of different series available. Your
local librarian would be an excellent reference. Here are a few
• Choose Your Adventure series by R.A. Montgomery
• Magic Tree House series Mary Pope Osborne
• Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
• Dragon Slayer's Academy series by Kate McMullan
• Jigsaw Jones series by James Preller
• Cam Jansen series by David A. Adler
• A-Z Mystery series by Ron Ray
• Animal Ark series by Ben M. Baglio
• Puppy Patrol series by Jenny Dale
• Geronimo Stilton series by Geronimo Stilton
• Fred series by Marie-Danielle Croteau
• Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
• The Adventures of Chip & Marty in Mr. Sandman's
series by Amy Lynn Fisher
• You Wouldn't Want To Be series by David Autram
Amber Beutel is a teacher, private tutor and mother of two
children living in Grayslake.
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