Summer is a great time for kids to relax, spend time with their friends, have fun… and forget everything they learned in school in the last year! Research has shown that students are likely to lose math and reading skills over the summer. The last thing you want is for your kids to return to school next fall without any memory of what they learned the previous year. But how are you supposed to help your kids retain their academic skills while they’re having fun? There are easy ways to keep your kids engaged during their school breaks without interrupting their summer fun if you approach the task with the idea that learning and fun are not opposing forces.
Take advantage of a subject that your child already knows and loves.
Is your kid obsessed with fish? Take her to a local aquarium or a lake, like a field trip. Does he love Pokemon? Encourage him to read the Pokemon graphic novels over the summer. Is she curious about baking? Help her in the kitchen as you have her calculate conversions for doubling the recipe or using a different measuring system. Kids are curious. Your children probably already have interests that will make learning easy. Encourage them to look into their favorite subjects in a deeper way.
Download an educational app like the Periodic Table app from the Royal Society of Chemistry. It’s an interactive table of the elements that helps kids understand chemistry. Have you ever thought the video games your kids play could be educational? Try using Minecraft to review math. You can also try downloading some educational podcasts before your big summer road trip — even in your downtime, you can keep your kids’ brains active and occupied (no need to hear complaints of boredom on the road!).
Use hands-on techniques to teach difficult concepts.
Seeing an concept play out in real life through a science experiment makes a huge difference for kids, especially visual and tactile learners.
Here’s an example of an easy experiment you can try at home. First, explain how buoyancy and water density work, using the example of a submarine: Submarines float on the surface of the ocean when the weight of the water it displaces is equal to the weight of the ship. If a submarine or ship fills with water, it will sink. Submarines control this feature with ballast tanks that can fill with water or air. If the submarine is heavier (the tanks are filled with water) it will sink. If it is lighter (the tanks are filled with air) it will rise. Then, try an experiment to explain abstract concepts like these.
For the submarine experiment, you will need a couple of straws, an empty can, and a bucket (or sink or tub) of water and then follow the below steps.
- Make one long straw/tube by inserting one end of a straw into the end of another straw.
- Push an empty soda can in the bucket of water so that the can fills up with water and sinks to the bottom.
- Put one end of your long straw/tube into the can and blow into the other end.
- What happens?
Did the can rise to the surface? This is an example of how submarines work. When you blow into the can, you acted as a ballast tank filling up with air to make the submarine rise to the surface.
Chances are, your kids spend most of their school day learning inside. Take advantage of the summer weather and play outdoor games that review what your children have learned over the school year. Did they learn the 50 states and their capitals this year? Have your kids play a game outside where they review the states. Take them to explore the local park — what kind of natural wonders can they find? Summer is the perfect time to exploit the nice weather and find learning opportunities outside.
Get their friends involved.
Maybe your daughter would like to do a book club with her friends. Is she looking forward to summer sleepovers with her friends? Encourage her friends to read somebody in the group’s favorite book once a week so they can discuss it when they meet up. If your kids and their friends are reviewing subjects from the school year together, everybody will have more fun.
It’s easy to use summer as a time for fun learning. Keep your reviews light and exciting, combining summer activities with knowledge that your kids already have, and they will be set up for success in the new school year.
The experiment for this article was contributed by Esther Novis. Novis is the founder and CEO of The Young Scientists Club, which has developed award-winning STEM products to educate boys and girls since 1999. Similar experiments to this one can be found in the Young Scientists Club subscription kits. All products are designed by a team of Harvard graduates, scientists, educators, and parents to fulfill its mission of offering children quality, science-related products that will fascinate them with the wonders of scientific discover and spark their interest in future scientific endeavors.