Summer vacation is an ideal time for parents to find out what really interests their children and to encourage them to explore those areas. In this way parents can help their children become lifelong learners.
With a little bit of forethought and a little creativity, you can take advantage of everyday situations to encourage your children or grandchildren to apply their knowledge and problem-solving skills in meaningful ways.
If it is fun for the children they’ll never know that they are actually learning, and it doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg. Perhaps the most important activity that you can involve children in for the summer is reading. Take your children or grandchildren to the library every week during the summer and continue to do so during the regular school year. Public libraries have all kinds of summer reading programs for children, and many of them you can do together as a family. The Goodwill store has an ample supply of good reading for children and their parents. These books are very affordable and a good investment for a child to start his or her own library. The really important thing here is that you model for these children a love of reading and a joy in learning.
Teens and preteens aren’t too eager to read during the summer, because they associate it with school work. Point out to them how important reading is. Make reading fun. Remember how they used to love having you read to them when they were not old enough to read. Read aloud to them when they are doing chores like dishes or even when they are eating a meal.
Let your children read whatever they want, from teen magazines to comic books, to mysteries, romances and adolescent fiction. Play books on tape in the car. Todd made a tape for his daughter, Lindsay when she was tiny using her name and the ABC’s throughout the tape, and she loved it. Keep magazines around the house, and let your children see you reading for fun. We have reading materials in every room of our house, and a library downstairs. Encourage older children to read to younger children. Dakota has been reading to his siblings since he was 5 years old, and they love it.
Summer doesn’t have to be difficult for parents, and entertaining your children during the summer does not have to be expensive. Along with reading, here are a few tips to keep your children entertained this summer.
• Keep a collection of old clothing so your children can play dress up. Keep their old costumes in a box just for dress-up. Danielle, Danessa, Dannah, Lindsay, Halle and Emily always surprise me with the number of games they play when they take on new characters in their dress up clothes. Their favorite activity together has always been dress-up.
• A puppet show can cure boredom. Make a stage out of old cardboard boxes or buy one and have the children make puppets out of old socks or popsicle sticks. Cardboard boxes have many uses. Life size boats and oars can be made from cardboard boxes. An old shower curtain patterned with fish and placed underneath the boats even makes me feel like I am on the ocean with the grandchildren.
• Have an indoor picnic. Pack a basket of goodies, spread a blanket on the floor and pretend you are in the woods.
• Put a sheet over two chairs and you have a tent to camp out in.
• Walk together. Danton, Dylan, Dannie and Colton love to take walks. Family fitness in the summer is very important.
• Be on the lookout for fun pictures that you find in magazines and newspapers. Cut these out and keep them in an old shoe box or bag and let the children pick out three pictures. Ask them to make up a story that must involve each of the three pictures they have chosen.
• Bake and decorate cookies. Teach your children how to prepare a simple meal such as sandwiches and soup. If you plan ahead, you can keep your children entertained and enjoy the time you spend with them in the summer.
• The local libraries have summer fun projects for children.
• Day camps sponsored by church groups or School Family Resource Centers are good investments for summertime activities as well as Vacation Bible Schools.
• For older children, there are overnight camps, such as Scouting, 4-H, Conservation Camps, Trooper Island and others.
• With the county and state fairs coming up in late summer, children may earn prize money with vegetables they have grown or crafts they have made.
For more information about summertime youth activities, contact Raymond Cox at the Harlan County Extension Office at 606-573-4464.
Raymond Cox is the Harlan County extension agent for 4-H/youth development. Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin.