When school is out for the year, many parents look for ways to keep their kids entertained throughout the summer. Fortunately, there’s an abundance of free and inexpensive things to do during the summer break. The best of them will also have an educational element, helping to combat summer learning loss.
Kid-Approved Summer Learning Activities
Of course, educational activities are less impactful if they’re not also fun and engaging. When kids don’t enjoy summer learning, they’re less likely to put in the effort and learn. The good news is that there are plenty of educational ideas that are kid-approved and so much fun that they may not even realize they’re learning.
Here’s a conundrum. During the school year, you head off to work, and your kids go to school. But come June, kids are out of school, and you’re still at the office. How is a working family supposed to engage kids during the summer when parents don’t have months off to spend with their kids? By sending them to summer camps, of course! And with social distancing in place, kids can attend camps online.
Summer camp has been a long-standing tradition in many families across the country. And today, camps offer all sorts of educational and creative opportunities to keep kids engaged, entertained, and learning from wherever they are. Here are a few of our favorite options.
- Digital Media Academy Tech Camps – This camp offers options like computer science and artificial intelligence, robotics and engineering, music production, creative design, digital storytelling, and game design. They hold camps at universities across the U.S. and Canada, but this year’s camps have moved online with their STEAM Learning Lab. The series of 10 courses are categorized by age group: 7-9, 9-12, and 13+. One week camps are available for kids age 9-12 and 12-18, as well as in-depth two-week academies for ages 12-18.
- iD Tech – With plenty of virtual tech camps on offer, iD Tech is a great option for kids who want to learn coding, robotics, game development, or design. The virtual summer camp is open to participants ages 7-19 and features instructors from prestigious universities like Stanford, Caltech, and UCLA.
- National Computer Camps – Billed as America’s Original Computer Camp, NCC has been engaging summer campers since 1977. It offers curriculum and courses like game design, web design, programming languages, cybersecurity, Android app programming, and even Minecraft modding. Kids can attend at their Fairfield, CT location, or login for virtual online camp from anywhere in the U.S.
- New York Film Academy Summer Camps – If your little one wants to work in film, this camp is a great opportunity. They offer options like filmmaking, acting for film, musical theater, broadcast journalism, 3D animation, photography, screenwriting, game design, music video, documentary, and graphic design. And don’t let the name fool you. These camps are available in several U.S. cities as well as a few international destinations, but this year the program has gone online-only.
- PARI Space Camps – If your child dreams of exploring space one day, a space camp might just be the perfect option. PARI offers courses in space, astronomy, science, robotics, 3D printing, and cryptography. Camps book a year in advance, so look for 2021 registrations open soon.
Summer Activities for Kids
If you are at home with your kids this summer, you’re probably looking for activities to do together at home. The key to keeping kids engaged is variety, so pick several of these summer activities for kids. Try them out, and create your own twist on some of your favorites.
- Matching and Math Dice – For little ones, this is a fun way to practice shapes, numbers, and letters. For older kids, it can be a math game. Start by covering a square tissue box with paper. Next, draw numbers, letters, or shapes on each side. For little ones, make a list (on a separate piece of paper) of each of the items you drew on the die. Have your child roll, find the matching item on the list, and cross it out. For older kids, skip the list and turn this into a math game by adding, subtracting, or multiplying numbers each time the dice are rolled.
- Museum Gallery – Museums can be fun, but why not create your own gallery at home? Have your child collect interesting rocks, pinecones, different types of leaves, and other natural materials found in your neighborhood. Then identify each specimen and create a display card with details about it. Present your own natural history museum to family and friends.
- Recipe Creation – Have your child invent a new recipe. Depending on age, it can be as simple or complex as you like. Try mixing different types of juice to create popsicles in unique flavor combinations. Have your child come up with their own combination of unique pizza toppings. Or develop a salad that is entirely their own.
- Scrapbook Diary – With all of the fun things you’re doing throughout your summer break, why not create a record to look back on? Take pictures, write down memories, and save postcards, tickets, and other mementos. Put it all in a summer scrapbook, and be sure to record what each item means or signifies, along with fun memories of each event. Decorate each page with stickers, doodles, and colored paper.
- Summer Inventions – During the summer heat, everyone is looking for new ways to stay cool or to have some fun in the sun. Have your child invent their own hot-weather fun or cooling solution. You might be surprised at just how creative they can be!
- Weather Forecasting – Watch each day’s weather forecast on TV or online with your child. Have them make note of predicted temperatures, as well as humidity, clouds, precipitation, wind, and air pressure. As the day goes on, measure these same markers to see how close the forecast was to the actual conditions. See if your child can predict what the weather will be for tomorrow.
- Word Hunt – This one’s a fun indoor game to help younger kids with reading and word recognition. Create a word list with vocabulary words that your child learned in school last year or new words you’ve been learning together. Write the words on sticky notes, and hide them throughout the house. As your child finds each note, have them read the word out loud. In the end, count up the number of words found, and read each one aloud again.
- Word Ladder – Draw a ladder with sidewalk chalk, then place a vocabulary word at each step of the ladder. Have your child “climb” the ladder, sounding out words as they go. At the top, it’s time to turn around and read the ladder from top to bottom.
Summer Learning Loss
Simply put, summer learning loss is the regression of skills and knowledge obtained during the school year. It’s estimated that learners lose 20 to even 50 percent of their proficiency in math and reading skills during summer break. It’s not uncommon for teachers to have to spend the first part of the school year reteaching what was already covered in the prior grade. But preparing for summer by keeping kids engaged with reading and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) projects can help combat this learning loss and prepare them for excellence in the coming school year.
You could prepare summer school material at home, but for many families, that may be too much of a good thing. Though there are many activities that keep kids busy throughout the summer, beware of too much mindless entertainment. Some of this is great—after all, the summer is meant to be a break. But try to focus on activities aimed at combating summer learning loss at least a few times a week, or even daily.
With these ideas and many more, you’re sure to have a fun-filled summer with plenty of learning opportunities. And by keeping your child’s brain engaged throughout the break, they’ll be better prepared for the upcoming school year. For more learning activities and safe online learning tips, be sure to check out our blog and distance learning resources.