Summer is often a chance to spend more time together as a family and for children to take some time off from school. During this time, some parents may wonder how to help fill their child’s new free time in ways that support their physical and intellectual development. We have put together some suggestions as a school, which may be helpful. As always, providing these experiences as options for your child to freely choose helps to develop internal motivation and will encourage greater periods of concentration.
- Build vocabulary with books (children can read books independently at their level or higher level books with an adult, an older sibling).
- Practice sounding out words using the Sound Game (“I spy something that starts with __ and ends with __.” This can be done at home or anywhere- on a car trip, running errands, or exploring the outdoors.
- Build handwriting skills through coloring activities and writing practice. Allow children to choose their own topics to keep writing joyful, rather than forced.
Children practicing math at school can continue this practice at home with any large quantity of objects (beans, beads, etc.) that they can count and use to explore addition (putting things together) and subtraction (taking things away). Mathematics is a natural part of our world and as children interact with the world, they are constantly experiencing math. Allowing children to measure things in the house, yard, or park, or inviting them to bake following simple recipes provides these opportunities to our children. Children may enjoy practicing tables of math facts, but please keep in mind that the choice to do so should come from the child to allow them true ownership over their work and greater focus.
Providing simple materials (water, objects for floating, sinking, or mixing, colored dye, etc) allows children to explore. If you need ideas, the children’s sections of libraries and bookstores will be full of resources!
Children can have their own space in a garden or pots on a balcony to raise plants. They can also help build bird feeders or baths and observe the birds that come (http://spoonful.com/crafts/gardening-crafts-gallery#carousel-id=photo-carousel&carousel-item=13). They are capable of building and creating with cardboard or wood and screws.
Children develop their physical skills through practice, just as they develop intellectual capabilities. Providing balls or beanbags to toss can help to develop accuracy, as well as build muscle and burn off energy. Children can use yoga and dance to exercise their bodies and use their bodies as a form of expression.
Developing a child’s creative mind not only gives them tools to express their emotions and ideas, but also helps build problem-solving skills. Imaginative play helps the child’s mind to solidify what it has learned and to play through different situations and different possible outcomes. Creativity can be expressed artistically through indoor and outdoor art areas with paint, colored pencils, chalk and chalkboards, bubbles, sewing materials or playdough. Children can sew or create their own puppets, sets, and create their own stories. Children can create their own obstacle courses and scavenger hunts in the backyard- all they need are the materials, the time, and freedom to explore!
You will notice that many of these involve the child’s body and hands, as well as their mind. During this age, children are capable of learning complex concepts through their direct experience. Even if we do not sit down and explain the physics behind what they experience dropping different objects into water, the child’s experience will help them understand this concept when they study it in school down the road. Let your child’s interests and senses guide you as choose activities for them! And remember, that they are learning constantly. Allowing a small amount of choices for activities will not overwhelm them and will help them to develop the ability to self-direct as they learn and discover.