During the school-year, critical academic skills are regularly reinforced. Summer is a completely different story as most kids hardly pick up a pencil in June, July and August. According to a study at the University of Missouri-Columbia by Dr. Harris Cooper (now a professor at Duke University), children lose one to three months worth of learning over their long school siestas. Math skills take the biggest hit during the steamy summer months, with reading and spelling skills tumbling close behind.
Fortunately, it's possible to keep your kids' hard-earned learning from slipping down the summer brain drain. And you don't have to use tedious workbooks to get the job done! All you need are a few household items, a dash of creativity, and the following ideas for disguising school-year-caliber academic reinforcement as summer-style fun and games.
Reinforce Math Skills Using:
- A Deck of Cards. The card game "War" provides an ideal means of solidifying basic math facts. Begin by removing all face cards and placing the pile face down on the table. Players pick two cards each, then add, subtract or multiply the two numbers together (depending on the skill you're practicing). The high scorer collects all played cards.
- A Soccer Ball. Use a permanent marker to randomly fill the hexagonal sections of a soccer ball with the numbers 0-10 (repeating the numbers until covered); Throw the ball to your child and have him add, subtract or multiply the numbers closest to each thumb. See how many times you can toss the ball back and forth without making a mistake.
- A Basketball Hoop. Keep those basic math facts in all star shape with a slam dunk competition. Every time your child answers a math question correctly let him take a shot. Offer a small prize when he reaches a designated number of points.
- Beads and String. Fractions can make a fashion statement with some string and colored beads. Challenge your child to make a necklace that is ½ blue or ¼ red. Or have her design her own beaded jewelry and figure out its fractional composition.
- M&M's. Give your child a math story problem and have her "act it out" using the colorful candies. i.e. I had six M&M's and my dad gave me eight more, how many do I have now? I had twelve M&M's and my mom ate seven, how many are left? (I have to admit to favoring subtraction story problems when M&M's are involved -- for obvious reasons.)
- Loose change. Challenge your kids to grab a handful of coins, estimate the value and then count out the exact amount. Offer a 10% prize for close guesses.
Reinforce Language Arts Skills Using:
- A Wooden Block. Write the words who, what, where, when, why and how on each face of a block. After reading a book or chapter with your child, take turns rolling the block and asking and answering story-related question beginning with the word on top. i.e. Who are the characters in the story? Where do they live?
- Magazines and Comic Books. Even kids who cringe at the thought of reading a book cover to cover jump at the chance to flip through comics and magazines. Sneak in extra reading practice by stocking up on kid-friendly periodicals.
- Shaving Cream. Cover a tabletop with plastic wrap and make a gooey shaving cream palette where little fingers can practice letters, spelling words and handwriting.
- Mad Libs. These wacky fill-in the blank activities provide a fun and effective way to reinforce parts of speech. (And remember booger is a nouns).
- A Timer. Designate a few times a week as Family D.E.A.R. time (Drop Everything and Read). Set the timer for 20 or 30 minutes of silent literary bliss.
- Index Cards. Write the letters of a mystery word on blank index cards; scramble them up and have kids try to decode the secret word.
- Blank Paper. Let kids create their own unique stationery using stickers, stamps and colorful markers, then put it to good use by writing letters to grandparents and friends.
- Sidewalk Chalk. Writing your spelling words on plain old paper may be snooze city, but the scrawling them across the driveway is a totally different story. Chalk up the mess to academic advancement and let the rain take care of the clean up.