Help! School is out!
By JulieAnn Pratt
Listen closely. Do you hear that dull roar? It's getting louder. Yep - there it is! That's all the kids in the country shouting, "summer vacation!!"
I can also hear the collective groan from parents across the country. While the kids are excited, parents start their yearly quest to prevent complete and utter boredom, as well as avoid the "brain drain" that seems to occur every summer. You've read the statistics regarding what happens to children during summer vacation; that all students experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer.
So what's a parent to do?
Make a plan. Thankfully, there are plenty of fun yet stimulating options to keep your kids' synapses firing throughout the summer months! Here are a few suggestions:
Sign up for programs:
- Summer Reading Program - Nearly all public libraries have summer reading programs with great incentive rewards for your kids. As this is an Olympics summer, consider checking out books to learn about different cultures and countries. This is also a great opportunity to introduce your kids to missions work in those countries. (Resource: www.bgmckids.ag.org)
- Summer Camps - There are always numerous vacation Bible school, day camp, sports camp, overnight camp, and weekend camp options available.
- Workshops - Home Depot, Lowe's, Michael's, JoAnn's, Lego Store, etc., all have great workshops that allow kids to build and create cool projects.
- Park Programs - Our local Metro Park system has a summer schedule full of free outdoor programs. Options include: bird-watching, creeking, disc golfing, fishing, and even canoeing.
Take a day trip:
- Find a new destination to visit - Live near a city? Take a day and check it out! Live near the beach or the mountains? Take a day and go! Stand at the bottom of a sky scraper and look straight up. Or hike up the mountain as high as you can go, take a picture of yourselves, and then tell the kids how much higher they are than the roof of your house. That will rock their world!
- Explore a new museum - Zoos, science centers, art museums! Museums are built for learning!
- Visit local tourist sites - Near our home are numerous options: Amish country, Lake Erie shores and islands, lighthouses, Indian mounds. All of these are opportunities to learn about cultures, outdoor science, history, even structural engineering.
- U-Pick fruit and vegetables - One of our favorite summer activities is to visit a local farm and pick fresh fruit and vegetables. The crops are abundant during the summer months. (Resource: www.pickyourown.org)
- Geocaching - This is fun for all ages, but particularly for your older kids. Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. (Resource: www.geocaching.com)
Make your own fun (my favorite part of summer):
- Go on a photo scavenger hunt - Take the time to print the photos and make a scrapbook. Your kids will pull it out and show everyone about the fun you had that one day a few summers ago.
- Stargazing - Lie outside after dark and try to identify the constellations. This is always an excellent opportunity to remind your kids of the vastness of God's creation; that the same God who created the universe, created each of us with the same amount of love and attention to detail. (Resource: check your mobile device app store for an application to help you identify the stars, planets, galaxies, and constellations you can see. Our favorite is SkyView for iPhone.)
- Learn a language - Check out a book from the library that gives the word for objects around your house. Tape note cards with the name to the object and make it a contest to see how many your kids can name at the end of each week.
- Do fun science experiments - Soda bottle rockets, lava lamps, green pennies, bending water, and making salt crystals are all cool to do. (Resource: www.kids-science-experiments.com)
The bottom line:
Create a plan now. The time and effort put into researching your options and developing a plan is well worth it. How to do that? I printed a calendar of the summer months and plotted our vacation and travel. I then penciled in an activity every other day or so, including the fun and mischief we plan to have around the house. This helps assure I've got the necessary supplies and that I keep the fun (and learning) happening.
JulieAnn Pratt is a mom of three and has served alongside her husband in ministry for 17 years. Additionally, she ministers to pastors' wives and women in ministry and serves her local church (Radiant Life Church A/G, Dublin, OH) as the director of the pre-school department. JulieAnn and her family reside in Columbus, OH, serving at the Ohio Ministry Network (A/G). You can follow JulieAnn at her personal blog Ministry Momma (www.ministrymomma.com).