Cook it, catch it, count it: plan summer activities for “soft” learning

Kids are eager for a break from school, and while it’s important to keep skills sharp, it’s also good to provide an intermission, so to speak, before resuming conventional learning activities. Still, summer is a super time for teachable moments colored in fun.

Education World, a site geared toward teachers, offers “25 Activities to Keep Kids’ Brains Active in Summer,” which they call a “life preserver” for parent, one intended to rescue kids from “the boredom and blahs of rainy summer days.” One suggestion is to take time this summer to teach kids to cook. The website sends readers to Cooking with Kids (part of childrensrecipes.com). This resource, notes Education World, “also includes measurement reminders, safety tips, and suggestions for involving kids in the cooking process.”

In keeping with the cooking theme, budding chefs—preschoolers in particular—will also enjoy the “K9 Kitchen” episode in Volume 1 of Charlie & Company. Charlie and Miss Ellie, his “Anywhere Teacher,” join a chef in a commercial kitchen, where they get a lesson in counting 1-10 from Autumn Red Squirrel. As they search for clues to solve the “puzzle it out” question of the day, Levi Cottonwood shows how to measure and build yummy snacks, Lily Longlegs keeps kids fit as they review counting skills, and Miss Ellie helps practice writing numbers. Along the way, little ones learn some fun food facts. “Can you believe popcorn has existed for more than 5,000 years?” asks Miss Ellie. Or count the jugs of milk and hear a cow moo!

Other great summertime ideas from Education World include starting a rock collection; hanging a white sheet outside at night, shining a light on it, and observing and recording what it attracts; catching a firefly and then consulting online and print resources to help your learn more about this glowing insect; and learning about national parks and encouraging your child to become a Web Ranger. This last idea is especially cool, given that the National Park Service turns 100 on August 25!

In a similar collection of warm-weather ideas, the Great Kids website, part of greatschools.org, posted “10 Fun Ways to Keep Your Child Learning This Summer.” The site notes, “Summer is the perfect time for children to discover that learning is fun and can happen anywhere.” Among other clever, wide-ranging ideas, they suggesting trying to grow the biggest zucchini in the neighborhood, creating a photo book/scrapbook using Shutterfly or a similar service, and making something from a kit. Whether putting together a model car, plane, or craft, Great Kids nots that “These projects teach children to read and follow directions, and offer the added benefit of creating a finished product.”

The extra time available in summer might also be a great opportunity to take up and/or try out a musical instrument. With the Simply Guitar Book & DVD, internationally recognized guitarist and guitar teacher Steve McKay, takes aspiring string-pickers through everything they need to know to play the guitar, from finding basic notes to complex chord progressions.

The message noted in Education world that “learning can happen anywhere,” underpins the entire Charlie & Company series, available in a 2-DVD set. The series takes little ones on learning adventures to real-life settings that in addition to the previously noted commercial kitchen, include a farm, art studio, Coast Guard station, fire station, and more. Related learning activities invite participation and introduce and reinforce reading and math readiness skills, as kids visit delightful places not always readily accessible.

Whether by way of “travelling” video series, an online or in-person visit to a park, or a flashing firefly in hand, with a little prompting, feeding kids’ natural curiosity will quite naturally lead to learning.