How to trick your kids into learning this summer

The sun is high, temperatures are rising and summer is in full bloom. The last thing on the minds of you and your kids is school, right? Wrong.

Studies show that students can forget a serious amount of skills and learning over the summer, forcing teachers to spend the first four to six weeks of the new school year catching up on what had already been taught.

While most students don’t want to spend the few beautiful days of Chicago summer inside doing math drills and writing essays, parents can encourage plenty of fun ways to keep learning going all summer without it ever seeming like work.

Go back to basics at the beach

A trip to the beach is about fun, relaxation and play–but it can also be a perfect time to brush up on some basic educational activities.

Before you go, work on a list of animals, plants and other sights you might see near the water. As you discover seagulls, shells and fish, cross them off the list and practice spelling their names.

Turn a day of building in the sand into an engineering challenge. Encourage the kids to find a way to build the tallest, or more structurally sound, sand castle they can. Even practice art skills by drawing out the architectural schematics before they start building.

Bring a few books in case the waters of Lake Michigan haven’t warmed up enough to swim.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear and more at the Zoo

Spend a day enjoying the sights, sounds and smells at Brookfield or Lincoln Park Zoo, but also learning about biology.

While it’s fun to look at the animals, it can also be an important science lesson for kids. Go through the scientific method before you head to the zoo. Make a list of questions your children have about the animals they’ll see. What do bears eat? How much does a tiger weigh? How tall are the giraffes? Do some research online together and form a hypothesis about what you might learn. As you move through the zoo, test those hypotheses by observing the animals in their habitats, reading the signs and asking nearby employees. Talk about it as you go, finding out if your researched answers were correct or if you learned something new.

When you get home, have each kid draw a picture and write a few sentences about their favorite part of the trip. Hang them on the fridge as a reminder of the fun experience and day spent as a zoologist.

Much to learn at Chicago’s museums

When it’s too rainy or humid to spend time outside, summer activities can quickly resort to playing video games or watching television. Instead, head to one of Chicago’s many museums for some dry, air-conditioned learning fun.

From interactive math and science experiments at the Museum of Science and Industry to astronomy at Adler Planetarium to history at Field Museum to oceanology at the Shedd Aquarium, a day at the museum is learning that never feels boring.

Learning one bite at a time

Eating at home or at a restaurant is a fun family activity, but also an endless opportunity for learning.

Baking a batch of cookies or cake for the family is something that’s full of math and measurements. Let the kids figure out how much of each ingredient is necessary, and then they get to do the fun part–eating the treats they helped create.

When planning a family night out, try a restaurant with international cuisine, practice some key words before you go and challenge your kids to order their meal in another language.

Before the bill comes, have them add up the total, without pulling out a phone or calculator, and see how accurate their figures are.

Scrapbook summer

A summer of long days always goes too quickly, and before you blink, it will be time to send the kids back to school and pull out those winter coats again.

To keep memories of all the fun summer activities, have each kid create a scrapbook along the way. Work on arts and crafts skills, drawing and painting pictures describing some of the summer’s top activities. Create prompts so they can log their favorite memories such as “The best part of this summer was” or “This summer I learned” to make sure their writing skills don’t get rusty.

Scrapbooks are a fun project to learn and keep the crew busy on a rainy day and will create lasting memories of this summer for years to come.

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