THE BLOG
08/01/2016 05:06 pm ET Updated Aug 02, 2017

Keep The Learning Going: No-Cost Summer Fun!

Throughout summer, kids can lose anywhere from 2 to 3 months of classroom learning. Researchers call this "summer slump," and it's especially prevalent among low-income households.  But kids don't need to sit at a desk to keep the learning going, and it doesn't have to cost parents a penny!

In our new book, BECOMING BRILLIANT: What Science Tells us About Raising Successful Children (APA Lifetools; June 2016) recently featured on NPR -- we use the latest findings in cognitive and developmental psychology to propose new ways to help children learn the skills they really need to grow for the 21st century.  These skills are known as "the 6C's": Collaboration, Communication, Content, Critical Thinking, Creative Innovation and Confidence.

The summer offers parents countless ways to playfully interact with their kids while building these skills. Parents just need to "reframe the lens" and see that there are learning opportunities in everyday moments and everywhere you go. For example, did you know that Simon Says is really about teaching executive function?  And that Red Rover reinforces collaboration and communication? Or that you can have your kids make up a scrapbook about the vacation or even daily places you go, writing and drawing and pasting in tickets or receipts? And these are a hoot to look at when kids get older.

Here are tips to help parents Keep the Learning Going! It's not over yet!:

1. Rap like Lin Manuel-Miranda!  Rapping with kids helps them develop story-telling skills and hones creativity and communication. Especially good for middle and high school students.

2. Put on a Play! Take clothes out of the closet and let kids dress-up and put on a show. This involves creativity, communication, collaboration, and building a narrative, which is important for writing and reading.

3. Science on the Sidewalk!   "Paint" the driveway with water. As it evaporates, "the paint" darkens.  It's a great opportunity to talk about evaporation, heat, and where the water goes. And kids love to paint!

  • Shadow puppets. Create creatures that get bigger and smaller depending on how close they are to sun.  Discuss what makes shadows change size, and why there are there shadows at all.
  • Drop an egg but don't break it! Give kids three straws, a tissue box, and cardboard and ask them to construct something that will allow them to drop the egg without smashing it. Then tie-it back to learning by discussing the science of gravitational pull.

5. Play the Cup Game (like they did in the movie, Glee).  As kids move cups to the rhythm of a song they learn patterns, math, impulse control, and executive function skills.

6. Hand and String Games. When kids play Cats in the Cradle, they use the string to make different patterns, which is great for creativity and problem solving!

7. Fun in the Car. Family vacations often start and end with endles car rides. Use that time to have some learning fun!

  • Anagrams! Spot a word on a sign and see how many other words, of at least three letters, each person can make.
  • Geography!  Ask them how many cities they can name that start with R.  It reinforces communication and collaboration. 
  • Tell a Story. You start one line and each person adds another to build the narrative.
  • The License Plate Game. Write down the states you see on license plates. Can children alphabetize them? Where are these states? Any road atlas will have a map of the U.S.

8. Make a Drum Circle.  Games like Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves incorporate collaboration, sensitivity, communication, emotion regulation, and impulse control. 

9. Legos!  They teach problem solving, spatial skills, content, and creativity.  Play with someone else and practice collaborating. Try a harder pattern and develop confidence!

10. Create New Stuff from Junk. Makers Fairs are becoming especially popular, challenging kids to create new devices or objects out of old parts.  From discarded vacuum pieces and switches to paint and feathers, kids can create tools, art, and sculpture from old stuff found around the house!

Enjoy playing with your kids!

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